When my travel consultant booked me at Hotel Whispering Willows for my stay in Leh (located in Ladakh in the Indian Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir), I was a bit disappointed initially. It was located in the village of Shey, the ancient capital of Ladakh before it was shifted to Leh, 15 kilometers before Leh when driving from Delhi. I would rather have stayed downtown than drive up and down all the time.

But I sure am glad I went by the suggestion offered. Not only did I stay at one of the best properties in Leh, but it was located away from the noisy and fume-laden downtown, offered splendid views and was actually closer to most of the attractions I eventually visited.

Here’s a review from my stay at Whispering Willows in July 2008: (For more images, click on the thumbnails at the end of this post)

  • The Location: Located off the main highway, you wake up to a view of the splendid Stok mountain range, is a short walk to the Indus river banks and offers a view of the Shey Palace behind it. In other words, its natural and historical beauty all around.
  • The Accommodation: 12 rooms, all with attached baths. There are ample lounging areas too with comfortable sofas. More rooms are currently being constructed on the second floor.
  • The Rooms: Rooms come in two sizes: The smaller ones have a double bed, while the suites have an additional single bed and sofas to lounge on. While the suites are very spacious, they are on the ground floor and do not offer very good views. It is recommended one takes the smaller rooms on the upper floor, as they open into a lounge with sofas to relax on and read, as well as to enjoy the views. All rooms have ample closet storage and the housekeepers do a very good job giving you clean rooms and beddings. All rooms are well ventilated and are well lit.
  • The Baths: Basic, with a WC, a wash basin and bathing area. You get running hot (heated in boilers) and cold water all day, but you may need to keep the water running for up to a few bucket loads before the hot water starts. This feels such a waste really but there is no choice. The bathroom is also quite spacious though.
  • Food: WOW most of the times. If you take an all-meals included plan, you will good spreads for all the three meals, unlimited tea and coffee whenever you want and snacks in the evening. They are quite flexible with the menu, and ask guests what cuisine they would like. One can choose from Indian, Chinese and Italian (no pizzas though). If you are out for the day, they will even pack a picnic for you. The cooks know their job, and it is presented well by the service staff. If you have been on the road in this region and have been eating at shacks, this will feel like a royal treat.
  • Electricity: Don’t count on it, as it is very erratic. From sunset to 11 pm the generators come on. Make sure you charge your camera batteries and other electronics when there is power. And always keep a torch handy instead of tripping over if you need to get up in the middle of the night.
  • Water: Never short, a rare thing in the mountains.
  • Housekeeping: The property always feels very clean, and all bed linen and towels give a comforting feeling of being clean. Full marks here.
  • Surroundings: The property has well kept lawns to sit around or walk around in, and you can be in the company of a few dozen pigeons who stay there as pets. They have an enclosure for themselves, but keep hopping in and out.
  • Tariff: Contact Banjara Camps for the same; contact given below.

The final word? If you are visiting Leh, and have access to transport, this is where you should stay. You don’t go all the way to Leh to stay downtown in a messy area.

Contact Information
Banjara Camps & Retreats Pvt. Ltd.
1A, Hauz Khas Village,
New Delhi-110 016, India
Telefax: +91 11 2685 5152
Email: info@banjaracamps.com
URL: www.banjaracamps.com

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