Glamping is a phrase which blends glamorous and camping and, in recent years, has seen a huge surcharge in popularity. Many who 'glamp' get to experience all the luxury comforts one would expect from a high-end hotel, including full size beds, en-suite shower bathrooms with toiletries, electricity and even occasionally personal butlers in private tented camps. Very different to your traditional camping experience!
Glamping and Ladakh are not things I would have usually put together but I found that it worked wonderfully. One accesses what was once the Kingdom of Ladakh via Leh, the capital of the region and only a short one-and-a half hour flight from Delhi.
Now part of northern India’s Jammu and Kashmir state, Leh, like the rest of the world, is no longer completely off the beaten track - so few places are these days, as the world becomes more accessible!
However it is still cut off for half the year due to snow, and surrounded by gorgeous mountains it feels a million miles away from the frenetic capital of India, Delhi. I always recommend that, should time allow, one should spend a couple of days in Delhi exploring the sights and sounds for a completely different experience, but I do find it a relief to escape to the mountains!
As you head out of Leh you begin to experience more of what Ladakh is renowned for. Often referred to the jewel in the crown of India, Ladakh has staggering seamlessly unending mountain scenery, sparkling blue lakes, mighty rivers and gorgeous ancient monasteries with colourful prayer flags blowing in the wind and, at night, crystal clear skies allowing for some fabulous star gazing opportunities.
The region has barely changed over the centuries and locals go about their daily business as they always have, attending to their farms or offering prayers in the local monasteries. If you want to truly get away from it all Ladakh is surely the place to go.
There are two fabulous camps within Ladakh that are both operated by one of the best luxury tented camping companies in India, each offering their own unique benefits.
The first is in Thiksey, only 19km from Leh airport. This is may not be as remote as some would like, though if you are short on time it does work well and allows one an insight into the age-old culture and scenery of Ladakh.
Set to the backdrop of the rolling Stok Mountains to one side and Thiksey Monastery to the other, Chamba Camp Thiksey operates with just 14 tents from mid-May to early October.
Though not walkable from the camp, the dramatic Thiksey Monastery, a kilometre from camp, is a breath-taking scene to awake to in the morning. The Monastery was built in 1430 A.D. and houses several shrines. A sunrise visit is a wonderful start to the day, where you can participate in a morning prayer ceremony.
The second camp is located in Diskit, in the charming Nubra Valley, some three and a half hours' drive from Leh. The camp operates from mid-May to early October and has just nine tents which would be perfect for a large family or group of friends who wish to take the camp exclusively.
Its location means travelling along the Khardung La Pass, considered to be the highest motor-able road in the world at a staggering 5,580 metres. From up here one gets beautiful vistas of the surrounding region including the Indus Valley, rich with agricultural land.
The two camps can be visited individually, however my recommendation is to combine both over seven days to allow one to experience both destinations.
Both camps allow one to be as active or inactive as one pleases. For those wishing to unwind, I recommend spending time on your tent’s private verandah, drink in hand, taking in the stunning scenery! The luxurious cream coloured triple-layered tents are reminiscent of an African safari camp and decked with a decadent four poster bed, colonial-era furniture and en-suite shower bathroom with hot water.
Both camps offer an array of delicious cuisine and dining options including regional Ladakhi, Indian and international. Food is prepared using fresh ingredients which are sourced locally where possible. There is a more formal tented restaurant and an outdoor barbecue area with lovely views at both camps, whilst at Chamba Camp Thiksey one can also enjoy a private lunch or dinner on a desk over the fish pond.
For those looking for to be active, both camps have lots to offer. At Chamba Camp Thiksey one can start the day with a visit the local monastery to participate in the prayer ceremony at sunrise, after which one can take a guided tour of the monastery visiting beautiful rooms along the way.
In the afternoon why not venture to do something completely different, such as rafting down the Indus River passing by traditional Ladakhi villages, and mesmerising views.
Leh is home to some gorgeous architecture and during your time at Chamba Camp Thiksey one can venture into town to see this. Explore the magnificent Leh Palace built in the 17th century by King Sengge Namgyal, over its nine storeys, some of which lay in ruin, there are displays of wonderful Ladakhi architecture.
One can then continue on foot to Munshi house, which houses the Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation Centre (LAMO) which does important work in conducting outreach programs, research and lectures.
After viewing the centre head to the terrace where a cup of special Ladakhi tea can be enjoyed before venturing to the Shanti Stupa, an impressive white dome. Its location affords spectacular vistas over the landscape, it is hard to believe that it was only constructed by Ladaki and Japanese Buddhists in 1991 to mark 2,500 years of Buddhism.
There are also some fascinating local hamlets to explore on walks from the camps, which serve as a real insight into local life. Meet the locals going about their daily lives and stop in for a cup of traditional Ladakhi butter tea.
One can also enjoy a cycling tour of the Warila Valley, rafting down the Indus River and horse polo, which was first introduced to Ladakh in the 17th century but is now a dying sport.
If you would prefer to stay closer to the camp, why not try some archery with the skilled local archers, or watch a local folk dance at your camp, allowing you an insight to the varied culture of the region.
The land for Chamba Camp is rented from the local monasteries in both Thiksey and Diskit which in turn helps to pay for the monasteries’ upkeep and allows them to offer educational scholarships for young monks.
They also employ staff from the local communities, training them to international standard. Though the camps only operate for part of the year, they will re-employ the same locals the following year.
In terms of environmental footprint, when the camp is dismantled at the end of the season they ensure that no footprint is left, it is as though it was never there!
If you would like any more information about visiting in Ladakh or glamping in luxury tented camps in India, please do feel free to contact me.
Images courtesy of and copyright to The Ultimate Travelling Camps