The Shangri-La hotel group may have found its worthiest namesake in this Lhasa venture. Lucky them — around these parts, the Himalayan landscape does the heavy lifting, and any halfway-decent hotel could draw tourist traffic with judiciously placed windows. Lucky for us, this hotel goes far beyond halfway. It’s largely predicated on the business-class luxury chain model, sure, but a beating Tibetan heart persists behind it all, especially in the design philosophy and the cuisine.
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First things first: acclimatization is an absolute must at 12,000 feet. Tempting as it is to go straight for the cocktails, you’d do better to visit the on-site health clinic or the 24-hour oxygen lounge beforehand (not just a gimmick — trust us, it helps). Once your head’s on straight, you can twist it right back off at Shambala, the hotel’s tapas-and-cocktails bar with a garden terrace, or Lodgers Lounge, the gorgeously chandeliered and high-ceilinged tea bar with truly stupefying views of the mountains. For heartier fare, Shang Palace melds Cantonese and Sichuan cuisine in an intimate setting, while Altitude maintains an all-day international buffet with live cooking stations.
Shangri-La’s 262 rooms and 17 suites make ample use of rich Tibetan visual details, balancing earthy golds and ochres with vivid striping and intricately patterned textiles. Captivating filigrees smarten up lighting fixtures and foot chests, while the ivory-hued walls and dark woods lend a peaceful, meditative quality that ties it all together. Downstairs, a fully equipped gym, swimming pool, and spa await should you need to mix some action into all that stillness. Opt for the Horizon Club for dedicated concierge service, a private lounge, and complimentary breakfast and evening cocktails.
Beyond the Shangri-La’s doors, Lhasa is rich with rewarding finds for your inner explorer. The Potala and Norbulingka palace complexes, respectively the former winter and summer residences of the Dalai Lama, are both within walking distance. Two of Tibet’s holy lakes are within a day’s journey, not to mention the abundance of monasteries with more than 13 centuries of priceless historical artifacts. Roof of the world, heart of the Himalayas, land of the gods — whatever you call this mountain paradise, you’re sure to satisfy your loftiest ambitions here.