Matt Shobbrook review 10 Oct 2019
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
Both Ladakh and Spiti are both stunning regions with breath-taking scenery and Buddhist monasteries precipitously perched on rocky outcrops. Lamayaru and the hike to Rumbak were highlights in Ladakh, whilst Key and Dhankar monasteries are truly iconic. Amritsar, at the end of the trip, was equally as fulfilling, despite the shock of going from rural, mountainous regions to a large city, albeit with a relatively modest 1 million inhabitants, so hardly a mega city by Indian standards. The Golden Temple is a must-see, and a place that stirs the soul.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
The biggest and most important tip: acclimatise to the altitude. Both Ladakh and Spiti are high altitude regions where the vast majority of places are over 3500 metres above sea level. The route to Spiti from Chandigarh, through Shimla, Sarahan and Kaplan allows one to adjust in suitable time, but our mistake was to go straight from Delhi to Leh in Ladakh via plane at the very start of the trip, and we all received chest infections, which we feel was probably brought on by a lack of acclimitsation, and not helped by having jet lag too! Having said this, we tried to pack a lot into three weeks, and I donít think this could have been avoided, although I probably wouldnít include Chandigarh if I were to repeat the trip, as itís not the most attractive of cities, I dont think it would be too far off the mark to call it the Indian Milton Keynes! The architecture geek in me drove me there to see the Le Corbusier buildings, but then we didnít even get to see the star attractions close up!
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Yes I do to some extent. In terms of local people, I feel from a personal/cultural level we benefitted the people we stayed with in Leh, Shimla (who were so kind and helpful; it felt a bit like a cultural exchange, as they just wanted to share their culture and learn about ours). We obviously benefitted local people by eating in local restaurants and staying predominantly in home stays - although the HP hotels in Sarahan and Kalpa were very disappointing and didnít provide us with any cultural insights, and little benefit would have been bestowed upon people there. And of course the purchase of local crafts and textiles, such as shawls, jewellery and hats and gloves. In terms of environment, the Life Straw water bottles enabled us to get through less plastic. Local produce and predominantly vegetarian food (and not difficult to come by!) has its environmental credentials, although I probably did eat too much paneer!Lots of solar energy as well - itís good to see there is funding going into renewal energy in the region. However, waste is a problem, with rubbish piled up in a lot of places.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
Overall, it was a fantastic trip, amid really stunning scenery on the doorstep of the Tibetan plateau. Most of the places we stayed at were relatively basic, but the owners friendly and attentive, and the locally sourced, home-cooked rather delicious at times! The HP hotels in Sarahan and Kalpa were disappointing, and the people running the hotel in Kaza seemed very disorganised and didnt seem to want to serve us in the restaurant. Despite an issue with being picked up at Leh airport, the trip was impeccably planned,Gaurav did a sterling job of pulling the stings behind the scenes to make sure things went like clockwork. The guides were very good, and both main drivers fantastic, especially Ramen in Ladakh.
Read the operator's response here:
Thank you for your review. After your feedback, we have immediately fixed the problems in hotels in Kalpa, Sarahan and Kaza. We have also introduced oxygen cylinder support
for high altitude regions. And it's really great to know that you enjoyed the vacation overall. Please do come back :)