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Hiking on a High: How to Hit the Himalayas in Style

27 June 2024

Sandwiched between the plains of the Indian subcontinent and the Tibetan plateau, the mighty Himalayas are among the planet’s true natural wonders. Travellers flock to the diverse nations that occupy the range for a variety of reasons including unforgettable cultural encounters, fascinating cuisines and inspiring cities. One of the chief draws to the region is, of course, trekking. And with luxurious stay options along trails, there’s never been a better time to strap on your hiking boots and head for the hills.

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HIKING ON A HIGH:
HOW TO HIT THE HIMALAYAS IN STYLE

Sandwiched between the plains of the Indian subcontinent and the Tibetan plateau, the mighty Himalayas are among the planet’s true natural wonders. Travelers flock to the diverse nations that occupy the range for a variety of reasons including breathtaking beauty, unforgettable cultural encounters, ancient Buddhist heritage, and adventure activities. One of the chief draws to the region is, of course, the magnificent mountain trails. With luxurious accommodation options along the trails, you don't have to commit to weeks of sleeping in a tiny tent to experience the profound splendor of the world's largest and highest mountain range. There’s never been a better time to strap on your hiking boots and head for the hills.
 

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A SALUTARY STAY IN SHANGRI-LA

The view from Songtsam Shangri-La Linka

The real Shangri-La is often as appealing as the mythical one. Day hikes include an adventure through Tiger Leaping Gorge, where dramatic landscapes captivate the senses. Tibetan culture is to the fore during a gentle exploratory walk to Ringha Village, which is adorned with Tibetan-style homes (where you can stop for tea and cheese with the locals) and ancient temples. Songzanlin Monastery, meanwhile, is a testament to Tibetan Buddhist devotion. Reach the monastery with a relaxed one-hour lakeside stroll from the serene Songtsam Linka Shangri-La, where traditional Tibetan hospitality merges seamlessly with modern comforts, creating an oasis of tranquility on the rugged frontier. Set in the high hills outside Zhongdian, the property brings relative luxury to this wind-swept, scenic area. Each of the resort's rooms features a collection of hand-made fixtures, from antique furniture to Tibetan textiles and carpets; in addition, all rooms offer modern conveniences and feature large panoramic windows with sweeping views. Songtsam is home to a restaurant serving Tibetan specialties as well as creative, east-west fusion dishes, such as delicious pizza topped with Tibetan cheese made from yak milk.

SCALING NEW PEAKS IN NEPAL

Lukla Lodge, 2840m (9,318 ft)

Nepal's amazing selection of trekking routes has recently witnessed an upgrade with the arrival of several exceptional places to stay. This evolution is down in no small part to the work of Mountain Lodges of Nepal, which operates a curated selection of charming lodges in the Everest and Annapurna ranges with some of the finest accommodations in the Khumbu/Everest region of Nepal. They are amongst the world's highest-altitude hotels, offering trekkers stunning views of the Himalayas. Each of the lodges has 15-20 rooms, with private en-suite bathrooms and absolutely spectacular views of the surrounding peaks. And while the high-altitude lodges are certainly intended for more seasoned trekkers, there is an array of incredibly picturesque lodges peppered across the lower altitude areas of both Everest and Annapurna at between 3,500 to 7000 feet. In addition, the new Shinta Mani Mustang has opened up previously difficult to access regions of Mustang to a myriad of hiking opportunities. 

BHUTAN'S WAY OF PAMPERING

Amankora Gangtey Lodge

The remarkable Aman and Six Senses lodges are located in the five main valleys of Bhutan stretching from Paro in the west to Bumthang in the east. The nation’s myriad of hiking possibilities are best experienced during spring and fall. In the Phobjikha Valley, Amankora Gangtey Lodge, is particularly enchanting from October to February as the rolling plains and bamboo shrublands become a haven for the famous four foot tall black-neck cranes. Interesting structures on the Amankora pilgrimage trial include Wangdicholing – the summer palace of Bhutan's earliest kings – beside Aman Bumthang; and, attached to Paro's imposing Rinpung Dzong, the traditional cantilever bridge, Nyamai Zampa. Paro in particular is blessed with wonderful day hiking opportunities — through verdant valleys and to remote dzongs — not least the early morning hike straight up to the iconic Tiger's Nest monastery. 

SETTING UP CAMP IN LADAKH

Chamba Camp Diskit

Separated from the world during winter, Ladakh is a land apart within the far north of India bordering Tibet. Even in summer, it can only be reached via the world's highest mountain passes, making it a uniquely enchanting destination. Ladakh offers unforgettable accommodation options amidst its otherworldly beauty. The Ultimate Travelling Camp properties throughout India are renowned as the epitome of glamping, and their facilities at the two Ladakh camps – Chamba Camp Diskit and Chamba Camp Thiksey –  include heated triple-layered canvas tents, hardwood floors, Kashmiri carpets, elegant colonial furniture, Ayurveda-inspired toiletries, complimentary refreshments bar and a 24-hour butler service. Luxury in a remote destination is epitomized by these spacious tents that open to some of the planet's most breathtaking scenery. Many day hikes can be enjoyed while using the camps as a base. Take an exploratory hike through the local villages near the camp, stopping at a local Buddhist temple where only a handful of monks reside and join them in meditation and some gur-gur chai, a salted yak butter tea. Other highlights include the Nubra Valley, famous for its spectacular sand dunes, hot springs, and the renowned Diskit Monastery of the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

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