A semi-autonomous region in north India, Ladakh earned the moniker “land of high passes” for its strategic location along ancient Himalayan trade routes. It is also known as the “land of the lamas” for the vast number of monuments and monasteries nestled throughout the Buddhist ex-kingdom. Yet after we recently enhanced the accommodations on our upcoming Spirit of the Himalayas journey, guests just might call Ladakh a land of unexpected luxury.
Consider Chamba Camp, a mobile camp that pops up in some of the most remote locations around India. We spend four nights glamping at 11,562 feet in Thiksey not far from its famous monastery, the largest in Ladakh. It’s the ideal setting for off-the-tourist-path exploration—join a sunrise prayer ceremony with Thiksey’s monks, watch the sun set from the whitewashed Shanti Stupa, search for birds with a local naturalist, or mountain bike to Thiksey Village.
Back at our bespoke base, guests can relax in their air-conditioned tent suites with four-poster king-size beds and the services of a personal valet. Grab a book on Buddhism from the library, browse for local handicrafts in the boutique, and dine on organic fusion cuisine in the canvas-covered restaurant or perhaps an outdoor barbecue on the wooden deck.
Another peak experience: Taragarh Palace in Palampur, the tea capital of northwest India. Built in the 1930s as a summer retreat for the Nawab of Bahawalpur and now run as a hotel by the current royal family, Taragarh offers its own Shangri-La in the foothills of the Dhauladhar Mountains. Between day trips to visit the Dalai Lama’s residence and monastery-in-exile in Dharmasala and the inspiring Tibetan Children’s Village, guests can wander the hotel’s 15 acres of lush gardens and forests or enjoy evening tea on the shaded patio and soak in the mountain views.
For the finest stay in Pragpur, the verdict is in: Judges Court wins, hennaed hands down. Old World elegance goes eco-friendly at this country manor, the first to receive heritage status in India. Set on 12 acres of exotic orchards, Judges Court grows all of its own fruits and vegetables, as well as wheat and maize. Fresh dairy is produced on-site as well, and crystalline water is piped in from a mountain spring. Enjoy a cool glass from a wicker chair on the terrace before shopping for silver jewelry and handwoven wools at Pragpur’s bustling market.