A palace-hotel fit for Kings near Leh, Ladakh
Think of palace-hotel and chances are you will think of Rajasthan. But go further nortth to the beautiful moonscape of Ladakh to experience a Palace stay unlike any other. Close to Leh stands the Stok Palace of the Namgyal Dynasty that ruled the region until its annexation by Kashmir’s Dogra king in 1834. The beautiful four-storeyed building—a fine specimen of classical Ladakhi fortified residence architecture—is open to guests and so regular mortals can spend a few nights feeling like kings and queens in this Palace unlike any other!
Built by the Ladakhi craftsmen in 1820, the Stok Palace lies about 20km from Leh airport and continues to be home of the Namgyal Dynasty. The Palace is a labyrinth of shaded corridors and courtayrds that lead to many colourful common spaces. The Palace also houses a museum and a Temple. Befitting a fortress palace, the Stok Palace hotel is perched atop a ridge ensuring guests can enjoy views of the Indus valley from many of the rooms.
Guests can choose to stay in the heritage building in one of the six beautifully restored suites. Or they could choose one of the three large villas set amidst apricot, willow and walnut trees in the Palace grounds.
If you choose the former, be prepared to be transported back to an era far before our own. The low-ceilinged rooms with their heavy use of wood, antique furniture, traditional Lakdakhi paintings on the walls and textiles and furnishings all over the rooms are full of old-world charm. The Queen’s Room is among the most popular. Its walls are covered with ancient fresco murals. A living area opens up into a wooden balcony that offers splendid views of the Indus Valley below.
The Chulli Bagh (apricot orchard) villas are set a bit away from the main building, ensuring complete privacy. These structures mix traditional and contemporary architecture and design to offer a space that is true to its location, yet expansive in terms of space and comfort. Each villa comprises of two private bedrooms that open into a common open plan sitting area with views of the orchards and includes a well-appointed kitchenette as well. The use of sustainable architectural techniques and traditional methods make these villas livable throughout the year whether in the peak of the summer or the best of the winter in Ladakh. The villas are great to enjoy Ladakh’s beautifully unique natural landscape.
Another great feature of the Palace is the unique dining locations that guests get to choose from—Palace ramparts, under the Orchard trees or the traditional Ladakhi dining room with its colourful pillars.
There is also a lot to do within the palace complex and outside. Guests can be quiet observers at the Palace’s Buddhist Temple, on the uppermost floor, during the daily morning and evening prayer rituals conducted by the resident monk. Guests can also get a personalised prayer amulet made by the monk. The Palace Museum has a collection of costumes, jewellery (including a crown said to be a 1,000 years old), artefacts and household antiques like gold and silver teapots. The Royal Throne Room is not open to day visitors who can access the Museum. However, guests staying here have priveleged access. Similarly, with prior permission, guests can opt for a traditional Ladakhi dinner that’s prepared and served in the Royal kitchen.
Beyond the Palace compound is the scenic Stok village where homes and chortens are set in barley fields and amidst poplar and willow trees. Guests can explore this village on foot and the Palace-hotel can arrange for a visit to a village home.
Price: From Rs 16,000 per night
Read more: https://www.stokpalaceheritage.com/
The buildings at Stok Palace Heritage Hotel are made of natural materials that are entirely locally sourced hence promoting vernacular architecture whether it is the 200-year-old palace building or the four-year-old villas in the orchard. These buildings are largely free of concrete and chemicals. The hotel uses solar power and most of the food cooked here and served to guests is either sourced from local farms in and around the village or grown on the grounds. Plastic water bottles are not used and single use plastic is discouraged. Guests are served water in glass reusable bottles. All bulbs and other such fittings are energy efficient. The hotel makes its own jams, juices, snacks, biscuits, dried fruits and apricot oil. Most of the staff, taxis, guides and labour are local.