On Assignment Projects
Meet Your Expert
Numbering more than one billion people, India’s diverse population is made up of Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Christians, and Buddhists who live side by side in remarkable harmony. Such rich cultural and spiritual diversity is evident in the animated streets of New Delhi and the quiet temples of the Himalaya. Northern India is scattered with majestic vestiges of the past, from the Taj Mahal to the palaces of Jaipur. Immerse yourself in the intriguing cultures of India as you pursue an On Assignment project of your choice— Photography or Cultural Geography.
Days 1-3Begin in New Delhi, where we’ll spend two days exploring the incredible sites of the city—many of them declared UNESCO World Heritage sites. Meander through the maze of streets in Old Delhi and the pavilions of the Red Fort. Visit the immense Jama Masjid mosque, Humayun’s Tomb, Lotus Temple, or the soaring Qutub Minar tower. Then set out in teams and dive into your On Assignment projects.
Ladakh and the Himalaya
Rising out of India’s northernmost region, the Himalaya are a vast stretch of craggy passes and snow-covered mountains culminating with Mount Everest. While it remains the least populated region of India, Ladakh has become the cultural center of Tibetan exiles, as thousands of ethnic Tibetans have resettled here. The influence of Tibetan Buddhism is visible in prayer flags, the red of monks’ robes, and the intricate architecture of shrines and temples.
In the lively trade town of Leh, where whitewashed houses are nestled in a lush valley ringed by jagged peaks, we’ll get acclimatized to the altitude (11,500 feet). Settle into a community school, and help young Ladakhis prepare for college entrance exams. Join in the daily routine, cooking meals, tending gardens, and helping the school maintain its solar energy system. Get to know the students, and tutor them in English. Then set out with professional guides on a three-day trek from Likir to Hemis Shukpachan. Stay overnight in family-run guesthouses, and walk from village to village. Discuss Buddhist traditions with monks, learn about renewable energy projects with local conservationists, and visit organizations that promote sustainable development. As we walk, take in hillsides dotted with temples and monasteries, and exquisite vistas of the Himalaya.
Rajasthan and The High Desert
The home stays in Ladakh were really special. It gave me an inside look at the local customs and culture, and a true sense of what everyday village life was like.
The Mughal influence is strong in Rajasthan, where walled fortresses dominate strategic hilltops and palaces anchor the larger towns with ornate Islamic architecture. The locals are warm and the dress is colorful—women are draped in yards of vibrant fabrics, and men don bright turbans. Elephants amble through town and monkeys scamper over the polished marble of Hindu and Jain temples.
Encounter the Taj Mahal in Agra and the fortified Mughal ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri. Then, visit a nearby elephant sanctuary, learning about its mission to rescue and protect these gentle giants. Jump aboard a rickshaw and explore Keoladeo Ghana National Park alongside a naturalist. Explore Jaipur, from its massive pink-hued palace to its medieval observatory. Venture into the labyrinthine City Palace, and trace its line of maharajas to the current occupant. Built as a citadel for the ruling elite, wind your way up the serpentine staircases of Jaipur’s Amber Fort, exploring its courtyards, arches, and ramparts as you catch a glimpse of Maota Lake below. Try your hand at cotton block printing with local artisans who have revitalized this disappearing art. Continue to the town of Samode, where we’ll stay amid 20 acres of trees and ruins at a 250-year-old Mughal-style royal retreat. Ride a camel on a short safari, then join locals for drumming and dancing around a roaring fire. In Neemrana, spend the night in the town’s fort palace.
The journey concludes in New Delhi, where we’ll wrap up our On Assignment projects and share them with the group before flying home.
AltitudeThe three-day trek involves rigorous hiking at altitudes up to 14,000 feet. Participants must be physically fit. Those with known altitude sensitivity should not apply.
In New Delhi and Rajasthan, we stay in small hotels. In Ladakh, we stay in dormitory-style rooms at a school with very basic amenities.