Blending old world Himalayan charm with the expectations of the modern traveller, the simple premise of these beautifully renovated houses is to allow visitors the chance to immerse in a traditional culture, without sacrificing comfort levels.
By day trek, mountain bike or raft Ladakh’s startling landscapes, exploring remote monasteries meeting monks, picnicking in apple orchids or on the edge of barley fields overlooking the mighty Indus River. Then retire to the homely comforts of your village house where a hot shower, chef-prepared dinner and a soft bed await. It’s a hard formula to beat.
The seven traditional houses scattered through surrounding villages are genuine village homes on long lease which have been sensitively updated in order to provide comfort and authenticity. Uncluttered and simple, yet surprisingly comfortable and homely, each one possesses a hint of luxury, yet without compromising its authenticity.
The houses are furnished to high standards with each room boasting cavernous European mattresses, wonderful views and a modern western-style bathroom with nice touches, such as handmade soap. Each house can accommodate up to a maximum of only six people and even if you are travelling as two, you have the house to yourselves. Exclusivity and authenticity are central to the whole experience.
The other key ingredient is the local English-speaking guides and hostesses who accompany you throughout your stay. The human key’s who unlock the world of Ladakh for you, these people act as the vital bridge between your world and your hosts – introducing you to rimpoches, helping you haggle in the market for souvenirs, acting as translator with your Ladakhi host family: host, guide, travel companion, logistician, fixer and translator all in one.
Hitherto strictly the preserve of the hardy backpacker, the main game changer of these village houses is to have made far more accessible Ladakh’s strongly Buddhist culture and starkly beautiful landscape of scorched high altitude deserts, glassy peaks and ancient white monasteries.
The most accessible of Shakti’s properties, to get there is no more than a flight from Delhi to Leh followed by a relatively short road transfer. This straightforward access twinned with the privacy of having your own house has made these houses perfect for families or groups of friends travelling together, particularly in the summer when Ladakh is one of the few suitable places to visit in India during the hot summer months.
While these village houses can’t be called home stays in the purest sense, as the actual owners have vacated the houses and now live in adjacent lodgings as part of the lease deal, they are true to the spirit of a home stay in that they offer an authentic home-from-home experience.
For their authenticity, simplicity, exclusivity and privileged window onto a largely traditional way of life we love these comfortable havens on the roof of the world.
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
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