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Hone your photography skills as you venture through the Himalayas. Learn new techniques from our professional photographers and capture the green valleys and snow capped tips of the mountains. Immerse yourself in the nomadic lifestyle of the Changpa community and visit buddhist monasteries. Cap off your trip with a sunrise visit the the majestic Taj Mahal.

Program Profile

Country
India
Community Service Component
None
Get to Know
The Sights, The People
Lifestyle
A Little Bit of Everything
Travel Component
On the Go!

2017 Departures

Departs (USA) Returns (USA) Availability
June 28 July 13 Available

Connecting Programs

Schedule two or more programs in a row to create your ideal Rustic Pathways experience.

This program connects especially well with:

  • Day 1

    Depart the U.S.

    Meet up with your group in Newark and board a comfortable non-stop flight to New Delhi, India, and start getting to know your fellow travelers. You’ll be escorted by a Rustic Pathways flight leader to India.

  • Day 2

    Namaste - Welcome to India!

    Following the flight to India, clear customs and be met by your trip leaders, who will take you to the hotel, so you can freshen up before getting a great night of sleep in a quiet and comfortable hotel.

    As you head through the streets of New Delhi, sink in the first sights of India. You’ve just arrived in a land of 1.2 billion people, home to every major religion in the world and a dizzying variety of histories and languages, and one of the most beautiful countries in the world. What better way to experience the sights, sounds, and heart of India than diving straight in?

  • Day 3

    Let's dive into Delhi!

    This morning you will spend time getting acquainted with the group and then set out for a photographic tour of Delhi! Our guides are well versed in Delhi history and in the locations you will be visiting. Explore Islamic monument Qutub Minar, the cleansing waters of the Sikh Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, and marvel at the juxtaposition of ancient and modern at the ruins in Hauz Khas. Get to bed early tonight in preparation for your early morning flight tomorrow.

  • Day 4

    Off to Ladakh

    Today you will leave the Indian plains behind and head to Ladakh, the Land of High Mountain Passes, located in the middle of the Himalayan mountains. After your early morning flight, rest and relax until the afternoon to allow for acclimatizing to your new elevation – more than 11,500 feet above sea level! Have the afternoon to take in some photo lessons and then enjoy your first Ladakhi sunset from the Royal Palace in Leh.

  • Day 5

    A look into Ancient Monasteries

    After a great breakfast and a warm cup of chai, head out to the ancient monasteries that Leh is known for. Share laughs with novice monks, spin prayer wheels, and listen to the soothing sounds of monks chanting as their voices echo from the surrounding peaks. If you’re lucky, you’ll also have the chance to catch one of the local Buddhist festivals that often occur during this time of the year!

  • Day 6

    Themisgam

    Today you’ll head out and follow the Indus River west into the Indus River Valley and on to Themisgam where you will have your first homestay! Along the way you’ll stop at the famous monastery of Alchi and – if you’re lucky – sample some fresh apricots right off the trees. At Themisgam you’ll have the opportunity to explore the village over two days in small groups, while also gaining an understanding of the local culture through homestays.

  • Day 7

    Themisgam

    Enjoy breakfast with your host family, then work on specific photography skills during a scavenger hunt. In the afternoon you will visit a local school and possibly challenge the students to a game of volleyball. Make momos with your family in the evening, and talk with them to understand more about the incredible sustainability of the region.

  • Day 8

    Hemis

    Say goodbye to your Themisgam family and hit the trails for a morning hike to Hemis – a very rural community with another famous monastery. Explore the village in the afternoon and learn about the local way of life from families who have made their home in the Hemis area for generations.

  • Day 9

    Return to Leh, rest day and photo reviews

    After several days living without many Western amenities, you’ll get the chance to head back to Leh, recharge your batteries, have a photo review, and share some laughs over a meal of momo’s and curries! After the morning drive to Leh, your leaders will give you a photo lesson and assignment, then spend the rest of the day preparing to head east to spend time with the semi-nomadic Changpa people.

  • Day 10

    A Visit with the Changpa people

    Head out from Leh to the wide alpine deserts of Chang Tang. Making their life off the land they live on, the Changpa nomads are considered the first people to have lived in Ladakh and through the years their lifestyle still remains much the same as it was centuries ago. You’ll gain a unique insight into their life as you spend the next three days living in yurts and participating in their daily life.

  • Day 11

    Drive to Lake Tso Moriri

    After breakfast with your host family, head out on an excursion to Lake Tso Moriri, nestled in the Rupshu Valley. It is an environmental and landscape photographer’s dream! The crisp blue waters of the lake juxtapose against an incredible Himalayan landscape. Herds of pashmina goats frequent the area, and foxes, marmots, and wild kiang are also often spotted. Tonight it’s back to the Changpa community for another night in the yurt homestay.

  • Day 12

    Stay with nomadic community

    Gain a deeper understanding about the way this community spends its days and lives sustainably while tending to their goats, sheep, and yaks today. Spend the day interacting with your host family while working on photo lessons and assignments interspersed throughout the day. At a bonfire tonight trade songs with the Changpa community underneath a sky littered with stars.

  • Day 13

    Back to Leh

    Say goodbye to your Changpa host family this morning, then enjoy one last drive through the mountains, back to Leh. On this last day in the Himalayas, you’ll have the chance to find any last gifts and get some shopping done, then top the day off by watching the sunset over 20,000 foot mountains. Enjoy a delicious Ladakhi meal of thenthuk and head to bed for a good rest before your early morning flight.

  • Day 14

    Taj Mahal!

    Fly from Leh to Delhi, then hop in a comfortable air-conditioned bus and head straight to Agra to visit India’s most famous landmark. The Taj Mahal was Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s 17th century architectural marvel that took more than 20,000 people to build. Use your sharpened photography skills to capture the Taj in all its beauty. Spend the night in Agra doing a photo review of the day.

  • Day 15

    Agra to Delhi

    You’ll head back to Delhi and have a last chance to visit one of Delhi’s markets to find a gift for your friends, or you can catch a Bollywood movie before heading to a local resort to enjoy a fun afternoon of swimming, laughing, and of course, eating a delicious meal to celebrate a great adventure through India! Fly out late tonight from Delhi.

  • Day 16

    Arrival back in the U.S.

    If you are flying back to the U.S., you’ll arrive back home today, as you’ll have time zone changes in the middle. Many of our students choose to connect to other programs in India, or other locations in Asia.

An Important Note About Schedule Changes

Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity.

The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.

“Optional Activities” are fully included in the cost of your program, but you can choose to not do these activities.

“Add-On Activities” are not included in the cost of your program and must be paid for separately. Add-on activities are rare, but include things like skydiving, bungee jumping, or weekend side-trips. Not every program has add-on activities.

For more information, email india@rusticpathways.com

Program-Specific FAQs

  • This program connects seamlessly to all other programs in India and Asia. All of our Asia programs begin and end on Thursday, which allows for easy connectivity.

  • A tourist visa is required for all students traveling to India. Students are responsible for obtaining their own visa. Rustic Pathways will provide important details relating to the visa process in the Spring. If you would like information or would like to view the visa requirements, please visit the Government of India website at https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html.

  • Yes, there will be a flight leader on the direct flight from Newark, New Jersey (USA) to New Delhi, India. If a student is connecting from another country, they will not have a flight leader. In such instances, we will provide students with detailed instructions on navigating airports, immigrations, and customs and will have a Rustic Pathways staff member waiting at the arrival airport to pick them up.

  • The direct flight from Newark, New Jersey to New Delhi, India is 14 hours.

  • During the Himalayan Advanced Photo Expedition, students will spend the majority of their time in high altitude plateau of Ladakh. Students will spend ten days in Ladakh, visiting Leh, Themisgang, and Tso Moriri. Students also spend three days in New Delhi and one day in Agra.

  • Students fly from Delhi to Leh, Ladakh, and from Leh to Delhi. The flight is approximately 1.5 hours.

  • Each program will have leaders who are certified in First Aid and CPR. Some of our program leaders are also 
certified as Wilderness First Responders, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), Wilderness EMTs, or Life Guards.

     

  • Rustic Pathways India programs maintain a minimum of 1 Program Leader for every 6 students. Additionally, each program maintains at least 2 primary program leaders, one male and one female.

  • Rustic Pathways uses sterilization techniques to ensure that all drinking water for students is potable and safe to drink. We ask students to bring reusable water bottles in order to reduce plastic usage.

  • Students are allowed to bring phones on their Rustic Pathways program, but must abide by our cell phone policy. Students will not be allowed to use their phones during group activities, nor at any other time where it is disruptive to the group dynamic. If students are unable to abide by this policy, disciplinary action may be taken.

  • Electricity in India runs at 230V and electrical outlets are a mix between http://electricaloutlet.org/type-c Type C and http://electricaloutlet.org/type-d Type D. We recommend purchasing one or two Type C adaptors (as these can also be used in Type D outlets).

  • Summer in India is monsoon season! Temperatures on the plains (Delhi, Agra) can reach 110 F (43 C) with high humidity. In the mountains (Ladakh) temperatures are warm and pleasant during the day (75 F, 26 C) and can get quite chilly at night (50 F, 10 C). Rain can be a daily occurrence on the plains, but will be very unlikely in Ladakh. Please refer to the packing list to make sure you have all the required clothing and gear!

  • Accommodations range from a 3 star hotel in Delhi to nomadic yurts (a portable tent structure) in Ladakh. In between there are two short homestay experiences with Ladakhi families and a comfortable guesthouse in Leh. Students are provided with warm blankets and sleeping pads during their time in the yurts.

  • Students will eat a mix of Indian, Tibetan, and Chinese food, as well as a few western dishes. Indian food generally consists of rice, dals (lentils), curries, and roti (flatbread). Tibetan food is a mix of noodle soups, momos (dumplings), and breads.

  • Bathroom facilities range from bucket showers and squat toilets with no hot water, to western style showers and toilets with constant supply of hot water.

  • Students will have very limited access to internet and telephones while on the program. These services are only available in Delhi, and only for short periods of time, as we are very busy on the program.

  • Students will have opportunities to hand wash laundry once or twice every week. Alternatively, students can get their laundry washed for them in Delhi and Agra. The cost is approximately $10 per load.

  • Please note that this program operates in a very remote environment and at high altitude (over 3500 m). Definitive medical care can be more than four hours away for portions of the program and nearby medical facilities range from robust to very basic. According to the Center for Disease Control, malaria transmission is possible for Delhi and Agra. Dengue, chikungunia, and rabies are also present in Delhi and Agra. Malaria is not a risk in Ladakh, as it is above the 2000m malaria line.

    Ladakh is located in the middle of the Himalaya Mountains and as such earthquakes are a possible risk.

  • Please consult with a travel doctor or your family physician for immunization and other medical recommendations, based on the area(s) where you will be traveling and on your own medical history. In addition to consulting with a medical professional, please visit the HX Global and Centers for Disease Control websites for country specific information around immunizations and traveler’s health. Please let us know if you have specific questions.

  • HX Global is one of the world’s leading providers of medical evacuation and travel services. All participants traveling with Rustic Pathways will have access to HX Global benefits through Rustic Pathways’ membership.

    As a member you will have access to HX Global’s extensive travel information database to help you make informed decisions prior to travel. Additionally, all travelers who travel outside their country of residence will have access to medical evacuation support during their program. For more information please visit our HX Global webpage.

  • Access to healthcare depends on the program location. Western-quality hospitals are within a 30 minute drive in Delhi and Agra. In Leh, basic hospitals are available within a 15 minute drive, however serious cases would need to be evacuated to Delhi. In Themisgam and Tso Moriri, basic clinics are available within 30 minutes, but the nearest hospital is in Leh, which is a 2 hour and 5 hour drive, respectively.

  • If you are vegetarian, you are in luck! India is one of the most vegetarian friendly places in the world. Vegan, lactose free, and gluten free diets can also be accommodated. If you have other dietary restrictions, please contact Team India at india@rusticpathways.com.

    Students with mild allergies to nuts can be accommodated on this program. If you have any severe allergies, please let us know. We will work with you to determine the best program choices.

  • (required for areas with insect borne diseases. Please include prevention measures i.e. sleeves, DEET based bug spray, mosquito nets etc)
    Mosquitoes are present in Delhi and Agra. Most bites occur at dawn and dusk, and students are encouraged to wear long sleeves, long pants, and DEET based insect repellent at these times of day.

  • Personal gifts, internet, phone calls, and snacks are not included. All other costs (accommodation, meals, in-country transportation, and activities) are included in the program price.

  • We recommend bringing $100 – 200 (USD) per week for spending money.

  • To get the most out of this trip you should have a camera (preferably a DSLR) that allows you to have full manual control over your shutter and aperture. Additional lenses that you can mount to your camera body are also highly recommended.

  • One of the purposes of this trip is to gain experience and confidence with your camera in various shooting environments. Students who have learned the basics of exposure and know how to manipulate their camera’s shutter, aperture and ISO will be best served on this program.

Packing the right gear (and the right amounts) is the first step to an incredible travel experience. Follow these tips to pack like a pro:

Travel light. Pack only the essentials. You’ll need less than you think!
Bring the right clothes. Pack clothes that are culturally appropriate for your destination and acceptable for service projects. This means bringing lightweight pants, t-shirts with sleeves to cover shoulders, and appropriate footwear.
Leave your valuables behind. While traveling, it’s easier for things to get lost, stolen, or damaged. Keep any prized possessions safe at home.
Check with TSA. Make sure your luggage complies with TSA regulations, especially your carry-on. Useful tip: Pack an empty water bottle and fill it up after security.
Extra paperwork? If you need additional forms filled out to get credit for your service hours, no problem! Bring these forms with you so they can be completed in-country.

Rustic Gear. Want to get all your shopping done for your program in one place? We’ve got you covered. Check out Rustic Gear and get all the essentials sent right to your door.

Carry-On

A school backpack is ideal as it will be used for day trips.

  • Passport with India Visa
  • Wallet
  • Photocopy of Passport and Visa
  • Book and/or journal
  • Pen
  • Phone
  • Camera
  • Ear buds
  • Chargers
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottle
  • Change of clothes
  • Medications
  • Additional community service forms
  • Rustic Pathways emergency contacts
  • Consent to travel form

Checked Luggage

A 50-70 Liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal.

Clothes

  • Long pants (2, lightweight)
  • Jeans (1)
  • Underwear (5-7)
  • Socks (3-4)
  • Hiking Socks (2-3)
  • Crew neck T-Shirts (5-6)
  • Long sleeve shirt (2)
  • Windproof Shell Jacket
  • Light fleece / sweatshirt
  • Heavy fleece / down jacket
  • Shorts (1-2)
  • Swim Suit
  • Athletic Shoes
  • Sandals
  • Sun Hat
  • Winter Hat
  • Medium Weight Gloves
  • Scarf
  • Towel
  • Pajamas

Toiletries

  • Shampoo and Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Toothpaste and Toothbrush
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect Repellant (35% DEET)
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Contact lenses and solution
  • Extra medication
  • Tissue travel packs
  • Personal med kit

Additional Items

  • Flashlight/Headlamp w/ Extra Batteries
  • Watch or Clock with an Alarm

Optional Items

  • Cotton/silk sleeping sack
  • Lightweight Hiking Boots
  • Hindi / Ladakhi phrasebook
  • Deck of cards
  • Small musical instrument
  • Pictures of friends and family

Photo Equipment

While not strictly required, we highly recommend bringing the following photography equipment to get the most out of your program!

Camera: A camera with manual control of ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed is essential. We recommend bringing at least one DSLR camera body and lens, and highly suggest brining more than one if they are available!

Camera Manual: Your camera manual is a great resource for both you and your program leaders! If you don’t have the paper document that came with your camera you can likely download it from the manufacturer’s website.

Camera Memory (CF/SD Cards): When you are traveling in some of the most vibrant environments the world has to offer, the last thing that you want to do is run out of space on your memory cards! We suggest having a combination of two to three 16GB cards or one to two 32GB cards. These are two good options for 16GB and 32GB cards.

Card Reader: A card reader is used to transfer the photos from your CF/SD cards onto a computer or other device. Having an incompatible or slow card reader can turn a great day of shooting into a tremendous challenge. Make sure you bring a card reader that is compatible with the type of cards your camera uses. This one works for both SD and CF cards.

Extra Camera Batteries: There will be a few days on the program when we will have no access to electricity. Having extra camera batteries is a must! We recommend generic brands as they are cheaper and occasionally better than name brand batteries. When shopping for batteries look for those that have good reviews and the highest Milliamp Hours (mAh).

Two USB Memory Sticks: Memory sticks are great to have for transferring images between students and guides when reviewing work, but more importantly they are an inexpensive, compact way to store all of your photos! We request you bring two so that you can backup your images once they’ve been downloaded from your camera memory (CF / SD ) card. A good option is this 128GB PNY memory stick.

Lens Filters: UV lens filters are inexpensive and have the potential to save you hundreds of dollars (and heartache) by protecting your camera lenses! The required filter size is usually written near the front of the lens, on the side of the lens barrel.

App: Master your DSLR Camera: As an advanced photo program you should have a working knowledge of photography. If it’s been some time since you’ve taken your photography class, we recommend this digital app, which is a great, interactive refresher.

Electrical outlet adapter: You’ll need an outlet adapter to charge your camera batteries. Here is a good example of a universal outlet adapter.

Tabletop Tripod: We’ll be doing some nighttime exposure shots, so a tabletop tripod can come in handy. Small is good, but make sure it supports the weight of your camera!

Important Reminders

  • Appropriate dress is an essential element of respectful travel. When packing, please be mindful of Indian cultural standards. Shoulders and stomachs need to be covered at all times, and legs need to be covered past the knee for boys, to mid-calf length for girls. Please do not bring any shirts with deep cut necks (e.g. V-necks or U-necks). Leggings are acceptable only when they are worn with a long shirt or tunic that reaches past the thigh. Please note that if you arrive without appropriate clothing our staff will request you purchase it in India.
  • Summer in India is monsoon season! This means the weather is HOT and WET! Temperatures on the plains (Delhi, Jaipur) can reach 110 F (43 C) and the air is quite humid. Rain can be a daily occurrence so a light, waterproof jacket or poncho is good to have. Lightweight, breathable, and quick drying fabrics such as nylon or polyester are also highly recommended!
  1. a
    Delhi

    Welcome to India! You will arrive in Delhi for the start of your program.

  2. b
    Leh

    Fly directly into the Himalaya and arrive at the city of Leh, sitting at 3500 meters.

  3. c
    Tingmosgang

    Drive to Themisgam for your first homestay experience.

  4. d
    Hemis Shukpachan

    Then hike from Themisgam to Hemis and stay with your next family.

  5. e
    Changtang

    Arriving in Changtang is like going back hundreds of years. Experience life on the Himalayan plateau.

  6. f
    Agra

    For one last treat head to Agra to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise!