Sanjay Saxena Conde Nast Top Travel Specialist for India, Nepal, Tibet, Sri Lanka
India, Tibet, Nepal & Sri Lanka

Staff and trip leaders of Destination Himalaya

The views are majestic, the food is sumptuous and the weather has held— sounds like the makings of a great trip. As any seasoned traveler will tell you, views, food, weather, are all important factors, but it is the Tour Leader and Guide that make or break the trip. In destinations such as Tibet, India or Nepal the role of the Tour Leader is particularly crucial. The presence of an experienced Tour Leader, with sound knowledge of the local system, the language and the people, serves to surmount any unpredictable situation - thus making the journey smooth and trouble-free.

We have developed a team of well-educated, knowledgeable and sensitive individuals, who, as leaders, have traveled extensively all over South Asia (and the world, for that matter). Their versatility enables them to lead groups or individual travelers both in the mountains as well as in any cultural destination. As well as English, our leaders often speak at least two Asian languages with a fluency that leaves little to be desired. Most of our leaders are experienced mountaineers, who have come to the job through their love for mountains and the outdoors. Over the years they have led cultural tours, trekking trips, mountaineering expeditions, rafting trips, wildlife safaris, desert camel and jeep safaris. Each of our leaders has a minimum of ten years outdoor travel experience and is obligated to undergo an annual leadership refresher course, as well as maintain their Wilderness First Responder certification.

Be it the Himalayan mountains, the Tibetan plateau, grasslands of Mongolia, or the Taj Mahal, these highly capable and communicative individuals show their travelers an Asia that is only possible through the eyes of a native.

In the USA
In Asia


Sanjay Saxena
Founder & CEO (Chief Exploratory Officer)

Tour and Trek Leader Sanjay SaxenaSanjay Saxena was born in New Delhi, India. The son of a Brigadier General in the Indian Army, Sanjay has lived all over India and traveled extensively across Asia. He began mountaineering and rock climbing in the high Himalaya at age fifteen, after successfully completing mountaineering courses from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, India.

A professional guide since 1979, Sanjay has led numerous groups trekking, climbing, touring and on safaris to Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Myanmar/Burma, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Venezuela, Peru, Iran and of course throughout his home country of India.

In the winter of 1991/1992, Sanjay and renowned climber/cinematographer David Breashears led the first “western descent” of a 200-mile white water stretch on the Brahmaputra River in India, starting at the Tibetan border. This was filmed for the BBC series “Classic Adventures,” and was shown on the A&E network in the U.S. Sanjay continued to bring the first big commercial tourist groups to Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. Inspired by the writing of Kingdon Ward, Sanjay led a small group of intrepid travelers (the first westerners) in 2001, on an overland journey from Lijiang to Lhasa crossing the Mekong, Salween, Yangtze rivers, continuing along the south bank of the Tsangpo (Brahamaputra) River in Tibet, completing the journey that Kingdon had long envisioned but never able to complete himself.

Sanjay's deep, insider's knowledge of his homeland together with his talent for creating unique itineraries to traditional and remote destinations, make him one of the travel world's top-ranking India and Tibet specialists.  For eleven consecutive years (2003 – 2013), he has received Conde Nast's "Top Travel Specialist" award for his exemplary work in South Asia, specifically India, Tibet, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Under his leadership Destination HImalaya has also been chosen by National Geographic Adventure for one of the "Best Outfitters on Earth" Award. In September 2014, Sanjay was also chosen to be on the “WOW” List by

In February 2014, Sanjay was named one of the 51 Honorees at the “Unsung Heroes of Compassion,” honored by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Sanjay was selected as one of the 2014 Honoree for his longtime commitment to involving, empowering local comminutes in all of our travel destinations, and for the “giving back” projects that he and Destination Himalaya have started and continue to oversee in South Asia.

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David Breashears
Director & Expedition Leader

David BreashearsDavid is a world-class filmmaker, adventurer, and mountaineer whose work has taken him to remote locations throughout Tibet, China, Nepal, India, Pakistan, South America, and East Africa. He has worked on such feature films as Seven Years in Tibet and Cliffhanger, as well as the award-winning documentary Red Flag over Tibet.  In 1983 he transmitted the first live pictures from the summit of Mount Everest and in 1985 became the first American to twice reach its summit.  He is the recipient of four Emmy awards for achievement in cinematography. In 1996 he co-directed, photographed, and co-produced the acclaimed IMAX film Everest and contributed his still photos to the best selling book Everest: Mountain Without Mercy.  He is the author of several books, including an autobiography, High Exposure:  An Enduring Passion for Everest and Unforgiving Places.  David's latest documentary film "Storm over Everest" was released (broadcast) by PBS in May 2008.  During the filming of the documentary in 2006, David summited Everest once again, his 5th summit of Everest.

David's latest project is on the Vanishing Glaciers of the HImalaya. Working with the Glacier Research Imaging Project (GRIP), Breashears has followed in the footsteps of renowned mountain photographers from the past century to recapture images of glaciers from exactly the same vantage point. The decades-old images come in large part from George Mallory and others on the historic 1921 British Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition Team, the first western team to explore the area. In Rivers of Ice, Breashears presents the archival photos alongside his own—a comparison that starkly reveals the catastrophic loss of ice during the intervening years. GRIP is using the power of images to raise public awareness and shape policy focused on mitigation and adaptation to climate crisis. 

He continues to actively pursue Himalayan climbing, lecturing around the world and working on new film projects.  For more on David please visit his website.

In his capacity as Director of Destination Himalaya, David Breashears lends his vast experience to help design innovative new trips to the Himalaya. He also personally accompanys some of the tours & trek in the Himalaya.

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John Harper
Director Asia Operations & Trip Leader (Asia)

John’s intense interest in travel started in childhood when his parents presented him with a now very well worn (but much loved) World Atlas.  John has lived all over the west coast of the U.S., and now calls the San Francisco Bay Area home.  While earning his B.A. degree in British History, he spent a considerable amount of time in the U.K.  More importantly, it was this interest in British History that inspired him to begin studying and exploring Asian history and culture, and fired a deep desire to travel to Asia.  Since his first magical visit to that extraordinary continent, he has not looked back.

When not traveling in Asia, John can be found working diligently in DH’s U.S. office.  John is currently completing his Ph.D. dissertation in Comparative Religion (with a focus on South/Southeast Asia) at the Claremont College in Los Angeles, while also continuing his studies of the Hindi, Mandarin and Tibetan languages.  John is a keen student of the arts, history and religions of South and Southeast Asia, and combines these varied interests in his capacities as Tour Leader. 

John also leads our popular Essential series to Tibet and India.


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Tibet Operations Manager & Trip Leader (Tibet)

Born in Central Tibet, our man in Tibet is the quintessential diplomat with the enormous touring experience that one requires to ensure sound operations in this region. 

Chungdar's experience and diplomacy in meeting with senior Chinese officials, paired with his finesse for expeditiously securing those hard to obtain travel permits required for remote areas of Tibet, and his capable management of the complex day-to-day logistics of tour operations in the field, are second to none.

Chungdar studied in Lhasa and Nanjing and has been involved in the tourism business since the Chinese Government opened Tibet for tourism (1982).


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Ashok Jain
Tour Leader (Asia)

Tour Leader Ashok JainAshok is one of our most experienced of South Asia Leaders. Born in Holland, traveling with his diplomat parents, Ashok grew-up in different parts of the world.  This culturally rich upbringing instilled an appreciation and understanding of different people and diverse cultures, which he skillfully brings to the groups he leads.

Ashok graduated from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, with a degree in engineering and worked as an engineer before his true calling surfaced.  To satisfy his passion for travel, in 1988, Ashok started moving from a career in engineering into the tourism industry.  His love of exploring the culture and history of many countries of Asia manifested itself in the excellent tour leader that he became.  Ashok has led countless groups and private tours throughout India and the neighboring countries of Bhutan and Tibet.

Ashok is fluent in English, Spanish, Hindi/Urdu, Bengali and Punjabi. He leads our cultural tours to North India (Rajasthan & Ladakh), Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.

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Shagzil Khan
India Tour Leader (Asia)

Tour Leader Ashok JainShagzil is another one of our very experienced and popular leaders. He has accompanied Destination Himalaya clients from the wildlife parks of India to the high mountain passes in Tibet. Resident of Kerala, Shagzil specializes in South India tours. He was featured in Travel & Leisure (Dec 08) "Insider's Guide" for Cochin/Kerala.

Shagzil has been instrumental in overseeing Destination Himalaya's Giving Back projects in Kerala.

Shagzil is fluent in English, Malayalam and Hindi. He leads all our Cultural & 'Giving Back' tours to Kerala and other North and South India destinations.

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William Neill
Director of Photo Cultural Tours (Asia)

William NeillWilliam Neill, a long-time resident of Yosemite National Park, is a landscape photographer concerned with conveying the deep, spiritual beauty he sees and feels in nature. From his extensive travels to India, Tibet and the Himalayas, he developed a body of images that includes portraits, architecture and religious sites. Bill's award-winning photographs have been widely published in books, magazines, calendars, posters. Galleries and museums across the nation exhibit his limited-edition prints, including the Boston Museum of Fine Art and The Polaroid Collection. In 1995, the Sierra Club honored Bill with the Ansel Adams Award for conservation photography. To see a sample of Bill's images, please visit his website.

Bill is working closely with Destination Himalaya to design and develop its portfolio of Photo Cultural Tours.

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Mingmar Sherpa
Trek Leader (Nepal)

Tour Leader Ashok JainMingmar Dorji Sherpa, our Nepali trekking guide par excellence, came to us via David Breashears. In true Sherpa fashion, Mingmar started his career as a trekking/climbing porter and soon rose through the ranks to becoming one of David’s most accomplished assistants.  An experienced climber, he has summited Everest three times, twice from the Nepali (south face) side and once from the Tibetan (north face side).  Mingmar is also a noted journalist and videographer, reporting for NTV (Nepal Television) on mountaineering and other sporting activities.

Mingmar’s First Everest summit was accomplished in 2004, when he was working with David Breashears on a filming project on Everest. The film ”Storm over Everest” was released in 2008 and recounted the dramatic events of the tragic 1996-climbing season.  His second summit (North face) was achieved when he was on assignment with Altitude films and Atlantic Productions on the Everest expedition of 2007 with Conrad Anker.  Mingmar was the filming sherpa in charge of the expedition, which was dedicated to recreation of the 1922 legendary Everest climber, George Mallory’s expedition.  The documentary “The Wildest Dream” was released in the USA in August 2010.  Incidentally, Mingmar also played the role of Mallory’s Sherpa in the film. In 2008, he achieved his third  Everest summit while guiding a private client.  Mingmar has also guided Michael Palin on the Nepal episode of the TV series “Himalaya with Michael Palin,” which was produced by BBC and shown on television network worldwide.

In addition to his prestigious climbing record, Mingmar is also a wonderfully gifted trek and tour leader.  He is a certified trekking guide and liaison officer by the Government of Nepal.  He will be leading our treks to Everest in 2012 & 2013.

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David Mention
Climbing Instructor and Trek Leader (Asia)

Tour and Trek Leader Dave MentionDave Mention was born and raised in Oregon. He started climbing in the Cascades at the young age of thirteen and was part of the Mountain Rescue Operations in the Cascades for over ten years. Since then, Dave has been a Rock and Ice Instructor, X-Country Ski instructor for Northwest Outward Bound, the University of Oregon, and the University of New Hampshire. He has a degree in Philosophy from the University of New Hampshire.

Dave has led four climbing expeditions to Denali (Mt. Mckinley) in Alaska and the Yukon mountains in British Columbia. Some of his notable ascents are: a new route on Mt. Waddington in British Columbia, and an alpine ascent of Denali via the difficult Cassin Ridge. He was also the leader of the American Karakoram Expedition to Gasherbrum II in Pakistan. Dave has traveled in India and leads our trekking trips in Ladakh, Bhutan, and to Kanchenjunga in Sikkim.


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Nima Namgyal
Tour & Trek Leader (Tibet)

Tour and Trek Leader Nima NamgyalOur top Tibetan guide, Nima graduated from the Sichuan Tourism Institute in 1980 and joined the hotel segment of the tourism industry.

After a seven-year stint as a hotelier, Nima moved to trip leading and was the choice of guide for National Geographic Society on their five expeditions tracing the Brahmaputra’s “hidden gorge.” Nima has led numerous mountaineering expeditions, treks and cultural tours all over Tibet. 

Fluent in Tibetan, English and Hindi, Nima leads our cultural and trekking tours across Tibet.

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Tsering Dundrub
Tour & Trek Leader (Tibet)

Tibet Tour and Trek Leader TsheringTsering was born into a farming family in Amdo, Eastern Tibet (this eastern province of Tibet was also the birth place of His Holiness the Dalai lama.)  

After completing his primary and secondary education in a local school, Tsering went to India to pursue his higher education.  There, he studied English, and graduated in Buddhism and Tibetan Literature from the Tibetan University, Varanasi.  

In 1993, Tsering returned to his homeland and joined a travel company in Lhasa as a tour guide.  Since then, he has led numerous treks and cultural tours all over Tibet and specializes in overland tours through the provinces of Amdo and Kham.


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Sonam  Badol
Tour & Trek Leader (Tibet)

One of our most experienced Tibetan leaders, Sonam completed his primary and secondary education in a local school (Lhasa) before heading off to India in order to pursue higher studies.

After having spent ten years studying in Mussoorie, India, he returned to Tibet in 1996 and started work in the tourism industry.  Sonam worked for two major Tibetan travel companies (TIST & CITS), and a NGO (One Heart) in Lhasa before joining Destination Himalaya’s Lhasa office in 2005. 

Sonam speaks Hindi, Tibetan, Mandarin and English, and has led numerous tours and treks all over Tibet, including treks around Mt. Kailash.

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Padmaja Bharti
Tour Leader (India)

The Scholar of our group of Tour Leaders, Padma holds Masters degrees in English Literature, International Relations and Human Resource Management. Her vast knowledge is not restricted to the academics, she is also an excellent field operator and tour leader. Padmaja is an amalgamation of tradition and modernity, having successfully blended multiple roles, from the role of a woman raising a family in “Traditional India” to the unconventional job of a multi-faceted thinker and doer required off her as a tour leader in today´s India.

Having received professional guide training and license from the Ministry of tourism, Padmaja has been guiding all over India for the past twenty years. When not on tour, she enjoys classic Indian films and Indian classical music (incidentally, she also had vocal training up to the university graduation level).

Padmaja lives in Delhi with her scientist-husband and leads our cultural tours in India.

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Karanveer (Karan) Singh
Tour Leader (India)

Always with a smile on his face, Karanveer is an enthusiastic, friendly and professional Tour Leader. Born into a traditional Rajput family from a small village outside of Kota, Rajasthan, Karan broke the mold when he enrolled in the prestigious Mayo College in Ajmer, and then went on to major in Sociology at Mumbai University. He started his work career in advertising and marketing before finding his true calling as a Tour Manager. Before joining the Far Horizon/Destination Himalaya family, Karan led many groups for a major UK-based operator. He recently guided our National Geographic Press trip to Northern India.

Having visited China, Thailand, Cambodia, Egypt, Turkey, Holland, England, France and the U.S.A., Karanveer is passionate about experiencing different cultures and meeting new people.  His extensive travel experience also lends a unique comparative perspective to the tours he leads in India.

Karanveer currently resides in Delhi and leads Cultural Tours for Destination Himalaya throughout India.


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Amy Head
Tour & Trek Leader (Tibet)

Tour and Trek Leader Amy HeadAmy’s knowledge of the Tibetan language and understanding of its culture makes her the consummate guide for travel to this part of the world. Having lived in the Himalayas on and off for the past ten years, Amy has built excellent relationships with locals throughout the region and is poised to facilitate an unprecedented journey into the heart of this region.  Along with trekking and touring the wilds of Tibet and India, Amy also found time to work in Dharamsala with various agencies of the Tibetan Government, as a well as, two organizations in the U.S: Healing the Divide Foundation and International Tibet Support Group.

Amy has managed complicated itineraries, stretching from Alaska to Asia, and has led numerous trips throughout the Himalaya.  Her intimate knowledge of the people and landscape of the Himalayan region allows her travelers a safe and comfortable experience in both the urban centers, as well as the profoundly beautiful wilderness of the mountains.


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Ritu Sharma
Tour Leader

Tour Leader Abihijat SharmaThe daughter of a Indian Naval Commodore, Ritu grew up in a very progressive Indian household. Traveling with her parents as her father was stationed in various parts of India and Asia, Ritu developed a love for travel early in life. Studying at a boarding school in the town of Pune as a young girl, she became interested in foreign languages and took the step to study Spanish. This led to her enrolling at Delhi’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University, where she earned a Masters Degree in Spanish Language and Literature. Her dissertation, focusing on the famous Spanish playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, earned her a scholarship to travel to Spain to continue her studies.

Throughout the course of her studies, Ritu continued to pursue her passion for travel, which eventually led to her thriving career as a Tour Manager. With her fluent knowledge of Spanish and English, in addition to her native language, as well as her deep passion for India, Ritu has been a extremely successful and popular leader, escorting American, British and Spanish travelers throughout India. Her deep commitment to her chosen profession and the love she has for India is communicated to travelers as she seeks to make India come alive for those who travel with her.

Ritu resides in Delhi and leads our Tours throughout India.

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“Be it known to all that we give utmost importance to the welfare of travelers throughout our realm"
— Emperor Ashoka the Great, 232 B.C.

“Sanjay Saxena’s willingness to work with us and make changes we asked for, was above and beyond, as was his availability….This is the best travel agency I have ever worked with and I’ve worked with many!”
- Sandra M, CA

“I felt the highlight of the trip was the opportunity to meet and be guided by professionals on the trip.  Sanjay Saxena is the type of person that I would travel with again and again.”
- Bill B, FL

I cannot thank you enough for helping us to plan our trip. Your knowledge of India, combined with your sensitivity to traveling with children made us so grateful to have you guiding us through this! Thank you Sanjay!
Laura T, CT

“Our tour guides in all the cities were better than we ever expected.  All very nice and knowledgeable.  Whomever is responsible for their training should be highly commended.”
- Conrad F, FL

“We would recommend Destination Himalaya easily!  You are all great!  Loved loved loved our journey to Bhutan, Thailand and Cambodia.  We are very grateful for your help!”
- Michelle G, CA

“Writing from the airport -- we have had a wonderful trip, in large measure thanks to your fine guides and all the hand holding we've enjoyed.  We would recommend you to anyone!"
- Susan T, NJ

“All the drivers on our many trips just did an excellent job.  Were always there in time and always courteous to us.  Not a scratch put on any vehicle and we obviously stayed out of the way of Mr. TATA.”
- Don F, CA

“Thanks again for making our Indian trip one of the best adventure vacations we ever had.  We really had an extraordinary experience.” 
- Carol S, CT

"This was a great trip.  Much of the credit goes to Ashok Jain, who was a wonderful trip leader, very courteous, helpful, knowledgeable.  I can’t say enough good about him.”
- Jeff B, AK

“I cannot imagine anyone better at being a Trip Leader than Shagzil.  It was a real pleasure knowing him.  Don’t lose him.”
- Tony H, CA

“Thanks so much for your excellent help in making this a wonderful experience for us. The trip was superb….even better than my expectations.”
- Barbara P, CT

“One of the highlights on the Everest trek was meeting Mingmar Sherpa. Despite his many outstanding accomplishments, Mingmar is someone without an ego, always so mindful about his clients, ensuring that they are looked after properly at all times. It was a real pleasure to have him as our Trek Guide."
- Chandra K, ON

I want to thank you for all the good work you did in making our trip to India so wonderful.  It really was “the trip of a lifetime.”
- Janet S, CT


“We can only say the most wonderful things about Nima.........not only was he knowledgeable and most informative, but we were able to discover Tibet through his eyes.
Mona Z, CT

Tsering is simply one of the best guides I've had on any trip and gave one a true feeling of not only the Tibetan land but the feelings of its people.
Patrick V, PA

"We still talk about how amazing our trip to India was and how accommodating and fabulous you and your staff were."
- Rachel D, NY

"Our trip was terrific. And one of the main reasons was Karan who took very good care of us. He is smart, knowledgeable and very easy to be with. We had lots of laughs.
Marsha R, IL

We had such a great time on our Agra/Jaipur trip. I have to say, we were thoroughly impressed with your whole organization. Everyone was friendly, punctual and extremely professional. You really have developed quite an impressive network. We were amazed at how we were simply handed off from one person to the next -- never having to wonder or figure out where to go or what to do. I can honestly give a full endorsement! A trip with you is the way to visiting India!
Arjun & Claire S, PA





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