How does appropriate development build upon and sustain local culture and environment?
Days: 28 • Group Size: 10 - 12 • Ages: 15 - 18
June 23 - July 20 Closed
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India: Society, Ecology, and Culture

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India Summer Program

Sustainable Summer’s India program, in the rugged Himalayan region of Ladakh, is an intensive 4-week experience. Our high school students will explore the intersection of society, ecology, and culture in this remote part of India. Set in a dramatic desert landscape often referred to as the “Roof of the World” and sometimes called “Little Tibet” for its cultural and historical ties to Tibet, Ladakh is a world apart from other regions in India. Geopolitics and Ladakh’s remoteness resulted in isolation from the powerful forces of modernity even while other parts of India developed rapidly in the latter part of the 20th Century. Now Ladakh is charting an economic path forward. This program attempts to understand efforts to advance sustainable development in harmony with the local traditions and culture in Ladakh.

This program is for you if you’re seeking some incredible Himalayan scenery, a physically demanding and culturally rich experience, and are eager to unpack a whole lot of really fascinating sustainability opportunities and challenges. This is the most challenging program Sustainable Summer offers. High altitude, rustic living conditions, intense cultural experiences, hiking, and other physical and emotional demands will be placed on participants.

Why North India?

This is a truly special part of the world. Stunning natural beauty and a remarkable cultural heritage more than justify a visit. But we also want to consider this place in the context of sustainability. We’ll study a cross-section of sustainable development initiatives in Ladakh, including appropriate technologies (people-centric, small-scale, and socially and ecological ‘appropriate’); food and agriculture; water resource management; and empowerment and income generation in marginalized communities. We’ll consider competing models for development by comparing, for instance, the deployment of small-scale, locally autonomous renewable energy solutions, such as micro-hydro and solar, as an alternative to capital-intensive technologies (think huge dams and massive public works projects).

In this Sustainable Summer Program…

  • You’ll connect with Ladahki teenagers at a cutting-edge alternative high school built on permaculture principles
  • You’ll visit a Buddhist monastery built into a cliff wall a thousand feet above the “Grand Canyon of the Himalaya”
  • You’ll share meals and experience farm life during a homestay in Tamachik, the first eco-model village of Ladakh

At a macro-level, we’ll also try to understand why millions in India still lack the basic human needs of clean water and and education, and what development pathways exist to address this problem based on lessons learned in Ladakh. We’ll spend much of some of our time living and learning with an organization that is addressing these challenges through education. There our students will spend two hours daily in a “conversation” class with Ladakhi high school students, helping them with English language acquisition. We’ll also experience Ladakh’s rich culture, explore its bounty of natural wonders, and take part in all sorts of other unforgettable experiences on this Sustainable Summer program in India and the Himalaya.



yourself on a four-day trek in the Himalaya


the "Grand Canyon of the Himalaya"


side by side with students at SECMOL (Students Ecological and Cultural Movement of Ladakh)

2019 Facilitators *

Remy Franklin

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Kiska Kosakowski

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India Testimonials

I believe that Sage had her most memorable summer yet. Both programs seemed to draw remarkably intelligent and nice kids. Sage seems to have been exposed to so many new perspectives and has developed a zest for wanting to make positive change. Suddenly she is seemingly well versed and has reasoned opinions about issues she […]

  Nancy,  parent from Rumsen, NJ

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Student Stories

Core Curriculum & Program Components

Much More Than A Tour

Amazing destination? Check. Fun and authentic experiences? Absolutely. A smart, down-to-earth group of like-minded teens? Yup. An awesome itinerary and first-in-class lodging are just the start. Our programs prepare teens to become environmental leaders through a collaborative, multidisciplinary, challenge-based learning approach.

Field Studies
How does appropriate development build upon and sustain local culture and environment? This essential question guides our experience studying sustainability in . Participants – through discussions, workshops, site visits, and fieldwork – will investigate sustainability with the understanding that truly sustainable solutions take into account not only the environment, but also the people, culture and economy of a given place.
21st Century Leadership
A “global citizen” is someone who identifies with being part of an emerging world community and whose actions contribute to building global values and practices. Frugality, integrity, humility, and cultural awareness guide our mission in creating the next generation of environmental leaders and responsible global citizens. Instead of a "leadership" curriculum, we infuse our program with activities that develop global citizenship in our students.
Developing Lifelong Skills
Challenge-based learning is a collaborative learning experience in which educators and students work together to learn about compelling issues, propose solutions to real problems, and take action. This unique approach asks students to reflect on their learning and the impact of their actions and publish their solutions to a worldwide audience. This component takes many forms on the program - including team-building challenges, natural and cultural exploration, case studies, site visits, interactions or lessons with local experts, cultural exchanges, service projects, and formal opportunities for student leadership. The goal of this challenge-based learning approach is the development of lifelong skills that help create economic, social, or cultural value.

Program Tuition

Each program has a tiered tuition rate: standard (full tuition), tuition assistance (80% of tuition), or scholarship (15 - 70% of tuition).

How It Works

$ 3995
  • This represents a 20% reduction of the standard course fee. Participants at this tuition rate cover only their direct participation costs, including lodging, meals, activities, in-country staff and transportation, and support for local projects. Participation at this level is based on the honor system. It is available to all families - no documentation required. We simply ask families to honestly consider their financial resources and ability to pay the full tuition rate.
$ 750 - 3495
  • Additional scholarship funding is available for students that are unable to participate at either of the other rates. Scholarship participants receive a 30 - 85% reduction of the standard course fee. Due to the limited availability of scholarship funds, a separate application is required, including a parent financial statement and recent tax return.

What's Included


in eco-lodges and other locally-owned (and often sustainably-minded) establishments


3 meals daily while in-country. Local cuisine, served family-style, is on order most days. Dietary restrictions can typically be accommodated.

Immersive Activities

Guided activities, from the adventurous to the cultural, are a regular part of the itinerary.

Dynamic Learning Opportunities

Place-based. Interactive. Fun. Our programs prepare teens to become environmental leaders.

Ground Transportation

Once in country, all travel will be by private coach when we are traveling any significant distance, although we may occasionally use other transport when traveling locally. This can range from a cattle truck to the local bus. Traveling like a local is part of the experience!

2 Full-Time Professional Facilitators

Our international field team includes returned Peace Corps volunteers, college professors, seasoned wilderness guides, sustainability graduate students, and similar.

Pre-Program Materials and Support

Students and parents receive comprehensive and prompt pre-program support.

Not Included

International airfare is not included. Personal expenses such as laundry, snacks, souvenirs, and internet or international phone calls, and other incidentals are also not included. There are internal flights on this program, estimated at an additional $250 USD.


We designate a recommended group flight for students. Students, whether arriving on our group flight or independently, will be met at the international arrivals area by our staff. Very detailed travel and booking instructions will be provided to all participants upon enrollment. We provide the below information as a courtesy to prospective families for planning purposes.

Our designated round trip group flight:

Escort on Both Outbound and Return Flight

Outbound Flight

UA 82

Return Flight

UA 83


  • Do not make any flight reservations until explicitly directed by Sustainable Summer. Enrolled families - please check your MySummer account for more information. This is the only source of completely accurate and up-to-date information about our flight logistics.
  • Not all of our group flights have a staff escort. Please see above for specifics and our Flights page for additional details.
  • Students NOT traveling on our designated group flight will be assessed a $35 fee if they arrive on a flight other than our specified group flight and/or a $35 fee for departing on a non-group flight ($70 total). Students must verify BEFORE BOOKING all non-group flight travel itineraries

28-Day Itinerary

  • Departure

    Most students will travel on our group flight from Newark (EWR) to New Delhi (DEL). This flight departs in the evening (NYC time) and arrives the following day in the evening (Delhi time).

    Day 1
  • Arrival

    Arrive in New Delhi in the evening local time. Transfer to hotel.

    Day 2
  • Flight to Leh
    Return to airport for morning flight to Leh. Transfer to the Serene Ladakh Hotel in Leh. Recovery, acclimatization, and orientation. Leh is a high-desert city in the Himalaya and the capital of the Leh region in northern India’s Jammu and Kashmir state. It was originally a stop for traders, but is now known primarily for its Buddhist sites and proximity to trekking and other outdoors activities. Due to its attitude of over 11,000 feet, we'll spend our first couple of days in Ladakh acclimating in Leh. Day 3
  • LEDeG

    We will be staying at the Ladakh Environmental Development Group (LEDeG) campus to wrap up our orientation and then dive straight into Ladakhi history and culture. Over the course of the next few days we will be meeting with various social and environmental organizations in the area to learn about the challenges of living in Leh, recent projects, and goals for the region’s future.

    Our first workshop will be with a few of the LEDeG employees. Some of the topics we will be learning about include appropriate technologies, sustainable food production and agriculture efforts, and watershed development projects in the region. The next organization we will work with is the Women’s Alliance of Ladakh. With their mission being to preserve traditional farming and culture of Ladakh, their work will help us understand some of the cultural traditions, foods, and dances of the area. We will also have the opportunity to view Helena Norberg-Hodge’s award winning films while with WAL.

    Our last day during this segment of the trip will be spent with the Leh Nutrition Project and Save the Children. We will examine what type of actions are being prioritized to make sure that Ladakhi youth are getting the nutrition they need.

    Days 4 - 8
  • Tamachik
    From Leh, we will travel 112 km west before arriving in the small village of Takmachik. Described as the first eco-model village of Ladakh, Tamachik is known for its authentic Ladakhi food and traditional culture. Here, we will stay with families throughout the village while learning about organic farming and sustainable village development initiatives to promote organic cultivation in the village. Days 9 - 12
  • Rest Day in Leh
    After departing Tamachik in the morning, we will head back to Leh and have a relaxing day with an opportunity to visit some of the markets in Leh before our next stint begins. Day 13

    The Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) was founded in 1988 by a group of young Ladakhis with the aim to reform the educational system of Ladakh. SECMOL Alternative School is an eco-friendly campus near Leh that organizes residential activities for Ladakhi youth and students attending college in town. Hosting student groups from around the world is one the of the ways the school is able to sustain the school, culturally and financially.

    Over our week long stay with this school, you will have the opportunity to work side by side with SECMOL students, attend classes addressing the principles of passive solar architecture, explore why artificial glaciers are becoming more common in this region, and participate in a beautiful sunrise hike to summit the nearby ‘SECMOL’ mountain.

    Days 14 - 19
  • Rafting
    We'll be joined by some of the students at SECMOL for an incredible day rafting a 28km section of Class III whitewater on the Zanskar, the so-called "Grand Canyon of the Himalaya" Day 20
  • Trekking Prep
    On this day, we will head back to our ‘homebase’ of the LEDeG hostel. This will be a perfect opportunity to do laundry, get any last minute outdoor equipment, and get a good night’s rest before leaving on the next day for the trek. Day 21
  • Trekking
    The next four days will be spent trekking through the Himalayas, visiting monasteries, and hiking to a different homestay each night! The trek is facilitated and guided by the Women’s Travel Company, a local organization started by a SECMOL alumnae. The breathtaking views, historical homestays (some over 100 years old), mental challenge, and physical demand of this trek will be the capstone activity of your month long experience in Ladakh Days 22 - 25
  • Final Night in Ladakh
    Our last night in Leh will be spent in the Ladakh Serene Hotel; the same hotel as our first night in Leh. This place offers a unique opportunity for our closing ceremony and final remarks to reflect on our time in such a beautiful place. Day 26
  • Departure
    Students will travel on our flight from Leh to New Delhi after breakfast on Day 27, spend a half day in the city of New Delhi and then board our overnight flight back to Newark from Delhi on the evening of Day 27. Morning arrival at EWR on Day 28. Days 27 - 28
  • An Important Note About Itinerary Changes

    Sustainable Summer reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the program itinerary. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in weather or road conditions; to take advantage of a new activity or unscheduled opportunity (such as a local festival or event); to accommodate the health needs of an individual participant; or due to changes in activities or schedules of our local partners and providers.

    The itinerary shown here is based on previous programs and the anticipated day-to-day activities for this program. However, as with any travel experience, some changes may occur.