Pilgrimage to Ladakh

with Tricycle: The Buddhist Review

May 26–June 6, 2020

This journey has been postponed–please check back on RetreaTours.com for future Pilgrimages to Ladakh! 

This journey has been postponed–please check back on RetreaTours.com for future Pilgrimages to Ladakh! 

Trip at a Glance

  • May 26–June 6, 2020
  • Guests must arrive in Delhi by May 25th for an early morning flight to Ladakh on the 26th
  • Guided by Ladakhi cultural expert, Dr. Sonam Wangchok, PhD
  • Accompanied by a representative from Tricycle: The Buddhist Review 
  • Escorted by BJ Graf, owner of RetreaTours
  • Explore the ancient Kingdom of Ladakh, nestled high in the Tibetan Plateau
  • Limited to 12 guests
  • Early bird price of $4699 (USD) per person (based on double occupancy)
  • Please see “Price & Inclusions” tab below for more details

Pilgrimage to Ladakh

with Tricycle: The Buddhist Review

May 26–June 6, 2020

This journey has been postponed–please check back on RetreaTours.com for future Pilgrimages to Ladakh! 

Trip at a Glance

  • May 26–June 6, 2020
  • Guests must arrive in Delhi by May 25 for an early morning flight to Ladakh on May 26
  • Accompanied by a representative from Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
  • Guided by Ladakhi expert, Dr. Sonam Wangchok, PhD
  • Escorted by BJ Graf, owner of RetreaTours
  • Explore the ancient Kingdom of Ladakh, nestled high in the Tibetan Plateau
  • Limited to 12 guests
  • Early bird price of $4699 (USD) per person (based on double occupancy)
  • Please see “Price & Inclusions” tab below for more details

Journey Highlights


  • Meditation and morning puja with Tibetan Buddhist monks at Thiksey Monastery

  • Exploration of the Ladakhi landscape, both cultural and physical, with expert Dr. Sonam Wangchok 

  • Share meals with the monks in their homes

  • Explore Thiksey Village and surrounding area

  • Spend 3 nights directly along the Indus River in Uleytokpo

  • Experience the “Lunar Landscape” around Lamayuru Monastery
  • Pilgrimages to monasteries from all four Tibetan Buddhist sects

  • Receive a blessing from His Eminence Thiksey Rinpoche (contingent on his travel schedule)




BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours have a deep love and special relationship with Ladakh. Please click the button below to learn more about this magical region, including suggested pre-trip reading.

Pilgrimage to Ladakh Itinerary

This is intended as a brief outline of our activities while in Ladakh. As we will be a small group, we are blissfully flexible, fluid, and have the freedom to alter each day’s activities based on the wishes of the group and the schedule of the monks and their families.

Your trip officially begins upon arrival in the Kushok Bakula Rinpoche airport in Leh, Ladakh on the morning of May 26th. (We can help advise you on your hotel night in New Delhi, May 25th, before this flight.) The flight from New Delhi to Leh is only an hour long, but it’s one of the most picturesque flights on the planet. It will take you directly over the Himalayas, allowing you a rare, lofty perspective on this part of the world.

Upon arrival in Leh, you’ll take a short but beautiful drive (~40 minutes) to Thiksey Monastery to get settled. We’ll spend this day acclimatizing to the altitude and leisurely exploring some of the magnificent grounds. We will stay at Thiksey’s monastery’s guesthouse for the duration of our trip, with the exception of three nights that we’ll stay directly on the Indus River in Uleytokpo (May 31–June 2, ~2-hour drive from Thiksey). Uleytokpo is an ideal home base to explore monasteries that are west of Leh, including Alchi and Lamayuru, which is within Ladakh’s famous “moonscape.”

Some of our activities during the rest of our journey include:

  • A thorough exploration of Thiksey Monastery, one of the most beautiful and influential monasteries in Ladakh.
  • We’ll attend special pujas in the Protector Temple, as well as morning pujas in the Prayer Hall.
  • A private audience with the Thiksey’s head lama, His Eminence Rinpoche Kushok Nawang Chamba Stanzin (his travel schedule permitting)
  • Dialogue with the monks about Tibetan Buddhism & Philosophy.
  • Witness the creation of a sand mandala
  • Fun, informal culinary and cultural lessons with monks
  • Three nights accommodation directly on the Indus River in Uleytokpo, complete with stargazing and bonfires (with an add-on option for rafting in the Indus River)
  • Daily group meditation and dharma discussion opportunities

There are scores of monasteries in Ladakh, and we will pay a visit to some of our favorites, time permitting, including:

  • Lamayuru Monastery, Ladakh’s oldest monastery, set in a stunning “lunar landscape” and affiliated with the Drikung Kagyu school of Buddhism. Here you can view a meditation cave used by Naropa. (~90-minute drive from Uleytokpo)
  • Takthok Monastery, a Nyingma momastery that is home to a meditation cave used by Padmasambhava
  • Stakna Monastery, situated on a hill overlooking the Indus river. Stakna, a Druk monastery, is renowned for its beautiful, vivid murals.
  • Alchi Monastery, a Gelug monastery set directly along the Indus River, housing some of the oldest surviving paintings in Ladakh.
  • Stakmo Monastery, including Lhakhang Serpo, the very first Gelug temple in all of Ladakh.
  • Mathos Monastery, a beautiful Sakya Gompa renowned for its two oracles

On the morning of June 6th, you’ll fly from Leh to Delhi (one more chance to see that gorgeous vista!)  We can help arrange further travels in the region or you can head back home to reflect, process, and put into practice all you’ve experienced.

Our Accommodation in Thiksey

We will be staying at Thiksey Monastery’s guesthouse, with a gorgeous view of the monastery itself.  In fact, this guesthouse is where the His Holiness the Dalai Lama stayed during his August 2016 visit to Thiksey. Although the monastery’s guesthouse is simple, it is clean, and each room has ensuite bathrooms and hot water. Wifi can be very sporadic, due to our very remote location, and the best wifi reception is in the common areas.

Our hotel’s restaurant is entirely vegetarian, featuring northern Indian classics. Most importantly, we are an extremely short walk to the monastery, which is beneficial for early morning pujas and exploration.  Please note that WiFi may be available here at times, but can be slow and sporadic. 

Our Accommodation in Uleytokpo

For three nights we’ll make Uletokpo’s Ule Ethnic Resort our home, in order to explore the monasteries of Lamayuru, Likir, Alchi & more. We’ll perch directly above the Indus in our cottages, and we can even enjoy a bonfire and stargazing with a telescope. This quaint riverside resort even has a spa, if you want to get a massage on the Rooftop of the World—in fact, we’ve included one massage for you! This hotel’s restaurant is also entirely vegetarian. Please note there is no WiFi available in Uleytokpo. 

Extend your stay–let us help!

If you’d like to extend your journey before or after this RetreaTour, we would be more than happy to help you plan your stay!  We can advise you on hotels, flights, and itineraries, whether you want to arrive in India early or stay on afterwards (or both!) We can also set you up for a tour of beautiful Bhutan, Nepal, or anywhere else in South or Southeast Asia. We offer our RetreaTour™ guests free travel consulting, a $300 value.

Please click the title of the desired tab to open it.

Your Daily Practice

In addition to morning pujas with the monks and time for personal practice, guests can enjoy discussions and meditations with Dr. Sonam Wangchok, in addition to daily dharma talks.

Price & What is Included

This retreat fee is $4699 USD per person (double occupancy).  After February 1, 2020, the price increases to $4899.

This price only covers the actual retreat, not international airfare (for a full list of inclusions, please see below).

A $1000 deposit holds your space.  The second installment of $1800 is due by January 15, 2020 and the balance is due by March 1, 2020.  The single supplement ($399) is due along with the last installment.

If you prefer to have your own room, the single supplement is $399 USD and will be added to your last payment. (Click here to understand why this single supplement is necessary). Please note that we cannot guarantee you a roommate for this trip, and if you room alone, you will be responsible for the single supplement.

Price Includes:

  • Roundtrip airfare from Delhi to Leh
  • All accommodation in Ladakh
  • All meals in Ladakh
  • All site fees
  • All tips at hotels and restaurants
  • One massage Uleytokpo Ethnic Resort
  • Donation to Thiksey Monastery
  • Donation to the Tricycle Foundation
  • Donation to the Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation

Price does not include:

  • International airfare (although we can and will be more than happy to help you decide on arrangements)
  • Overnight stay in Delhi on the night of May 25th
  • Indian visa fee (required; currently $100 USD for US citizens for an eTourist visa)
  • Travel insurance (required)
  • Optional rafting trip (~$20 USD)

Please refer to the Price tab for specific information about price & what is included on your journey.

We accept payments via check and credit or debit card (via PayPal). For our guests outside the U.S., please write Lauren@RetreaTours.com for the best transfer details, to save you from PayPal’s 2.5% currency conversion charge.

  • Paying by Check: Checks can be made out to RetreaTours and sent to 8821 NW 14 Street, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024.

We will email you an invoice via PayPal before each installment’s due date.

Click here to pay the $1000 deposit by credit card (via PayPal)

Registration Questions & Contract

Please click here to complete this journey’s Registration. You will be asked for your passport number; if you will need to renew your passport before this trip, simply fill in your old information and update us when you receive your new passport.  

At the end of the form, please press “submit” to finalize your answers. Your spot is not considered reserved until you have completed these questions and contract and submitted your deposit. 

Please click here to download to view and download PDF of the contract for your records. 

About the Altitude

Our home base at Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh rests at a lofty 10,600 ft (3200 m).  We plan our first few days very lightly, to allow you to acclimatize. (Our accomodations at Ukeytokpo are closer to 10,000 feet / 3,040 m). 

Some pre-existing medical conditions are known to worsen at high altitude, so it is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical condition/s with your physician.

Certain medications are utilized to aid acclimatizing to high altitude, such as Diamox (generic: Acetazolamide); please discuss these options with your doctor or a local travel physician.

Here are some resources for you to read about altitude sickness, its symptoms, prevention, and treatment:

The following is taken from traveldoctor.co.uk/altitude.htm:

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

AMS is very common at high altitude. At over 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) 75% of people will have mild symptoms. The occurrence of AMS is dependent upon the elevation, the rate of ascent, and individual susceptibility. Many people will experience mild AMS during the acclimatisation process. The symptoms usually start 12 to 24 hours after arrival at altitude and begin to decrease in severity around the third day.

The symptoms of Mild AMS include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea & Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Disturbed sleep
  • General feeling of malaise

Symptoms tend to be worse at night and when respiratory drive is decreased. Mild AMS does not interfere with normal activity and symptoms generally subside within two to four days as the body acclimatises. As long as symptoms are mild, and only a nuisance, ascent can continue at a moderate rate. When hiking, it is essential that you communicate any symptoms of illness immediately to others on your trip.

You may consider using ibuprofen as a preventative (if this is something that is safe for you and you have discussed with your physician). “Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory medication often used as a painkiller, was found to significantly reduce the incidence of altitude sickness in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 86 men and women, according to the study, published online March 20 in Annals of Emergency Medicine.”  [Source: https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2012/03/ibuprofen-decreases-likelihood-of-altitude-sickness-researchers-find.html]

We recommend that, if it is safe for you, you start taking ibuprofen 24 hours before your arrival to Ladakh (take as often as instructed on the bottle).

It is important to keep us informed about how you feel and we will be checking in with you regularly.

Sleeping pills are respiratory depressants and should be avoided, as they slow down the acclimatization process.

Click here to read Lauren’s suggestions to natural therapies to begin before your trip. Lauren is a Board-certified Acupuncture Physician and Doctor of Oriental Medicine with a specialty in the world of dietary supplements.

 *All of the information here is for reference purposes only and is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed health care professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition or disease. If you are experiencing medical issues, you should contact your medical healthcare provider.

FAQ (aka, Everything You're Wondering Right About Now!) Visas, Health, Hotels, Food, Money & more.


  • What do I need to know about the visa?    

First and foremost, your passport MUST be valid at least 6 months beyond the end date of the trip (that is, December 4, 2020), and you’ll need two empty pages in the Visas section of your passport (make sure they are in the Visa section, not the Amendment or Endorsement section).  You will need to arrange an Indian visa before you arrive; we will provide you more detailed information before you apply for your visa.

You can apply for a Visa on Arrival 4 to 120 days in advance of your arrival on this website. Please click here to read our blog about how to apply for this visa.  (Please click here to make sure your country is eligible for a Visa on Arrival).

If you plan on staying in India longer than 60 days, you can apply through Cox & Kings Global Services, but you must allow more time for this process (start at least 2 months before the start of the trip). Please let us know if you prefer this option.


  • I have special dietary needs—can I be accommodated?

Vegetarians should have no problem anywhere on our travels (in fact, both of our hotels are exclusively vegetarian). The only thing that might prove difficult is veganism in India. Although meat is entirely avoidable, India is the world’s largest consumer of butter, and it is almost unavoidable in most of their curries, stews, and even breads. Many vegans that we have known to travel through India adopt what is locally referred to as a “pure veg” diet: no meat, no eggs, but it allows for dairy consumption.  (It is worth nothing that some of the reasons for avoiding dairy consumption in the west is slightly mitigated here, as there is less factory farming and antibiotic use in livestock.) Milk can be avoided by not consuming creamy dishes or milk tea.

Gluten is also avoidable in India by choosing rice over chapatis and other local breads. Celiactravel.com has GREAT printable cards in local languages to present to restaurants and hotels about your intolerance of gluten. Click here for the Hindi version.  If you have multiple dietary needs, it may be worth your while to check out these specialty cards, available in 60 different languages.

When you register for a trip, you will answer a set of questions, including a question about food allergies. We’ll take a look at your answers and let you know if we have any suggestions or concerns.

Click here for our very own Indian Food Primer!

  • Can I drink the water?

In a word, No. Although many cities around the world are getting more advanced public water systems, we don’t recommend it.  Not only from a pathogen standpoint, but it’s a different set of bacteria than your body is used to. Why risk an upset stomach if you don’t have to? We recommend drinking only bottled water, and you will want to rinse your toothbrush off in bottled water.


  • What vaccines do I need?

None are required to enter India, but we suggest you work with your physician or your area’s travel health expert to decide what options are best for you.  You can read the CDC’s recommendations here and the Scottish NHS recommendations here.

  • What about the altitude?

Please see our separate toggle on this web page about the altitude.

  • What about malaria? 

Malaria is not a risk in Ladakh, but again, we request that you work with your physician or travel doctor when making these choices. Please see our blog about this topic for more information.

  • What are the physical requirements for this trip?

Participants should be able to comfortably climb stairs, slowly but in a stable fashion. Our guesthouse is at the bottom of the hill Thiksey is built on, and the prayer hall and upper temples are 8-10 stone staircase flights above the highest place we can get dropped off by a vehicle. From the guesthouse, it is 400 feet to the top of the monastery. Please see the separate section on this page titled “Suggested Fitness Requirements.”

  • Do I need travel insurance?

Yes, travel insurance is required on this trip. Please find out what must be covered in the “Travel Insurance” tab on this page. You must give us your travel insurance company name, policy number, and emergency number before the start of the trip.


  • How much money should I bring?

That is entirely up to you and how much shopping you want to do in Leh (and the monastery gift shop!).  All of your meals and transportation is covered, so you just have to gauge how much you want to spend on extras.

  • How do I get the local currency?

You can either exchange cash in India or use a local ATM (which we prefer). Just make sure you call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’ll be traveling in India, so they don’t put a hold on your card when they see it being used halfway across the world.



  • Will I be able to charge my electronics (phone, iPad, etc)?

Yes, just be sure to bring along a Universal Travel Adaptor that can go with you anywhere in the world!

  • How can my family get ahold of me in an emergency?

Before the trip begins we will give you a contact for our hotels; in addition, we will give you our Ladakhi phone numbers ahead of time, as well as an American number good for text messages and voicemails.

Even if you have an international phone/data plan, you will not get coverage in Ladakh. Ladakh uses an entirely different network than the rest of India (and the rest of the world). This is a very isolated part of the world, up high in the Himalayas, but we will do our best to ensure you are as connected as you need to be. If you choose to bring your cellphone or tablet, you can use VoIP services such as Skype, WhatsApp, and FaceTime (audio) to connect with your loved ones at home, as well.

  • About the Wifi

Ladakh is still modernizing their internet connection, and internet connectivity can go out for days at a time, region-wide. Even when there is internet, it will be much slower than you may be used to. (Please note that there is no wifi access during our time at Uleytokpo.)  In emergencies, we’ll always have a phone you can use to check in at home, even when there is no internet. Otherwise, please make peace with the fact that you might have little to no internet access your entire time in Ladakh.

Suggested Fitness Requirements

Participants should be able to comfortably climb and descend stairs, slowly but in a stable fashion, sometimes without handrails. Our guesthouse at Thiksey is at the bottom of the hill Thiksey Monastery is built on, and the prayer hall and upper temples are still about ~100 stairs from the highest place we can get dropped off by a vehicle. From the guesthouse, it is 400 feet to the top of the monastery (or about ~475 stairs). It is normal to feel winded climbing stairs at altitude–slow and steady wins the race.

Please see the “About the Altitude” section on this web page for more important information.

At many of the places we visit, we will be sitting on the floor (or on very low mats); guests should feel comfortable sitting on the floor for 20-30 minutes at a time (although you are certainly able to get up and stretch your legs at any time).

Travel Insurance

If you are traveling with RetreaTours, we require that each guest carries travel insurance that covers emergency medical treatment and emergency evacuation and repatriation. 

We suggest trip cancellation insurance, as well, as you never know what obstacles life can toss at you leading up to a trip. However, we do not require this coverage, we only suggest it highly.

Below you will find some options to look into, if this is a new world to you. However, we ask that you carefully consider your choice in travel insurance. What works for some people may not work for others, particularly if you have any pre-existing conditions. Please do take the time to consider the best policy for your individual needs.

World Nomads provides medical coverage for guests under 70 that includes trip cancellation, as well. You can use the box on this page to get a quote and see coverage.

InsureMyTrip.com is a good place to see and compare many policies at once, and you can refine the options by what coverage you would like.

It may also be a good idea to check with your credit card companies, especially American Express, to see if they offer any medical coverage for travel.

Travel Insurance. Simple & Flexible.

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    About your Arrival and International Flights

    We are more than happy to recommend international flights, but ultimately you will make the purchase yourself. Here is some important information if you would like to research flights yourself:

    When must I arrive in Delhi / where will I stay in Delhi?

    Your flight to Leh is early in the morning on May 26th, so we recommend arriving in Delhi the evening of May 25th at the latest, so that you do not miss the flight on the 26th if your international flight is delayed. We will provide you a list of recommended hotels in New Delhi, some extremely close to the airport, and all of them comfortable and safe. You can make these bookings yourself online, in addition to airport pick up and drop off arrangements through the hotel.

    What time should I book my departing flight from India?

    You will be leaving Ladakh the morning of June 6th, and although it’s usually clear this time of year, delays are always possible. We would recommend making your return flight home no earlier than 6 PM on June 6th—perhaps even later to account for any potential delays. 

    Temperature & Suggested Packing List

    Based on historical averages and 2016’s temperatures, the typical temperature while we are in Leh will be 50° to 85° F (10° to 29° C), and although rain is not likely, it is possible. It can feel quite hot in the sun and chilly in the shade, so layers are going to be your best friend on this trip!

    Note: the weight limit on your internal flights (from Delhi to Leh and return) will be 44 lbs (20 kg), not the 50 lbs that you may be used to domestically in the USA.  If you prefer to only bring a carry-on, you’re welcome to do that, as well.

    One more tip: Using packing cubes may make your life easier.BJ and Lauren swear by them, and they’ve been living out of their suitcases since the beginning of 2013!


    Although more and more Indians are adopting Western wear, traditional clothing is very prevalent and modesty is the name of the game (particularly around the monastery!)  Please do not wear clothes that are tight, transparent or show too much skin or underarms. This means no tank tops or mid-riff baring tops (even for your yoga gear). We also discourage wearing form-fitting “skinny” jeans and shorts/skirts above the knee. Instead, we recommend wear loose fitting clothing such as long skirts, pants, capri-length pants, and t-shirts, collared shirts, blouses or tunics.

    • 8+ pairs undergarments; you can always have them washed or wash them yourself in your bathroom.
    • 3-5 pair pants or long skirts.  You may want to bring leggings or long johns (2 or 3 pair) to wear under your long kurtas, tunics, skirts or pants on chilly mornings or evenings (again—it’s all about the layers!) Fleece pants might be nice, and good to sleep in (remember, the nights are going to be in the 40’s to 50’s)
    • 4-5 cotton t-shirts, blouses, or long sleeve shirts.
    • A thicker sweater or jacket for cold Ladakh mornings and evenings.
    • A windbreaker or shell might prove useful if your jacket doesn’t protect you from the wind or rain.
    • A warm hat and scarf for chilly mornings and evenings.
    • 2-3 pairs of socks. Wool (like SmartWool) or tech socks work very well, but whatever socks you have will be just fine.
    • Warm sleeping attire
    • Comfortable walking shoes. Boots aren’t necessary and can be cumbersome when going in and out of monasteries and temples. Sneakers or comfortable slip-ons will suffice.
    • Walking sandals (such as Teva’s, Chaco’s, or Merrell’s) also work very well here.
    • A hat with a brim is a very good idea for our daytime adventures.


    • Ear plugs and eye shades to help you sleep better and recover from jet lag more quickly. BJ swears by thisclick here to read an article he wrote on the topic.
    • Good sunscreen is CRITICAL at this altitude.  Lauren prefers mineral-based ones: good for you, good for the environment. How do you know if it’s mineral based? If the active ingredient is either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide—that’s it. MyChelle and Devita make good ones.
    • Daypack or camera bag. (If you need a recommendation on a camera, BJ would be happy to help, depending on what type of photography you like, how much you want to spend, and how much you want to carry around.)
    • If you do bring your camera, don’t forget extra batteries or your charging cord. You may want to think about an extra memory card, too.
    • Toiletries (including shampoo and conditioner)
    • A few packs of travel tissues is a good idea, to keep on you for public restrooms.
    • Wet wipes or hand sanitizer.
    • Any necessary feminine hygiene products.
    • Plug adaptor for electronics: you’ll need a 2 pin adaptor common across Europe. Here’s a nice example of a great universal adapter and here’s one with USB ports, as well.
    • An external battery charger, such as this one, may be useful for USB-powered objects. Given the remote location of this retreat, electricity can be finicky, so it is best to have a secondary way to charge your phone or camera.
    • VERY IMPORTANT!  A print out of your RETURN airline ticket itinerary; you’ll need this to enter the airport to get home. You can also have a copy (we recommend a screenshot) on your phone.
    • Photocopy of your passport and your visa, just in case you need them.
    • A small travel umbrella is a must. It can work for rain OR as a parasol
    • Notebook and pen for journaling purposes
    • Enough of any prescription drugs you need, as well as over-the-counter needs.  We recommend Imodium (anti-diarrheal), a probiotic (Lauren is a BIG fan of Jarrodophilus EPS), as well as melatonin and Benadryl for jet lag purposes.
    • The guesthouse at the monastery in Ladakh has Internet, but outages are not uncommon (all over Ladakh). Nevertheless, we encourage you to bring your smartphone or tablet, and please don’t forget your chargers! We recommend setting up Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, or another wifi-based calling service before leaving home, and familiarizing your loved ones with it before you leave.

    Contact RetreaTours

    Please write Lauren@RetreaTours.com for any questions you may have about this journey. If you have not received a reply within 48 hours, please do check your spam folder.

    About Tricycle

    Established in 1990 as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization, The Tricycle Foundation is dedicated to making Buddhist teachings and practices broadly available. In 1991 the Foundation launched Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, the first magazine intended to present Buddhist perspectives to a Western readership. Tricycle soon became the leading independent journal of Buddhism in the West, where it continues to be the most inclusive and widely read vehicle for the dissemination of Buddhist views and values.

    Our readership includes longtime practitioners, those who are curious about Buddhism or meditation, and those who do not identify as Buddhist but value the teachings of wisdom and compassion that Buddhism has to offer. By remaining unaffiliated with any particular teacher, sect or lineage, Tricycle provides a unique and independent public forum for exploring Buddhism, establishing a dialogue between Buddhism and the broader culture, and introducing Buddhist thinking to Western disciplines. This approach has enabled Tricycle to successfully attract readers from all walks of life, many of whom desire to enrich their lives through a deeper knowledge of Buddhist traditions.

    Tricycle has been recognized with the prestigious Folio Award for Best Spiritual Magazine three times, and has twice garnered the Utne Media Award, most recently in 2013. As part of our commitment to our readers who are seeking to implement or sustain Buddhist values and practices, Tricycle accepts advertising only from teachers, programs, centers, and businesses whose offerings we believe will support those aims. Because of this selective policy, we depend on donations to support ever-rising printing and production costs, content updates to our website, and life-enriching programs. The Foundation also hosts occasional pilgrimages that provide opportunities for new and experienced practitioners to explore sites of importance to Buddhist history and practice.

    Mission Statement

    The mission of The Tricycle Foundation is to create forums for exploring contemporary and historic Buddhist activity, examine the impact of its new context in the democratic traditions of the West, and introduce fresh views and attainable methods for enlightened living to the culture at large. At the core of the Foundation’s mission is the alleviation of suffering that Buddhist teachings are meant bring about. Tricycle is an independent foundation unaffiliated with any one lineage or sect.

    Why “Tricycle?”

    A three-wheeled vehicle aptly evokes the fundamental components of Buddhist philosophy. Buddhism itself is often referred to as the “vehicle to enlightenment,” and the tricycle’s three wheels allude to the three treasures: The Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, or the enlightened teacher, the teachings, and the community. The wheels also relate to the turning of the wheel of dharma, or skillfully using the teachings of the Buddha to face the challenges that the circle of life presents.

    About Dr. Sonam Wangchok, PhD

    Please click here for Tricycle‘s coverage of Dr. Wangchok and his foundation: Ladakh is Bringing New Love to Old Stupas

    I was born in the village of Khardong Rongjuk in Nubra Valley, Ladakh.  I was fully engaged in the family farming business until I was 11 years old, and up to that time I had never attended school. My elder brother, however, recognized that I was gifted and arranged for my enrollment at the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies (CIBS) in Leh, where I studied Buddhist Philosophy, Tibetan, Hindi, and English, amongst other modern subjects. I received a scholarship through H.E. the 19th Bakula Rinpoche to study Buddhism in Sri Lanka based on my excellent results at the CIBS. In 1991, I traveled to Sri Lanka where I studied Buddhist Social Philosophy at the Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka and received my B.A. (Hons) degree in 1996.

    This distinction gave me immediate access to the University of Delhi to pursue my M.A. degree. In the meantime, I received my Diploma in Tibetan Language and Literature, English and Journalism, and also qualified National Eligibility Test (NET) which qualified me to teach in any University in India. I received a research fellowship from University Grant Commission (UGC) for pursuing doctorate studies on “Origin and Development of Sakya Tradition in the Western Himalaya with Special Reference to Matho Monastery in Ladakh.” In 2006, I earned a doctorate degree from the Department of Buddhist Studies, University of Delhi.

    After completing my doctorate degree, I decided to come back home to serve my own people and society, as I had promised His Eminence the 19th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche. On a related note, I feel extremely fortunate to have been appointed as tutor to the 20th Bakula Rinpoche from 2010 to 2013 (who, in his previous life, was the one sent me to Sri Lanka for higher studies).

    I began my work as a researcher/program coordinator for Namgyal Institute for Research on Ladakhi Art and Culture and worked on two major projects: Inventory of Cultural Resources in Ladakh (funded by Ford Foundation) and Revival of Monastic Art & Crafts (funded by UNESCO).

    In 2009, I founded the Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation (HCHF) with the aim of promoting and preserving Himalayan indigenous cultural heritage. After working as the Ladakh Liaison Officer for the International Association for Ladakh Studies (IALS) from 2009 to 2011, I am currently the Honorable President for IALS based on my research, experience, dedication, and service.

    About the Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation

    The Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation (HCHF) is a community-based, non-government organization devoted to preserve and promote indigenous, natural, and historic heritage by working directly with different mountain communities and strengthening and supporting community-based institutions. HCHF has made concerted efforts in documenting the intangible heritage of Ladakh, including Buddhist culture, folklore, traditional songs, music, and dances. HCHF works extensively to revive dying monastic art, crafts, rituals, and village handicrafts in the Himalayas. The foundation lays great stress on trainings and workshops that preserve the rich cultural heritage of the Himalayas.

    About RetreaTours

    Lauren & BJ with their dear friends Chamba (L) and Stanzin (R).

    You will be joined onsite by RetreaTours owner BJ Graf during your Ladakh Pilgrimage!

    RetreaTours is perfectly suited to facilitate your time in Ladakh. BJ Graf has been traveling to Ladakh and Thiksey Monastery since 1995. He was invited as Thiksey Monastery’s official photographer for the Dalai Lama’s Summer 2010 visit to Nubra Valley and again for HHDL’s August 2016 Thiksey Monastery visit and his 2017 teachings at Disket Monastery. In addition, one of BJ’s portraits of Thiksey Rinpoche graces the cover of his recent biography.

    BJ and HHDL

    BJ and HHDL on BJ’s birthday in 2017.

    Having developed deep and personal connections to many lamas (monks) at Thiksey, BJ and Lauren have secured access to sacred prayer halls otherwise inaccessible to the public.  In addition, you’ll experience a warm welcome into the homes of the monks and their families in the village for tea, dinner, and thought-provoking discussions about Tibetan Buddhism.

    BJ & Lauren created RetreaTours in 2010 with one goal in mind: to make world travel accessible, authentic, and astounding.  In order to focus fully on this passion, they moved out of the U.S. in January 2013 to reside full-time overseas. Each day is spent exploring new destinations, strengthening local ties & relationships, and creating memorable and transformative retreats and tours (aka, RetreaTours™!)

    BJ & Lauren take great pride in the itineraries they plan, as they can personally vouch for every hotel, every restaurant, and every activity that you will experience. They craft each element of the trip with intention, and they understand that it is this careful attention to detail that sets them apart.  Fueled by their passion, armed with know-how, and supported by knowledgeable local professionals in all of their destinations, BJ & Lauren set the scene for the vacation of a lifetime. The dynamic duo are available to answer any and all questions before the trip begins. From giving advice on the best flights and travel insurance to providing a packing list, FAQ, and even a tiny “phrasebook,” BJ & Lauren pride themselves on these ‘nuts & bolts’ of personalized service.

    BJ and HHDL, 2016

    In addition, as a guest, you receive free travel consulting services (normally a $300 value) should you choose to extend your travels. As one of their most ‘frequent fliers’ put it recently, BJ & Lauren make everything easy for you. Once you arrive in your destination city, your trip is all-inclusive—your meals, transportation, lodging, site fees, donations, and tips are all taken care of.  The research has been done, the itinerary carefully laid out, the reservations made, the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted. All you have to do is show up and take in all your destination has to show you!  So….let’s get going!

    Lauren & BJ with His Holiness in Ladakh on his birthday in 2017. 

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    Read what our past Tricycle Pilgrimage to Ladakh guests have to say…

    BJ and Lauren are excellent, knowledgeable, and highly attentive tour leaders. They clearly love what they do, which makes all the difference. Their passion for the culture and people of Ladakh is infectious. This was the trip of a lifetime, thanks to the talent and dedication of BJ and Lauren.


    Lauren and BJ are the best tour guides possible. They are totally on top of the areas we visit, have developed and cultivated marvelous local relationships, and rise to any individual need with aplomb and sensitivity. A trip with them is a gift to any traveler seeking insight, fun, and adventure.


    Every detail was organized and taken care of. The meditation practices and dharma talks were deep and profound. The staff and our spiritual leaders were top notch. Every experience (even altitude issues) was handled professionally and with great care. I am forever grateful to have gone to Ladakh, and this retreat has deepened my practice and understanding.


    I would recommend RetreaTours to anyone looking for a very well organized, off the beaten path adventure. BJ and Lauren attend to every detail and go above and beyond in their helpfulness. The itineraries are excellent, and their connections to hotels and local travel businesses make everything easy. Especially valuable are the friendships they have developed with local people, who will warmly welcome you as a friend of their friends.


    It was the perfect Buddhist meditation retreat, thank you to Tricycle, Lauren and BJ for making this trip happen. Come to think of it, it was my favorite trip of the last 70 years!


    As an inexperienced traveler, I cannot say enough about RetreaTours, BJ and Lauren! Their extensive knowledge, experience and compassion gave me complete confidence in my own capacity for adventure…and they exceeded all of my expectations! Every day was an immersion in history, culture and being in a place that lives the Dharma—generosity, grace, compassion, wisdom. Prayer flags, prayer wheels, stupas, mani stones…..being surrounded by all of these sacred markers, enriched my life. BJ and Lauren’s wise guidance and planning for all events provided an experience that deepened my practice and gave me renewed vitality for adventure!


    I don’t know if it is possible to find a tour company that is more interested in your trip being the best one of your life. I usually don’t travel with tour companies and I have traveled a lot but I decided to try this tour. The reason for my choice was the list of activities that I would not be able to do without their vast connections. It was the best trip of my life and that is really saying something. The attention to detail and always striving for the maximum experience was way over the top as far as I was concerned. The ability to provide the opportunity for spiritual experiences that allow one to reach new levels of knowledge, expansion, and awareness is indeed a great gift to the world. Thank you, BJ and Lauren.


    Visiting Ladakh with RetreaTours was an unbelievable and memorable experience. I’ve never been on a retreat or to India and thanks to Lauren’s and BJ’s organization, knowledge and guidance, the trip was more than a retreat or a tour. I returned home having experienced the excitement of meeting new people, learning about a new culture and personal growth. The activities went way beyond the traditional tourist activities allowing us to truly experience the culture and history. Yet, at the same time, I never felt overwhelmed or tired and was excited by each new activity and experience.


    BJ and Lauren are the most supportive of companions, careful organisers, and inspired teachers we could possibly have had for this totally wonderful and unforgettable experience. BJ and Lauren are connected in every way in Ladakh – from Rinpoches and high lamas, to cultural academics and local experts, to monks and nuns – transforming our Pilgrimage into a time of great richness. As well as this, what RetreaTours does so brilliantly are the joyful and intimate surprises – that involved us in unforgettable behind the scenes glimpses of life in Ladakh. Warmly recommended – superb organisation, imagination and delivery. Bravo to RetreaTours!


    Want to see our other Pilgrimages with Tricycle?

    We love traveling with Tricycle & we know that you will enjoy these transformative journeys, too! Please click here to see all of our current Tricycle Pilgrimages at a glance.