Forts and Palaces
Rajasthan is justifiably famous for its wonderful forts and palaces
These are best explored with the assistance of an expert guide, who can explain the - often incredibly poignant - back stories behind the creation of these epic buildings.
Why We Love It
Some of the excesses of the rival Maharajahs may seem shocking today, but the beautiful buildings are still wonderful to behold.
This is a heritage tour with a difference; fly down from ridge tops and hill forts on a series of zip wires seeing views over the Mehrangarh Fort and Jodhpur city accompanied by a trained instructor who imparts facts and the local history, culture and ecology.
Mehrangarh Fort is one of the largest and most majestic forts in Rajasthan and a zip wire tour gives you the opportunity to see the fort from a completely different perspective, before then flying high across two lakes and the blue city of Jodhpur itself and then once you've landed trekking out of Rao Jodha Park.
Zip wiring is also available elsewhere in Rajasthan at Neemrana Fort Palace.
Why We Love It
This is one way to lure adventurous types who are allergic to culture to India....
One of the best ways to explore the beautiful Rajasthani scenery is on horseback, riding through small villages and experiencing the culture close up.
Original Travel can organise an extensive tailor-made equestrian programme ranging from a full day's riding to a longer riding safari staying at the Rohet Garh Wilderness Camp, a tented camp in the desert or further afield in western Rajasthan. The elegant Rohet Garh palace near Jodhpur has one of the finest stables of Marwari horse in the country.
During the trek, there are opportunities to visit some of Ladakh's finest monasteries.
Visit Thiksey monastery, built around 600 years ago and one of the finest examples of Ladakhi religious architecture, to experience the early morning Buddhist prayers. The monastery consists of twelve levels ascending the hillside crowned by the current lama's private residence. Below the monastery proper are chapels and houses stretching down the hillside where one hundred monks of the Yellow Hat Buddhist sect reside.
Next, head by road to Hemis Gompa, Ladakh's largest monastery. Belonging to the Red Hat sect, Hemis was built in 1630 and is an impressive and intriguing experience. Your guide will show you around providing you with an insight into Buddhism and a glimpse into the monks' way of life.
Take the chance to explore, India's most photographed monastery- Lamayuru, dramatically situated in front of a steep mountain and housing 150 monks of the Red Hat sect.
Head to the Indus River for a raft from Choglamsar to Phey.
This is not white water as the rapids here are no more than grade two but it is still a very relaxing way to see the surroundings and a chance to rest weary feet.
Please note that this trip is only be available from early July to late September due to water levels in the Indus.
Mountain Villages & Trekking
One of the highlights to this trip are the villages the trekking passes through.
On several nights you sleep in converted Ladakhi houses so can see village life in even more detail. One particularly attractive village is Nimoo, situated 20 miles west of Leh along the Indus valley at the confluence of the Zanskar and Indus rivers. The village is surrounded by picturesque mountain scenery, lush green fields and apricot, apple, and walnut orchards. As the terrain in Ladakh is also very different to that on other Himalayan treks, journeys between these houses here will be on foot, but also by other means such as rafting.
Elsewhere, the village of Chilling is a settlement that is home to metalsmiths and is the village that has provided copper, bronze, tin, silver and iron work to Leh through the centuries.
Shakti Sikkim Village Walks
Shakti Sikkim Village Walks offer travellers the chance to explore the untouched landscapes of the Indian Himalayas, while being immersed in rural village life. The enchanting Buddhist Kingdom of Sikkim is located between Bhutan and Nepal and the fact that it remains something of a secret simply adds to its charm.
Returning to the house, drinks and snacks will be enjoyed by the fire, beneath a starry sky, serving as a relaxing introduction to this rich adventure.
For those early birds, guests can arise before breakfast and participate in prayers at the Rinchenpong Monastery. Following this, there is an uphill climb to a 200 year old monastery, which overlooks the surrounding mountains. Wandering through the picturesque village of Bhasmay to Kaluk village, you will walk along the ridge of the area's highest hillock. After a delicious picnic in Jowbari, travel onwards to the Bermiok monastery, before reaching your next house in the village of Hee.
Set against the impressive backdrop of the world's third highest mountain, Mount Kanchenjunga, the idyllic village of Hee is home to a plethora of different communities. Walking past their houses, visitors will have the opportunity to meet some of the local families. Onwards through the Cardamom hills, you will arrive at the tranquil lake of Chaaya Tal for a delicious picnic and leisurely walk. A visit to the holy Yuma Samyo Mangheem (Limboo Temple) is a must, before returning to your Shakti house for a restful evening.
Awake at dawn to get the best views of Pemayangste Hill and the vast Himalayas, while watching the sun rise over Kanchenjunga and sipping a mug of steaming tea. Following this impressive spectacle, pay a visit to the Red Panda wildlife sanctuary before walking a path alongside a peaceful stream. This trail is an old trade route and its winding ways will lead you to the next village house in Radhu Khandu.
Here you will discover a medley of cardamom fields, ancient monasteries and the beautiful rhododendron ridge. Stopping for a tea break in the home of a retired school teacher, guests will get a fascinating insight into local village life.
Why We Love It
Most of the Shakti guides were born in Sikkim and the owner went to school in the region, where his love of walking grew and in time inspired him to set up Shakti.