The Grand Dragon Hotel in Ladakh was the primary reason that I could dare to visit Leh / Ladakh in the first week of January. They promised a centrally heated facility and with that Ladakh in winter looked feasible. What I appreciated most was their long checklist that helped me prepare well for the extreme cold of Ladakh winters. It helped me pack well i.e. pack many layers to wear, it helped me take medication that would help me deal with Altitude sickness.
More than anything else it helped me mentally prepare to be in Ladakh – a good 12000 feet above my place of residence, as someone at the hotel pointed out ‘Aap to Zero se Aayi hain’, or you have come from zero-mean sea level.
Grand Dragon Hotel, Ladakh
Central Heating at The Grand Dragon Hotel, Ladakh
At the time of writing, this is the only centrally heated hotel in Ladakh. It is also one of the very few hotels that are open during the winter. When you walk into the market of Leh, which I am told is as crowded as Chandni Chowk in Delhi during summer months, you can see that it is closed for winter more or less. Only the essentials consumed by the locals are sold.
Eat Local Food
I have written a full post on Vegetarian food in Ladakh. I owe a lot of what went into that post to this hotel. They served a home-cooked meal to us with homemade noodles and soup. In their lovely dining hall, we sampled a lot of local chutneys.
We were tempted to pack some for home, but right now you do not get them as packaged food so you must be in Ladakh to try them. Sample this:
- Apricot Kernel Butter
- Grapes Apricot Jam
- Apricot Jam
- Chilling Apricots
All their jams were made without any artificial sugar – a boon for diabetics like me.
Read More: Ladakh for Vegetarians
They also organized dinners around Bonfires in the evenings – and they gave us Ladakhi wrap-around shawls to shield us from the cold. I have to admit you have to have some courage to sit out in that cold at night, and if you do, you have a story to tell for the rest of your life.
Soak in the culture of Ladakh
We were given a traditional Ladakhi welcome with the hotel staff dressed in elaborate Ladakhi attire. This is not unusual in many places. Now what the hotel staff did to make our visit to Leh Ladakh special was to invite us to dress as Ladakhis and get our pictures clicked in traditional dresses. It was quite an experience to wear the elaborate colorful dresses and equally elaborate silver jewelry.
Video on the Bodhi Script of Ladakh
The hotel also invited a local teacher to teach us calligraphy in Ladakhi script which is a variant of Tibetan Script. It was fun to write my own name in a new language. All of us enjoyed our own little pieces of paper carrying our names. Learning is always such a joy.
I think the exercise brought us a bit closer to Ladakh through a small interface with their language.
The souvenir shop at the hotel is a good place to pick up some local souvenirs. I think everyone in our group picked up a local woolen cap and some of us picked up little trinkets in silver and turquoise.
Himalayan View Rooms
Rooms at the hotel give you an unobstructed view of the Himalayas. In the room I stayed in, I got a view of the Stok Kangri Range.
The fact that water in the taps is heated is an absolute luxury. This was coupled with the fact that toiletries kept in the washroom were all locally made – a lot of them from Apricot – the fruit that grows abundantly here.
They also have a gym, a sauna, and an activity area to keep yourself active and rejuvenated.
For details on their prices and other facilities, check out their website.
Recommend you to read the following places to visit in Ladakh and the Himalayan range.