Cradled in the mountainous embrace of the Indian Himalayas, Dolkhar is the Ladakhi resort owner’s ode to her grandmother – who once lovingly tended the apple and apricot orchards around which seven split-level villas now stand. The careful conversion of her family home and Ladakhi landscape-inspired interiors were the handiwork of local artisans, who will happily share their ancient crafting secrets with you over a cup of sea-buckthorn tea. Delve into plant-based dishes, drift into meditative bliss during guided breathwork, and discover rugged trails trodden by snow-leopards and pashmina-producing goats.
9am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 11am.
Double rooms from £287.55 (INR29,500), including tax at 18 per cent.
Rates include a seasonal breakfast spread of freshly-picked fruits from the orchard, local herbal teas, Indian coffee blends, and a selection of traditional savouries. A free steam room and sauna session is also included.
The mountain setting and split-level villas mean that the resort is virtually inaccessible for wheelchair-users.
At the hotel
Kitchen garden, orchard, Himalayas-facing terrace, doctor on-call, charged laundry service, and free WiFi. In rooms: smart TV, coffee machine, herbal-tea-making kit, oxygen support, and Bare Necessities organic bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Each of the seven duplex-level villas is a cocooning stay clad in locally made materials. The exposed emerald-green stone walls (sourced from the nearby village of Chilling) are softened by yak-wool throws, cushion covers, and earthy-coloured rugs which have been hand-woven by women from Kharnak. Every little detail has been carefully considered – including the two beautifully crafted wooden trunks at the foot of your bed, which hold extra blankets for chilly Himalayan nights. The views from your rabsal balcony across the fruit-tree-dotted courtyard towards the purple-tinged peaks are equally enchanting from every villa, and change quite dramatically with the seasons from snow-blanketed in winter to apricot- and apple-laden in the warmer months.
Like the rest of the resort, the spa is a soothing space which is rooted in Ladakhi traditions, using specially concocted oils, singing bowls and such… Ancient healing rituals are infused with local aromatic herbs, and guided-meditation sessions with breathwork ease you slowly into high-altitude life. The steam shower and sauna are perfect post-hike relaxation zones, to help warm weary muscles from mountainous treks. And there’s an alfresco activity deck for yoga classes to really get into the Himalayan flow.
Dolkhar’s connections with Ladakh’s creative community of potters, metal-workers, and weavers will make you want to save room in your suitcase for some hand-crafted treasures.
Accessing your villa is a bit of an art form. You’ll be given a hand-forged key to a traditional Ladakhi lock, turning an elaborate lever mechanism which will satisfyingly clunk into place.
Welcome, but tackling Himalayan trails and acclimatising to the high altitude is best left to older Smiths.
The Dolkhar villas are a top-to-bottom tribute to the landscape, community and culture of Ladakh. The plastic-free resort keeps everything hyper-local – the buildings are constructed using locally sourced materials (such as willow and poplar wood for the roofs), and supported by traditional columns and beams crafted by Ladakhi artisans from neighbouring villages (who also helped with the interiors). Bathrooms are stocked with eco-friendly products from zero-waste, community-driven brand Bare Necessities, recycled toilet paper from Good Karma, and locally made soaps by Leh-based Ladags Organic Store (using hand-picked apples, apricots and sea buckthorn). Ladakhi wooden barrels (known as dzems) have been repurposed as dustbins, and the resort works with PAGIR (People’s Action Group of Inclusion and Rights) which creates socially-responsible employment for locals with disabilities who transform waste into the stationery and laundry bags you’ll find in your villa. Old tree stumps around the property were given new life as rustic side-tables, and the reception lights are made from left-over wood waste from the villas’ construction. The vegetarian restaurant is also a sustainable showcase for plant-based, nature-inspired, seasonal ingredients gathered from the surrounding valley.
Ask for one of the rustic wooden tables by the Himalayas-facing windows.
A haute take on hiking gear – pitch up, look sharp.
Tsas (which translates as ‘garden’ in Ladakhi) is where vegetarians go to dine in high-heaven beneath locally woven lanterns. The menu is entirely plant-based, and is almost exclusively supplied by the resort’s kitchen garden (other ingredients which can’t be home-grown are sourced from neighbouring farmers and small mountain villages). There are hints of Japanese, Spanish and French influence at play here, but Ladakhi flavours always shine on each plate. Hungry hikers can fuel up on hearty chutagi (a local shell-shaped pasta) stuffed with ricotta and garden greens, and served with an arabiatta-inspired sauce. The Lucknow-style vegetarian Galouti kebabs (made with local turtle beans and apricot-chilli chutney from the orchards) are an absolute crowd-pleaser. For a lighter end to your meal, order the chuli almond tart, a citrus-sweet tangy treat topped with apricots and lemon meringue. For an elevated mountainside experience, the seven-course chef’s tasting menu is a must-try.
Cresting the resort’s top floor, Dolkhar’s bar (open daily between noon and 10pm) is the height of sophistication – with stonkingly good views to match the mountain-inspired palette inside. Exclusively reserved for villa guests, you’ll never have to fight for a front-row seat to watch the sun sink over the snow-capped peaks. Happy hours run from 4pm to 6pm each Wednesday, when you can quench your thirst with sea-buckthorn-spiked martinis and scotch infused with smoked naas (Ladakhi barley) – though we’d recommend drinking in moderation at altitude to avoid what we call the Himalayan hangover.
Breakfast is from 8am to 10am, lunch from noon to 3pm, the all-day-dining menu from 3pm to 7pm, and dinner from 7pm to 10.15pm.
Vegetarian delights are delivered to your villa between 8am and 10pm.
Tucked into the tranquil Tukcha quarter of Ladakh’s capital city of Leh, Dolkhar is a high-altitude hideaway in the rugged, remote Indian Himalayas.
International travellers should fly into New Delhi, then take a connecting 90-minute flight to Leh’s airport, Kushok Bakula Rimpochee (which is a 10-minute drive from the resort).
Self-drive car rentals aren’t an option in Ladakh, so you’ll need to hire taxis for further afield sightseeing – the hair-raising mountain roads are best left to local drivers to navigate anyway.
Worth getting out of bed for
You’ll be in safe hands with Dolkhar’s travel desk, a team of local experts who create bespoke itineraries from a dizzying array of lesser-trodden day-trips and activities. Weave your own pashmina from goat wool with the nomadic women of Kharnakling, learn how to throw clay the Ladakhi way in ceramic classes with father-son potters Ajang Tsepal and Rigzin in Likir, or take the short trek to Sumdha, a village of metal-workers, for a welding workshop.
Arts and crafts aside, the resort can organise guided hikes taking you up and over some of the most scenic Himalayan trails, past Buddhist monasteries and fluttering prayer-flags. Unravel the layers of Silk Road history on the Pashmina Trail, which follows in the footsteps (or hoof-prints) of Changra goat herds – highly-coveted for their ‘soft-gold’ wool which has been spun as cashmere for centuries. Go in search of the hidden village of Henasku along the history-steeped Leh-Kargil highway, or seek out the Gangchenmo glacier – a flower-filled summer route which takes you past the paradisiacal Sapi Lake. Wildlife lovers should ask about visits to Drenmo Lodge in off-grid Mushkoh Valley, where rare Himalayan brown bears roam the rugged slopes, along with Tibetan wolves, red foxes, and the occasional elusive snow leopard.
For an authentic taste of Ladakhi cuisine, we’d recommend making the 90-minute drive to Alchi Kitchen. Homemade dishes like mok mok (traditional dumplings) floating in spiced vegetable broths, wild garlic-stuffed Khambir bread, and apricot-jam-slathered chocolate momos (deep-fried local delicacies) are whipped up by an all-women team next door to a ninth-century monastery. In Leh itself, try Bon Appetit – a small restaurant (with a short but seasonal menu) which mostly draws on its kitchen garden to flavour home-cooked dishes including mutton shapta (a Tibetan-style stir-fry) and chilli-packed baba ganoush.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this mountain-encircled cluster of villas in the Himalayas and unpacked their hand-woven pashminas and herbal tea, a full account of their sky-high stay will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Dolkhar in Ladakh…
Named in honour of her grandmother, Dolkhar has been dreamt up by owner Rigzin Wangmo Lachic after many summer holidays spent on this very plot of Leh land – originally bordered by barley and buckwheat fields. Fond memories of her grandmother planting and watering the fruit trees (which still blossom each spring with apricots, apples and walnuts), and tending her flocks of yak and sheep stay with Lachic to this day – and have instilled a strong sense of nostalgia for the traditional Ladakhi way of life throughout the 150-year-old family home.
The hyper-local, eco-conscious construction and curation of the seven villas are a testament to these traditions – 60-something local architect Angchuk (who has been building monasteries in Ladakh since his teens) hand-laid the exposed talu idungma (poplar tree-trunks) ceilings, and a second-generation woodworker from Matho village hand-carved every beam and pillar supporting the hotel using the ancient Mak Idu and Kaju techniques. Pebbles were hand-picked from the banks of the Indus and placed in the showers, the slate on the terrace is sourced from Tanglang La (one of the world’s highest mountain passes), and the maroon tint to the walls is thanks to red clay from Basgo. Every little detail is Ladakhi through and through, beautifully combining past and present in an authentic, artisanal stay designed to stand the test of time.