The Grand Shangri-La at Kalpa

I am not fussy about hotels. No, really I’m not. A clean room, a clean bathroom, a convenient and safe location, a restaurant with some decent vegetarian options… and I’m a happy and satisfied customer of that hotel. Everything else — air-conditioner, spa, multi-cuisine restaurants, gym, room with views, wi-fi, etc. — are only add-ons for me and their presence or absence is not a criteria for choosing a hotel.

Sure, I like 5-star and luxury hotels, but while very nice, posh and what not, they tend to overwhelm me. An occasional heritage hotel has been known to tempt me, but it’s always because of the story it has to say, rather than the facilities they offer. While travelling, I’m always more concerned about the place I’m visiting rather than the place I’m staying in. So a basic hotel works just as fine as a not-so-basic or more-than-basic hotel. Like I said, I’m not fussy.

But last September, during a trip to Himachal Pradesh, I stayed in a hotel where I had such a superlative experience that I was forced to admit that the place of stay also adds to the travel experience. And 6 months on, I can even say that my stay at this hotel is among the memories that come to mind whenever I think of that trip. The hotel that has spoiled me for ever is The Hotel Grand Shangri-La at Kalpa in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh.

The Grand Shangri-La, Kalpa, Hotel, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh
The Grand Shangri-La

The Grand Shangri-La is a family-run hotel situated at the foot of the Kinner Kailash mountain range and amidst apple trees with breathtaking views of the Kinner Kailash, Jorkhandam and Raldan peaks. A charming hotel with just 16 rooms, a restaurant, a rooftop café and a library (yes, a library!), The Grand Shangri-La is run by the warmest, nicest and most genial people I have ever come across and led by Prithvi Raj Negi, the Managing Director. Prithvi was a great host and readily shared with me the story of the hotel, his family background (he has Tibetan roots) and about Kinnaur and Himachal Pradesh.

Prithvi’s father and uncle fled Tibet in 1959 and made Kinnaur their home. Prithvi was born at Kalpa and received his education at Shimla and Chandigarh.The idea for a hotel actually started off as a house for Buddhist monks. But when this did not work out, the plans were changed to build a hotel in its stead. Construction began in 2007 and on 10 October 2010, The Grand Shangri-La was formally inaugurated by the 9th Drukpa Choengun Rinpoche Tenzin Choeykei Gyatso. The first national and international tourists were hosted in 2011 and within 2 years the hotel won Tripadvisor’s Travellers Choice Award in 2013 in the B&B category and was ranked 8th overall in India. (The full and fascinating background story of The Grand Shangri-La can be read here.)

The Grand Shangri-La, Kalpa, Hotel, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh
Waiting to welcome our group with ‘Khatas’ or Tibetan shawls

I stayed at The Grand Shangri-La for a memorable 3 days. The traditional welcome, the cozy rooms, simple and hearty food, the fruit juices that accompanied each meal (apple, peach, grape – red, white and black), locally sourced honey and jams served at breakfast, warm bedding, the faint aroma of pine that pervaded the hotel, the melodious Tibetan music played in the hotel, the views, the library… I can still recall every memory with pleasure. 😀

The Grand Shangri-La, Kalpa, Hotel, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh
View of the Kinner Kailash range from the 5th Floor Observation Deck
The Grand Shangri-La, Kalpa, Hotel, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh
After sunrise at The Grand Shangri-La
The Grand Shangri-La, Kalpa, Hotel, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh
Curtain outside each door embroidered with Tibetan symbols. Each floor has a different coloured curtain
The Grand Shangri-La, Kalpa, Hotel, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh
The top floor room, which houses the library, music room, café, observation deck… and where I spent most of my time at the hotel

When Prithvi mentioned that there was a library at The Grand Shangri-La, I had visions of one shelf full of books left by guests at the hotel. You know the usual pot-boilers, best sellers and maybe an occasional classic? I could not have been more wrong. The library collection is reaching the 1,000 mark and has both fiction and non-fiction books on travel, culture, literature, history, politics, Tibetan studies, Himachal Pradesh, etc. A large number of books are devoted to Buddhism. There are also autographed copies of authors who have stayed or passed by the hotel at some time or the other — HH the 17th Karmapa, HH 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche, Ashok Kothari, Deepak Sanan, among others.

Occupying pride of place in the library are the Kangyur or 108 textbooks on the holy commentaries of the Buddha. These were originally recorded in Pali and then translated into Sanskrit. Thanks to the Lotsawas or Tibetan translators, the commentaries have been translated into the Tibetan language.

The Grand Shangri-La, Kalpa, Hotel, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh
The Kangyur or holy commentary by the Buddha
The Grand Shangri-La, Kalpa, Hotel, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh
Tibetan Scriptures

The Grand Shangri-La Kalpa 4The library at The Grand-Shangri-La was set up entirely by one man — Indrajit Laurence Panjabi. On a visit to the hotel in 2012, Indrajit was so impressed with it and the people who were running it that he offered to set up the library himself. Today, the library at The Grand Shangri-La is a work in progress as the collection is growing slowly and steadily.

As you will have guessed, the library was THE highlight of my stay at The Grand Shangri-La. It drew me like a magnet and I spent maximum time in the hotel at the library browsing through the collection and listening to Tibetan music. I would sit out in the observation deck and read and watch the mighty Kinner Kailash mountain ranges in front of me. When it got too cold, I would come in and make myself comfortable on one of the seats with a bolster and a book. Prithvi used to be amused to see me there all the time and shared with me stories of other guests who would do the same.

Kinner Kailash, sunrise, Kalpa, Himachal Pradesh, The Grand Shanri-LaThis post took a long time to write as I could not find the right words and expressions* to convey the wonderful time I had and the warmth I experienced at The Grand Shangri-La. All I say is that, for me, travel is all about surprises and the unexpected; this stay was one of them and Prithvi and his team cannot be thanked enough for it. If you haven’t yet been convinced of what a wonderful place The Hotel Grand Shangri-La is, then let me assure you that the fault is all mine. 🙂

Note: *I’m still not satisfied with what I have written, but I have to stop somewhere and publish the blog post that I intended to write as soon as I got back to Mumbai 6 months back !

27 thoughts on “The Grand Shangri-La at Kalpa

  1. The Grand Shangri-La does sound like a wonderful, wonderful place to stay, and Prithvi does sound like an extremely warm host. The juices and locally sourced honey – ah! 🙂

    Loved the pic of the hotel amidst the trees, and that of the library. No wonder you decided to spend most of your time in that beautiful room. I would have been utterly fascinated too, and done the same.

    Your views about hotels in general are SO like mine. 🙂

    Tibetan music sounds interesting. I don’t think I have ever listened to some!

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    1. It is, TGND. In that sense the hotel lives up to the meaning of “Shangri-La”. 🙂

      If, no when, you go to Kalpa be sure to stay here and get a 4th floor room with a view of the Kinner Kailash range. You’ll never want to leave the place.

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  2. Grand Shangrila as Hotel n Prithvi Raj Negi n his cos r Shaan of Indian Philosophy of “Atithi Devo Vabo”. Our experience was speechless. We wont recmnd this place to every1 but to those who r passionate about travelling n njoy every moment of life. This is a Powerhouse of Positiv Energy n thanks to The Attic. Keep it up Prithvi. Our best wishes continue
    Pradip Gupta.

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    1. Welcome here Pradip and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.
      I would recommend this hotel to everyone, except for those with a physical disability. Climbing those stairs are not easy at all.

      I would echo you sentiment: keep up the good work, Prithvi and may the tribe of people who experience your hospitality grow 😉

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    1. Lavender, the Grand Shangri-La was grand where it mattered the most – genuine hospitality. And I loved it and would recommend this place to everyone who visits Kalpa as the place to stay. 🙂

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  3. The highlight of the Grand Shangri-La is no doubt the Library. And what a collection. With such ambiance, who will not want to read and gaze at the Kinner Kailash ranges.
    The breakfast reminds me of the experiences of the little investigators in Enid Blyton’s story books – the thrill of eating pure honest-to-goodness unadulterated food.
    By the way, did your eat Tibetan cuisine?

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    1. The Library made the trip extra-special, Neena. I would love to take a couple of months off and just go and chill at the library. In fact, winters would be lovely time to visit, don’t you think so?

      The honey was whitish in colour and looked nothing like the standard brown Dabur honey that I was used to. So I was quite suspicious of it initially. But a spoonful of that honey in my morning bowl of dalia porridge, elevated it to a delicious meal ! 🙂

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  4. I am sure to make this my residence in my next visit to Kinner Kailash. Appears like a simple hotel with many promising scenic views. Really admire your photography skills and the lovely pictures you have shared in this blog.

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    1. A very warm welcome to my blog, Sunita. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. And when you go to Kalpa, do stay at the Grand Shangri-La. The hospitality is unparalleled. Thank you very much for your kind words about my photography skills.

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  5. hotel shangri-la is not a hotel, its a complete paisa wasool place. one can experience not o nly the lip smacking food but also the best place to view the kinnar kailash mountain just at hand throw with the help of special binacollars gifted by german gentleman , will leave ones with golden memories in their heart forever.furthermore the hospitality given by owner shri prithvi raj is heart touching. so when you plan to kalpa & want to make your journey fruitful than shangri-la is best suited place to experience.

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    1. Hello Ishaan, welcome to my blog and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Kalpa and The Grand Shangri-La are synonymous for me and both are beautiful. Hope you get to visit both places soon.

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  6. Liked your account on Prithvi ji’s baby!!! (the grand shamba-la)…

    We are just back from Kalpa (were there on 20th/21st/22nd Apr 2016) – we are still in the hang of it and him…. We’ve been to a lot of places in our country and stayed at varied places – budget as well as expensive ones… but never did we come across anything like this – we are thinking about it at every conversation which happened ever since we came down from The Grand Shamba-La (earlier Shangri-la)….

    Right from the welcome with the silk scrolls with imprinted tibetan teachings and a glass of the purest of apple juices – Shamba-la intrigued us…. and prithvi ji is a one of a kind individual who has made sure that every individual who walks into his hotel either stays back for a longer period or comes back once again….. he is very meticulous in quality and has got a sophisticated taste in every bit in the property…..

    i just want to leave out the attic – because speaking even a single word about it would insult it….

    Yes, its a tad bit difficult for senior citizens or someone who’s having problems with the lower limbs to climb to the upper floors/attic – but still i hope prithvi ji might come up with a solution soon…..

    We got stunned when he invited us to a tour of kalpa on his own personal car – we had the most amazing time when we went around the place with the ‘owner of a hotel’…. in these times where getting support and help is unheard of from even our bloodlines – prithvi ji’s one of a kind thought-process floored us…..

    We have already put forward our plans of visiting there in the winters to prithvi ji – hopefully we can make it….

    Through your blog – i would like to send our best wishes to Team Grand Shamba-la, Kalpa for a great future ahead and the very best of the luck for Project Yeti (a lounge/bar/library)…

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  8. बहुत ही सुन्दर व दर्शनीय निर्माण कल्पना से भी अधिक है Grant Sangria very beautiful place at klpa really congratulations to Mr Prithvi Negi

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