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  • Travel Hospitality

    11th September 2017

  • Arrival Travels

    12th July 2017

  • Outlook Traveller

    2nd July 2017

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • Rahat Times

    Rahat Times

    17th May 2016

    Luxury camp in Ladakh by TUTC

  • hukanama-samachar

    Hukanama Samachar

    17th May 2016

  • Prabhat Daily

    Prabhat Daily

    17th May 2016

  • Herald Young Leader

    Herald Young Leader

    17th May 2016

  • 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


    15th May 2016

  • Le Figaro Magazine

    8th April 2016

    Ladakh Des Mont Agnes Et Des Hommes

  • 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


  • 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



    23rd September 2015


  • 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

    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 (; available through Cox & Kings, 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

  • 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

  • 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...'

  • Departures Spring

    Departures Spring

    18th September 2014

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

  • 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


    1st March 2014

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

    Tatler Tatler


  • 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.
  • 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

  • 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

    Independent Traveller Independent Traveller

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