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The Best of Himalayan Retreats

06 Min Read

Summer is coming. So are hill holidays. Here are some of the best boutique hotels and homestays up in the mountains

The scorching summer heat will soon send us scampering for shelter to the hills. So, we decided to make your job easier by curating a combination of homestays and boutique properties in the Himalayas. Take your pick and yes, you're welcome!

THE HERMITAGE AT PANGONG

Hermitage-Pangong

The azure waters of Pangong Tso, at 14,270 ft, are quite a sight to wake up to, especially with a steaming cup of tea in bed, followed by an invigorating yoga session. A premier camp in an isolated setting in Maan Village, The Hermitage at Pangong by Ladakh Sarai boasts eight eco-friendly yurts arranged in a semi-circle, each one overlooking the lake.

While yurts make it sound like a rough outing, the camp takes its luxury quotient very seriously. It prides itself as the only centrally-heated camp in the area, making sure the cold does not put off tourists heading to this part of Ladakh and wanting to camp overnight. It also uses solar power to avoid any further damage to an exploited landscape. Each yurt features a four-poster bed, a toaster and a kettle. You can go trekking, cycling or bird spotting in the region, or simply meditate by the lake during the day and watch the stars at night.

Tariff: From ₹18,000 doubles, meals extra

Contact: +91-9811222735; ladakhsarai.com/hermitage-pangong.html

EA MA HO

Ea-Ma-Ho-Spiti

A little-known accommodation in Dhankar, Spiti, this homestay has spartan accommodation but offers an immersive local experience. The mud house is the property of Lobsang Tashi and his family of eight. Guests stay in one of the four rooms open to tourists in this 12-room house. Given the nature of accommodation, there’s just one Western toilet shared by the four guest rooms. Guests are encouraged to interact with the host family and learn to cook local dishes. During meals, there’s enough thukpa to go around for everyone and then some.

There are many hikes and treks in the region. Dhankar Lake is a popular attraction, so is the Dhankar monastery that overlooks the confluence of the Spiti and Pin rivers. In the 17th century, Dhankar was the capital of the Spiti kingdom. Dhankar Fort now lies in ruins, but makes for a great excursion.

Tariff: ₹700 per person, including two meals and unlimited cups of tea

Contact: +91- 8988007090 (Lobsang)

CHAPSLEE

Chapslee-Shimla

As far as heritage hotels go, you can’t beat Chapslee in Shimla. It was formerly the summer residence of the late Raja Charanjit Singh of Kapurthala and was opened to visitors in 1976 by his grandson, Kanwar Ratanjit Singh, who lives here with his wife. But the story goes much further back. The extravagant boutique hotel was once a dhajji-style house built by Dr Blake of the East India Company in 1828. Among its many historic appearances, it served as the Secretariat for Lord Auckland when he was governor general, and later for Lord Ellenborough. In 1838, this was where the Simla Manifesto was signed. In 1896, Sir Arthur Milford Ker gave it the grandeur that made Simla Past and Present (1904) call it the finest residence in town. Every nook and cranny of this beautiful property is soaked in history, which adds another dimension to your Shimla itinerary.

Besides its five luxurious suites, Chapslee features three elaborate sitting areas, a library room, a dining room and alcove, an afternoon tea room, a terraced garden, a tennis court and lawns for holding parties.

Tariff: From ₹20,000 doubles, including two meals, taxes extra

Contact: +91-177-2658663, chapsleesm@gmail.com; chapslee.com

TANHAU

Tanhau

Set atop a hill in the Mohan range of Uttarakhand at an altitude of 4,200 ft, Tanhau overlooks the forests of the Corbett Tiger Reserve and the snaking Kosi River. This spectacular view of the woods comes at a cost that the discerning forest-lover wouldn’t mind paying. Tanhau is a 1.5-hour drive away from Ramnagar, the last four kilometres being a dirt track through the jungle. Any safaris undertaken at Bijrani or Dhikala zones then entail a long drive from the property to the gate. Tanhau also arranges for overnight accommodation in forest rest houses inside the park.

But the main draw of Tanhau is not its accessibility or gypsy safaris but its range of nature walks. There are trails through the reserve forests of Corbett which follow in the pugmarks of some famous tigers. The ‘Maneater of Mohan trail’, for instance, is the nine-kilometre path taken by Jim Corbett’s famous quarry. Another shorter downhill trek takes a route marked by the tigress Durga. On these guided walks, you can spot a variety of birds and animals, and, who knows, maybe a big cat. Regardless, the thrill of being afoot in a jungle ringing with alarm calls is an unparalleled thrill.

Tanhau has just three cottages, Bagh, Guldar and Chukar. Meals are customised (on pre-order) and served at their al fresco dining area, The Dhaba, and guests are encouraged to bring their own spirits. Pun intended.

Tariff: From ₹7,000 doubles, including all meals and one experience

Contact: +91-9650479996, sunando@untravel.com; tanhau.in

ULE ETHNIC RESORT

Ule-Ethnic-Resort

Ardent trekkers are familiar with the draw of Sham Valley. Often called the Eden of Ladakh, it is home to 11th-century monasteries and apricot orchards that bloom in winter. Nestled amid these orchards, Ule Ethnic Resort is a family-run establishment that uses micro-hydro plants and solar water heaters, grows its vegetables in a garden by the campsite, and offers a barefoot luxury experience. It offers 31 canvas huts and 15 independent cottages, a cosy library and a relaxing spa.

Tariff: From ₹10,411 doubles

Contact: +91-9419887000; uleresort.com

VIOLET HILL

Violet-Hill

Located around 15 kilometres from the madding crowds of Shimla, this charming cottage offers three bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, a living room, a dining room, a TV room and even a separate reading room for a complete family vacation. The mud, stone and wood cottage, built around 12 years ago at an altitude of 7,900 ft, is perched on its own hill and surrounded by a thick cedar forest. There’s enough waitstaff to cater to your group’s needs and a chef from Uttarakhand whips up local, continental and Indian dishes.

There are many nature trails nearby, and Mashobra is just three kilometres away. Or you could spend your afternoons basking in the sun in the delightful sit-out, picking and savouring apples, cherries and pears from the surrounding orchards. Call me by your name, Violet Hill!

Tariff: The full cottage from ₹18,000 per night, meals extra; accommodates eight

Contact: +91-9815442233

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