Newlyweds Katerina and Khalid went off the beaten track to discover the real India
We both agreed our dream honeymoon would be somewhere new, remote and exotic. Because we were getting married in Greece and would be spending two weeks on the beach, we decided the dramatic and rugged mountain ranges of the Himalayas would form the perfect contrast for our week-long honeymoon.
And, although we’d been to India before, we’d never visited the remote Ladakh region in the northern states of Jammu and Kashmir. Known as India’s ‘Little Tibet’, we knew it would be a trip of a lifetime.
A SPECTACULAR START
After arriving in Delhi we boarded a one-hour flight to Leh and we’ll never forget the views on our descent; stunning snow-topped peaks followed by villages and rivers fringed with patches of lush green and areas of barren terrain.
We’d organised our trip with Shakti Himalaya, which specialises in experiences in the remote mountain regions which give an insight into the local way of life. Our friendly guide, Mark, met us at the airport along with our driver who would be with us throughout the week. We were booked to stay in three authentic Ladakhi houses which had been renovated to create a comfortable Himalayan experience without sacrificing authenticity. Each one had its own individual style and distinctive Tibetan and Indian influences, a luxury learning curve.
THE HIGH LIFE
The first house we stayed in was set on the edge of a tiny village, with breathtaking views. In fact, because we were at an altitude of more than 12,000ft, we were told to acclimatise simply by relaxing on our first day. It was easy to sit back and chill, and as we enjoyed breakfast created by our private chef on the roof terrace, we couldn’t help but stare in amazement at the views surrounding us.
Over the next few days our busy itinerary involved visiting Buddhist monasteries and old palaces, a hike in the valley and browsing local markets. Our favourite and most exhilarating experience was white-water rafting on the Indus river, with just the bright blue sky overhead and high peaks either side of us, we felt like the only people in the world.
After each activity we dined al fresco with colourful rugs, cushions and the most delicious Indian food all organised for us. Our favourite was a romantic lunch in a lush, green orchard, where we were surrounded by apricot, apple and walnut trees. Magical!
A ROOM WITH A VIEW
We did find time to relax too. In fact, we spent blissful afternoons on the roof terrace reading books, drinking tea and enjoying the spectacular
views. By evening we enjoyed dinners prepared by the chef in the glow of candelight. We couldn’t get enough of the local lentil dal dishes which were bursting with flavour and spices.
The fascinating culture and unique way of life in Ladakh made it hard to leave, but we were also excited to be spending our last night at the stunning Leela Palace New Delhi.
ONE NIGHT IN DELHI
Upon arrival we were welcomed with garlands of jasmine and shown to our suite. The hotel is like an urban take on a maharaja’s palace with exquisite details at every corner.
As our days in Ladakh had been so action-packed, we decided to spend our last day relaxing before catching our flight back to London, so we enjoyed the rooftop pool with views of the city and booked in for a spa treatment in the hotel’s ESPA Spa. We had an Ayurveda massage in a large suite adorned with flowers.
Later, we floated to dinner in the Indian Jamavar restaurant, where the chef prepared mouth-watering treats, the ultimate ending to our perfect honeymoon.
Shakti Himalaya (www.shaktihimalaya.com) offers the Shakti Ladakh experience from £2,500 per person for seven nights, including accommodation in village houses on an allinclusive basis. The package includes activities, a guide, private chef and car. The Leela Palace New Delhi offers rooms from £275 per night, including breakfast. Visit www.theleela.com.