A high mountain orchard stay

Heritage Chulli Bagh Villa

Heritage Chulli Bagh Villa

Near 

Leh
, Jammu & Kashmir
, India

In the orchards around the Stok Palace, set amidst old apricot, walnut and willow tree gardens is the beautiful Chulli Bagh Villas. Stay here to enjoy apricot blossoms in the month of April, mesmerising autumn colours in October, a quaint dinner setting with wood-fire under a star studded sky, or ethereal moon light lying on the hammocks. If nature is at its best in Ladakh, here it is resplendent.

Our Rating: Mid-Range
Property Type: Heritage

Destination

High snow-tipped mountains cocoon this Buddhist ex-kingdom. Stunning gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries) dramatically crown rocky outcrops flanked by fluttering prayer flags and whitewashed stupas have designated prayer wheels that are spun clockwise to bring instant peace. This serene setting is bolstered with extreme adventures for cyclists, bikers and trekkers. The highest motorable pass in the world, aqua blue lakes in the middle of the mountains, colourful festivals and unforgettable landscapes have turned the once secluded Ladakh to being on top of the list for travellers.

A genuine challenge is to contain ‘The Ladakh Experience’ in a short yet all-encompassing encounter. Be a part of the living culture with access to the private quarters of the royal family in residence at the Stok Palace and interact with the current king, who is a mine of knowledge on Ladakh history, culture, heritage and the art of photography.

Accommodation

With just three villas, exclusive and private, each cottage has been painstakingly built by hand, using wood and mud as primary materials, with no industrial finishes. The design is organic and earthy, so as to blend with the nature around and encourage travellers to live like a commune. Each villa comprises of two cosy private bedrooms that open into a common open plan sitting area and include a well-appointed and warm kitchenette. Each room is individually heated and well insulated with natural materials and look out into garden where one could read, enjoy tea, catch a nap or mediate in silence. Attention to detail can be seen in every element of the décor and design. The bath and powder room feature modern amenities in a traditional setting such that even a rushed visitor will pause and admire the décor.

Dining

Meals are made for you on the spot or can be served in the garden. Stok Palace is also a choice for meals. In tune with the rest of the property, local cuisine is a large part of the experience with Ladakhi, Tibetan and Indian cuisines served. Breakfast is served on the ramparts (weather dependent), overlooking the valley below.

Chota Angan that translates to small courtyard offers a dining experience with low seating and the cuisine includes authentic street food of India. Chota Angan reflects the rich architecture of the palace with intricate glasswork that reflect candlelight in various hues, and the traditional Thikri art in blue and silver.

Experiences

A number of well-curated experiences at and around the palace is an additional highlight of staying here. The Stok Palace Museum, to which you get special access, houses a large collection of precious artefacts and relics belonging to the Ladakh’s old monarchy. The royal family’s collection of thangkas (some over 400 years old) ancient coins, royal seals, regal costumes, precious jewellery, photographs, swords, shields, bows, arrows, quivers and guns are part of the showcase. The highlight of the collection is the Queen’s ancient head piece encrusted with 401 lumps of uncut turquoise, coral, gold nuggets. The upper-most floor of the palace houses a Buddhist temple, Lhakchung, where the resident monk performs daily prayers and rituals. Staying at the palace gives you easy access to visit the morning and evening prayers.

Explore rural Ladakh by visiting villages scattered all over the high landscapes. Isolated from the rest of the world, some of them are tucked away into the folds of the Himalayan terrain. Snow leopard expeditions to the Hemis National Park and expeditions to the Changthang wildlife sanctuary can be arranged. Here, you can get a chance to spot Tibetan Wolves, the endangered Eurasian Brown Bears, Red Foxes, Argali (Tibetan Sheep), Bharal (Blue Sheep), Golden Eagles, Lammergeier Vultures, Himalayan Griffon Vultures, and Himalayan Snowcocks. There are a number of local festivals in the warmer months in Ladakh, which offer vignettes of local life at close quarters. Apart from that the adventure seekers can go on cycling trips, treks and for day-trips to see the high lakes of Ladakh.

Perfect For
fetting an intimate experience of Ladakhi culture. The property does not have offer Wi-Fi, TVs, air-conditioning or intercoms in the rooms to ensure that you get complete mind space to enjoy the immersion.

Operational Status
– Chulli Bagh Villas are closed from December to February. The Palace is closed from mid-October to mid-May.

Why we love this place

With activities that include walks and treks, rafting, excursions to Stok Kangri and Leh and more, Chulli Bagh Villas is also ideal to view the colourful festivals of Ladakh sensitively.

About your host

A stay in Stok Palace Heritage Hotel and Chulli Bagh Villas is elegantly stylish and incomparably unique, representing the family’s friendly yet traditional hospitality. Intimate service by the family’s staff from the nearby Stok village are used to hosting family and dignitaries on a frequent basis.

The current host of the property is Mr. Jigmed Wangchuk Namgyal. Conservation lies at the heart of the project. The idea was to sustain the mud palace and create awareness amongst the local community to show how this wonderful slice of history could be preserved. He was determined to protect the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Ladakh. The journey of restoration began in 2007 with only one room and today has luxury suites in the palace and modern suites in the apricot orchard below.

Responsible/Sustainable Tourism

Stok Palace Heritage Hotel was converted into a hotel to preserve a historical slice of Ladakhi history and show the local community the need to keep the tangible and intangible culture alive. Palace art conservation is done every year and some exquisite examples of old thangkas are displayed in the museum.

Chulli Bagh discourages the use of plastic and hence are reluctant to provide plastic packaged drinking water to the guests, and is available in glass bottles. Bio degradable packaging is used for packed lunches, dispensers are used in the bathrooms and the hotel is making a shift to provide bamboo amenities. Solar passive and self-insulating design and materials such as wood, mud and stone have been used and additionally solar energy is used as a power back up and for geysers.

Ingredients for the kitchen are sourced from around the palace where permaculture gardening is practiced and the staff are hired from the local community. Additionally Stok Palace is involved in the facilitating and the education of the local kids. The palace supports a foundation called Looms of Ladakh and future plans include building a weaving centre for local weavers. Local singers, artists and dancers are hired to entertain guests thereby ensuring community support.

Our Recommendation

With privileged access to the Stok Palace, spend some time exploring the private museum and the temple.

Can’t find a suitable itinerary that features a destination, experience or accommodation you fancy? All our group tours and holiday ideas can be personalised, or we can create a tailor made itinerary for you.

Our Accommodation Ratings

Opulent: Exceptional, unashamedly the best of sheer luxury. (£££££)

Luxury: Outstanding levels of 5* comfort, hospitality and facilities. (££££)

Premium: Excellent levels of comfort and hospitality and a wide range of facilities. (£££)

Mid-Range: Good levels of comfort and hospitality, with a reasonable range of facilities. (££)

Simple: Clean and simple, no frills. Often in areas of natural beauty or near wildlife reserves. (£)