Nomads and Sacred Lakes on the Changthang Plateau

Repertory Trip: Next Offered June 2022


Join veteran Trip Leader Hashmat Singh for an expedition into a lost world of nomads, rare wildlife, and mystical lakes amid the wild beauty of Ladakh. Set on a high plateau in the Himalaya, Ladakh is a high-altitude enclave of spectacular landscapes and a treasure-trove of ancient Buddhist culture. For this adventurous 14-day trek, we cross Ladakh’s vast Changthang Plateau, which stretches from eastern Ladakh towards western Tibet and includes serene, mountain-ringed Tso Moriri (15,000'), a huge turquoise lake held sacred by the local people. The Changthang ("northern land") is home to Changpa nomads, who maintain a traditional Tibetan way of life, moving seasonally to find fresh grazing for their yaks and goats, trading salt and meat for grain and other goods from lower regions, and bringing their yak caravans into western Tibet on age-old trade routes. Our trek is a true high-altitude adventure, with camps at around 15,000 feet and pass crossings of up to 19,200 feet. As we experience this realm of cobalt skies and craggy escarpments, we enjoy memorable encounters with the Changpa nomads and keep an eye out for wildlife that ranges from little Himalayan pikas to bharal (sheep), ibex, and kyang (wild Tibetan donkeys). Ladakh’s high lakes are also an important habitat for many birds, including bar-headed geese, black-necked cranes, and other trans-Himalayan migratory species. This utterly remote journey is trekking at its best—magnificent mountain scenery, ancient cultures, wildlife, high passes, and the inimitable Hashmat Singh, leading in what is his favorite place on the planet!

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-4
Delhi / Leh

Arrive in Delhi, India, and fly to Leh (11,500'), Ladakh’s capital and a former trans-Himalayan trading post in a side valley of the Indus River. We acclimatize by visiting Ladakh’s ancient monasteries, including Likir, founded in the 14th century, and Alchi, built in the 11th century.

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Days 5-9
Kyamar (14,760') / Tso Kar Lake (15,088')

We begin our trek from Rumtse village (the last village we will see until Day 19) with a hike into the green Kyamar Valley, an ancient trade route to Tibet. We are now in the region known as Changthang, a vast high altitude plateau that extends from eastern Ladakh into western Tibet. On these days, we cross three 16,000-foot passes with spectacular views across the Changthang Plateau. On Day 9, we arrive at Tso Kar, one of the highest lakes in the world, sometimes known as “White Lake” because of its salt fields.

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Days 10-18
Kayaru La (17,548') / Barma La (17,100') / Lanyal La (19,200')

Hiking over the Kayaru La (17,548'), the Barma La (17,100'), and the Lanyal La (19,200') brings us to the breathtakingly beautiful Rupshu Valley. On Days 10 through Day 12, our route finds us among the camps of traditional Changpa nomads, who bring their herds of goats and sheep to these high meadows in summer. We then hike down along the shores of magnificent Tso Moriri Lake, with its vivid blue waters. The lake and the surrounding area is part of Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve and seasonal home to trans-Himalayan migratory species including black-necked cranes, along with many shorebirds. We camp nearby and also visit the tiny hamlet of Karzok (15,760'), with its lovely monastery.

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Days 19-20
Leh / Depart

Heading back to Leh, we enjoy a last visit to Leh’s colorful bazaar before flying to Delhi and homeward, departing Day 20.

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Changpa nomad families with their herds
Sacred Tso Moriri, one of highest lakes in the Himalayas
Ethereal Himalayan wilderness of Ladakh's Changtang Plateau
Buddhist monasteries of the Indus Valley, lively bazaars of Leh


Length: 20 days
Cost From: TBA  
Arrive: Delhi, India
Depart: Delhi, India
Lodging: 5 nights in hotels, 14 nights camping
Meals: All meals included (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Hiking / Trekking, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

14-day trek on steep trails, 4-8 hours a day, altitudes between 12,000-19,200 feet