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The Ultimate Travelling Camp (TUTC), is a nomadic mobile super-luxury camp that introduces the discerning traveller to different adventures in carefully selected exceptional locations within India.

TUTC won two awards at the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Gold Awards 2015. PATA is the leading voice and authority on travel and tourism in the Asia Pacific region. TUTC won under the Heritage & Culture category for their endeavours to preserve legacies of culture, flora & fauna, performing art forms, secret recipes and ancient healing forms, as well as under the Marketing Media category for their Consumer Travel Brochure. The awards ceremony took place at the Bangalore International Exhibition Centre in September 2015 during the PATA Travel Mart 2015.

 
  • Compass - India's Nubra Valley

    Compass

    Oct 2018

    INDIA'S NUBRA VALLEY
    ... the less explored Silk Route

    Cox & Kings’ India manager, Sue Livsey, travels along the less-explored Silk Route in northern India’s Nubra Valley.

    Compass October 2018

    INDIA'S NUBRA VALLEY ... the less explored Silk Route

    Gazing down from the prayer room at Diskit Monastery, the sand dunes and the expansive plains of the Shyok river are shrouded beneath the Karakoram mountain range. The Shyok continues on to Pakistan before merging with the mighty Indus river. Standing in this monastery, which had undoubtedly seen better days, was something totally magical. It felt otherworldly, as though I was an extra from the film Seven Years in Tibet. From the many monasteries I have visited in Ladakh, it remains my favourite.



    Built in the 14th century in a jumbled fashion, Diskit Monastery has an elevated position on the slopes. It offered the residing monks protection from marauding merchants and mercenaries who plied this section of Silk Road en route from Tibet to Yarkand in China. For centuries, great caravans of wool and cloth, opium, spices and skins, coral and turquoise, gold and indigo wound their way along the valley floor. This came to an abrupt end when China sealed its borders in the 1950’s.

    I explored the mani walls and chortens (a Buddhist shrine), marvelling at the ancient Buddhist relics and prayer flags. Venturing to the back of the monastery and peering over the cliff face – only advised for the brave and vertigo-free – revealed a wooden staircase, which descended the rock face and underneath a waterfall. It was the secret back entrance to the monastery, used by locals and as a means of escape in times of peril, as well as for monks collecting water from the stream. Returning the following morning for prayers, I was welcomed by a cacophony of chanting and cymbals as the sun rose.


    Less well known than other parts of the Silk Road, Ladakh’s Nubra Valley is a rewarding alternative to the more visited Leh and its many monasteries. From here you can embark on village walks, soft and more adventurous treks, as well as a day trip to Turtuk, a village known for its apricots. Due to its close proximity to Pakistan, it has a Muslim culture, showing a fascinating contrast to the overwhelmingly Buddhist valley.

    Eschewing my fear of riding, I mounted a double-humped Bactrian camel for a leisurely paced sunset ride across the dunes. I gazed up at the same mountains and the same view that must have entranced traders back in the trading heyday. It struck me how lush the vegetation was, with groves of poplars, willow and barley fields. Little wonder that the Nubra Valley is known as the “Orchard of Ladakh.”

    Camel riding in the Nubra Valley

    In keeping with the theme of finding myself on an erstwhile caravan route, my accommodation for my 3-night sojourn was the luxurious Ultimate Travelling Camp in Diskit. It seemed so apt to be staying in tented accommodation given my location on the Silk Route. Though I doubt that former merchants and mercenaries were treated to a luxury suited tent and a mouth-watering menu.

    Warmed by a log fire, I ate dinner under the stars one evening. As I pulled out my stargazer app, I again started wondering what those hardy traders would have thought when they marvelled at the constellations all those years ago. Did the stars guide their route, I wondered?


    Specially designed experiences by The Ultimate Travelling Camp include a trip following the Hundar river to a small village, which is located at the end of the valley and set amid barley fields. Completely remote, it is breathtakingly beautiful.

    Only 17 villagers still live there, with the majority of the young men having chosen a monastic life. I was welcomed by a local woman who wanted me to see how they used to live almost underground. Bending my head, I was led through caves and rooms. I was shown their liquor store and kitchen and failed miserably at weaving wool. Invited back to their newly built home, my host served tea and local rice wine, which is not for the faint-hearted – it left me coughing! She delighted in showing me a picture book, showing the inauguration of her eldest son as head monk of a monastery in southern India.

    The wonderful staff at The Ultimate Travelling Camp

    Reaching the Nubra valley, from Leh, is an adventure in itself. The 5,602m-high Khardung La mountain pass is reputed to be the world’s highest motorable road. It affords incredible views of glaciated peaks. Alternatively, you can cross the sublimely beautiful 5,312m-high Wari La pass. The Ultimate Travelling Camp can arrange for a picnic en route back to Leh at a spot overlooking the valley, with the option to mountain bike down the last stretch of the road, past local villages.

    Perhaps it is because the Nubra Valley is less visited, but the people I met seemed deeply genuine and warm living in a stunning Himalayan setting. If only the mountains could talk – the stories they could tell of the traders that found themselves traversing this wild and beautiful landscape.

    Wari La pass

    Cox & Kings can organise a tailor-made holiday to the Himalaya, staying at The Ultimate Travelling Camp’s Chamba Camp Diskit. Find out more about holidays to India here.

  • thumb-rock-sacred-place.jpg

    Conde Naste Travellers

    Sep 2018

    Between a Rock and a Sacred Place

    "Come, Madam, it will be a great picture!" My hiking guide, Basava, knew exactly how to play me.

  • The New Indian Express

    Jul 2018

    ladakh's valley of colours

    One of the world's most fragile ecosystems, high-altitude Nubra is rich with its flowers and orchards,

  • thumb-gayathri.jpg

    The Hindu

    Jul 2018

    Leh, and some perspective

    How a glamping trip in the mountains doubled as a digital detox for our columnist

  • thumb-destination-reporter.jpg

    Destination Reporter

    Jul 2018

    TUTC Takes 'Glamping' to a Whole New Experience

    In the last five years, TUTC has seen 100 per cent growth YoY, and with some excellent feedback from the guests

    Destination Reporter July, 2018

    TUTC Takes Glamping to a Whole New Experience



    Mumbai: The Jains who stayed with TUTC (The Ultimate Travelling Camp) in June 2018 wrote, “Luxury amidst nature – Chamba Camp, Diskit has been way beyond our expectations, the service and food being the clear winners. The guides have been so helpful with sharing the history and geography of this raw beauty that is Ladakh. This place has such attention to detail, in difficult conditions like these. We are very grateful for your service.”

    Similar ecstatic feedback from customers is normal at TUTC, which has pioneered mobile glamping or glamourous camping in India. It has set up nomadic luxury camps that provide travellers a landscape that is challenging and accommodation that is comfortable while still being respectful of the ecology and environment. Each TUTC campsite is unique and showcases the region’s geography and culture in an equally distinctive way.

    They ensure that services offered to the guests are world class – from the time guests touchdown at the airport and a personal guide and chauffer await their arrival, to the Guest Relations Executives (GREs) and Tour Managers who are there at each camp, an entire legion of enthusiastic staff to cater to all the whims and fancies of guests.

    To top it all, TUTC guests are accorded a personal butler service. “We offer the best of canvas luxury with adventures in exceptional locations, en-suite bathrooms with hot water and gourmet cuisine made from the freshest ingredients. We have curated experiences that give our guests an opportunity to immerse themselves in the entire experience of the local culture and feel a part of it,” says Dhun Cordo, co-founder, TUTC.

    The continued buzz around experiential travel has directly influenced the growth of glamping in India. Comfort, security, great cuisines, expert tour guides, local culture and experiences are certain essential factors for decision making and customers today have started to take these factors seriously while deciding on a holiday. Also, increasing affluence and easy access to wide range of luxury products in India have paved the way for a niche segment like glamping finding many suitors.

    In the last five years, TUTC has seen 100 per cent growth YoY, and with some excellent feedback from the guests, the company expects to hit double-digit growth in three years

    Glamping is still a very small but definitely growing segment of luxury and experiential holidays in India. In the last five years TUTC has witnessed 100 per cent growth every year and with some excellent feedback from the guests. The nascent segment’s growth is expected to double in the next three years.

    TUTC began in 2013 when a small camp was set up for the Maha Kumbh, which was their first foray into the segment of glamping. Later that year in June, the Chamba Camp in Thiksey (Leh Valley, Ladakh) followed and then the Kohima Camp in Nagaland in December 2014, which coincided with the native Hornbill Festival after which tents were set up in Diskit (Nubra valley, Ladakh) in 2015.

    Each luxury property weaves in experiences that promote the richness and uniqueness of the destination. While the Chamba Camps ensure patronage to various aspects of the Ladakhi and Buddhist way of life, the Kohima camp that coincides with the Hornbill festival aims to revive, protect and preserve the tradition of the 16 tribes native to Nagaland.

    “In December 2017, we forayed into semi-permanent accommodation and expanded our luxury portfolio with the launch of a rebranded luxury lodge experience. Jaagir Lodge Dudhwa, located in Terai, Uttar Pradesh familiarises guests with the thrilling wildlife and conservation initiatives in India’s most diverse Terai ecosystem. We will soon be expanding our reach down South,” informs Cordo.

    While all the tents are not of the same shape or size, each one is spacious, comprising a bedroom, bathroom and verandah area. The premium Presidential Suite Tents in the Thiksey Camp have an extra wing which can accommodate up to two extra beds, a bed and seating area or a complete lounge setting. All tents have large windows to allow the guest to enjoy their beautiful surroundings. Air-conditioning and heating are also provided depending on the location and requirement.

    All camp sites have a reception tent and a dining tent. The reception area comes with a lobby to meet and greet, GREs and Tour Managers, a handicrafts boutique, Wi-Fi and docking stations, library and indoor board games. At the dining area, fresh, local and organic ingredients are used to prepare international, national and regional delicacies. An in-house bakery and complimentary culinary classes complete the gastronomic experience.

    “At all camps, luxury, with guest safety and security, are always at the forefront of our mind”, concludes Cordo. Guests can indulge in activities as varied as horse polo, archery, monastery tours, river rafting, cycling, hiking, birding, safari and participating in local festivals, depending on where they are camping. TUTC’s client base includes the affluent and the rich, high net income individuals and well-travelled customers from both India and abroad – domestic and international FITs and groups, NRIs and DINK (double income, no kids).

    “After eight wonderful nights, we do not feel ready to leave! We have been made so welcome at Champa Camp – Wow what a luxurious set up. Will remember our stay always, especially the warmth of the staff. Nothing missing here. Especially loved our kitchen experience and meal expectations were more than surpassed. Memories to treasure,” wrote M Alcock, from UK, after staying at Chamba Camp, Thiksey.

    Chamba Camp, Thiksey: May 15 to October 10, 2018
    Chamba Camp, Diskit: May 15 to September 30, 2018
    Kohima Camp, Nagaland: November 29 to December 12, 2018
    Jaagir Lodge, Dudhwa: December 19, 2017 to June 15, 2018 (now closed)

  • Travel Biz Monitor

    Jun 2018

    A Terai Sojourn with TUTC!

    Although Dudhwa National Park has a pre-eminent position among the Tiger Reserves in India because of it’s association with the life...

  • Conde Naste Travellers

    Jun - Jul 2018

    If you feel at all - I mean AT ALL - weak or dizzy or breathless

  • Compass

    Apr 2018

    Hot List

    Cox & Kings’ Katie Cosstick reveals the best of what’s new this spring

  • Destinasian - Asian Edition

    Destinasian - Asian Edition

    Apr 2018

    Frontier Fixture

    In the wilds of northern India,
    The Ultimate Travelling Camp's first permanent property has some serious staying power.

  • Financial Times

    Apr 2018

    A gem of an Indian safari lodge deep in tiger territory

    Dudhwa, a prime tiger reserve tucked in India’s extreme north, has long been a hidden gem in the rough.

    Financial Times April, 2018

    A gem of an Indian safari lodge deep in tiger territory

    Dudhwa, a prime tiger reserve tucked in India’s extreme north, has long been a hidden gem in the rough. Now one of the subcontinent’s top luxury adventure outfits has set up here, opening its haunting landscapes to exploration - in considerable comfort. Stanley Stewart gets a first look

    The wealth of wildlife at Dudhwa includes tigers, elephants and rhinos

    Perhaps we forgive beauty everything. Tigers are creatures of grace. On padded paws, they glide through the jungle with an exquisite elegance. But these greatest of cats, larger and far more powerful than lions, have another reputation – as man eaters, felling their victims with a single swipe of the paw.

    Happy Singh was on his feet, both thrilled and horrified. “Suddenly in the lane, tiger is there,” Singh was saying. Beyond our circle of firelight, the night was dark and moonless. “I am walking, so not a laughing matter. The tiger crosses in front of me. I feel all the hairs on my body, they are standing up.” Singh’s face shone in the light of the flames. “You are never knowing when a tiger attacks,” he said, sitting down again. He made an explosive noise like a firecracker. “Phweet. Tigers are killing you in an instant. And then they eat just one thing” - he pointed to his groin - “the private parts”. A collective shudder went through the group and Singh poured everyone another couple of fingers of whisky. Somewhere, far beyond our circle of light, an elephant was trumpeting.

    The Ultimate Travelling Camp opened the gloriously retro Jaagir Lodge in December

    I had come to look for tigers in Dudhwa, a tiger reserve in the extreme north of India. And for a time, it seemed that Singh’s stories were as close as I would get. If Dudhwa is one of the least known of India’s tiger reserves, it may be partly because accommodation options have historically been limited. But that changed last December, when The Ultimate Travelling Camp opened Jaagir Lodge. Ultimate specialises in bringing comfort to some of India’s remoter corners, from Nagaland in the east to the Nubra Valley in Ladakh, in the form of high-end safari camps. Jaagir is its first fixed bricks-and-mortar offering - a gloriously retro former hunting lodge in the remote Terai, hard by the Nepal border, and now one of the finest game lodges in India.

    A mysterious region of forests and river plains to the south of the Himalayan foothills, the Terai was deemed all but ungovernable by the British. Its jungles offered sanctuary to renegade princes and rebels, refugees and dacoits, and cover to a wealth of wildlife, including elephants, rhinos and tigers. After Paritition, the Indian Terai was settled by hard-working Sikhs who had fled Pakistan. As they cleared stretches of jungle and planted sugar cane, the area came on the radar of conservationists who set up an arc of preserved habitats, a collection of forest reserves and wildlife sanctuaries that together form the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. Here the old atmosphere of the Terai forests and wetlands lingers - remote, eerie, unsettling. In the midst of the sanctuaries, down a lonely back road not far from the village of Palia, is Jaagir Lodge.

    I had driven up from Lucknow, a four-and-a-half hour run, arriving at night in the fog, so that the whole place - the curving drive, the lanterns among the trees, the stately palms at the approach to the house, the lighted windows – seemed spectral and unreal. Getting down from the car, I was ushered into an old-fashioned drawing room to be served ginger tea. Jaagir Lodge comes with an entire Downton Abbey’s worth of friendly staff. Chief among them was my butler, the inimitable Sameer Kuwar, the Jeeves of Jaagir, the kind of intelligent, efficient, upright chap who would make any guest - let alone one as shambolic as your present correspondent – feel like a bumbling Bertie Wooster. Kuwar kept me right about everything from attire to dinner choices - “I think sir might prefer the salmon” or “perhaps sir would do well today to bring a hat”.

    There was something strangely familiar about Jaagir, something comforting. And then I realised: I had known houses like this as a child, gracious and almost Edwardian, with their substantial furniture, their four-poster beds and their oriental rugs on acres of waxed wooden floors, their nooks and crannies full of chests from Zanzibar and gods from India. Through my whole time at the lodge, I kept expecting my great-aunt Sophia, dead for 40 years, to show up, appearing from behind a bookcase, to reprimand me for not finishing my peas at lunch.

    Jaagir occupies a former hunting lodge

    In the beginning, tigers belonged to the bestiaries of the imagination, drifting through legend and poetry. As late as the Renaissance, it was still believed that all tigers were female and they procreated by copulating with the wind. They came to symbolise some savage and dark force of nature. Yet often when we think of them, we weave a romance; we imagine them out there in the dark, eyes shining, padding through the moonlight, crouching by a forest pool to drink, an image in a fairy tale. In Indian parks, we listen faithfully to our guides as they warn us that it should not be just about tigers, that we shouldn’t focus on the big cat to the exclusion of all else. At Dudhwa, where there was plenty of all else, I tried to forget about tigers, though I knew they might be only metres away - so they say - watching me as I raised my binoculars to admire the grey hornbills.

    Days in the Terai had a dream-like quality. The early mornings were misty. Wrapped in woollen ponchos in the safari jeep, we seemed to be afloat in clouds. Here and there, in the pre-dawn, lights swam out of the mists, and sometimes the yellow lick of a fire surrounded by huddled figures. Along the empty lanes of the wildlife sanctuaries of Kishanpur, Katarniaghat and Pilibhit, the forests were ghostly. Spotted deer materialised between the slender sal trunks. Troops of macaques suddenly arrived, noisy and inquisitive, invading the Indian blueberry trees, then just as suddenly melting away again through the high branches. A jackal trotted past without looking up, intent on jackal business. Termite mounds, crenellated like castles, rose among the trees. In a deep aisle of silk cotton trees, a huge porcupine lumbered away, its needles swaying like a ballgown.

    There are two standalone villas in the grounds

    Early one morning, we climbed aboard elephants to track Indian rhinos, the mahout seated above the great head, urging the tusker forward with his bare feet. Blundering through undergrowth, we found a young male, hunkered in the mists. Late one afternoon we took a boat on the Girwa River, one of the headwaters of the Ganges, to see the river dolphins surfacing and to admire the extraordinary gharials, a rare crocodilian with a long snout - there are barely 200 left in the wild - basking on the sandbanks a few metres from the boat.

    Once the mist had melted away, a delicate dappled sunlight filled the forests. Birds flashed between the trees, their names as glamorous as their markings: the flameback woodpecker, the racquet-tailed drongo, the paradise flycatcher, the red-whiskered bulbul, the black-hooded oriole, the emerald dove. In Kheri, we spotted a Burmese python, as thick and long as a tree trunk, sliding through the grass in serpentine slow motion. On the edge of a lake, where dozens of ducks chased one another across the silver surface, we came upon a herd of rare swamp deer, the elusive barasingha, standing in pools of mist. As one, they pivoted their heads to look at us, raising aloft magnificent 12-pointed antlers like trophies.

    The decor at Jaagir has a gracious, Edwardian feel

    So it wasn’t just about tigers - but they were rarely far from our thoughts. At a forest crossroads, we stopped to examine prints in the soft earth. Probably last night, my guide said, a big male making its way towards the lake. The crossroads was named after SD Singh, a ranger who been killed here by a tiger in 1985; he had been patrolling on a motorbike. In the battle to protect the tiger in India, in which SD Singh had been on the front line, the tigers’ habit of eating people is a serious obstacle. There are no reliable numbers for tiger deaths. Government figures list 21 in 2017, but wildlife experts view this as a dramatic underestimate. Dudhwa seems to have more than its fair share of man-eaters, accounting for more than half of the government figure. The latest fatality had been only the previous month, a boy of 17 cutting grass for thatch in the forests. (At least it was the latest, until news came in during my trip of a woman who had been killed the previous day.) It’s probably as well to point out that visitors in safari jeeps are in no real danger. Some of the cats can become quite keen on stray people on foot, but tigers don’t attack vehicles.

    One evening on our way back to the lodge for dinner at eight, we met the aforementioned Happy Singh, a friend of the guide. Making the rounds of his field workers, he materialised out of the evening as silently as a leopard and invited us home for cocktails. Singh’s father had been one of the Sikh pioneers to the Terai who had come to carve farms out of the jungle 70 years ago. His brother and sister had emigrated to Michigan and California – seen as great advancement by his family – but he had proudly remained here. He showed me around his barns, where I admired eight cows, two buffaloes, a motorcycle and a dairyman asleep on a rope bed. Then we sat outside next to a roaring fire while Singh plied us with ripe dates, aged whisky and amusing stories.

    The regional tandoori chicken dish murgh makhni is a speciality of the lodge’s chef Uttam Sarkar

    There was the time he and a ranger had been chased by an enormous tusker; the time they needed to frighten off two invading elephants with firecrackers; the time a tiger took a buffalo tethered in his yard and dragged it off into the jungle. Happy Singh was well named – he treated everything as an elaborate joke. The foibles of the staff who run the park and the forest sanctuaries were a particular source of hilarity.

    “Listen,” he said suddenly, putting his fingers to his lips. “Do you hear that? Silence. You will not hear that in Michigan.” A moment later, in that great void of silence, there was a distant sound like faint snoring. “And that… leopard.” Then he laughed. “Have another whisky.”

    Eventually we managed to escape Happy’s happy hospitality, poured ourselves back in the jeep and set off down the back roads for Jaagir through a thick night fog. We seemed to be feeling our way through clouds. The ghosts of trees loomed over the road.

    And then, when least expected, when we had long since ceased to look, when it seemed an absurdly impossible moment, a tiger appeared. Not so much appeared as materialised, standing in the middle of the lane, swathed in fog, as substantial as a mirage. The guide stopped the jeep. The tiger gazed at us, eyes burning bright. And then, almost with a deliberate show of insouciance, he turned his head slowly away and strolled into the long grass beside the road, disappearing from view. It was only then I realised I was holding my breath, and my heart was pounding.

    Back at the lodge, “Jeeves” was waiting. “Something of a delay on the way home, sir?” he asked. Even I noticed his slightly arched left eyebrow. “Tiger,” I sputtered, as he helped me down from the jeep. “Yes, sir. Of course,” he said. “Tiger indeed. Shall I have dinner sent up to the room, sir? That might be easier. Not so many staircases to negotiate.” He smiled his butler smile. “I am sure we will be right as rain in the morning, sir.”

  • The Economic Times - April 2018

    The Economic Times

    Apr 2018

    Traesures of Terai

    Dudhwa National Park promises a 'Jungle Book' experience

    The Economic Times April, 2018

    Treasures of Terai: Dudhwa National Park promises a 'Jungle Book' experience


    Tiger spotting in Dudhwa

    If there’s a place where you can see nature at its finest, it’s a forest. It can not only throw the most extraordinary surprises but also teach you the art of appreciating calm and quiet. Looking forward to an immersive experience, we decide to spend a week exploring the remote jungles in the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh.

    Our journey begins soon after we land in Lucknow and drive towards Palia village in Lakhimpur Kheri district, situated on the Indo-Nepal border. All we can see is endless stretches of mustard yellow and lush green dotted with tiny villages — a visual treat for a city dweller. We wave at smiling children, tribal women adorning striking attire and indigenous jewellery, men driving tractors and farmers humming regional songs while working in the fields. The plan? To be in close proximity to spectacular wildlife during the day and relax and reflect on our rare encounters at a rustic lodge post sunset.

    Deer spotting

    Surrounded by acres of litchi farms and sprawling sugarcane and wheat plantations, Jaagir Lodge, with it’s whitewashed elegance of a colonial house, antique furniture and a space dedicated to wildlife books and manuals, makes for an ideal place to escape the chaos and cacophony of city life.

    Fabled Forests
    They say, each forest has its own personality, feel, sounds, rustling whispers and smells. Curious to uncover these aspects in the Terai, we start at dawn and manage to catch the first rays of sun as we enter Dudhwa National Park. Nestled amid warm, sub-tropical forests between the Himalayas and the plains of India, the 490 sq km park is a thick blanket of elephant grass with large patches of sal trees and wet marshes. Here, the only sound you hear is grunting and trumpeting of elephants, punctuated by soothing songs of birds.

    Gharial

    Once the day brightens, it’s time to sit atop an elephant and set out in search for the regal one-horned rhinoceros, which was first re-introduced in the park under the Rhinoceros Conservation Programme, in exchange of elephants from Nepal. While Dudhwa is home to an array of wildlife including mugger crocodiles, barasingha and the elusive Bengal tigers, it is certainly a delightful oasis for an avid birdwatcher.

    Fulvous whistling duck

    Our passionate naturalist Anoop helps us spot magnificent birds like the Bengal florican, Indian rollers, oriental darter (snake bird), common coot, oriental pied hornbill, red-crested pochard, green bee eater, lesser whistling duck, ferruginous pochard, greater slaty woodpecker and barbet while explaining their behaviour and how they adapt to local ecology. What adds to the thrill of any safari experience is the sheer unpredictability of the jungle. You never really know when and where you might spot a big cat, and this keeps you on the edge of your seat.

    Fulvous whistling duck

    For us, the high point of our adventure is tracking the tigress — the empress of the jungle, at Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary which is a part of the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve near Mailani. Tracing her fresh pugmarks, we track her for more than an hour as we drive along a dirt track while she treads in silence through the bushes alongside. The tension is incredible, but those few moments of gazing at her in the wild are unmatched and unforgettable.

    One of the cottages surrounded by wilderness

    Jungle Book Experience
    When in the Terai region, make sure to devote an entire day to the picturesque Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary, a sprawling 400 sq km park that shares an international border with Nepal. Encompassing Africa-esque savannah grasslands along with sal and teak forests as well as wetlands, the sanctuary is largely untouched and beautifully retains its natural character. This hidden gem of the Terai offers an exquisite boat ride as well as a jeep safari to enable nature enthusiasts spot its myraid endangered species. For us, the 45-minute boat ride on the Gairwa river turns out to be a magical experience.

    Clear emerald water, lush-green over-hanging trees creating coves, gharials resting on little islands, brown-roof turtles striking a pose, frolicking fresh-water dolphins and the skimmer flaunting its signature move of dragging the lower bill through the water — all effortlessly come together to weave a unique “Jungle Book” experience. The jeep safari is a chance to soak in uninterrupted grassland views while photographing tribes of monkeys, handsome peacocks, various species of deers giving a piercing glance, vultures and crested serpent eagles. Be watchful at all times as Katarniaghat also shelters many from the cat family including fishing cats, leopards, and tigers.

  • Destination of the world news

    Destination of the world news

    Mar 2018

    Nomadic luxury in India

    For the last five years, The Ultimate Travelling Camp has wandered across north and east India, providing guests with insider...

  • The Man

    The Man

    Mar 2018

    Carry on ‘Glamping’
    Glamping or luxury camping, a hot trend abroad for last few years, now has enough and more options across India

  • Verve Magazine

    Verve Magazine

    Mar 2018

    The Art Of Glamping

    When India’s only nomadic luxury camp sets up base in Ladakh’s picturesque alpine terrain.

    Verve Magazine March, 2018

    When India’s only nomadic luxury camp sets up base in Ladakh’s picturesque alpine terrain, you know you’re in for an experience of a lifetime. Prachi Joshi goes glamping with The Ultimate Travelling Camp (TUTC) and comes away impressed.

    Dawn broke over the horizon as my flight hurtled through pink and orange-hued clouds. I was desperate to catch a glimpse of the Himalayas from the air, but the weather gods didn’t seem too kind. Then, suddenly just as we began our descent, the clouds parted and we were zooming past snow-capped peaks, over a rugged Martian landscape; just before we landed, I glimpsed a red-and-white monastery precariously hugging the side of a cliff. Touchdown, Ladakh – the land of high passes and spectacularly jagged peaks, of red-robed monks and white-washed stupas, of fluttering prayer flags and a Zen-like spirituality.

    It was early July and hordes of tourists had descended upon Leh and the airport was a cacophony of mixed tongues. My husband and I dragged our bags off the carousel and walked out into the crisp morning. We had been warned about the thin mountain air but it washed over us like a cool sheet, a relief after being cooped up in a completely booked flight. Our guide and driver were waiting for us and we were whisked away to Chamba Camp Thiksey, a 45-minute drive from Leh airport. Located in a large clearing near Thiksey Monastery, TUTC’s camp was a welcome respite from the hubbub of Leh. The large reception marquee was beautifully appointed with oversized sofas, period furniture, and a small gift shop. While we checked-in, the resident doctor checked our blood pressure and oxygen levels to make sure that the thin air was not affecting us adversely. Our smiling valet brought us a welcome drink, aptly called Himalayan Delight – a hot concoction of Earl Grey tea, honey, and local apricot jam – and it quickly became our favourite drink of choice.

    Luxury suite tent at Chamba Camp, Thiksey

    Our luxury suite tent was pristine white and made of triple-layered canvas, which was weather-proof, fire-resistant, and offered natural insulation. The spacious tent sat on a raised thick wooden deck, which also served as a patio giving a splendid view of the yellow-flowered alfalfa field and the majestic Stok Mountain Range – the sheer pleasure of waking up to the Himalayas practically in your front yard never got old. Inside the tent, a king-size four-poster bed occupied pride of place, complete with soft sheets, a pillow menu, wispy curtains, and a bejewelled chandelier hanging above. The rest of the room was done up tastefully – gleaming hardwood floors, Kashmiri carpets, a vintage travel trunk, elegant colonial furniture, colourful woollen throws, and a complementary refreshments bar. The en-suite bathroom with its deep copper washbasin, shower cubicle, and Ayurveda-inspired amenities could rival any five-star hotel bathroom.

    Our first day at the camp was given to acclimatisation. We had a long, leisurely breakfast – al fresco, outside the dining tent and with a view of the Thiksey Monastery. Fruits, juices, eggs, cereal, and more made an appearance, all washed down with some excellent coffee, and accompanied by an impressive bakery basket of flaky croissants, airy muffins, and pillowy bread rolls. TUTC’s kitchen staff was truly adept at conjuring up all sorts of cuisines – during our stay we had a range of Indian, Continental, and local Ladakhi dishes, all meticulously executed, artfully presented, and uniformly delicious.

    After the mandated acclimatisation rest day (spent napping, eating, lazing about, watching the sun set, and eating some more), we stepped out of the camp for a scenic drive across the Indus River to the 15th-century Matho Monastery perched high up in the Stok Mountains. Here, our guide Namgyal Dorje gave us a crash course in Buddhism as we explored the monastery and the upcoming art and culture museum. From the terrace of the under-construction museum we had a sweeping view of the Indus valley flanked by the Ladakh range and the Stok range with the mighty river gushing through it. Later, we went exploring Leh – crowded, dusty, choc-a-bloc with cars and bikes – it’s no wonder we made a beeline for the quiet environs of our camp where we stayed put for the evening. There were long walks in Thiksey village, a gander past the many chortens that lined one of the boundary walls of the camp, and a local dinner to the lilting tunes of the kopong (Ladakhi guitar).

    Our visit coincided, quite luckily for us, with the renowned Hemis Festival. We drove to Hemis Monastery, about an hour’s drive from the camp, where TUTC had arranged for us to have VIP seats. From the balcony we had a bird’s eye view of the proceedings – monks in colourful outfits and elaborate masks performed ritual dances to the beats of drums, cymbals, and trumpets. The festival is held to celebrate the birthday of Lord Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), an 8th-century Buddhist master widely revered as the second Buddha. After an exhilarating day at the Hemis Monastery, we returned to camp but stopped to visit Thiksey Monastery. It was 6.30 p.m. and it was the monks’ dinnertime. They kindly invited us to join them in their simple meal of thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup with noodles) and salty butter tea – probably the most delicious meal we had in Ladakh. The experience was made more special since we got a chance to interact with a group of young monks, an informal affair accompanied by a lot of questions and laughter. We later climbed up to the terrace of the monastery just in time to watch the setting sun cast a golden glow over the Leh valley.

    Tent at Chamba Camp, Diskit

    Day 4 began bright and early as we left the Thiksey Camp to drive to Chamba Camp Diskit, TUTC’s second camp in Ladakh located in Nubra Valley. It was a long drive, nearly five hours of it, but the highlight was our passage through Khardung La – the highest motorable road in the world. It was a rough ride, with the rains having washed away parts of the road, but the view from the top was worth it. It had been a long winter and the pass was still lined with thick snow and everywhere we looked we could see the brown mountaintops liberally streaked stark white. As we descended into the Nubra Valley, we were met by the confluence of two rivers, Nubra and Shyok, flanked by craggy mountains of the Ladakh Range, interspersed here and there with pockets of green where tiny villages had sprung up. Chamba Camp Diskit is just outside Diskit village and is done up in a more rustic style compared to the Thiksey camp. The surrounding dramatic landscape added to the rough-and-ready camping vibe. The tent itself was anything but rough – the triple-layered beige tent stood on a solid wooden deck with a private sit-out and an uninterrupted view of the Diskit Monastery, which seems to have been hewn out of the very cliff it stood on. Inside, a four-poster bed, bright orange furniture, and a gorgeous vintage leather trunk-turned-wardrobe completed the safari camp style.

    The next day we went out exploring the many villages in Nubra Valley. The highlight was Tirith village where a 350-year-old Ladakhi house still stands, complete with a traditional kitchen preserved along with its old stove, copper and brass utensils, and a wood-beamed ceiling blackened with three centuries of soot. We chatted with some women from the village who plied us with cups of chhang, the local tipple of choice made with fermented barley. Later that evening, we drove to the Hunder sand dunes – a surreal landscape of tall, undulating dunes hemmed in by the snow-covered Ladakh Range. Seated astride the two-humped Bactrian camels, we felt much like the nomadic merchants of centuries ago when the Silk Road passed through here.

    On our last day in Ladakh, we made our way back from the Diskit camp to the Thiksey camp, via an alternate route that went through Wari La. This is a lesser-frequented mountain pass compared to Khardung La but no less scenic. It was a bright, sunny day and the sky had taken on a stunning cobalt hue. We drove through the alpine Himalayan landscape, encountering yaks and dzos (a hybrid of cow and yak), lightning quick marmots dashing about amongst the yellow buttercups, and a few golden eagles soaring overhead. By now the Thiksey camp felt like home. With a personal valet, a warmly hospitable staff, and a talented chef in the kitchen, TUTC was a ‘camping’ experience like no other.

  • Bombay Times

    Bombay Times

    26th January 2018

    Glamping in Ladakh

    Off-Beat ways to travel in India

  • The Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Awards 2018

    2018

    TUTC wins 2018 Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Awards : Above and Beyond

    The Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Awards 2018 TUTC wins 2018 Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Awards : Above and Beyond

    The Ultimate Travelling Camp (TUTC), the only luxury property from India, has made it to the winners list of the most incredible hotel collections at the annual Smith Awards, hosted by Mr and Mrs Smith, London’s leading authority on luxury travel. TUTC Chamba Camp, Thiksey competed with the world’s best stays and emerged victorious for its unparalleled amenities and personalised experiences offered to the guests.

    The property was voted the best in the ‘Above and Beyond’ category, selected by a panel of travel-savvy judges, including designers Jenny Packham, travel writers Johannes Pong and Lucy Williams. The winner of this award is chosen for going above and beyond expectations (a drink on the house, the best table for your birthday, a snack for the journey home), and the one who knows exactly how to provide the feel-good factor – they're natural hosts.

    Travel writer Johannes Pong, one of the panelists described TUTC as “Absolutely magical eco-friendly glamping in palatial tents with panoramic vistas of mountain-top monasteries by the foothills of the Himalayas in Ladakh.”

    The panelists heaped praise on TUTC by stating “The miracles performed by staff at this Himalayan high-ender are all the more impressive considering your surroundings: 3,500 metres up in the Ladakh Valley. From the personalised butler assigned to each ultra-luxe canvas tent to the friendliness of the local dancers who accompany dinner: everything, it seems, has already been thought of. Feeling peckish in the night? Just delve into your well-stocked snack drawer. Edmund Hillary eat your heart out.”

    Commenting on this achievement, Dhun Cordo, Co-founder, TUTC said, “We are extremely elated and honoured to have made it to the best of the best in a very exclusive category. It affirms our commitment in offering outstanding experiences and personalised luxury to our guests who want to explore challenging landscapes of India.”

    At 3500 metres up, TUTC’s exceptional services cater to all the whims and fancies of its esteemed guests. Luxury is exemplified by the aesthetically beautifully tents furnished with wooden chandeliers, four poster beds, exquisite linen to wooden period furniture. The tents are triple layered and protected from the outside and the interiors are climate controlled to suit individual preferences. Each tent offers en-suite bathrooms with hot showers, in-house signature wash amenities, safe deposit, laundry service, private decks, unlimited Wi-Fi at the reception tent, 24/7 security & paramedic on site, 24/7 electricity, boutique, library and services of a personal butler. TUTC's in-house Chef uses garden fresh ingredients to prepare and pamper visitors with world class cuisine- Regional, Indian and International that suits the taste of the travellers

    TUTC operates in undiscovered regions of India, including the Chamba Camp, Thiksey (Ladakh), Chamba Camp, Diskit (Ladakh) and Kohima Camp (Nagaland), and has recently added to its rich portfolio, Jaagir Lodge, Dudhwa and Kishkinda Camp, Hampi.

  • Jetwings

    Dec 2017

    The Lure of Ladakh
    Journey to the Chamba Camp in Ladakh includes staying in plus tents, rafting down the Indus, paying homage to old monasteries, and a visit to an oracle.

  • Robb Report India

    27th November 2017

    After making an impression in Ladakh and Nagaland, The Ultimate Travelling Camp or TUTC is expanding its footprint with the launch of a rebranded luxury lodge - Jaagir Lodge Dudhwa - nestled deep in the rainforests of the Terai in Uttar Pradesh.

  • Travel Hospitality

    11th September 2017

  • Arrival Travels

    12th July 2017

  • Outlook Traveller

    2nd July 2017

  • The Week

    1st July 2017

    Ladakh is much more than just snow and mountains

    The Week July, 2017

    Ladakh is much more than just snow and mountains

    Perhaps, it’s the rarefied air... or the fact that I have arrived from sea level to over 11,000 feet. But it feels otherworldly… even like another planet… the blinding blue skies, the low-hanging fluffs of cotton candy clouds and the jagged edges of gargantuan mountains. I have always been a sybarite... I like the luxurious way of travelling and if the terrain is rough, more so. So, when I arrive to a welcome with hot towels and girls dressed in traditional garb and head gear, escorting me into the swish reception marquee with piping hot herbal tea and cookies, I don’t complain. The room is furnished with comfy sofas, a small library of books about the region and a boutique with craft and products sourced from Ladakh and all over India. I am a little wary about the high altitude; after all, I am a creature of the South Indian coast. But the paramedic at hand monitors my blood pressure and oxygen levels and reassures me. “Ma’am, please take it easy today.” That is just what I need. I pick up a coffee table book on Ladakh’s culture and traditions and head to my tent to start the acclimatisation process.

    The tents are ultra-luxurious with beige and maroon furnishings. A huge four-poster bed, a study with beautiful stationery and a journal to record my experiences, a mini bar, a leather case filled with travel magazines, comfy chairs, fleecy rugs and, of course, a heater. The large bathroom has a huge copper wash basin, a shower cabin and toiletries in neat bags. Sun hats and bags have been thoughtfully provided inside the wardrobes, besides, torches and oversized ponchos.

    But what sets it apart is the view. The visual treat of the Thiksey monastery, which seems to have grown organically from the rocky outcrop, the lush alfalfa grass with huge magpies and rose-finches, and the whitewashed chortens… the land actually belongs to the monastery and over the next few days I see the Rinpoche and his maroon-robed assistants drop by for a visit to the camp. Most of the staff are local Ladakhis and I see women tending to flower beds every morning greeting me with a cheerful ‘Julley’.



    Ladakh is much more than just snow and mountains

    My cheerful guide Dorjey Siri is a Ladakhi who studied in Bengaluru and worked in Delhi, but ultimately came back, lured by his roots. “A Ladakhi can never live away from his land,” he says with a smile. The next day, we leave at pre-dawn for Thiksey Monastery, to witness the early morning prayers. The air is cold and crisp as I huff and puff my way to the roof of the monastery. Two monks herald the dawn, blowing the conch three times, dressed in their maroon robes and headdress silhouetted against the panorama of the mountains and the valley below. It’s a relief to walk into the welcoming warmth of the main prayer hall. Young monks drag heavy vessels of yak butter tea and barley powder around, serving everyone with a smile. The chanting of the monks interspersed with the clash of cymbals and the beat of drums induces a Zen experience. I meditate sitting on a small carpet, lost in a magical world of tranquillity and peace. When we emerge from the monastery, the mountains are bathed in a rosy hue and the snow glitters on the mountain tops. I am ravenous, tucking into a breakfast of fresh fruits, muffins, juice and hot poha.

    The Chamba camp is absolutely five stars, in its culinary offerings-from wild mushroom soup and freshly-baked focaccias with home-made preserves, to thalis and pastas, the food is outstanding. The camp has an organic garden where it grows many vegetables but many of their supplies have to be flown in from Srinagar. Come evening, the camp is bewitching, with lanterns illuminating the meandering paths and the indigo black night sky spangled with stars, in the absence of light pollution. The cozy dining room tent has a chandelier and evenings are enlivened by local musicians, playing folk music. On my bed, every night with turndown service, is a small box of chocolates, a hot water bag and a bed time story of a monk..




    Over the next few days we explore monasteries with their statues of fierce protective deities and colourful mandalas, visit Buddhist schools where young students recite verses in musical tones, drive along miles of mani walls, with slabs of stones inscribed with prayers from pilgrims. Bedraggled prayer flags enliven the rough terrain and craggy peaks of this bastion of Tibetan culture. In Leh town, crowded with locals whirling their prayer wheels and a Tibetan market selling bejewelled statues of the Buddha and Tara, I walk down the lane behind a mosque where small hole-in-the-wall establishments sell freshly baked naan breads straight from the tandoor, alongside fresh paneer.

    My most thrilling experience is the long drive across the Khardung La Pass at almost 18,000 feet, with wafer-thin air and narrow, winding, roads through sleet and ice, jammed with Army convoys, to the tented camp at Diskit, a green patch in the Nubra Valley. My tented accommodation at Diskit is more rustic yet luxurious, set in the benevolent gaze of the Diskit Monastery, perched on a rocky promontory. The mighty glacial Shyok River which breaks through like liquid mercury through the sandy plains, offers a counterpoint.

    I drive across to Hunder, exploring the sand dunes dotted with Bactrian camels carrying tourists on joy rides across a vast expanse of dunes. As we drive to Sumer, a small village to meet an organic farmer, I see how careful cultivation in the alluvial soil of rivers, greens the sepia spaces with barley fields, and hardy poplar and walnut trees. The drive through the land is like a primer in geology. I see huge boulders and rocks—gneiss, schist, craggy granite perched like giants along river beds and along the highway. Rocks with orange splotches of lichen, even huge hills of multani mitti. Harking back to a time when continents collided and glacial sheets covered the land, eroding the ground.



    Tomato and Cheese Salad

    The presence of the Army is formidable—the schools are run by them and units with names like Ferocious Five and Fearsome Chargers are sometimes the only signs of humanity in stretches of bleak landscape besides the Enfield bikers, strapped in their heavy gear, with tiny prayer flags festooning the handlebars, with their fuel bottles and luggage strapped on the sides.

    And at the end of the tiring days on pot-holed roads, it’s the warmth of the camp that sustains me—the delicious soup and dinner, the conversations with the staff about the impressions of the day and the few minutes trying to log onto eccentric WiFi to contact loved ones. A bedtime reading ritual and glorious sleep inside the mosquito nets. Tomorrow is after all another adventurous day in the Land of the High passes.

    P.S. The Chamba Camp at Thiksey is operational from May15 to September 30 every year, considered to be the best time to experience Ladakh

  • The Telegraph

    12th June 2017

    There's something extraordinary about flying from frantic Delhito remote Leh,...

    The Telegraph Jun, 2017


    There’s something extraordinary about flying from frantic Delhito remote Leh, the compact capital of Ladakh in northern India. Located in the vast and endless Himalayas, at a height of 3,500 metres, it is one of the highest cities in the world; dusty and dry for much of the year; extremely hot when the sun is out but freezing and crispy cold at night.

    We were there to visit Chamba Camp near the Thiksey Gompa monastery, one of the region’s most important religious sites. Sleeping in tents provides an agreeable way of experiencing the surrounding landscapes, but this is no ordinary camp. Each sheathed in immaculate beige canvas, tents here come with hardwood floors and Indian antique furniture; in ways, they’re like the luxury safari camps increasingly found in parts of Africa, just without the wild beasts roaming around outside.

    The camp is perfect as a base to explore the city, to go hiking, biking or rafting on the Indus river. It also serves as a base from which to meet the people of this region, be it to spend a day with the monks of the Thiksey Gompa or to venture deeper into the Himalayas in search of the Changpa nomads, aka the famous Kashmir goat herders.

    Dalai Lama in the house
    Our arrival at Chamba coincides with an important announcement: “His Holiness the Dalai Lama is going to visit us,” one of the staff members tells us. “He is going to sleep in one of the simple monastery dormitories but he might come here for lunch.”


    It will be the third time the Dalai Lama has visited Ladakh but the first time he will linger at Thiksey. The reason for this visit is to debate and discuss Buddha dharma with monks, nuns and students. Thousands of people are expected. It will be a grand day for Thiksey, which is by the way a gorgeous monastery, painted in the typical, natural reddish and chalky white colors so archetypal for this mountainous region.

    Once checked in at the camp, we regularly spot the building, perched on a small hill, from the voluptuous gardens. From our breakfast table on the deck of the restaurant tent, I can even hear the sound of the shankha, a horn made out of a shell, during the call for prayer or before a puja, a sacred ceremony. The imminent arrival of the Dalai Lama reinforces the sense that this is a truly special place.

    Going off the grid
    After visiting Tiksey Monastery, it’s time to trade our luxury tent for a simpler version. We’re moving to the remote and extreme Changtang region, a part of the Tibetan Plateau that extends from eastern Ladakh into Tibet. Known as uplands or "cold desert", it is one of India’s five listed "bio-diversity" regions, with short summers and blisteringly cold Arctic-like winters.

  • Happy Trips

    28th May 2017

    A good way to celebrate this beautiful world is to camp...

    Happy Trips May, 2017


    A good way to celebrate this beautiful world is to camp, it means to get away far from the madding crowd, to live under the open sky, and taste the adventure of a lifetime. Camping in Ladakh, amidst the high Himalayas, is equivalent to meditation or introspection. The astonishing landscapes of Ladakh make it apt for a romantic camping destination. Spread out in a dramatic form, with fluttering prayer flags all around you, Ladakh evokes a nomadic love, a far cry from every possible holiday you have been on. When in Ladakh, the best way to experience its heart is by staying close to nature; camping across the various destinations here can sure prove to be a great way to explore the beauty of Ladakh.

    With that in mind, we bring to you a quick guide to camping in Ladakh.

  • Mercedes Benz magazine

    15th May 2017

    luxury camping Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir and Kohima, Nagaland

  • Conde Naste Travellers

    7th April 2017

    TUTC, Chamba Camp, Thiksey
    A personal butler may be par for the course at one of India's most swish glamps.

    Conde Naste Travellers

    April 07, 2017 - By Charukesi Ramadurai

    5 great luxury stays in Ladakh

    TUTC, Chamba Camp, Thiksey
    A personal butler may be par for the course at one of India’s most swish glamps. But here, your butler may well secure you an audience with the head lama of the Thiksey monastery. Or a private session with an oracle who could suggest a cure for that chronic headache. This flagship property of The Ultimate Travelling Camp (TUTC) - the second Ladakh one is in Diskit, in Nubra Valley - s flanked by the monastery on one side and the Stok Kangri range on the other. For those so inclined, TUTC’s activities manager can arrange for excursions, hikes, archery, polo matches and picnic breakfasts. Even though the campsite is open only from June till September, nothing about it feels temporary or flimsy. Each tent comes with a four-poster bed, an opulent chandelier, an antique tea chest and a fully furnished bathroom, complete with copper sinks and hot showers. Plus, all rooms are centrally heated for when the temperature drops. And at the restaurant, the chefs whip up an impressive range of dishes, from kadhi chawal to asparagus risotto.
    Doubles from Rs. 68,000 for Chamba Camp;
    Doubles from Rs. 64,000 for Diskit Camp

  • Luxpresso

    3rd April 2017

    When We Went Glamping in the Land of Lamas

    Luxpresso 03 April, 2017


    I wrapped my jacket tighter around myself as I walked out of the Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport in Leh. There was a nip in the air; winter was to arrive soon. It was still summer, though. I was wide-eyed, awake, and hungry as I walked in the direction of my personal guide, and driver, Phunshuk (à la 3 Idiots) and Salim. “This is going to be a trip of a lifetime in the Land of Lamas,” I muttered to myself. This was just the beginning of my rather adventurous six nights and seven days of glamping with The Ultimate Travelling Camp (TUTC) and experiencing the Ladakhi summer. Read on.




    The Camp

    My trip was divided into—the first leg was a stay at the Chamba Camp, Thiksey, and the second at the Chamba Camp, Diskit.

    TUTC’s Chamba Camp, Thiksey, was a 22-minute drive from the airport, passing through pastoral fields, multi-hued mountains, prayer flags, and colourfully decorated monasteries. Upon reaching the Thiksey Camp, I was greeted by traditionally-dressed Ladakhi women. The second camp at Diksit, Nubra, was a long, long drive away, across the Nubra Valley. I distinctly remember the entire staff, all smiles, waiting to receive us at the entrance of the camp for our second leg.

    The tents, both Thiksey and Diskit, exuded a luxe gypsy vibe. Although they were rustic on the outside, their interiors were fully-equipped with the facilities of a luxurious hotel accomodation—24-hour butler service, plug sockets, hot-cold shower, quality toiletries, a small wooden chest (mini bar) and more. The decor was fine-finished, with wooden chandeliers, Persian rugs, wooden flooring, and ivory bedspreads. It also had a sit-out area with camp-style chairs, where I started most of my mornings, sipping on some tea and enjoying flower blossoms (planted right outside the tents). The snow-capped peaks in the distance were a sight to behold. More often than not, I would end up chatting with the women tending to the green spaces around the tent.

    The entire camp area was beautified with picture-perfect, vibrant flowers and vegetation. Each element of the camp—reception, guest tents, restaurant, etc—was connected with stone-made walkways.




    Food=Priorities in Life


    Being a hard core foodie, my meals were one of my biggest concerns. But at the TUTC camps, meals turned out to be nothing but elaborate glimpses of the culinary magic. From local Indian to global cuisines, the camp’s restaurant served meals prepared using farm-fresh ingredients grown stone’s throw away from the reception area. My days would usually begin with fresh bakes, local fruit jams, eggs, and Indian breakfast dishes like poha and upma; and end with stuffed chicken, salmon, vegetable lasagne, or Rajasthani thali (a plate full of the region’s snacks, mains, and desserts). Oh and how can I forget the delectable, generous portions of desserts? Every night, I would return to my tent to a chocolate and bedtime story—the camp’s way of wishing its guests a good night. Adorable, right?

    Apart from the restaurant at the camp, there were two other places that I absolutely loved for their food—Cafe Cloud (located on the Leh-Manali Highway, beside the glamping area) and the Nimmu House (near the Leh city). An idyllic setting furnished with wooden tables and flowers, Cafe Cloud was a good option for indulging in some European food in that part of Leh. Nimmu House, on the other hand, was a setting I thought was perfect for having lunch. Imagine savouring an authentic Italian meal—sphaghetti pasta, apple salad, brownie— in Ladakh, under the shade of a beautiful apple tree? Ten points to the hotel-cum-restaurant for that humbling meal, another plus five for the ambience.

    The too-good-to-be-real herbal tea deserves a special mention. I downed the Himalayan delight almost 10-times a day (no exaggeration)!




    Leisure and Entertainment


    To make sure there’s never a dull moment during one’s stay, the camp has a mini library, an indoor gaming area, and a shopping space—all inside the reception tent. Most of my free time was spent at the library glancing through coffee table books based on Ladakhi legends, Indian royalty, and wildlife.

    For entertainment, one evening, the management arranged for a dance performance by local men and women under the stars. It was pleasant to see these pink-cheeked men and women sway to live Ladakhi music. The performance was accompanied by lip smacking finger food—pahadi kebabs, grilled mushrooms, cheese poppers—and drinks. It ended on a beautiful note, where the fellow guests and I tried our hands at dancing.

    My favourite activity was to stroll along the camp side and admire the striking contrast between the lush meadows at the camp and the mountains.




    Out and About

    Historical and Monastic Treasures:

    The best way to know a region is to explore its culture, history, and architecture; Phunsukh and I did just that. Since Buddhism is the dominant religion there, he took me on a trail of the monastic treasures constructed in the bygone era and accompanied the visits with interesting stories and legends associated. We visited the Hemis Monastery, Thiksey Monastery, and the Diskit Monastery. Each of the monasteries we visited was filled with both, gigantic and small structures and paintings of Buddha in his various forms. While it was one hell of a walk to up to these places, once reached, they would fill us up with serenity.

    One of my best memories is one that will stay with me forever; it was the early-morning prayer I partook at the Thiksey Monastery. It started with two young monks playing the dunchen (a.k.a dharma trumpet) on the terrace and continued inside the prayer room with everyone coming together and chanting mantras. The prayer ended with flavourful butter tea.

    What’s More:

    We strolled back in time at the Hunder village in the Nubra Valley when we rode the double-humped camel (Bactrian camel). The backdrop of the ride was rather unbelievable. Think: riding sand dunes and gazing at snowy mountains at the same time.




    The Visual Tour

    Thiksey-Khar dung La-Nubra Valley—Leh-Manali Highway-Thiksey

    Prepared with small oxygen cylinders, Salim, Phunsukh, and I headed for the second half of the glamping experience—the stay at the Chamba Camp, Diskit. My first long drive, and the most difficult one because of my motion sickness. We started off early in the morning from Thiksey and decided to go via the Khardung La Pass (at 18,000ft, the highest motorable road in the world). While the road up to Khardung La was smooth and too pleasing, the one from the pass to Nubra was rough and difficult. The drive was full of curvy roads along with natural diversities, there were orchards and fields, and then there were brown and black mountains with a dash of white (snow). We took a two-minute halt at the Khardung La Pass, it was beautiful but we couldn’t wait for long because of the lack of oxygen.

    After several stops to ease down, we finally reached the camp.

    Our return, after a two-day stay at Nubra, was via the travellers’-favourite Leh-Manali Highway (and I couldn’t be happier to avoid the road to Khardung La). This one was even better than the last one. We traversed through several passes and rivers, making it a drive-of-a-lifetime with a backdrop of the Himalayas.




    In a nutshell, my experience at TUTC is just what the tired soul of a city dweller needed. All it took was the will to hit the way to Ladakh.

    Fact File

    When can one visit the camp: May to October

    How to get there: Chamba Camp, Thiksey can be reached via a flight to Leh and a 22-25 minute drive there on. To reach the Diskit camp, one will have to take a five-hour drive.


  • Escape To India

    1st March 2017

    The Ultimate Travelling Camp, Thiksey and Diskit, India

  • Outlook Traveller

    Outlook Traveller

    1st December 2016

    TUTC’s Kohima Camp

    Located in the Angami-dominated and heavily forested region of Nagaland, TUTC’S luxury camp (tutc.com/kohima-camp-nagaland) is spread over an expansive 6 acres. The tents come with opulent interiors inspired by the colonial era along with a personalised butler service and campfires at night with delicious spreads prepared by a skillful chef. This camp is a great option for those who want to experience the tribal way of life in the lap of luxury. There are a host of options from a 2N/3D package to a 5N/6D package.

    Tariff: From 2,14,600 to 5,64,250

  • Outlook Traveller

    1st August 2016

    Fine hospitality in an inhospitable terrain

  • World Travel Magazine

    1st August 2016

    Glorious Camping beckons tourist to Ladakh

  • Times Life

    10th July 2016

    By Shikha Shah

    Glamping in Momoland

  • The Tribune

    The Tribune

    26th May 2016

  • Morning News

    Morning News

    17th May 2016

  • Herald Young Leader

    Herald Young Leader

    17th May 2016

  • Prabhat Daily

    Prabhat Daily

    17th May 2016

  • hukanama-samachar

    Hukanama Samachar

    17th May 2016

  • Rahat Times

    Rahat Times

    17th May 2016

    Luxury camp in Ladakh by TUTC

  • Economist 1984

    The Economist 1843

    16th May 2016

  • Dainik Bhor

    Dainik Bhor

    16th May 2016

  • Gujarat Pranam

    Gujarat Pranam

    16th May 2016

  • Word Of Mouth

    CONDE NASTE TRAVELER, USA

    15th May 2016

  • Le Figaro Magazine

    8th April 2016

    Ladakh Des Mont Agnes Et Des Hommes

  • Essence Magazine

    10th March 2016

    India’s Wild East

  • Conde Nast Traveller

    16th February 2016

    10 things to do in Kohima

    Take a hike, bite into the worlds hottest chilli and lots more

    10 things to do in Kohima

    Sure, the Hornbill Festival is great, but what else can you do while in Kohima? Here are a few suggestions:

    1. Go glamping

    10 things to do in Kohima

    ‘The Ultimate Travelling Camp' pitches its tents in a jungle outside Kohima with the Japfu Range as a backdrop. The super-luxe tents come with en-suite bathrooms, a private sit-out deck, four-poster beds piled high with cushions, sheer mosquito nets, leather chairs and even a tiny study. There is also a living room tent with books and WiFi. You can even enjoy gourmet meals and the services of a private butler who will wake you up with bed tea and cookies.

    2. Hang with the locals

    10 things to do in Kohima


    Try and time your visit with the Hornbill Festival where 16 Naga tribes showcase their culture at Kisama Village, 12km from Kohima. But if you can’t make it to the state in December, you can visit the village through the year and explore its typical tribal longhouses or Morungs with wooden carvings, hunting trophies, spears and shields that showcase distinctive cultural aspects of each tribe. Another place that gives you a window into tribal culture is the Kohima Museum, with its exhibits of weaponry, clan motifs, and large ceremonial drums.

    3. Pay your respects to fallen heroes

    10 things to do in Kohima


    A must do in the city is a visit to the Kohima War Cemetery, with 2337 graves and memorials located on a wooded spur on Garrison Hill, maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. In April 1944, a small force of British and allied soldiers (including Indians and local Nagas) was surrounded by 12,000 Japanese troops trying to reach Delhi. More than 3,000 Japanese and 4,000 British casualties resulted from this bloody battle. Today, it’s a humbling experience to walk through the cemetery with terraced graves and touching epitaphs. Near the entrance is a memorial to the 2nd Division. It bears the inscription; " When you go home, tell them of us, and say: ‘For your tomorrow, we gave our today.’

    4. Get bugged at the Naga ‘Keeda’ bazaar

    10 things to do in Kohima


    A way to a city’s heart is usually through its food-—visit the Naga Market where locals stock up on all kinds of meat, vegetables and a fair share of creepy-crawlies. From honeycombs, rabbits in bamboo crates, silkworm larvae, Borol—a larvae delicacy of hornet grubs; tadpoles in plastic bags, forest ferns, fermented tofu and beef to the super hot Raja Mirch chillies, you’ll find it all here. The atmosphere is lively with Naga women dressed in shirts and sarongs, chewing betel leaves, selling slabs of pork, beef and even dog meat. Warning: not for those with weak stomachs.

    5. Stock up on souvenirs

    10 things to do in Kohima


    Kohima is a great place to stock up on handicrafts like vibrant woolen Naga shawls with traditional tribal motifs. Choose from Angami tribal shawls with animal patterns, bone jewellery, black metal craft, bamboo curios and Phom Black pottery. You can also visit the lively night market that sells souvenirs, street food and toys for children.

    6. Catch a Naga wrestling match

    10 things to do in Kohima

    An indigenous sport; Naga wrestling bouts are popular across the state. An annual wrestling championship is held in Kohima with contestants from different villages participating. If you miss that, you can always head to the Central ground in Kohima where matches are often held.

    7. Take a day trip to Khonoma

    10 things to do in Kohima

    Perched on a hill overlooking terraced paddy fields, Khonoma is home to the Angami Nagas, an indigenous warrior tribe. The village is divided into three hamlets, each safeguarded by its own fort. Incidentally, this is the last village where the Naga warriors fought valiantly against the British forces and finally lost to them. Named after the local plant Khwunoria, Khonoma is truly a green village and is known for its strict bans on logging and hunting —essential parts of Naga culture.

    8. Climb Mt Japfu

    10 things to do in Kohima

    The second highest peak in Nagaland, Mt Japfu is accessed via Kigwama Village, close to Kohima. You can hire a guide to trek to the top, but make sure you’re physically fit, as the route demands a hike through the rain forests and some rock climbing. Your reward for the hard work is a glorious panoramic view of the Dzukou Valley, Nagaland’s Valley of Flowers. Take time to stop and smell the flowers though—the trek offers a glimpse of the amazing varieties of lilies and rhododendrons, apart from several bird species. Keep an eye out for the tallest Rhododendron tree in world (109 feet).

    9. Go to church

    10 things to do in Kohima

    For the largest wooden cross in the country, visit the Catholic Church on Aradura Hill. An architectural marvel in itself, the church is a semicircular building with modernistic lines and a façade shaped like a traditional Naga House.

    10. Bite into the world's hottest chilli

    10 things to do in Kohima

    A typical Naga meal has sticky rice, smoked meat (either dry or pork with bamboo shoots); fish steamed in hollow bamboo tubes with some spices, boiled vegetables, and spicy chili sauces. The Bhut jolokia—one of the hottest chilies in the world is native to the region and used in many local recipes. Also try the fried momos and wash them down with zuthou, a sour rice beer. Vegetarians, there are all kinds of fiddlehead ferns, lai (leafy greens), to experiment with. Be sure to try galho, the local version of khichdi.

  • The National

    28th January 2016

    The unexplored lands of Kohima, India

    - By Kalpana Sunder

    The unexplored lands of Kohima, India

    Why Kohima?
    The capital of the far north-eastern state of Nagaland is on a mountain ridge, and remains largely off the radar of tourists. Torn by insurgency for many decades, it’s finally enjoying peace after an accord signed last year by the government and tribal groups. Nagaland is a biodiversity hotspot, with a wealth of birdlife, flowers and trees, and the Intanki Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the rare hoolock gibbon.

    Most travellers to India are yet to discover the area, with its backdrop of mist-enshrouded mountains, vast swaths of paddy fields and rivers. It’s home to the Hornbill Festival, held each December at Kisama Village. The festival gives a unique opportunity to enjoy the incredible diversity of 16 tribes in one place. Kohima is also attractive to hikers, with the second-highest peak in the state, Mount Japfu, at 3,048 metres. It’s also home to a vibrant music scene – rock ‘n’ roll and Naga pop.


    A comfortable bed
    The new Kohima Camp, Nagaland (www.kohimacampnagaland.com) pitches luxury tents in the middle of a forest, at the foot of Mount Japfu, complete with butlers and other mod cons. With solar-powered tents, beds draped with mosquito nets, leather chairs, cupboards and even a study, it’s “glamping” at its best. The camp offers two-, three-, four- and five-night itineraries, costing from 116,000 rupees (Dh6,304) per person, on a twin-sharing basis, including transfers from Dimapur, meals and excursions.

    The Hotel Orchid (Chandmari Road, Midland) is a boutique hotel with 14 rooms, plus a restaurant offering Naga delicacies. Double rooms cost from 4,500 rupees (Dh245) per night).

    Another option is Hotel Japfu (www.thenagalandhotels.com), which has comfortable doubles with hill views from 3,000 rupees (Dh163) per night.


    Find your feet
    A convenient way to get your bearings and take in all the city’s sights is a visit to the Kohima War Cemetery (www.cwgc.org), designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the architect of colonial Delhi. It was here in April 1944 that a small force of British soldiers was surrounded by 12,000 Japanese troops trying to reach Delhi and take over India. The cemetery has a great panoramic view of the city.

    From here, make your way to Kohima Zoo. Drive to Kisama Heritage Village, 12 kilometres from the capital, which is an open-air museum and the venue for the Hornbill Festival. It gives a window into tribal culture, with traditional Naga long houses called morungs. There’s no public transport, so hire a tourist taxi to take you around.


    Meet the locals
    The Naga Market is where you will find locals buying their groceries – buckets of snails, honeycomb, borol (a delicacy of hornet grubs), tadpoles in plastic bags, wild mushrooms, banana flowers, forest ferns, beans and lentils, fermented tofu and beef, and hellishly hot Raja Mirch chillies. Also head to the thriving night market in downtown Kohima, where local bands perform, grilled meats are sold, and local families with children enjoy the kitschy atmosphere with masks and balloons.


    Book a table
    For a taste of authentic Naga food – a carnivore’s dream that also uses flavourings such as bamboo shoots, yams and fermented soy – head to Orami (near NSF Martyrs’ Park). Tastefully done up with tree trunks and branches painted silver, earthen pots and tribal paintings, it also serves a complimentary tea made from a local wild berry. A meal for two costs about 750 rupees (Dh41).

    Ozone Café (Imphal Road) serves great coffee, and is one of the best places in Kohima for fried momos.


    Shopper’s paradise
    Kohima is known for indigenous crafts such as shawl weaving and basketmaking. The Bamboo Pavilion in Kisama Heritage Village is the best for bargains and a taste of traditional shopping. Look out for bamboo baskets, beaded and bone jewellery.

    A must-buy are bright woollen Nagashawls. Each tribe has a distinctive design – the Angami use red and yellow bands on a black background, while the Ao warrior shawls have elephant or tiger motifs. Try the Nagaland Emporium (opposite the bus station) for handwoven bedcovers, cushions covers, etc.

    Western Book Depot (Main Road), set up in 1983, is the oldest bookstore in Kohima, and is a good place for books by Naga writers and historians.


    Don’t miss
    The three-floor Kohima State Museum (near the bus station) is a must for all tourists. It houses rare artefacts belonging to different tribes of the state. Colourful traditional dresses, weaponry, clan motifs, tableaus with mannequins and even “hunted” human skulls are displayed. Don’t miss the ceremonial drum, which is similar to a canoe and struck with huge oar-like poles.


    What to avoid
    Kohima’s pleasant climate allows year-round tourism, though it’s best to avoid the wet monsoon season (June to September).


    Getting there
    Etihad (www.etihad.com) flies from Abu Dhabi to Kolkata from Dh1,760, including taxes. Indigo (www.goindigo.in) flies from Kolkata to Dimapur, Nagaland’s only airport, from 8,000 rupees (Dh435) return, including taxes, then it’s a three-hour drive from Dimapur to Kohima.

  • Financial Times

    Financial Times

    15th October 2015

    'The high canvas flaps are drawn open like the curtains to a play. Wooden decking, shadowed by a beige and white cotton stripe awning,...meadow is backed by willows and poplars...15th-century Thiksey Monastery...'
    - Sophy Roberts

  • Vanity fair

    Vanity fair

    15th October 2015

    Glamping

  • Bru and Bru

    Bru & Bru

    13th October 2015

    The Ultimate Travelling Camp Ladakh, India

  • Mumbai Mirror

    Mumbai Mirror

    11th October 2015

    By Neeta Lal

    Breathless In Ladhak

  • Deluxe ES Magazine

    9th October 2015

    Take an elephant-back safari in Dudhwa National Park in search of tigers, sloth bears and rhinos

  • Silkwinds Magazine

    Silkwinds Magazine

    8th October 2015

    Travel Like Royalty

  • Luxury Facts

    Luxury Facts

    7th October 2015

    By Suman Tarafdar

    Luxury Facts

    It will be impossible to find a prettier camp than this. Well, while that may be only slightly debateable, the sheer spectacular beauty of Thiksey, and its monastery, is sure to leave any visitor spellbound.

    Thiksey, located approximately halfway between Leh and Hemis, and about 17 kilometres from the centre of Leh, is no ordinary monastery. For starters, this 12 storey monastery built on a hilltop,is noted for its architectural resemblance to the Potala. Yes, the real one in Lhasa, that is the stuff of legends and effectively out of bounds for most. It is also the largest gompa, or monastery, in central Ladakh, and is located at an altitude of 3,600 metres in the Indus Valley. Not for the faint hearted. Did I forget to mention it is located by a still young and vibrant Indus, and in an area of indescribably stunning beauty?

    It is in the grounds of this monastery that The Ultimate Travelling Camp (TUTC) offers its camp. Even in the world of stunning settings, it is difficult to match the Chamba Camp at Thiksey.

    For the love of luxury
    Again, pause a moment. For it is no ordinary camp. Instead, this is glamping at its most spectacular. Almost everything you expect in a luxury hotel is yours for asking. The tents are imported from Kenya and South Africa, and designed to blend into the local setting – here in white and sand colour options. Every tent is propped upon on a wooden decking and has a private outdoor seating too. A triple layer protection ensures protection from the outside (remember this is Ladakh and can get quite cold suddenly).

    The interiors – designed as a tribute to the Raj-era - are climate controlled to suit individual preferences. All tents have uninterrupted electricity supply. They are all stocked with a writing desk, writing pads, slippers, eye masks and ear plugs. A 7-foot long wooden four poster bed ensures adequate space even for the tallest among us. Note the en-suite bathrooms with shower cubicles. Each tent has its own private sit out deck.

    International, Indian and local cuisines are served. Expecting Indian breads is not such a surprise but freshly baked breads approximating focaccia is. Getting vegetables such as broccoli or even carrots and potatoes must not be easy at such rarified zones, but its all there, as are meats, soups, salads and everything one would expect at lower zones. Of course there is a lot of local food too – try the delicious thukpas and momos, thenthuk, or noodle soup, and a lot more. Also, if you have a taste for it - local butter tea. If not, the more regular ones are on offer too!

    Each tent comes with its own 24/7 personal butler service! Daily turn down services? Definitely. In-house laundry services? No problem. Yes, all of this in a barren desert, albeit white and uniquely wonderful.

    Glamping has become the buzzword in luxury travel, says RajnishSabharwal, COO, TUTC. “Glamping gives travellers the taste of a nomadic lifestyle, only amidst a royal setting of super luxury experiences when it comes to accommodation, dining and other aspects. Glamping is an attractive option for HNIs and those who like an intimate experience of a region that is visually spectacular, and do not mind paying a premium price.”

    Experiences galore
    And no, you need not stay confined to the tent. One can join the monks for a magical early morningprayer ceremony at the Thiksey Monastery and experience the local culture and tradition up, close and personal at a Ladakhi hamlet in Stok village. Guests can attend a special prayer ceremony at the Diskit Monastery. They can explore hidden treasures of Turtuk village and ride on the double-humped camel through the Hunder sand dunes. For the movie struck, visit the lake Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots immortalised – the azure gem that is Pangong Tso. There’s the neighbouring Tso Moriri.

    For the adventurous, there’s white water rafting on the Indus and Zanksar. Do not miss the ‘Grand Canyons of Asia’ at Zanksar. Cycle down Wari La, the world’s fourth highest motor able pass. For the less active, there are village explorations through the many hamlets of happiness like Shey, Stok andSaktithat dot this mesmerising high altitude cold desert. For those unwilling to venture out, there’s croquet, archery, volleyball and table tennis. You could also take cooking classes or learn to play the Kapong, a traditional Himalayan folk music lute with seven strings. For the lazier glamper, your luxury tent can double up as your sauna or spa! Order your beverage of choice, open your paper book or Kindle.

    Yes, there’s lot to do. When you opt for a package here, itineraries are already built in, though a guest may also choose to venture out on one’s own. “All our tour escorts are locals and have been handpicked and well trained to execute each file to the zenith of perfection,” says MrSabharwal. For those nervous about being away from medical assistance, the camp site has an in-house paramedic with a fully functional medical inspection room. As for being fairly close to both China and Pakistan borders, there’s 24-hour security cover.

    Each tent can accommodate two guests in double or Hollywood twin bedded basis, or three guests per tent on triple sharing basis, where an extra bed will be provided. There are two categories of tents: the Luxury Suite Tent has a an area of 420 square feet comprising of one bedroom, bathroom and veranda, while the Presidential Suite has an area of 520 square feet. Needless to say, they are very spacious.
    Technicalities to bear
    TUTC also has other camps, notably the Kohima Camp in Nagaland, which coincides with the Hornbill Festival. There is a relatively nearby camp at Nubra Valley, which lies at an altitude of 3,048 meters above sea level, though reaching it means crossing the Khardung La – the world’s highest motorable road at 5,602 metres.

    However, before you decide to opt for a holiday in this slice of heaven, do a quick self check. You need to be ready for cold – even in September, the nights can be close to freezing. Weather can change very suddenly, so have options for passing time! There’s wifi in a designated area in the camp, but do consider other options, especially as weather is not human controlled. Be adequately prepared in terms of apparel and footwear. Most importantly, in case you have cardio issues or are asthmatic, consult a doctor before considering this trip.

    Precautions apart, there are few experiences that can match the Chamba Camp at Thiksey in terms of uniqueness of experience. That you are staying in a place that so few humans have the fortune of seeing only adds to the sense of wonderment and awe. Get fit and drop in for an unforgettable experience. All as a glamper!

    Camp Dates
    • The Chamba Camp at Thiksey is operational from June 15 to September 30 every year, considered to be the best time to experience Ladakh. It can accommodate 30 people at one go.
    • The camp at Kohima is operational from 29 November 2015 to 12 December 2015, to coincide with the annual Hornbill Festival. This is a smaller camp and has 12 Luxury Suite tents.
    • There is another camp at Nubra, which can accommodate 8 people at a time.

  • Luxury Travel

    Luxury Travel

    4th October 2015

    Heads high into the hills of Kahsmir on the Tibetan border to the world’s highest five-star accommodation

  • The A-Z Compendium

    The A-Z Compendium

    3rd October 2015

    India's Next Frontier

  • The Statesman

    1st October 2015

    Glamping in Ladakh By Neeta Lal


    Glamping" or glamorous camping is the buzzword in vacationing these days...Outdoorsy locations, proximity to nature and a sensory experience, which engages the mind and body and panders to the adventurous soul... What's not to like?

    Enter Camp Chamba Thiksey in Ladakh, the great Himalayan desert. A spectrum of vibrant colours, centuries-old monasteries, cobalt blue lakes, high-altitude passes and nomadic tribes shepherding their Pashmina goats across an arid landscape rimmed by snow-swathed. Can it get any more idyllic? Apparently not. And this is where the exclusive campsite run by The Ultimate Travelling Camp (www.tutc.com) is located Rs at a vertiginous 12,000 feet.

    I landed in Leh from Delhi after a short flight and proceeded straight to Thiksey, located a mere 30 minutes away. En route, my ATV whizzes past the glutinous Zanskar river and furrowed, dun-coloured mountains crowned by picturesque gompas (Buddhist monasteries). The TUTC campsite Rs a settlement of about 20 luxurious tents Rs is ensconced within riotous fields of flowers and overlooks the blue-tinged Nubra mountains. The Thiksey monastery smiles down upon the camps like a benediction.

    "Julley!" two beautiful Ladakhi girls kitted out in traditional finery and enormous necklaces of coral greet me at the reception marquee. I'm offered a delicious Himalayan herb tea after which the resident doctor measures my BP. "Take it easy for the first day," he cautioned. Apparently, the camp takes its guests' acclimatisation process very seriously. Maladjustment at this height can result in AMS, or acute mountain sickness, resulting in pounding headaches, vomiting, high BP, even death.

    My personal butler Newton leads the way to my tent (a misnomer, if you ask me) outfitted with a four-poster wooden bed, leather strapped chairs, a bureau, ensuite bathroom, copper washbasin, Baroque chandeliers…Invigorated after a hot shower and froth-topped cappuccino, I amble across to Thiksey's charming villages with chubby-cheeked Ladakhi children looking on curiously. Women farmers are busy working in the barley fields, their heads covered in the afternoon sun. "Ladakh is perhaps the only place in the world where you can get frostbite and heatstroke both in the same day. So appropriate clothing is imperative," my guide Namgyal, a local Ladakhi youth, explains.

    In the water-scarce region, nourished only by snow and glacier melt, barley is a prized grain used to make tsampa (roast barley flour) and chhang (barley booze). I admire the unique Himalayan flora and fauna Rs indigenous herbs and plants, and birds like the Himalayan magpie and margot scampering about in the bushes. A hot meal of thukpa and momos is waiting for me at the camp's restaurant overlooking poplars and Ladakhi willows. A feast for the eyes and the palate!

    Responsible Tourism
    To stimulate the local economy, TUTC, which believes in responsible tourism, also runs a slew of programmes in Thiksey for community engagement as well as employment generation. "The Ladakhis build pathways, plant trees and bushes each season and grow vegetable gardens at our camp. All extra produce is given to the monastery and villages. We hire local women to our gardens and for folk performances. Local youth are groomed to work as guides," the camp's general manager Ravi Thakur said.
    The entire camp runs on solar power. All types of wastes (dry and wet) go through a unique dispenser with an inbuilt pollution control system. The sewage treatment plant, with grease traps for the kitchen, recycles the waste water for re-use in gardening and manure for the orchards.

    Great emphasis is placed on the safety and security of guests. All tour escorts are locals and have been handpicked and well trained. The campsite also boasts of an in-house paramedic with a fully functional Medical Inspection Room, 24-hour security cover, dedicated butler for each tent, daily turn down services and in-house laundry services.

    The camp also organises local immersive experiences. One evening, I nip up to the mystical 15th century Hemis Monastery, Ladakh's richest and most powerful, for evening prayers. Rows upon rows of wizened monks are intoning their prayers, the hall full of sonorous chants, the cloying smell of incense, striking gongs and clashing cymbals. Hemis' interiors flaunt murals and statuary of numerous bodhisattvas. Outside, colourful fluttering prayer flags transmit their spiritual messages even as prayer wheels, spun clockwise, release good energies.

    Several of the world's best-known gompas (Buddhist monasteries) can be found in Leh atop peaks of bloodless rock overlooking irrigated pastures. These repositories of Tibetan Buddhist scrolls, centuries-old thangkas and giant statues of the Buddha, are where the religious leaders or "rinpoches" preach, enlighten the community and do philanthropic work.

    Another local excursion took me to the Hall of Fame Museum, which salutes the heroes of the Kargil War. The place commemorates the army's role in Ladakh Rs from helping with cloudburst relief in 2010 to the high-altitude bloody battles fought with Pakistan during the 20th century. There's also a 30-minute documentary introducing the 1999 Kargil War. An attached "Adventure Park" combines assault course and archery range.

    Located on the Leh Highway, the museum also offer an interesting peek into the tough life of our intrepid soldiers at Siachen, who routinely brave minus 50 degree C temperatures Their shoes, the freeze-dried food they consume after heating it using Hexamycin tablets, their many-layered clothing, the tough terrain they inhabit...was not only an eye-opener but made me misty eyed. It is thanks to the soldiers' selfless sacrifices that we're able to enjoy our independence and security I mused to myself.

    Respect
    Camp Champa Thiksey offered me an enchanting holiday to not only discover Ladakh and its beautiful people, but an opportunity to rediscover myself in a nirvanic setting, meet gurus from the far reaches of the Himalayas, picnic in picturesque spots and best of all curl up in my cosy "tent with a view" with a good book and coffee on my side...lost luxuries these in a maddening world beset by sundry distractions.

  • EN ASIA

    EN ASIA

    23rd September 2015

    BIEN + ENTERNADO

  • Robb Report

    Robb Report

    4th June 2015

    The Ultimate Travelling Camp - An International Best of the Best Award Winner

    Winner of Robb Report's 27 Annual Internat5ional Best of Best Awards June 2015


    Winner of Robb Report's 27 Annual Internat5ional Best of Best Awards

    Sujata Dugar, senior associate editor at Robb Report India, says that adventure and luxury go hand in hand at The Ultimate Travelling Camp (theultimatetravellingcamp.com; available through Cox & Kings, coxandkingsusa.com). Travelers get to experience the thrills of inaccessible and lesser-known places without roughing it in terms of lodging, Dugar says. The companys two camps are based in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern state of Nagaland. At the Chamba Camp, Thiksey, in Jammu and Kashmirs Ladakh region, guests can explore historic monasteries, witness a local polo match, or raft on the Indus River before retiring to the spacious air-conditioned tents outfitted with five-star-hotel-style amenities. Among other adventures, Kohima Camp, Nagaland, can offer a front-row seat to the weeklong Hornbill Festival, in which all of the Nagaland tribes come together for dance performances, archery competitions, and more.
  • leisure

    Travel + Leisure

    1st June 2015

    Wuthering Heights

  • The Most Perfect View

    The Most Perfect View

    2nd April 2015

    The Ultimate Travelling Camp - A Perfect Hotel View in India

  • Destinationindia

    Destination India

    1st December 2014

    'Watched over by a hilltop monastery and the craggy peaks of the Himalayas, the Chamba Camp is opening up a corner of India rarely seen by outsiders - All without comprising on comfort.'
    - Jill Innamorati-Varley

  • Travel and Leisure

    Travel and Leisure

    Nov 2014

    The Greate Outdoors

    Forget bug juice and bedrolls. Here are four new ways to experience the wilderness with grown-up flair.

  • Destinationindia - December 2014

    Travel + Leisure

    1st November 2014

    'The Ultimate Travelling camp is a mobile tent compound that brings guests to Northern India's remote spellbinding events and rate cultural experiences.'
    - Cynthia Rosenfeld

  • Departures Spring

    Departures Spring

    18th September 2014

    'The Ultimate Travelling Camp (Chambacampthiksey.com) sets up a regal summer encampment in a meadow near Thiksey featuring smart white tents, wooden floors...'
    - Nigel Tisdall

  • House and Garden

    House and Garden

    18th September 2014

    'In India, The Ultimate Travelling Camp is the country's first mobile camp operation, offering five luxurious nomadic experiences in exceptional locations...'

  • Tatler Travel Guide

    Tatler Travel Guide

    3rd September 2014

    'Chamba Camp is so simple it's brilliant. Take a beautiful but difficult-to-access place with a narrow season and build a pop-up dollop of luxury fit for a maharaja.'

  • Destin Asian

    Destin Asian

    1st August 2014

    'A seasonal encampment of luxe tents has pitched up below a monastery in Ladakh, bringing a measure of sophistication - and support - to this remote corner of India.'
    - Cynthia Rosenfeld

  • Traveller

    Outlook Traveller Luxe

    1st April 2014

    'Finding Luxury Accommodation in the middle of rugged Ladakh can be an uphill task. But those in the know can now head straight to the Chamba Camp in Thiksey.'

  • tatler

    Tatler

    1st March 2014

    'You open your ten flap to a breathtaking sight...Experience extraordinaire,...'
    - Nigel Richardson

  • The Telegraph

    The Telegraph

    27th February 2014

    'New "glamping" holidays at Chamba Camp in Ladakh are enabling exploration of this isolated region, without compromising comfort.'
    - Nigel Richardson

  • Grand Luxury Travel

    Grand Luxury Travel

    26th February 2014

    "The Ultimate in Luxury for Discerning Tastes"

  • The Times Article

    The Times Article

    8th February 2014

    'A new pop-up camp is bringing luxury accommodation to some of India's remote and most beautiful regions... The aim to grow all our vegetables in the chef's garden.'
    - Amar Grover

  • Glamping at 12,000ft in Ladakh

    Glamping at 12,000ft in Ladakh

    27th September 2013

    Dressed in rich red robes and sitting cross-legged on the floor, the elderly monk in front of us doesn’t look much like a tourism entrepreneur.

    Glamping at 12,000ft in Ladakh

    Dressed in rich red robes and sitting cross-legged on the floor, the elderly monk in front of us doesn’t look much like a tourism entrepreneur. Speaking softly, he bids us to enter. I catch my breath, wheezing slightly, having struggled up dozens of stairs in the thin Himalayan air to the very pinnacle of Thiksey monastery in the northern Indian province of Ladakh.

    The Rinpoche, as the monk is known, has close-cropped white hair and a kindly smile. His quarters are sparse: plain wood panelling, a handful of golden Buddhist icons and the faint whiff of incense from the recently completed morning prayers downstairs.

    The surroundings are, in short, suitably monastic. Yet look out of the window and down over the mountain-ringed Indus river valley below and you can make out a campsite; a luxury campsite, in fact, set on the monastery’s land.

    Run by the Ultimate Travelling Camp, the project is an unusual commercial and spiritual partnership. “One of our monks was given responsibility to work with the camp,” the Rinpoche says, explaining that he will use any funds gained from supporting Ladakh’s first dalliance with “glamping” to educate the younger monks in his care. “So although we do not know anything about luxury, we do have a person assigned to help oversee its operation.”

    My wife and I had arrived to test out the newly opened Chamba Camp Thiksey four days earlier. A brief early-morning flight from New Delhi took us to Leh, Ladakh’s capital, which stands more than 11,500ft above sea level. A half-hour drive out of town later and the monk mentioned by the Rinpoche greets us as we arrive at the camp’s front gate, offering blessings as we adjust to the scenery.

    A monk taking part in morning prayers at Thiksey monastery
    The view is extraordinary. Patches of green dot the valley, where clutches of spindly poplar trees rise up amid rustic farmland that is irrigated once a year by water melting off the glaciers high above. Yet the mountains that envelop it are dry and dramatic, with arid brown peaks rising up suddenly on each side. Perched on India’s most northerly tip, Ladakh sits between the flanks of neighbouring China and Pakistan. Until the 1970s, security concerns combined with the region’s inhospitable topography meant it was mostly closed to visitors. Latterly, the area has offered a rough-and-ready form of tourism, drawing intrepid visitors with its moonscape scenery, challenging hikes and craggy Buddhist temples.

    Accommodation, however, has been limited mostly to home-stays and more basic hotels – something the self-styled “nomadic super-luxury camp” plans to change. “The concept was to go to places that didn’t have much in the way of infrastructure, where there weren’t any five stars. And there, Ladakh was an obvious choice,” says Prem Devassy, the facility’s general manager. After a trial period this month, the camp will be open fully from June next year for Ladakh’s four-month tourist season.

    In the interim – as the much longer winter closes in and before the handful of mountain passes that connect the region to the rest of India are closed – the camp is to be packed up and sent off by truck, to be pitched in other corners of the country. Planned locations include a stop in Nagaland in India’s distant northeast, along with another at a jungle site in Dudhwa National Park, close to the Nepalese border....

    We spend our first day acclimatising to the altitude and nosing around the site, which is dominated by two large marquees. One has comfortable sofas and a bar, where we are greeted with steaming mugs of Himalayan tea – a tasty concoction of Earl Grey, peach juice and sugar. The other provides a dining area, serviced by eight chefs and innumerable friendly waiters in uniform.

    One of the bedroom tents with a four-poster
    The plush bedroom tents, meanwhile, come with wooden floors and a four-poster bed, along with an elegant colonial-style chest and writing desk. Light-toned drapes cover the walls, while a huge air-conditioning unit blasts warm air to fend off the night-time chill. The en suite bathroom isn’t heated but is pleasantly furnished with warm fluffy towels and a brass sink imported from the UK.

    Much of the pleasure of the accommodation comes from just unzipping the front flaps and sitting on the balcony. To the left, over the river, lie the Himalayas. To the right, the Karakoram Range. And, straight ahead, the improbable jumble of Thiksey monastery itself, where a dozen storeys of white buildings are packed on top of one another, perched on a hill a few minutes down the road.

    More of the area’s natural beauty rolls by as we drive down the valley to watch a polo match. Riders in cheery red and blue uniforms stand in line as we pull up and proceed to kick up clouds of dust as they gallop around on small ponies. The early evening sun casts moody shadows over the mountains, while local musicians helpfully strike up a tune whenever a point is scored.

    The rest of our stay is mainly spent on gentle walks and mountain-bike rides in the nearby countryside. We pass an afternoon ambling around Leh, visiting its ancient palaces and windy backstreets. There are more adventurous options, too, including rafting trips down the Indus and much longer guided treks (which can add as much as a week to a trip). On our penultimate day, we plump for the latter, heading to the 17,300ft Wari La pass.

    On the corkscrew journey up, herds of shaggy-haired yak and dzo – a half-yak, half-cow hybrid – stand near the roadside; we also spot a few furry treacle-coloured Himalayan marmots scampering about in the distance. But the real treat comes on the return leg, when we are greeted by a table and canopy on the mountainside, under which the camp’s staff provide a surprise three-course picnic. Polishing off my pudding, I realise it’s the highest meal I’ve ever eaten.

    Yet amid all the dramatic scenery, I remain most intrigued by the relationship between the camp and its hosts. We visited the monastery at 6am one morning, clambering up the many steps to watch two monks standing on the roof, greeting the dawn by blasting on horns as the sun rose over the mountains.

    Next came morning prayers, where dozens more monks gathered to chant in a darkened assembly room. The effect is surprisingly relaxed: butter tea is poured for guests, while the younger participants (some of whom look no more than four or five) grin playfully at each other in the pews. None of this, however, provides much insight into why the Rinpoche allowed the camp to set up in the first place, so I press for an audience, which is granted on our final morning, just as we head to the airport.

    As our time in his chambers draws to an end, I ask whether he feels the monastery will benefit from its new visitors. “Ladakh is not what Ladakh used to be,” he says. “Today everyone is a little bit more busy. People used to come and volunteer and help us maintain our building but now we must look at other ways. The monastery cannot do everything.” Even so, he appears content with the venture, and enthusiastic about its future.

    “The camp will help us in many different ways . . . and next year they have plans for 20 tents,” he says, looking down from his windows, seemingly happy to watch Ladakhi tourism prosper in his own backyard.
  • Independent Traveller

    Independent Traveller

    24th August 2013

    'Next month sees the launch of the Ultimate Travelling Camp, a nomadic Indian retreat that starts by exploring the Ladakh region.'
    - Laura Holt

  • Centurion Magazine Winter

    Centurion Magazine Winter

    24th August 2013

    'Opportunities to truly explore the vastness and variety of India's remarkable landscape and its diverse history without compromising comfort...'
    - John McNamara and Claudia Whiteus

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