Horse riding holiday India
Horseback vacation India
Ladakh Trail horse riding holiday
Ladakh Trail horseback vacation
Horse riding pack trip in India
Horseback riding pack trip India
Camping horse riding trail
horse riding holiday Ladakh
Ladakh Trail pack trip
Incredible scenery and religious setting in Ladakh
Ladakh Trail pack trip
Cultural horse riding trek India
Remote monastery high in the mountains
Cultural horseback vacation India
Part of one of the many religious celebrations in the region
Riding in the Himilayas
The guides and ground crew
Horse riding holiday Himilayas
Part of the many religious ceremonies of the region

Ladakh is sometimes also known as little Tibet due to its location at the heart of the magnificent Himalayan mountain range. On this trip we start in Leh and the Indus Valley for a few days, visiting the famous monastic festivals of Lamayuru, Hemis, Dak Thok or Phyang depending on the date. These are not only unique cultural events but this also gives us some time to acclimatise to the high altitude. We then ride from the lush Markha Valley into the magnificent Himalayan scenery emerging on the Rupshu Plateau.

This is a camping expedition and we are accompanied by pack horses to carry our gear. Riders need to be adventurous and fit, although technical ability is not a prerequisite as the pace is at a walk, mainly due to the terrain and altitude. This is an opportunity to visit some remote monasteries and enjoy the rugged contrasts of the Himalayas.

Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.

Review received from RL of St Austell on 24/08/2014

Ride Summary
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Overall impression
Unicorn Trails sales staff

Riding tour leader

Additional Comments
Horses and Tack

Additional Comments
The horses are primarily pack horses, or, in the case of my ride, used as the horseman’s ride to herd the pack from behind. I had a young horse that did respond to the basic aids that he had been trained to do. Primarily, walk, turn either left or right and stop. Because of the altitude and terrain the ride is at walk. My horse was an expert in this environment and I could not have done the trek without him.



Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
Please give more details to explain your response:
The camping may be basic, but you are completely looked after. I had a guide, assistant guide, chef, assistant chef and a horseman that cared for the seven horses. Meals were all prepared each day in the kitchen tent and served in a dining tent. The hotel in Leh before the ride was homely with friendly and welcoming staff. The hotels in Agra and Dehli were of high standard.
Was there anything you should have known and were not told? YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
This ride is an adventure and I would recommend it to anyone who can ride at walk. The terrain and altitude can be a challenge. However, by riding a horse it is a lot more manageable than if you were hiking. The attention to detail and the work effort of the ride staff who look after you at all times. I was continually reminded to drink lots of water, put on sunscreen and to wrap up in the evenings. Throughout the hike I would be asked frequently if I would like to stop and rest or have something to eat. Safety, was also considered at all times, sometimes dismounting to cross a bridge or to walk down a particularly steep descent. And, sometimes we would stop just to give the horses a rest.
What could we do to improve this ride?
Nothing. The people, scenery and food was outstanding. The horses that my guide and I rode made the holiday perfect. As I have already mentioned I would not have been able to do the trek without them.
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
Fit riders who can keep in balance with their horse on extremely steep descents and ascents and whilst crossing rivers will find this ride very easy at it is all at walk.
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
Please give more details to explain your response:
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
Any other comments:
Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback Rachel, glad to hear you had a great time.
Day 1 
Departure from home on an international flight to Delhi (not included). Arrival at Delhi in the night or early the following morning on Day 2. 

Day 2
Delhi – Leh (3400m)                                                       
You will be met from your international flight by a driver, who will transfer you straight to the national airport for the internal flight from Delhi to Leh which departs at 6am or thereabouts. Reach Leh in the morning and transfer to hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure, to aid acclimatisation. The hotel has a garden and terrace for guests to use. Meet your fellow travellers and the guides.

Day 3 
Leh – Shey –Thiksey – Hemis - Leh (3400m)                                
In the morning you visit the 10th Century monasteries of Shey and Thiskey, said to be in the style of the palace at Potala in Llasa. Afternoon free, again to aid acclimatisation.

Day 4 
Leh-Phyang - Alchi (3500m)                                                   
Transfer to Lamayuru or Phyang depending on the date, an opportunity to visit the famous monastic festivals.

Day 5 
Alchi - Lamayuru – Alchi (3500m)                                              
The morning is devoted again to the Festival. Travel to Alchi, on the way visiting a monastery with stunning murals. Night is spent in Alchi.

Day 6 
Alchi – Spituk – Zingchen (3400m)
Morning departure from Alchi to reach the monastery at Spituk, the starting point for our journey with the horses. The small village of Zingchen, a green oasis surrounded by poplar trees, is the stopover before entering the mountains.

Day 7
Zingchen – Yurutse –Lartse (4500m)         
A narrow gorge means crossing numerous small rivers before emerging onto the vast plains where you reach base camp at Kanda La. 4hrs riding.

Day 8
Larksa – Skiu (3400m)                             
Cross the Shingo-la (4900m): the view from the Zanskar range is stunning. There is a long descent through a lunar landscape of lace rocks until the Markha, along the way visiting a small temple (gompa). The overnight camp is on the banks of the river. 4.5hrs riding  

Day 9
Skiu – Markha (3700m)                        
Numerous river crossings today, sometimes by ford and others by bridge to reach the village of Markha, the largest in the valley. There is a stop at the monastery overlooking the valley. 5.5 hrs riding.

Day 10           
Markha – Langhand Chu (6200m)   
You follow the river in the direction of the plains of Nimaling. There are excellent views from KangYatse, then you turn south towards the high plateau of Rapshu. 5hrs riding.   

Day 11
Langhand Chu – Zalung Karpo La (5200m)
Climb steadily over 2 days, starting at the bottom of the huge and wild valley, which is surrounded by jagged peaks. You cross the Karpo La, taking in the views from the summit. The night is spent in the alpine meadows of Tsokra. 5hrs riding.

Day 12
Zalung Karpo La - Tsorka (5200m)                 
Second part of the journey above. 5.5hrs riding.
Day 13
Tsokra – Dat                                                             
Today is the final part of the riding tour. Descend along the river, continuing through magnificent gorges to the village of Dat, the only inhabited place in this valley which is itself unoccupied for part of the year.    
Day 14
Dat - Leh
Return by bus to Leh, using the impressive road from Manali, with a pass at greater than 5300m.
Day 15
Leh – Delhi
Fly from Leh to Delhi in the early morning, usually around 05:00am or thereabouts. Leh has the highest airport in the world and so flights are often subject to climatic conditions which can cause delay. Depending on that there might be some free time to spend in Delhi (no hotel is included tonight).
Day 16
Departure day, you will be dropped off at the aiport in the evening.
Please follow this link for a map of the start point of this itinerary: Ladakh Trail

Phyang Festival:

Phyang is one of the ancient monastery's in Ladakh. Dringumpa Monastic Dynasty's founder, Skyabje Jigten Gombo, was devoutly religious and a Thangka was erected in his memory on the site of the Phyang Festival. A Thangka is a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton or silk applique and usually depicts a Buddhist deity or scene. Special prayers are performed with the masked monks giving scared dances in beautiful silk costumes. There is also a pilgrimage to the Thangka of Skyabje Gombo and an exhibition of paintings is held inside the monastery.

Takthok Tsechu Festival:
Takthok (or “rock roof” in Ladakhi as the roof and walls are made of rock) gompa is the lone Nyingmapa (the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism) monastery in Ladakh. The monastery is built around a cave believed to have been used by Guru Rinpoche for meditation in the eighth century. This monastery that houses around 60 monks suddenly comes alive at the time of Takthok Tsechu festival to celebrate an auspicious day commemorating Guru Rinpoche. Takthok Tsechu (the 10th day of the Tibetan lunar calendar) is celebrated in summer. Cham or sacred mask dances are performed depicting the early journeys of Guru Rinpoche.

Lamayuru Festival:
Lamayuru monastery is the largest and oldest religious building in Ladakh - there are more than 50 monasteries under the leadership of Lamayuru with around 300 monks registered there. The monastery holds an impressive position on a hilltop with panorami views of the valley below. The masked festivals bring monks from the surrounding area to come to pray with the fanfare, colourful costumes and traditional music that these festivals bring to the celebration.

Hemis Festival:
This is the biggest and most popular of the festivals and participants celebrate the birth of Guru Padmasambhava. According to legend he fought with demons to protect the people of Ladakh. The main attraction of the festival sees Cham dancers and masked performers depict tales of war between good and evil through dazzling dance moves and traditional musical instruments. Visitors can buy unique artifacts, antique objects, Buddhist dolls, Tibetan gems and hand-woven dresses during the festival from the numurous stalls.

Dak Thok Tse-Chu:
The word Dak Thok means 'black rock' in Laddakhi and it is a cave chapel which forms part of the Dak Thok monastery. The members of this Buddist sect are followers of Padma Sambhava or Guru Rimpoche who are thought to be considered the founders of Tibetan Buddhism and this festival celebrates the works of Guru Rimpoche's life. The Tsechu festivals are celebrated by cham dancers where both the monks and local people dance and it is also a well known social gathering where local people adorn themselves with fine clothes and jewellery.

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

The horses are native Tibetan horses; small and calm, very strong, hardy and sure-footed, ideally adapted to the terrain and altitude. The escort team take great pride in their horses and prefer to look after the horses themselves, although riders may be allowed to help if desired. The pace of the ride is not fast, due to the altitude and the walking pace gives ample opportunity to take in the stunning scenery as well as a chance to stretch your legs.

Rider requirements

Riders should have a good sense of balance and no fear of heights to participate in this trek as this ride involves long ascents and steep descents. Riders must be fit and healthy as the ride is at an altitude between 3400 and 5200m (11000 - 16000ft), although acclimatisation is progressive. There are stretches where you will need to lead your horse e.g. across bridges and steep descents.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

The hotel at Leh is comfortable in double rooms and 4 days are spent here to aid acclimatisation. Excursions are arranged each day. Camping is very comfortable, in two person tents equipped with foam mattrasses. There is a kitchen tent, a dining tent and a toilet tent. A warm sleeping bag is required as nights can get very cold. All the equipment is carried on pack horses. The camp is full serviced with staff setting up each night and preparing full meals.

Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.

General information, correct as of 3rd February 2014:

You must obtain a visa before travelling to India. If you arrive without a visa, you will be refused entry. Visas can be obtained online via the Indian government agency, VFS Global - On this website you will find a step by step guide outlining the forms you need to fill in. You will also be required to send your passport and 2 approved photographs so factor in enough time for this to be done and for your passport and visas to be returned to you. There are a number of companies who will charge a fee to check your information for you before it is submitted, so you could take advantage of these if you are not confident that you have filled out the forms correctly. There are also Visa collection centres in London and Leicester, however these do not guarantee a same-day visa and can entail hours of queuing.

Always keep a copy of your passport and your Indian visa separate from your passport, in case of loss. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months. For further information on entry requirements, visitors are advised to check with the Indian representation in the UK at India House, Aldwych, London, WC2B 4NA. Telephone: (020) 7836 8484.

The British High Commission in India can be found at Shantipath, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi - 110021. Telephone: +(91-11) 26872161. Email: postmaster.nedel@

The Foreign and Commonwealth office also provides travel advice on their website at

Climate Summary

Temperatures in Ladakh, range from -3 to 30 degrees Celsius in the summer. Mainly sunny in the daytime the temperatures can plummet at night. The sun's effect is multiplied many times at altitudes of this magnitude. You could therefore suffer from conditions as diverse as frostbite and sunburn at the same time, if you're not well protected.

Climate Chart


Anti-malaria precautions are advised as necessary to some areas at certain times of year. If you have recently visited a place known for yellow fever you will need a vaccination certificate. Your G.P. will advise on necessary vaccinations and precautions.

For up to date information on health matters please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at or visit the departmwetn of health's web site on

Health (ride specific)

The pace of the ride is deliberately slow to minimise the chances of altitude sickness. Riders should be generally fit and healthy.


Voltage is the same as in the UK and most appliances such as battery chargers for videos, hair dryers etc. can be plugged in with appropriate adapters. These are available for purchase at most airports and travel shops

Film and Camera Equipment

It will be possible for electrical equipment to be charged while on the hotel portion of the holiday, but not while camping so extra batteries are a must or a solar charger. Mobile phone coverage is limited to the big cities.

Packing List

Clothing should be comfortable and well-tested. Boots should be low-heeled and suitable for both riding and walking, worn with half-chaps for riding. Clothing that can be layered is useful, as the temperature can fluctuate quickly. Luggage should be kept to a minimum and in soft holdalls or duffelbag as it is transported by packhorse. Sleeping bags are required and you may wish to bring a sleeping bag liner.

Essentials that you should carry with you to cope with the climate in Ladakh are:
sunscreen of at least 50+
lip balm & moisturizer
UV protected sungasses/goggles
plenty of batteries for camera equipment or a solar charger
water bottle
water purifying tablets
light towel
wet wipes
T-shirts & long sleeved shirts
walking/riding trousers
thermal underwear
change of shoes for evenings
windcheater or light waterproof
warm woollen or fleece clothing
thick socks
gloves and scarf
riding hat
a hat or woollen cap
personal toiletries / medications


This is a set departure trail ride comprising 16 days / 15 nights / 8 riding days. Departures can be tailormade for groups of 8 or more in the summer months of July and August.

Departure Dates

2022: July 23 (Phyang Festival); August 5 (Takthok Festival)

No single supplement is charged if the rider is willing to share with someone of the same sex, and a sharer can be found.

No of   
Riding days Product item description £
202216d/15n8double pp2,245
202216d/15n8single supplement325
202216d/15n8supplement for group of 2-3499
No of   
Riding days Product item description
202216d/15n8double pp2,565
202216d/15n8single supplement369
202216d/15n8supplement for group of 2-3569
No of   
Riding days Product item description $
202216d/15n8double pp2,865
202216d/15n8single supplement415
202216d/15n8supplement for group of 2-3635
No of   
Riding days Product item description SEK
202216d/15n8double pp27,979
202216d/15n8single supplement4,045
202216d/15n8supplement for group of 2-36,199
Recommended Reading

For the equestrian traveller who would like to see what is possible on horseback visit also a fantastic place to acquire your equestrian travel books is

Other Activities

Very fit non-riders may wish to accompany the ride hiking, while their packs are carried on the horses. The pace allows this to be done with ease.


Ladakh and the surrounding area is a haven for wildlife. There are herds of Bhoral (Blue sheep), ibex, Tibetan gazelle and yak. The elusive snow leopard and lynx have also been sighted. It is a bird-watchers paradise, with golden eagles, lammergeiers, bar-headed geese, brahminy ducks and the rare black-knecked crane all found in the area

Other Information

Due to the nature of the terrain, and the altitude, the trip may be modified for reasons of security, the weather or unforeseen events, and events outside the organisers control. The organisers, the guides and the local guides will make every effort to find the best option even if means changing the itinerary or route.

Other Country Information

India forms a natural sub-continent with the Himalayas to the north. The Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, which are sections of the Indian Ocean, lie to the west and east respectively.

The official language of India is Hindi written in the Devanagari script and spoken by some 30% of the population as a first language. Since 1965 English has been recognised as an 'associated language'. In addition there are 18 main and regional languages recognised for adoption as official state languages. There are another 24 languages, 720 dialects and 23 tribal languages.

India will sideswipe you with its size, clamour and diversity - especially if you enjoy delving into convoluted cosmologies and thrive on sensual overload. Nothing in the country is ever quite predictable; the only thing to expect is the unexpected, which comes in many forms and will always want to sit next to you.

The time difference for India is GMT/UTC +5.5hrs and the dialling code is +91. India has adopted metric weights and measures.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Delhi airport (DEL)
Included from meeting point. Transfer time is approximately 15 minutes.
Flight Guide:
London - Delhi from £440 return with Virgin Atlantic
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