The Ultimate Travelling Camp is the perfect base from which to explore Ladakh; a land of soaring, snowcapped mountains, extensive, rocky valleys and deep turquoise lakes, high within the Himalayas.
Ladakh, affectionately referred to as the ‘Land of Lamas’ or ‘Little Tibet’, is located in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir and is one of the country’s most remote regions, perched at an altitude of 3,500 metres (11,500 feet). It is also a very spiritual place, peppered with Buddhist monasteries, whitewashed stupas and colourful, fluttering prayer flags. We recently spent a week in this beautiful corner of India with The Ultimate Travelling Camp and here’s how we got on…
Our journey began in Leh, the capital of Ladakh, by taking a short one-hour flight from Delhi. We were greeted at the airport by our guide, Stanzin, and our driver, Anish, who would be accompanying us throughout our stay.
Our first stop was our camp, The Ultimate Travelling Camp’s Chamba Camp, Thiksey where we would check in and be briefly checked over by the camp’s resident doctor. Being several thousand feet above sea level, visitors may initially feel tinges of dizziness or headaches having landed in Leh, or in more severe cases even suffer from Acute Mountain Sickness, so we were advised to spend the rest of the day at leisure to acclimatize.
We were shown to our tent by our butler, Rohit. Luxury camping at its best, each tent at The Ultimate Travelling Camp’s Chamba Camp is spacious and offers a separate bedroom, en-suite and private verandah, as well as all the modern comforts one would expect from a luxury accommodation including both air-conditioning and heating, and continuous hot water. Every tent is designated a personal butler, who can be reached at any time via a mobile placed on your bedside.
After a quick freshen up we headed over to the restaurant tent where a delicious lunch was to be served. Throughout the week we were presented with a thoughtful and varied three-course menu, always comprising of a continental option and an Indian. Examples include a tasty prawn Thai green curry on our first day, followed later in the week by dishes such as salmon with mash and vegetables, ratatouille, and pasta; Indian dal (lentils), curries and biryanis.
Having relaxed a while, we were reunited with our guide, Stanzin, in the reception from where we discussed and tweaked our itinerary for the week. Feeling absolutely fine and ready to get stuck in, Stanzin accompanied us on a gentle walk around Thiksey village where we’d discuss Ladakhi culture, customs and traditions and get to know our guide.
The next morning, we were to visit Matho monastery. About half an hour’s drive from the camp and nestled amongst the picturesque Indus Valley, Matho monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery dating back over 500 years. Originally established by Lama Dugpa Dorje in 1410, it houses a magnificent collection of ancient thangkas (painted, Buddhist scrolls) and is particularly known for its famous, annual Oracle Matho Nagrang Festival. Stanzin explained that during this festival, two oracles, known as “Rongstan” are said to inhabit the body of two monks who then predict the fortune of the local village communities for the coming year. The monks spend months in isolated meditation amongst the mountains, in preparation. It was fascinating to learn about the festival through Stanzin, who explained that the oracle is extremely powerful and – depending on the recent behaviour of the local community – may either be gentle and praising of the villagers or else release its wrath in anger, in some cases causing violent harm to the monk whose body it is inhabiting, as an expression of its disappointment.
Later that day we visited the Shanti Stupa, a white, domed structure gifted by the Japanese in 1991 in celebration of 2500 years of Buddhism. The impressive stupa boasts panoramic views of the surrounding mountainous landscape, though is also very religiously significant as it holds the relics of the Buddha at its base.
Our first full day ended with a gentle stroll through Leh market, with Stanzin.
The following day we awoke early to visit Thiksey monastery during the morning prayers. An intimate and special experience, the monks chanted whilst enjoying their breakfast and sharing with us a delicious cup of local Ladakhi ‘butter tea’ (a traditional preparation of tea leaves, yak or cow butter, water and salt). After the service, with the help of our guide, we began chatting with one of the elder monks, learning his story as well as his daily routine. He even invited us to his private room at the monastery which was a great privilege and an experience Madeleine (Co-Founder, Indian Excursions) will not forget. The gentleman explained that he was just 14 years old when joining the monastery and that he has now been there 55 years. His family village is just a few kilometres away and he is welcome to visit when he wishes to.
The Thiksey monastery houses a huge and beautiful statue of Buddha, known as Chamba, from which The Ultimate Travelling Camp takes its name.
Our day continued with the Hemis monastery which is about an hour’s drive out of Leh and dates back to the 17th century. The Hemis monastery is the spiritual centre of Ladakh’s Drukpa Buddhists; it was the fifth Gyaling Drukpa who founded Hemis after travelling here from Tibet. Inside, there are two prayer halls and an impressively large statue of Padmasambhava, as well as a small museum showcasing a collection of Buddhist art and artefacts.
Feeling almost a little monastery-d out, after lunch we took a change of pace to enjoy the beautiful scenery on a bike ride. Cycling over the bridge with hundreds of colourful prayer flags fluttering around us was a particular highlight, as were children of the local school excitedly shouting ‘Jule!‘ (‘hello’ in the local Ladakhi language).
Returning to the camp, we indulged in treatments at the spa, all of which have been inspired by ancient Ladakhi wellness practices and performed with local ingredients, such as Sea Buckthorn – a small shrub that grows amongst the Himalayas and is cherished for its healing properties. We found it very refreshing to be offered treatments inspired by the local area rather than a generic ‘Swedish massage’ and wholly enjoyed our therapies.
On our third day, we were to embark on a five-hour drive along the world’s highest motorable road, the Khardungla pass, to Diskit in the Nubra Valley. Here, we would stay at The Ultimate Travelling Camp’s second offering, Chamba Camp Diskit. The drive admittedly sounds long though it was an amazing experience in itself, as we wound up and around the Himalayas, surrounded by snow and ice, taking in breathtaking views below.
Like the camp at Thiksey, our tent at the camp in Diskit was comfortable and tasteful, though had a more rustic feel to it which we felt was appropriate for the remote, rugged surroundings here in Diskit. Despite being a little barer, we mutually agreed that Diskit was our favourite of the two; being a smaller camp, it had a more intimate feel and the service was incredibly personalized.
Having spent a few hours relaxing amongst our new surroundings out in Diskit, we headed over to the Hunder Sand Dunes. A cold desert of stunning silver dunes amongst a backdrop of snowcapped mountains, it was beautiful beyond imagination. The Hunder Sand Dunes are also home to Bactrian camels who made their way here on the ancient silk route. Camel rides are available though we declined (Indian Excursions do not encourage the riding of animals unless we are confident they are well cared for. In this case, from what we could see, we were not. On that note, it is worth mentioning that the camels are not kept by or associated with The Ultimate Travelling Camp). Despite this, we were pleased to have visited the Hunder Sand Dunes and enjoyed a fairly epic selfie-session amongst them at sunset.
We returned to Thiksey along the same incredibly scenic road the following day, for a final night at Chamba Camp Thiksey ahead of our morning flight back to Delhi.
Ladakh’s combination of scenery and spirituality is inspiring and The Ultimate Travelling Camp is the perfect base from which to explore it.
When is the best time to visit Ladakh and stay at The Ultimate Travelling Camp?
Late April to early September.
How do I get to Ladakh?
Direct, daily flights operate from Delhi and Mumbai.
How much does it cost to stay at The Ultimate Travelling Camp?
Our sample itinerary with indicative prices can be found by clicking here.
If you’d like to experience Ladakh and The Ultimate Travelling Camp on your upcoming trip to India, please do get in touch. As a Preferred Partner of The Ultimate Travelling Camp we’d be an ideal match to assist with your arrangements here, as well as your wider itinerary. For example, it pairs particularly well with our suggested Golden Triangle Tour (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur) or else Ladakh is a wonderful experience all on its own.0