India: Himalayan Buddhist Art and Architecture (Summer)

Educational Excursions

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

In many ways, this itinerant program involves one long, continuous excursion from Delhi up to the remote city of Leh, with stops along the way. The group is on the road for nearly half the length of the six-week program. Students should expect long days with beautiful scenery and rough roads.

The group passes through the green, North Indian side of the Himalayas to the Tibetan Plateau, where the landscape, culture, and customs are quite different from anywhere else in India.

The program travels by train and four-wheel-drive vehicles, through high mountain passes, valleys, and beautiful wilderness areas.

Shimla, Sarahan, and Sangla
Following a short orientation in Delhi, travel commences with visits to:

  • Shimla, the former summer capital of the British Raj, with many remnants of the colonial period
  • Sarahan, where students visit the Bhima Kali temple and stay in the temple dharamshala
  • Sangla (Kinnaur region), a beautiful, unspoiled green valley on the monsoon side of the Himalayas, surrounded by very high snow-capped peaks, where students see the beginnings of Hindu-Buddhist syncretic culture

Nako and Tabo

  • Students experience the tiny village of Nako, home to a glacier lake and a number of 12th-century temples and monastic structures.
  • Also visited is the quiet and remote town of Tabo, the jewel of ancient Vajrayana Buddhist art and architecture.
Sarchu, Tsokar, and Tanglang La
  • Sarchu is a high-altitude (14,500 feet) grassy plain set in a valley surrounded by high peaks. The group camps there for one night. There is a good chance to spot marmots and blue sheep.
  • At Tsokar Lake students have a chance to see the endangered black-necked crane as well as wild asses. The group camps there for one night before driving to Ladakh. The program crosses the Tanglang La. At 17,582 feet in elevation, it is the second highest motorable pass in the world.


Leh (Ladakh Valley)
Students typically spend two weeks in the traditional Tibetan Buddhist community of Leh. During this period, students have lectures at the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies located in the town of Choglamsar (outside of Leh). Students have a short homestay in villages outside of Leh.

Highlights of the program period in Leh include:

  • Trek and excursion to Alchi and Basgo. Alchi has the most significant wall paintings in the Himalayan region. Basgo is an important site for the study of Himalayan architectural conservation.
  • Trek to the villages of Sumda Chen and Sumda Choon across the 16,07-foot-high Konzeke La. These villages house 1,000-year-old monasteries with remarkable artistic treasures rarely seen by foreigners.

Nubra Valley
After the group rests up and settles in to Leh, it visits the Nubra Valley for two nights. En route, the group crosses the Khardung La, the highest motorable pass in the world, at 18,379 feet in elevation. This area was once an important Silk Road trade link between India-Tibet-China and Central Asia.

Costs Dates

Credits: 8

Duration: 6 weeks

Program Base: Leh

Prerequisites: None required, but a background in history, Asian studies, religious studies, architecture, or art history is strongly recommended. Read more...


View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Summer 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Summer 2012 Evaluations (PDF)
Summer 2011 Evaluations (PDF)

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