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Like Tibet, Ladakh is a dry high-altitude desert area with few trees and incredible landscapes. Outside the capital of Leh there is little luxury and tourism infrastructure. Apart from the adventurous trekkers who want to explore this beautiful part of India, Ladakh receives few international tourists but the views and the people will keep you coming back for more.
The area is breathtaking and the altitude, lung-crushing, but the fresh air and the sense of remoteness and of being at the top of the world cannot compare to many other places, save perhaps Tibet. Many people say that, after the Chinese colonisation of Tibet, Ladakh is a more authentic place to experience the Tibetan Buddhist culture and spirit. Here is my list of the top luxury hotels in Ladakh.
1. Shakti Ladakh
Image from Shakti Ladakh
A network of rural Tibetan villages in the off-the-beaten-parts of Ladakh make up this fantastic tailor-made experience with outposts in Sikkim, Ladakh and Kumaon. The idea that Shakti promotes is that of getting in touch with the local life, nature and culture outside of the more popular capital of Leh. You can trek between the luxury stays or head out into the wild and camp. Shakti, as one of the top luxury hotels in Ladakh, even allows you to camp in the middle of the wilderness. They will provide an all-inclusive vacation including porters and chefs that will travel with you and cook your meals on demand. The days at this luxury hotel in Ladakh are filled with temple visits, monasteries, amazing landscapes, rafting down rivers and local villages.
Rates starting at US$1,580. Book your stay on their website here.
2. Chamba Camp Thiksey
Image from Chamba Camp, Thiksey
Fabulous luxurious tents set by the Thiksey Monastery against the Ladakh mountain range. This is Africa meets the Himalayas with open plan tents with large windows, expansive landscapes and all the pampering of a luxury mobile tented camp. Itineraries are prepared to your tastes, food is gourmet and experiences are unique. On offer is polo, trekking and village tours, rafting, monastery visits and birding.
3. Nimmu House
Image from Nimmu House
A small country house with traditional architecture and design that could well have been taken out of Bhutan or Tibet. It is said that the house was built in 1905 as a replica of one of the Panchen Lama in Lhasa and it mirrors the way traditional houses were built, with a ground floor high-ceiling level where the herds used to be kept, and a high first floor. Nimmu only has 5 tents scattered through the large orchards and 4 rooms in the upper floors of the main house so it is very cozy and personal. The luxury hotel in Ladakh is located only 20km from Leh and you can base yourself here to explore the area, go rafting or trek.
4. The Grand Dragon Ladakh
Image from The Grand Dragon
This is the only luxury hotel in Ladakh in the central town and it is a more traditional take on hotel accommodation. The traditional Tibetan architecture with the stunning carved windows and the white walls.
The Grand Dragon is a good place to base yourself and explore the area closer to Leh with day trips across the highest mountain passes, the lakes and the stunning scenery. They can organise jeep trips, journeys across the countryside, camel safaris, picnics, treks and biking tours. This is a more standard modern take on accommodation, in comfortable and convenient surroundings.
5. Wildflower Hall, Shimla in the Himalayas
Image from Oberoi Hotels and Resorts
Part of the Oberoi Hotels and Resorts collection, the Wildflower, Shimla in the Himalayas is another high altitude luxury haven, 8,000 feet above sea level to be exact. The interior contains Burmese teak flawlessly integrated with fireplaces and oriental rugs, invoking a safari lodge feel. Yet the exterior looks like something out of a fairytale castle.
As with other Oberoi properties, this is more than a hotel and offers bespoke and unique services for guests, from yoga in the Himalayas to colonial heritage tours or breakfast on the Wild Strawberry Trail.
The Oberoi Spa is a gorgeous refuge of tranquility with yoga, massages of all kinds and Ayurvedic treatments. The restaurant not only provides an intimate setting with pan-Indian, Continental and Asian cuisine, but also a view of the Himalayas that is difficult to match. This is by far the most unique luxury hotel in Ladakh.
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