Luxury Travel Advisor recently met with Jamshyd Sethna, the founder of Shakti Village Walks in the Himalayas, to learn about high-end hiking experiences (and the luxury camps) in some of the most remote mountains in the world.
For example, the Kumaon region in the northern state of Uttarakhand requires a five-hour train ride followed by a two-hour drive to reach...but the village walks have views over completely unspoiled terrain and one-on-one contact with local people who have kept their traditions alive for centuries. (Many of them have never left the mountains, Sethna added.)
Shakti 360° Leti, meanwhile, is a camp that is even farther north--right up to the Tibetan border 8,000 feet above sea level. The camp has just four guest pavilions and includes mountain walks, treks and camping, or visitors can just relax outside (we hear the fishing by the river is great). Meals and wine are included, and yoga and meditation sessions can be arranged on request as well.
Good to know: Shakti 360° Leti is available from October 1, 2013 – April 20, 2014 (although the dates may change), and the two experiences can be combined to create a complete Himalayan experience.
And for a summer experience, Shakti Ladakh (which just opened a few weeks ago for the season) is 11,500 feet up on a high northern plateau that has earned it the nickname 'little Tibet.” Flights from Delhi to Ladakh (Leh Airport) take approximately one hour, and Shakti village houses are located anywhere from 20 minutes to one hour away from the airport. During the four months before the end of September (when the season in Ladakh closes), travelers can go on walks between mountain villages (accompanied by local porters and private guides, of course) as well as engaging in local activities.
Guests can stay in traditional village houses that have been “spruced up” but still maintain plenty of traditional elements (think rustic, exposedbeams in the ceilings above traditional carpets and textiles). Those who want a more al fresco experience can spend a night (or more) outdoors in dome tents.
The most popular activities at Shakti are the casual walks (which include picnic lunches) or the more high-impact treks. (Good to know: These hikes require “a reasonable level of fitness,” we hear, and are in remote areas at altitudes of 6,000-14,000 feet. They sound like a blast, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution.) River rafting (subject to water levels) is available on the Indus and Zanskar rivers, both of which are fed by glaciers. (Rafting is varied with rapids ranging from Class 1 to Class 4). The team can also arrange visits to local schools, monasteries, museums and markets, and visitors can watch morning prayers in a monastery, explore artifacts at museums or tour local bazaars to learn more about the region’s culture, customs, religion and people. And foodies will be pleased: All meals are prepared from local ingredients, and guests can work with the private chefs to select what goes into their dishes.