High snow-tipped mountains cocoon this Buddhist ex-kingdom. Alluring Ladakh, the land of passes – the more time one spends in this magical place, the more, nearly unceasingly, one finds to explore.
Stunning gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries) dramatically crown rocky outcrops flanked by fluttering prayer flags and whitewashed stupas have designated prayer wheels that are spun clockwise to bring instant peace. This serene setting is bolstered with extreme adventures for cyclists, bikers and trekkers. The highest motorable pass in the world, aqua blue lakes in the middle of the mountains, colourful festivals and unforgettable landscapes have turned the once secluded Ladakh, to being on top of the list for travellers.
A genuine challenge is to contain 'The Ladakh Experience' in a short yet all-encompassing encounter. At Stok Palace, be prepared to be deeply stoked, gladly convinced and proclaim that this was the richest summary of the magic of Ladakh. High altitude heritage built in the 1830s, Stok Palace is beautifully preserved, stately on the outside and mysterious inside – its shaded corridors and courtyards leading you into startlingly colourful spaces. At Stok Palace, be a part of the living culture with access to the private quarters of the family and interaction with the current king, who is a mine of knowledge on Ladakh history, culture, heritage and the art of photography.
To stay in an actual royal residence is the biggest charm of Stok Palace Heritage Hotel. Guests staying here also have privileged access to the Museum and the Lhakchung Temple, which are part of the complex. This offers an intimate insight into the cultural history of Ladakh.
Know Your Host
A stay in Stok Palace is not the run-of-the-mill hotel experience. Rather, it is elegantly stylish and incomparably unique, representing the family’s friendly yet traditional hospitality. Intimate service by the family’s staff from the nearby Stok village are used to hosting family and...
A stay in Stok Palace is not the run-of-the-mill hotel experience. Rather, it is elegantly stylish and incomparably unique, representing the family’s friendly yet traditional hospitality. Intimate service by the family’s staff from the nearby Stok village are used to hosting family and dignitaries on a frequent basis. To fill your days are guided walks to the Stok village, trek to the Stok Kangri base, rafting, an evening with a historian or an out-of-the-ordinary special event, day visits to Leh, the hosts are personally involved in the experiences crafted for their guests.
The current host of the property is Mr. Jigmed Wangchuk Namgyal. Conservation lies at the heart of the project. The idea was to sustain the mud palace and create awareness amongst the local community to show how this wonderful slice of history could be preserved. He was determined to protect the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Ladakh. The journey of restoration began in 2007 with only one room and today has luxury suites in the palace and modern suites in the apricot orchard below.
Stok Palace Heritage Hotel is located at the edge of a bucolic setting southwest of Leh, about 15 km from the city centre. It has been refurbished as a heritage hotel with the view of keeping the history of the 17th century palace and its former occupants alive. The idea was to give an unadulterated experience of how the royal family lived centuries ago. The design and aesthetics have been kept true to the original look and feel of the palace.
Once the seat of power for the erstwhile Ladakh Royal Family, with the 34th generation of the family still in residence, the palace is the perfect location to process the remarkable natural, cultural and architectural heritage of Ladakh. A walk through the palace highlights the detailing and planning, elements like inter-linked courtyards, granaries, effective drainage system, carved and painted windows and balconies that stand out against the stark white exterior, outstanding organic dye art and murals, supported by courtiers’ homes – all an ideal heritage village project.
The Palace is an iconic landmark and popular for its well preserved and curated museum but the real treat lies in being part of the living heritage at the palace – enthralling stories, fascinating secrets, visits from oracles all sum up as your romantic stay here. This high altitude heritage needs to be preserved and one has to see it to believe it!
Stok Palace has just six suites – airy, bright and offers a stay that celebrates traditional heritage architecture and perk it up with creature comforts.
The four storey building has six well-appointed rooms furnished with rich textiles and décor from the Ladakhi culture. Each room exudes traditional charm with hundreds of years old murals, vintage furniture, colourful handmade rugs and low doorways – each adding a magical touch to the stay. There are four Standard Suite Rooms, The Royal Suite and The Queen’s Room to choose from, of which some overlook the valley below. Ensuite bathrooms and other modern comforts are available in the room to fit the needs of the traveller. A large tarchen (a flagpole that is commonly found in front of Tibetan Buddhist homes) is found in parts of the property. This signifies that the household contains all the main Mahayana sutras as well as the Prajnaparamita manuscripts. This royal residence has balconies overlooking the Indus Valley, handcrafted Tibetan and Ladakhi rugs, and brightly painted local woodwork.
The Chulli Bagh Villas in the orchard are set amidst apricot trees have a modern accent and are made of local wood and material. The three villas are made for complete privacy with two private bedrooms that open into a common sitting area with views of the orchards. Each villa comes with an ensuite bathroom and a kitchenette. The simplicity of Ladakhi living blends well with the luxurious inclusions for the modern traveller.
In tune with the rest of the property, local cuisine is a large part of the experience at Stok Palace Heritage Hotel. The old royal kitchen has been restored to whip up excellent traditional Ladakhi, Tibetan and Indian cuisine. Breakfast is served on the ramparts (weather dependent), overlooking the valley below.
A number of well-curated experiences at and around the palace is an additional highlight of staying here. The Stok Palace Museum, to which you get special access, houses a large collection of precious artefacts and relics belonging to the Ladakh's old monarchy. The royal family’s collection of thangkas (some over 400 years old) ancient coins, royal seals, regal costumes, precious jewellery, photographs, swords, shields, bows, arrows, quivers and guns are part of the showcase. The highlight of the collection is the Queen’s ancient yub-jhur – a head piece encrusted with 401 lumps of uncut turquoise, coral, gold nuggets. The upper-most floor of the palace houses a Buddhist temple, Lhakchung, where the resident monk performs daily prayers and rituals. Staying at the palace gives you easy access to visit the morning and evening prayers.
Explore rural Ladakh by visiting villages scattered all over the high landscapes. Isolated from the rest of the world, some of them are tucked away into the folds of the Himalayan terrain. Snow leopard expeditions to the Hemis National Park and expeditions to the Changthang wildlife sanctuary can be arranged. Here, you can get a chance to spot Tibetan Wolves, the endangered Eurasian Brown Bears, Red Foxes, Argali (Tibetan Sheep), Bharal (Blue Sheep), Golden Eagles, Lammergeier Vultures, Himalayan Griffon Vultures, and Himalayan Snowcocks. There are a number of local festivals in the warmer months in Ladakh, which offer vignettes of local life at close quarters. Apart from that the adventure seekers can go on cycling trips, treks and for day-trips to see the high lakes of Ladakh.
Getting an intimate experience of Ladakhi culture at none other than the royal residence itself. The property does not have offer Wi-Fi, TVs, air-conditioning or intercoms in the rooms to ensure that you get complete mind space to enjoy the royal immersion.
The Palace is closed from mid-October to mid-May. Chulli Bagh Villas are closed from December to February.
Stok Palace was converted into a hotel to preserve a historical slice of Ladakhi history and show the local community the need to keep the tangible and intangible culture alive. Palace art conservation is done every year and some exquisite examples of old thangkas are displayed in the museum.
Stok Palace discourages the use of plastic and hence are reluctant to provide plastic packaged drinking water to the guests, and is available in glass bottles. Bio degradable packaging is used for packed lunches, dispensers are used in the bathrooms and the hotel is making a shift to provide bamboo amenities. Solar passive and self-insulating design and materials such as wood, mud and stone have been used and additionally solar energy is used as a power back up and for geysers.
Ingredients for the kitchen are sourced from around the palace where permaculture gardening is practiced and the staff are hired from the local community. Additionally Stok is involved in the facilitating and the education of the local kids. The palace supports a foundation called Looms of Ladakh and future plans include building a weaving centre for local weavers. Local singers, artists and dancers are hired to entertain guests thereby ensuring community support.
by Vinod T on 05/08/2023
The property is lovely though slightly off from Leh but it gives you the village vibe. Willow kitchen has a good variety, nothing exceptional thought. Service quality is poor though we had issues...
by venkatesh b on 10/02/2022
Our stay at Stok Palace was awesome. The Palace is beautiful and the staff were very helpful. Food and service were excellent. The view of mountain ranges from Palace was stunning. Very well...
by drurk on 08/31/2022
Photos and video reviews give false impression of this so called heritage hotel. Cost is exorbitant. It was less than a 2 star hotel. I think foreigners are made to feel it as a Ladakhi styled...