Shangri-La's Stunning Gem: The ARRO KHAMPA HOTEL

Stepping into old-town Shangri-La, Tibet is like stepping into a fairy tale.

As I mentioned in my last blog, Shangri-La (formerly known as Gyalthang or Zhongdian in Chinese) is a 1,300-year-old Tibetan community selected by the Chinese government in 2001 as the location of the mythical Shangri-La from James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon. After reading about this place, I couldn’t wait to see this sanctuary above the clouds.

I wasn’t disappointed. Driving up the winding mountain roads to the High Tibetan Plateau you pass by silvery snow-covered mountain peaks, which are an unforgettable highlight. Following this are verdant grasslands where fluffy yaks graze under the sun.

Standing at just over 10,000’ the air is thin in Shangri-La, and the light is intense. I immediately noticed the difference in the light, and was curious about how that would affect my photographs.


Walking slowly up the narrow cobblestone streets of old-town, I was transported by the sound of voices singing a traditional Tibetan song. As we drew near, I realized it was the staff of the Arro Khampa hotel who were singing their welcome to us. I bowed my head in gratitude as they slipped a white silk scarf over my head, and ushered me inside.

Once all of us had been greeted, we were offered small cups of piping hot brown sugar and ginger tea which was mouth-wateringly delicious. I learned that ginger tea is a tonic to help you adjust to the altitude, but more than that it warms the soul, especially when you sip it seated next to a glowing stove.

While we savored our ginger tea, we listed to the ARRO KHAMPA Founder, Dakpa Kelden, talk about his journey creating this unique place, along with its sister property in Lijiang. Dakpa’s life story is fascinating and inspirational, and I felt lucky to hear him speak with such feeling about fullfilling life-long dreams and the preservation of traditional Tibetan culture.


ARRO KHAMPA is located right at the foot of Dukezong Temple with it’s magnificent Prayer Wheel, which marks the entrance to old-town, Shangri-La. The Temple is gorgeously illuminated at night, where it’s glowing golden views can been enjoyed from the hotel courtyard under the stars.

The architecture and interior design combine Dakpa’s vision of creating a 21st century version of the traditional tea caravan inn, with cultural touches like the heavy Nepalese door locks which I adored.

Luxurious and welcoming, the 17 rooms at ARRO KHAMPA are furnished with special details to ensure comfort, like the humidifier in the room, wi-fi, soft robes and slippers, and in-floor heating.

Arro Khampa means “Friend, I bid you welcome.
— Dakpa Kelden

I definitely would recommend that you plan a stay here, because the integrity of Dakpa’s vision for preserving Tibetan culture is apparent in every inch of the hotel. Also, the staff is so welcoming that I promise you’ll feel relaxed and at home from the moment you arrive, just as I did, until it’s time for you to return home….or continue your journey along the ancient Tea and Horse Road.

Yours truly wearing a traditional Tibetan dress on Jinlong Street right outside the ARRO KHAMPA Hotel. Photo via Douglas Beasley


Founder & Lead Travel Ambassador for OPEN AIR PLACES.  

My first time to Shangri-La was everything I hoped it would be, and staying at the ARRO KHAMPA HOTEL made it even sweeter. I definitely plan to return! Stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll be sharing more about the places I went, and the inspiration I found during my stay in stunning Shangri-La.

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