Wildlife Group Tour

India Group Tour - Snow Leopard tracking in Ladakh

Explore the Ulley Valley in Ladakh searching for snow leopards

13 days

from £3,595pp
  • Join David Sonam and expert trackers on a snow leopard holiday in Ladakh
  • Track snow leopards, blue sheep, ibex and Ladakhi urial by 4WD and on foot
  • Home cooked meals and a comfortable bed in a Ladakhi homestay
  • All of our clients travelling in 2016 had sightings of snow leopard

As one of the only animals that has alluded Sir David Attenborough, Snow leopards are highly endangered and only found in the mountainous areas of Central and Southern Asia. Our Snow Leopard group tour works with the Snow Leopard Conservancy Trust India in Ladakh, using expert tracker David Sonam and his team. Spend four full days exploring the Ulley Valley searching for 'The Ghost of the Himalaya'.

Our tour starts in Delhi before flying onto Leh, a small town in the Indus Valley. Whilst allowing the group time to acclimatise to the altitude, this area is around 12,000 feet above sea level, there will be time to explore Leh and its surrounding area including the beautiful Thikse Gompa (monastery) offering splendid views of the Indus valley. Continue onto the Ulley Valley, located in the centre of three interlocking valleys, home to between eight and ten snow leopards according to the last census.


An exceptional guide is the first essential component of a successful snow leopard holiday and in David Sonam, Steppes Travel are confident we have found just that. In conjunction with his local tracker, David has an intimate knowledge of Ulley Valley and the movements of its snow leopard inhabitants. While a comprehensive understanding of snow leopard behaviour is critical, a good relationship with the local community is equally important. Local shepherds and farmers will know where snow leopards have been most recently spotted and so David and Tchewang Norbu (chief tracker) have developed a strong bond with the community of Ulley, taking full advantage of hundreds of local pairs of eyes and ears on the ground.

In addition, to give our clients the most informed information the Steppes Travel team regularly join our group tours. Our Product Director, Jarrod Kyte, joined our Snow Leopard group tour in 2016, read about his Snow Leopard adventures and sightings here.


Ulley village, west of Leh is an area that is only recently being developed for Snow Leopard watching but is in the centre of three interlocking valleys that support approximately 12 snow leopards per the last census. The big advantage of Ulley is that it is relatively free of tourism and the chaos that has enveloped the first snow leopard destination - Rumbak.


As part of this Snow Leopard Group tour there will be a $200 USD per person donation to the Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust (SLC-IT). They are a non-governmental organisation founded in 2003 and based in Leh. They provide wood and wire netting, that has helped many Ladakhi farmers make their corrals and pens leopard-proof. It has also started a compensation scheme, and taught villagers how to make toy stuffed animals which are then sold to tourists as profit-making souvenirs.

But, the SLC-IT's biggest success has been its burgeoning homestay scheme. In return for training in hospitality, hygiene and housekeeping, and items such as blankets and bed sheets, all Ladakhi households involved in the scheme must agree to stop killing snow leopards, even if they lose livestock. With snow leopard sightings apparently on the increase, the scheme already seems to be working.


From January to March in Ladakh the days will be cool and the nights can get below -25. It is out of the main tourist season for the region so it makes it a lot less quiet.

It is vital that you have the correct clothing for this tour. Our travel specialists can advise you of clothing and packing lists to make your stay as comfortable as possible depending on the time of year you will be travelling.


From the end of January to March, as the snow on the mountains starts to melt, this drives the Snow Leopards, and their prey, the Blue Sheep to lower, almost snow free elevations, this allows the guides and trackers much better access to look for them, and concentrating them in a smaller area.


To see a snow leopard requires luck but as with any safari, to some extent, luck can be made by patience, planning and professional guiding. It is no coincidence that the best guides are also the luckiest guides and on David's most recent safaris, his clients have been rewarded by excellent snow leopard sightings.


A typical day will start with hot tea/coffee, followed by a bowl of hot water for a refreshing wash. Our expert guides will be already on the lookout for Snow Leopards, either from the homestay, or from a close by lookout. Trackers may have gone out into the valley and are in constant communication with David and the team. After breakfast the group will set out and drive into the valley before hiking on foot to search for Snow Leopards. The trackers will be in constant communication with one another and keep the group informed of any information along the way.


On this tour, accommodation is a homestay style lodge, hosted by a local Ladakhi family. Lodgings are basic but far more comfortable than camping and to enhance your stay, we bring in our own cook and camp staff along with gas heaters, a warm shower, comfortable mattresses and bed linen.


Whilst in the Ulley Valley out searching for Snow Leopards there will be some small hikes on rough terrain so it is vital that you have adequate hiking boots. However, the amount of hiking you choose to do is up to you. It is our aim to hike a few miles every day, with the uphill sections being at a slow pace due to the altitude. Due to the small group size, there will be several guides with us on all the hikes that will happily stay with members of the group that may get tired or just want to rest.


Our group tours are perfect for solo travellers, as travelling as part of an organised group in faraway places does provide security and peace of mind. We handle all of the arrangements for you and there will be a local tour guide on hand throughout to provide advice and help if needed, as well as the expertise of a Tour Expert.

If you are willing to share, we will always do our best to match you up with another solo traveller of the same sex so that you do not have to pay for a single room.

If you would prefer the privacy of your own room and would like this guaranteed, then the single room price supplement will apply.


Departing on:
  • 2nd February 2018

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

DEPART UKARRIVE UKPrice Excluding Flights (£)Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour LecturerStatus 
2nd Feb 2018 15th Feb 2018 £ 4,495 £ 850 £ 1,850 David Sonam Available
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • Accommodation (as indicated)
  • All meals in Leh and Ulley
  • Breakfast in Delhi
  • Donation of USD200 to Snow Leopard Conservancy
  • Gratuities
  • Internal flights
  • Local guide and trackers in Leh and Ulley
  • Transportation (as indicated in itinerary)

what is excluded

  • Drinks
  • International flights
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Meals in Delhi (excluding breakfast)
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa


Itinerary at a glance

Collapse all
Day 1

Fly London to Delhi

You will be staying at Hotel Pullman New Delhi Aerocity

Day 2

Fly Delhi to Leh

Meet with Snow Leopard Conservancy
At some point over the next few days in Leh, meet with staff from the Snow Leopard Conservancy for a briefing on the history of snow leopard conservation in Ladakh with insight given into the current threats to snow leopards and the strategys adopted to combat these threats.

Once the capital of the Himlayan Kingdom of Ladakh, Leh lies on edge of the Tibetan plateau at a height of more than 3,500 metres. Closer geographically, culturally and anthropologically to Tibet than India; the city's dominating palace - with its clear architectural similarities to Lhasa's Potala Palace - highlights this connection.

Surrounded by irrigated barley fields and overlooked by rocky peaks, the city sits in the fertile Indus River Valley. In this idyllic location, modernity has only just started to take hold. Traditional Ladakhi buildings, with their flat roofs and solid walls, still fill the area surrounding the city's age-old bazaar.

Remainder of Day at Leisure for Acclimatisation
Spend the remainder of the day at leisure. Minimal exertion is recommended to enable acclimatisation to the rarefied oxygen levels in this high-altitude region.

You will be staying at The Grand Dragon Hotel

Day 3

Explore Leh's surrounding villages and valleys
Drive east towards the villages of Gya, Lhato and Meru. The drive is spectacular, taking you away from the valley of the Indus, up through a subsidiary valley to an area that marks the line where the Indian mainland collided with and drove under the Asian landmass. The scenery is beautiful and there will be chances to spot wildlife such as blue sheep, golden eagles and bearded vultures. On the return journey, there maybe time to stop at one of the great monasteris such as Hemis, Thikse or Matho.

You will be staying at The Grand Dragon Hotel

Day 4

Explore Leh
Spend the day exploring Leh at a relaxed pace. There is a wonderful walk to the north of the town, taking in Shanti Stupa, a white-domed Buddhist chorten perched on a hill just outside of Leh. From here continue on to Kalon Farm and then across to Leh Palace, returning to the hotel through the old town of Leh. David Sonam is well known in Leh and knows the city's most fascinating nooks and crannies.

You will be staying at The Grand Dragon Hotel

Day 5

Road trip from Leh to Ulley
This road journey takes approximately three hours on mainly well maintained, sealed roads, driving west on the road to Kargil and Srinagar, generally following the Indus River. Pass through the small town of Nimmu - one of the most important in Ladakh where the Zanskar river meets the Indus. After a little over an hour, head north on a road marked to Likir - one of Ladakh's famous Buddhist monasteries. This is all snow leopard country. The landscape here is big, expansive and open until you turn off onto a dirt road winding up a narrow valley, following a stream called the Ulley Chhu. Smaller valleys intersect and the guides have their heads craned all the time scanning the hill sides and the skyline for any silhouette. This is excellent ibex country and there are few more evocative sights than a magnificently horned male ibex standing vigil on some impossibly narrow ridge a few thousand feet over a plunging cliff.

Ulley village, west of Leh is an area that is only recently being developed for Snow Leopard watching but is in the centre of three interlocking valleys that support approximately 12 snow leopards according to the last census. On arrival at your homestay, meet your hosts, settle in and take time to acclimatise to the higher altitude of Ulley (3,850 mts). The big advantage of Ulley is that it is relatively free of tourism and the chaos that has enveloped the first snow leopard destination - Rumbak. The other advantage is that from here you explore 3 valleys which apart from snow leopards are great for finding urial, ibex, wolf and Himalayan fox.

You will be staying at Ulley Homestay

Day 6

Five days tracking snow leopards around Ulley
Ulley is in the centre of three interlocking valleys that support between 10-12 snow leopards according to the last census. These valleys house the villages of Saspol and the more substantial Hemis Shukpachen. All these valleys are connected by road and over the next few days, explore the area by vehicle and on foot with your guides tracking for snow leopard, wolf, urial, Ibex, fox and the array of birds that surprisingly still survive in this harsh winter landscape. Your guide David Sonam will be accompanied by chief tracker Tchewang Norbu, whom will interact closely with the local people, using a network of local intelligence to narrow down the likely sites for snow leopards. In the process of tracking there will be opportunity to gain insights into local folklore, as well as to learn about local customs and traditions.
The search for the snow leopard is of course not in isolation. They are the apex predator of a fascinating eco-system, preying on blue sheep or bharal, ibex and Ladakhi urial all of which can be seen along with other predators such as the wolf.

You will be staying at Ulley Homestay

Day 7

Spend time tracking snow leopards around Ulley

You will be staying at Ulley Homestay

Day 8

Spend time tracking snow leopards around Ulley

You will be staying at Ulley Homestay

Day 9

Spend time tracking snow leopards around Ulley

You will be staying at Ulley Homestay

Day 10

Spend time tracking snow leopards around Ulley

You will be staying at Ulley Homestay

Day 11

Visit Alchi Monastery
This morning drive to Leh via Alchi monastery. The monastery is located near the small village of Saspol and it is one of the earliest monasteries built in Ladakh, dating from the 11th century. The first temple of importance is the oldest - Sum-stek temple, surrounded by wooden pillars and carved woodwork of mythological animals. The woodwork is original and reflects Kashmiri influence. The walls along both sides of the Dukhang are covered by mural painintgs, believed to date back to the time of the monastery's founding. Of particular interest are the miniature scenes of royal life, the best preserved of which is the royal drinking scene, in which the costumes clearly depict central Asian dress. The chortens around Alchi gompa also contain numerous wall murals. After the monastery visit, continue to Leh.

Alchi is home to one of the two oldest monasteries of Ladakh (the other being at Lamayuru). What remains at the Chhoskhor Temple Complex is perhaps the last of the showcase monasteries built in the 10th and 11th centuries. The wooden sculptures, stucco images and the Indo-Tibetan art are exclusive and the style is not to be found in any other monastery in Ladakh. Alchi village is home to a few tourist stalls and markets but the majority of visitors stay nearby on the banks of the River Indus. Use Alchi as a base to explore the river, and surrounding monasteries and villages.

You will be staying at The Grand Dragon Hotel

Day 12

Fly Leh to Delhi

You will be staying at Leela Gurgaon

Day 13

Fly Delhi to London


Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.

The Grand Dragon Hotel

The Grand Dragon Hotel

Located in the heart of the ancient city of Leh, the Grand Dragon Hotel's design takes inspiration from traditional Ladakhi architecture....

View Accommodation

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

Destination Experts

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Charlotte Lawton, Sales Consultant

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Joe Parkes, Travel Expert

"It was extremely helpful to work in conjunction with Joe and his much more up to date knowledge of India and arrive at an itinerary which we were happy with. We enjoyed the whole trip and probably what made it special for us was the fact that all the arrangements worked so well and we really didn’t have to worry about anything at all. Even when we decided to make a small change it was dealt with efficiently and promptly. We can't think of anything that would have made our trip more enjoyable."

"The service from start to finish has been excellent. Joe was very quick to respond to any queries and put together an excellent itinerary at short notice."

"A pleasure to deal with Joe. Efficient, helpful, knowledgeable and fun!"

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Kate Hitchen, Travel Expert

"Kate was calm and bent over backwards to accommodate my jitters about going to Kashmir in the light of tighter FCO guidelines just a few days before our departure. She was absolutely correct in advising against what I thought we should do. Several times during the holiday we said that, 'Kate was dead right about that!'."

"We asked for a rather particular kind of Indian holiday. You delivered it in full. Highlights? Honestly, each day was a highlight in itself. "

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.


David Sonam

David Sonam
David started work as a naturalist for Tiger Tops before becoming a founding trustee of the Snow Leopard Conservancy India (he is now the Managing Trustee). A keen ornithologist and photographer, David has led numerous wildlife expeditions in Ladakh, collaborating with well-known photographers such as Steve McCurry (National Geographic Magazine). His understanding of the snow leopard’s behaviour gives unparalleled insight into the world of this big cat.
Enquire about this Wildlife tour:

Group Size:

Min 6 / Max 8

Tour Expert:

David Sonam

Departure Date (S):

  • 2nd February 2018

The tour may involve daily walks and will have a faster pace in certain areas. Walks will be no longer than 6 hours. The pace of this tour will be quite busy, expect very little time at leisure.

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