The Ladakh Experience

Yoga & Meditation in the Himalayas with Nikki Costello and Marla Apt

The Ladakh Experience

Yoga & Meditation in the Himalayas with Nikki Costello and Marla Apt

Join Senior Certified Iyengar Yoga teachers Nikki Costello & Marla Apt in the Himalayas on an immersive yoga and meditation retreat in July 2024 in Ladakh, India.

 

Trip at a Glance

  • July 1-9, 2024
  • Experience the beauty of the Himalayas on India’s Tibetan Plateau
  • Daily Iyengar Yoga and meditation sessions with Nikki Costello and Marla Apt
  • Special access to ancient prayer halls at Thiksey Monastery
  • Teachings and discussions with Tibetan Buddhist monks
  • Monastic single accommodations near Thiksey Monastery
  • This journey is double carbon offset from door-to-door
  • Maximum of 16 guests

How to Apply for The Ladakh Experience

  • Please familiarize yourself with the retreat details on this website
  • Click the button below for the retreat application (or waitlist)
  • We will reach out within a week with more information and deposit options

Together, Nikki Costello and RetreaTours founders BJ Graf and Lauren Rathvon created The Ladakh Experience in India in 2015. We have shared our life-long love and passion for the Tibetan Plateau by bringing yoga students, meditators, Buddhist practitioners, and world travelers to this extraordinary epicenter of spirituality and natural wonder.

We are refreshed, inspired, and excited to see our Ladakhi community of friends, family, monks, shopkeepers, and artists. We would especially like to welcome guest teacher Marla Apt who will co-teach The Ladakh Experience 2024 with Nikki.

We have accommodations for 14 guests and anticipate filling those spots quickly. Please fill out your application promptly and we will respond within 7 days with steps for you to secure your spot. We request that each participant have 3+ years of Iyengar Yoga practice with either Marla or Nikki and is currently studying with them either online or in-person for one year prior to our retreat.

Together, Nikki Costello and RetreaTours founders BJ Graf and Lauren Rathvon created The Ladakh Experience in 2015. We have shared our life-long love and passion for the Tibetan Plateau by bringing yoga students, meditators, Buddhist practitioners, and world travelers to this extraordinary epicenter of spirituality and natural wonder.

We are refreshed, inspired, and excited to see our Ladakhi community of friends, family, monks, shopkeepers, and artists. We would especially like to welcome guest teacher Marla Apt who will co-teach The Ladakh Experience 2024 with Nikki.

We have accommodations for 14 guests and anticipate filling those spots quickly. Please fill out your application promptly and we will respond within 7 days with steps for you to secure your spot. We request that each participant have 3+ years of Iyengar Yoga practice with either Marla or Nikki and is currently studying with them either online or in-person for one year prior to our retreat.

Meet Nikki Costello

Nikki Costello is an educator with 30 years of teaching and training experience. She is a Senior Iyengar Yoga Teacher (CIYT) and a Certified Yoga Therapist (IAYT). Her teaching has been influenced by annual trips to India including RIMYI (Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute), the study of philosophical and scriptural texts and a daily practice of meditation. Nikki was a contributing editor at Yoga Journal, writing the magazine’s “Basics Column” and in 2016, she was named one of the 100 Most Influential Teachers in America.

Nikki holds an MA in Traditions of Yoga and Meditation from SOAS, University of London and is a PhD student at the California Institute of Integral studies. She works at the intersection of social justice and the wellness industry with a focus on facilitating new models of embodied leadership. Nikki skillfully analyzes group dynamics and behaviors integral to the development of transformative learning curriculums. She has trained and mentored over 3000 educators worldwide as teachers and leaders and is recognized as a thought leader in the Global Yoga and Wellness community.

She is a highly motivated and articulate public speaker for both live events and pre-recorded content. Her extensive content library of over 350+ Yoga and Meditation classes can be found on Nikki Costello | The Practice. Learn more about Nikki.

Meet Marla Apt

Marla Apt is a Senior Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher (CIYT) with over 25 years of teaching experience. Since visiting India for the first time to conduct research for a degree in Buddhist Philosophy, she has returned numerous times to study Yoga with B.K.S. Iyengar and the Iyengar family.

Marla designed and assisted medical research studies at UCLA regarding Yoga as a treatment for depression, anxiety, and IBS, and she created the first Yoga Therapy content to be incorporated into the curriculum of the David Gefffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Marla has served the Yoga community as President of the Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States and member of the Certification and Continuing Education for Teachers Committees. She was honored by the Iyengar Yoga Association of Southern California as the recipient of their leadership award. She is pursuing her commitment to making the healing benefits of Yoga available to communities in need as a founding board member of the non-profit organization, Iyengar Yoga Therapeutics.

Learn more about Marla here. 

About your Experience

Your Arrival in New Delhi

You will arrive in Delhi on or before June 30th to prepare for your July 1st flight over the Himalayas to Ladakh. Your hotel night on June 30th is not included on this journey in order to allow the most freedom and flexibility in your arrival date and hotel choice. We’ve created a guide to our recommended hotels in New Delhi and will be happy to discuss your options with you.

Welcome to Ladakh

On the morning of July 1st you’ll take a gorgeous one-hour flight to the Tibetan Plateau of India. Upon landing, we will greet you at Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport and we will drive 30 minutes to Thiksey Monastery.

Our home base for The Ladakh Experience lies at the base of this picturesque Tibetan Buddhist monastery, often called “Little Potala” for its resemblance to the Potala Palace in Tibet. Thiksey Monastery is rich with history and some of the most iconic art in all of Ladakh, including a breathtaking statue of the Maitreya Buddha that was consecrated by the Dalai Lama himself.

We have created the ideal container for your journey in Ladakh, with a combination of practice and personal time for exploration, both internal and external. We have special access to a centuries-old sacred temple for our yoga and meditation practice.

Each morning we’ll attend morning puja (chanted prayers) with the monks of Thiksey in their main prayer hall or their Protector Temple. We’ll meet and engage in dialogue with monks about Buddhism, philosophy, and Ladakhi culture. If his schedule allows, we’ll have a private audience with the abbot of Thiksey Monastery, Rinpoche Kushok Nawang Chamba Stanzin, who has been a progressive spiritual and political leader in Ladakh for decades.

We’ll eat nourishing, vegetarian meals together that highlight local produce and classical Indian dishes. Each guest will have their own simple, comfortable room that includes an en suite bathroom. We’ll enjoy the hotel’s well-manicured courtyard and its comfortable lounge for discussions and catching up with each other.

On the morning of July 9th, our journey comes to a close. You’ll return to New Delhi to head home or perhaps explore more of India; if you wish to continue your journey in Ladakh, we can discuss those options with you, as well.

 

Sphinx of Giza in front of the Great Pyramid of Khufu
Sphinx of Giza in front of the Great Pyramid of Khufu
Sphinx of Giza in front of the Great Pyramid of Khufu

Please click each section to open it.

Price & What is Included

There is a minimum of 10 guests required for this journey and a maximum of 16. When we have reached our minimum, we will let you know, at which time you can buy airfare and your travel insurance.

  • This journey is $6999 USD per person.
  • The non-refundable deposit is $1000 and holds your space
  • The 2nd installment of $3000 is due on January 1, 2024
  • The balance is due March 1, 2024

Price Includes

  • Roundtrip flight from New Delhi to Leh, Ladakh
  • All private room accommodations from July 1 to July 8 
  • All meals from lunch on July 1 until breakfast on July 9 
  • All tips to restaurant and hotel staff
  • An online photo album of the experience for you to download and share
  • Daily Iyengar Yoga classes

Price does not include

  • International airfare
  • Hotel night in New Delhi on June 30 
  • India visa fee (currently $25 for 30-day eTourist visa for Americans)
  • Travel insurance (required)
    Payment Details

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

    The non-refundable $1000 deposit guarantees your space. The 2nd installment is due on January 1, 2024 and the balance on March 1, 2024.

    For our American guests, we accept payments via check, credit, or debit card (via PayPal), Zelle, or Venmo. Lauren will send you these details after receiving your application has been accepted.

    For our guests outside the U.S., Lauren will connect with you about the best ways to transfer money.

      Cancellation Policy

      We do everything in our power to do right by our guests. We are proud to say that in the wake of our COVID-related trip cancellations through 2020 and 2021, we were able to offer each of our guests the choice of a 100% credit, if not a full refund.

      We’ve re-examined each trip and done our best to reduce the deposit amounts as much as possible. Upon your registration, your deposit immediately goes toward reserving your space for flights, hotels, and excursions that must be booked months in advance and are often non-refundable.

      Cancellation by our guests

      The cancellation charges are as follows unless otherwise indicated on the detailed itinerary for each trip. All cancellations must be received via e-mail or US mail.

      • Cancellations prior to 120 days to departure, money will be refunded minus the non-refundable deposit. Please note that deposits for any pre-trip or post-trip extensions are not transferable to another portion of the trip should you decide to cancel that module of the journey.
      • Cancellations received 61 to 119 days prior to departure are subject to a penalty of 50% of the total cost of the trip.
      • Cancellations received 60 days or less prior to trip departure will forfeit the entire cost of the trip.

      If a trip is cancelled by RetreaTours

      When a tour is cancelled in the case of force majeure, the Tour Participant will receive a refund minus any funds that we are unable to recover from any supplier.

      You can see the full cancellation policy in our contract here. 

      Our Carbon Offset Commitment

      RetreaTours is Climate Positive!

      We purchase double carbon offsets for your travels with us—that’s from your home, through the entire tour, and back to your home again, times two

      RetreaTours is officially a Carbonfree® Partner with Carbonfund.org, as well as a partner with Cool Effect.

      You may have heard the term “carbon neutral,” which means that a company offsets as much carbon as it produces. With this 200% offset, RetreaTours is actually offsetting more carbon than we produce each year, making us “carbon negative” (or “climate positive,” which has a nicer ring to it!)

      Since 2012 we’ve focused on making travel safe and easy for our guests; with our triple carbon offset tours, we’re pleased to make our trips as sustainable as they are memorable.

      Please see more at RetreaTours.com/CarbonNegative

      Suggested Fitness Requirements

      Our practice space is in a centuries-old temple up ~200 steps from our guesthouse. Participants should be able to comfortably climb and descend stairs, sometimes without handrails.  It is normal to feel winded climbing stairs at altitude–slow and steady wins the race.

      Please see the “About the Altitude” tab above for more important information.

      Travel Insurance

      Required Coverage

      RetreaTours requires that each guest carries travel insurance that covers emergency medical treatment and emergency evacuation and repatriation. Please send Lauren your policy information as soon as you have it.

      Suggested Coverage

      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.

      Please familiarize yourself with RetreaTours’ guest cancellation policy in your journey’s contract. Please read this article to understand a bit more about trip cancellation insurance and what it may or may not cover. “Cancel For Any Reason” policies do exist, as well, although do check to see what percentage of the trip cost they actually reimburse.

      When to purchase your policy

      Please purchase this insurance as soon as we tell you the trip has reached its minimum. Please do not wait until the last minute, should you need to use your (optional) cancellation coverage before then.

      Where to search for policies

      Below you will find some options to start your search for trip insurance. 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.

      Squaremouth.com and InsureMyTrip.com are two sites where you can see and compare many policies at once, and you can refine the options by what coverage you would like. Squaremouth’s interface is very easy and intuitive to use, and you can easily opt out of trip cancellation coverage.

      World Nomads provides policies for guests under 70 that includes trip cancellation options. Use the link above and pop in your info to get an immediate quote.

      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.

      Passport & Visa Requirement

      Your passport must have at least 2 blank pages and be valid for at least 6 months beyond the end of the trip.

      You can apply for a 30-day Indian eTourist visa 4 to 30 days before your trip. You can apply for a 1-year eTourist visa up to 4 months before the journey.

      We will provide detailed instructions and all information you will need for this visa. Currently, 30-day India eTourist visas are $25 USD plus processing fees.

      Vaccines & Staying Healthy on Tour

      Vaccines

      RetreaTours requires proof of a COVID-19 vaccine and booster for this journey.

      No vaccines 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. It’s always best to stay up to date on routine vaccines before you travel.

      You can read the CDC’s recommendations here and the UK NHS recommendations here.

      Altitude

      Please visit our comprehensive blog about staying well at high altitude. 

      Staying Healthy on Tour

      Please visit our comprehensive article, “How to Stay Healthy While Traveling…Naturally,” which addresses all of the most common travel ailments.

      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 to this altitude. However, it is crucial to understand how altitude affects the body and what you can do to minimize any symptoms. 

      Please visit our comprehensive blog about staying well at high altitude. 

       

      Expected Temperatures & Suggested Packing List

      Ladakh sits on the Tibetan Plateau, a high-altitude desert. Expect the temperature to range from 45° to 75°F (7° to 24°C) with very little humidity. Because of the low humidity, it can be chilly in the shade and warm in the direct sun.

      For your arrival in New Delhi, expect temperatures from 85° to 95°F (30° to 35°C) with high humidity and a fair chance of rain.

      We’ll provide a suggested packing list several months before this journey.

      About our Accommodations

      We will be staying at Thiksey Monastery’s guesthouse at the base of the monastery, Chamba Guesthouse. Each guest will have a private room that has an ensuite bathroom with Western toilet and shower with hot water.

      Wifi can be a challenge high in the Himalayas. Wifi is typically available but inconsistent and at a slower speed than you are accustomed to.

      Do not expect your international phone plan to work in Ladakh, nor a SIM card that works in the rest of India since this region uses a different system than the rest of India. It is difficult to obtain a SIM card in Ladakh so any connectivity will come from the Wifi.

       

       

      About Your Arrival and First Night in New Delhi

      Arrival

      You will need to arrive in New Delhi, India by June 30th in order to prepare for your flight to Ladakh on the morning of July 1st. Your hotel night on June 30th is not included in your retreat fee in order to allow you the most flexibility in terms of schedule and hotel category. We’ve created a webpage here that will give you hotel suggestions in New Delhi.

      You will arrange airport pick-up with your hotel, as well as airport drop-off on the morning of July 1st. You will be provided with your ticket for your July 1st flight to Ladakh.

       

      Departure

      Your flight from Leh, Ladakh back to New Delhi is included on this journey. Expect to reach New Delhi by 2 PM on July 9th at the latest (barring any unexpected flight cancellations or long delays) and you can plan your flight home accordingly. Any flight time after 6 PM on July 9th should be fine, allowing you time to collect your luggage and check back in for your international flight.

      Contact RetreaTours

      Please email Lauren with any questions you may have about this journey.

      Meet BJ & Lauren of RetreaTours

      You’ll be joined on this journey by Lauren & BJ, owners of RetreaTours.

      Husband-and-wife team BJ Graf and Lauren Rathvon have traveled the globe year-round since January 2013, researching, designing, and leading impactful journeys. We are deeply grateful for the trust that our guests place in us to save them time and resources while they enjoy a memorable journey.

      We are committed not only to our guests but to our host destinations and the planet at large. We engage with local businesses and guides to keep money within the community, and we triple-carbon offset each of our tours.

      We invite you to visit our Testimonials page to see what other people have to say about us!  You can head to our About Us page to learn more about our story.

      RetreaTours has a very special relationship with Thiksey Monastery. BJ Graf has been visiting this region since 1995 and has fostered close relationships with Ladakhi lamas (monks) and laypeople alike. This intimate personal connection allows us to reach deeper and more meaningfully into the culture and community.

      BJ has been bringing guests to Ladakh since 2006, and in 2015, RetreaTours and Nikki Costello created the first yoga retreat ever hosted at Thiksey Monastery. With our unprecedented access to ancient prayer halls and intimate friendships with Thiksey’s monks and their families in the village, our Ladakh guests always come away inspired and uplifted.

      BJ was invited to serve as Thiksey Monastery’s official photographer in 2010, 2016, and 2017 for three very special Thiksey-sponsored events with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In addition to capturing these events in photos, BJ enjoyed conversation, some good-natured ribbing, and a good luck head rub by the Dalai Lama himself. In 2017, we were blessed to create an opportunity for The Ladakh Experience group to have an audience with His Holiness on his birthday.

      Over the years, BJ has had the good fortune to spend time with and photograph the 20th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, as well as the 102nd Ganden Tripa, Ling Rinpoche, Khen Rinpoche (former abbot of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery), KelKhang Rinpoche, Kachen Lobzang Zotpa, and HHDL’s sister and humanitarian, Jetsun Pema. We are eternally grateful to Thiksey Rinpoche, KelKhang Rinpoche, Khenrap-la, and countless others for their endless support in crafting transformative experiences in Thiksey, Leh, and beyond.

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