It’s always been a dream of mine to see the many faces of the Himalayas. And Himachal Pradesh, literally meaning “snow-laden province”, is a perfect region to see the western range of the Himalayas. So Dharamshala in India was my chosen destination.
But travelling there was not going to be easy.
Our six-hour flight became eleven because the plane had to reroute to Delhi due to foggy weather. Then after landing in Amritsar, it was another seven hours to the mountainous Dharamshala. But hey, if you want to glamp, you gotta do it right.
The deal we struck at the airport for a driver, was an interesting one, because it involved a successive handing over, as the drivers relayed us to another s we neared Dharamshala. Finally reaching our destination, a staff member at the camp entrance transferred us to another rover. After the road happily tossed us for the final five minutes, we finally reached Camp Lungta.
First impressions of Dharamshala
Dharamshala is most famous for being the city where the Dalai Lama has chosen his residency. Mcleod Ganj has become the hub for the area, and the mix of Indian and Tibetan culture has been an attractive draw for tourists.
Camp Lungta is positioned about 20 minutes away from the town so as to best leverage the stunning views of the range – thus the glamping arrangements. We couldn’t see this because it was already late, and the owner Ravinder, quickly sensing our hunger, had us place our bags and invited us to dinner.
When it comes to glamping tents, we had it good. The structure is more permanent than we thought, and the space is huge. It’s more really a tented room. And when you book a room with Camp Lungta, meals are often advised to be on-site because of the location, so we headed to the dining hut at the top of the campsite for dinner.
I don’t know if it was the journey, the hunger, or the food itself, but dinner was incredibly delicious! From the toasty paper-thin papad to the mix of flavours from thali, every bite ended with us nodding to each other in approval and smiling with mouths full.
We finished the chilly night with some time by the central campfire, as the warmth soaked into our skin and the stars shone above.
The Mountains Are Calling
Morning came, soft sunlight and babbling brook chill. And it was also when we realised to open the “windows” meant going outside to raise the flaps of the tent, along with the ones inside. I would think normally the ones outside would be left open but the room would benefit with them lowered in the chillier months like now.
Rising from my glamping bed and checking out the room, I could now see the heavy furnishings that kept the room warm and cosy. The golden stars sewn onto the fabric was a nice touch.
But first, breakfast! Remembering our experience at the camp restaurant yesterday, we were eager for more food. And we were not disappointed.
Omelettes, prantha, bread with cheese and ham, curds and juices – the selection was incredible and lovingly prepared. Now, finally able to take in the view in the daylight, dining al fresco was definitely the right way to start the day.
But we had plans, and the mountains are calling, so we walked off and changed up for our trek.
Getting Up-close With The Range
Camp Lungta offers many activities, although, in all honesty, doing nothing here counts as the best one of all. With the Dhauladhar mountains as the backdrop, crisp fresh air and chirping birds; an hour here is a day’s spa to the soul.
But I love my hiking as well, so we were introduced to our local mountain guide Varinder. He outlined the day’s itinerary and going past a small gate at the back of the property, we were off.
From the foothills of the range in the Kangra Valley, we made our way up rocky paths and hopped past small streams. The region is well-known as a source for slate, which is why you’ll find tons of them by the road and in the many buildings here, including Camp Lungta. This unusual material made the landscape all the more sublime and unique.
Out of the many hikes I’ve done, this one ranks right up there as one of the best. Other than a few slate-stacked areas where the loose rocks made it tricky to place your weight on, the rest of the six hours was pretty easy.
The variety also kept the hike interesting. From rope bridges to chance encounters with locals and their herd, the journey up kept us entertained. And then, of course, there were the views.
Just around noon, we reached our shepherd’s hut, and Varinder took out our picnic lunch of bread and fruits.
In that rustic lodge, biting down into the sandwich and admiring the views, I couldn’t be happier, and at that moment, realised the many pleasures of a simple life.
Along the way, not only did I get a glimpse of the local lifestyle and raw beauty of the Dhauladhar, but I also got to learn more about Varinder’s interest as a mountain guide borne from his shepherding days. His intimate knowledge of the region was a boon for the hike and continued the sense of community that Camp Lungta heavily emphasizes.
An Evening Of Song
While Camp Lungta may not boast of the activity menu that other international resorts sell, the spontaneous encounters here really have left a deep impression with me. For our second dinner, there was a pair of guests from Goa who knew about our server’s secret weapon – his melodic vocals – and had him belting out poetic tune after tune. I almost forgot about dinner. Almost.
The Last Day
With some time to spare before we checked out, my friend went to a nearby village (also organized by Camp Lungta) to meet the locals, while I stayed behind to roam the glamping site after breakfast.
Photo credit: Sammy Yeo
Photo credit: Sammy Yeo
He enjoyed some rounds of cricket while I strolled around the trails to enjoy the views. Camp Lungta’s tents all came with comfortable glamping accessories, like deck chairs at the small porch. All the decisions seemed to aim at getting the individual to take time out of the hectic urban pace, and really slow down to find oneself.
This glamping experience was also my first, and so I didn’t expect such a level of comfort. As far as inaugural experiences go, I would highly recommend this to the novice who wants to try it. It’s also a great place to have a retreat, and the owner, Ravinderana, is a warm and welcoming host who really wishes to make a difference to the community in the villages nearby. This combination of heart and zen makes Camp Lungta a glamping experience I will always remember, and likely return to.
And if all else fails, there’s always nearby McLeod Ganj to visit. But that is another story altogether.
Flight information and Visa
There are no directs flights to Dharamshala. Connecting flights are available via Delhi, or you can charter a car up like we did from Amritsar International Airport.
Singaporeans will require a Visa to enter India which can initially be processed online.