Ladakh, in northern India, is one of the highest and most remote human habitats on earth. Located between the Himalaya range to the south and the Karakoram range to the north, it is a region beset by water scarcity, fragile ecosystems, and extreme climatic variation. Ladakhis have resourcefully dealt with these harsh conditions for over a thousand years, using longstanding practices that integrate environmental knowledge with social and religious understandings.

Now confronting globalization and climate change, they are grappling with how to develop in a sustainable manner. These environmental challenges represent a unique natural setting for a first-hand understanding of social adaptation and sustainability.

The Himalaya Cultures & Ecology Program is 4.5-week program with a focus on cultural survival, community-based conservation, and climate change. We are looking for travelers that are passionate about these issues, lifelong learners, and those looking for a bit of an adventure. If this is you, join us in the Himalayas this summer!

This trip will be physically and emotionally demanding. It involves very basic living conditions, high altitudes, and moderate to high levels of physical activity. It will culminate with an optional multi-day trek to altitudes of up to 17,000 feet. But for those who are up to the challenge, the trip will be an immensely rewarding and transformative experience.

KEY FEATURES

  • Explore issues of community-based conservation, cultural survival, and adaption to climate change
  • Work with the Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust on wildlife conservation projects
  • Learn about Tibetan & Ladakhi culture, history, and religion
  • Spend 4.5 weeks in a remote region of the Western Himalayas
  • Trek in the dramatic Zanskar Valley

Program Information

July 3- August 2

$4,150per person (double occupancy)

INCLUDES:
  • In-country transportation
  • Roundtrip domestic airfare from Delhi – Leh
  • All meals in India
  • Activites & Admissions (temples, parks, etc.)
  • Trek and other excursions
NOT INCLUDED:
  • International airfare (est. $1,400)
  • Visa
  • Immunizations/personal medical expenses
  • Travel Health Insurance (proof of insurance required for participation)
  • Independent travel
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The accommodations for the trip in include guest houses, homestays, and tents. In Leh, the capital of Ladakh, we will be staying in a locally-owned guesthouse. In the Zanskar Valley, we will be in homestays either in Stongdey village or Padum. During the outdoor activities and long travel days, we will be sleeping in group tents (provided).

This trip will be physically and emotionally demanding. It involves very basic living conditions, high altitudes, and moderate to high levels of physical activity. It will culminate with an optional multi-day trek to altitudes of up to 17,000 feet.

This is a sample itinerary for illustrative purposes. The actual itinerary will change based on local conditions and availability.

July 2 – Arrive in Delhi. One of our staff members will pick you up from the airport. 

July 3 – Flight to Leh.

July 3-6 – Leh and surrounding villages. Group activities will include an in-country orientation, meetings with NGOs, language training, seminars, and visits to monasteries.

July 7-8 – Travel to Zansker. Rigorous 2-day jeep trip through the gorgeous Suru Valley.

July 9-26. Zanskar Valley. This will be the primary destination of the trip. Zanskar is a remote valley only accessible for six months of the year. While there, we will be staying with local families, learning about their culture and traditions, and supporting local community development projects. We will also have an optional multi-day trek in the Himalayas.

July 27-28. Travel to Leh. 

July 29-30. Leh. We will wrap up the program with final seminar discussions, a trip debrief, and any last minute souvenir shopping.

July 31. Flight to Delhi.

COMMUNITY PARTNER:
SNOW LEOPARD CONSERVANCY INDIA TRUST

The Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust (SLC-IT) is dedicated to promoting innovative grassroots measures that lead local people to become better stewards of endangered snow leopards, their prey, and habitat to the benefit of local people and the environment in the trans-Himalayan regions of Ladakh. SLC-IT believes that truly sustainable conservation comes from participation by the entire community.

The founding principle is to work with communities to protect snow leopards and their natural habitat while protecting community livelihoods. SLC-IT fulfills its mission through community-based conservation and livelihood programs, education programs, and wildlife research. For more information visit their facebook page and blog.

COMMUNITY PROJECT:
ARTIFICIAL GLACIERS

Most villages in Ladakh are agricultural and rely on glacial melt for irrigation. Some years, particularly now with climate change, the timing of the glacial melt has become erratic. If the water comes too late, the seeds dry out leading to widespread crop failure. For communities that rely primarily on subsistence agriculture to provide food for the harsh winter months, this can be devastating.

Recently, a Ladakhi engineer named Tsewang Norphel invented the idea of artificial glaciers in hopes of providing a more reliable source of water. Artificial glaciers are essentially large ice reservoirs, created by diverting near-freezing stream water behind rock walls. They are built at lower altitudes than natural glaciers so as the weather warms during the spring months, they melt sooner and provide crucial water for irrigation.

We have been partnering with Stongdey Village to pilot this idea in the Zanskar Valley. This summer, our team will be working on an evaluation of the project and developing lessons learned for other villages. 

TRIP LEADERS

Liz Mogford

Associate Professor of Sociology, Western Washington University

Lobzang Wangtak

Trip Leader | Project Coordinator

Ready to join us?