Best of Rajasthan: Collection of Forts, Palaces, Havelis and Desert Camps

Most of International outbound travellers in India are stuck at home, not able to continue to explore and discover the world due to COVID-19 global travel lockdowns, Govt. restrictions, border closures, quarantine measures and most importantly a possible threat of another lock-down with risk of getting stuck in a foreign country.

Back at home in India, we have hidden gems which not only offer similar or better Luxuries (like overseas destinations), in terms of Hotels, services and safety, but also immersive experiences, which in most part exceed expectations in terms of authenticity and deeper engagements with our people, culture, heritage, nature and places in India.

This presents an opportunity for discerning travellers to explore India and continue to satisfy their need for travel, and discover local regions in their own country.

So here I present culturally rich Rajasthan, from its sand dunes of the Thar desert in the north to the rugged hills of the southeast, Rajasthan’s geography and scenery is as colorful and diverse as its history and culture. The sheer number of iconic palace, forts and havelis Rajasthan has to offer makes the state one of the most fascinating in India.

Beyond the cities however lie the rural heartlands of the countryside, with local markets and a way of life that hasn’t changed in centuries. A complete destination in its own right, Rajasthan is a truly magical experience.

Below is my signature selection of the best palaces, forts, havelis and desert camps in Rajasthan which are not only luxurious but also experiential, off-beat, off the grid, and unique.

I have excluded the obvious choice of Uber-Luxury hotels in Rajasthan owned and managed by our award winning Indian Hotel chains like the Taj, Oberoi, and the Leela Group.

I have tried to feature other properties which belong to smaller chains and mainly independent, boutique, off-the grid choices, but at the same time very unique, exclusive, authentic, and experiential.

Image Credit: The Nomadic People

Rajasthan:

Jaipur and near-by:

The Rajmahal Palace:

Rajmahal Palace is one of the oldest and most treasured palaces in Jaipur. Located at the heart of Rajasthan’s bustling capital it is an enclosed oasis, secluded in beautiful verdant gardens. It’s tall bay windows, mirrored doors and wonderful interiors allow guests to be transported to a new era of 21st century regal living.

The Palace offers just 13 rooms and suites, including two magnificent Royal apartments. The wallpapers, specially created for each room, tell the many stories of Jaipur making sure there is something to suit everyone.

Alila Fort Bishangarh:

The original fort is left intact, with much care given to ecological restoration and the reconstruction of new residential areas, to recreate the courtly flavour of Shahpura’s royalty. The grandeur is felt in its stark and inherent simplicity that has withstood the test of time through its fortification.

Perhaps the only warrior fort that has been converted into a heritage resort, Alila Fort Bishangarh is a unique example of the Jaipur Gharana architecture influenced by both the Mughals and the British.

This all-suite resort boasts 59 stately rooms and suites that are designed for quiet indulgence. Each suite is individually created to capture the stunning views. Its spacious interiors are elegantly furnished with large bay windows and day – beds, expansive bathrooms with footed bathtubs, luxury bedding and room amenities, comfortably accommodating a family of four.

Samode Haveli:

The 175 year old townhouse of the rulers of Samode, the Samode Haveli is a gem in the heart of the walled city of Jaipur. The formal royal apartments have been converted into luxury suites that reflect the rich cultural history of the property. Set within a leafy garden with private courtyards and fountains, the Haveli is a tranquil haven away from the bustling city streets of Jaipur.

The hotel’s 39 rooms and suites are each individually designed. They are elegantly designed adorned with mosaics and painted arches, old hunting photographs, family portraits and other historic artefacts giving you a glimpse into what royal life was like.

Facilities at Samode Haveli include a spa, an outdoor pool surrounded by traditional Indian day beds and a wading pool for children. There’s also a fitness centre, jacuzzi and steam room.

Royal Heritage Haveli:

Full of regal style and splendour, Royal Heritage Haveli is a former royal hunting lodge sympathetically restored to provide spacious suite accommodation full of character and charm on the outskirts of Jaipur (only 5km west of the city center).

It offers regally-inspired suite accommodation that echoes the privileged world of Maharaja living of a bygone era. Rambling lawns, peaceful courtyards and plush interiors offers guests a wonderfully serene ambience just east of the Pink City of Jaipur.

This property is full of character and retains a regal quality with interiors showcasing sweeping archways, hand-painted frescoes, intricate tilework, decorative columns and sumptuous fabrics. These architectural features and traditional Indian styling are extended throughout the 19 suites. Still run by family members of the original Maharaja, guests can expect a warm welcome and wonderful hospitality during their stay.

There are 18 suites and one Signature Suite which offers apartment-style living with a large private terrace, living and dining room, spacious bathroom, sleeping up to two adults and two children under six-years old.

Each suite has been individually-furnished with traditional furnishings to complement the original architectural features and are awash with natural light and plush fabrics including silks and velvets. The bathrooms are generously-sized and standard amenities include air-conditioning, Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV and minibar.

Anopura:

This gorgeous little oasis sits in very pretty farmland and woodland just 1 hour from Jaipur by the village of Ramgarh. Surrounded by fields and low hills, it’s an oasis of calm and serenity.

There are 2 villas which each have their own pool and lovely covered verandah / lunching area / shady chill out zone, replete with comfy daybeds and cushions. Built of warm, local stone, the villas each have a pretty central courtyard with the bedrooms, sitting room and dining room fanning off.

The bedrooms are all different – some smaller and cosy, others larger and airy and spacious – and have been beautifully, rustically, simply but very comfortably furnished.

47 Jobner Bagh:

47 Jobner Bagh is a luxury Guest House situated in the center of Jaipur just beyond the walled city. This home away from home, is a perfect blend of traditional beauty and modern comfort in a simple setting. The owner Shiva Gujar has been in the jewelry business for many years and has created this charming 12 bedroom guest house for friends and visitors alike.

The interiors have been elegantly styled with whitewashed jail walls, sunlit interiors and well loved antiques. Bedrooms have antique tables, colonial style chairs and antique doors as headboards. All the bathrooms all have a Moroccan feel with tadelakt plastered walls and floors.

Samode Palace:

Samode Palace is a magnificent example of Rajput-Mughal architecture and is undoubtedly one of Rajasthan’s finest palace hotels. Formerly the regal home of the Samode Family, the palace was in a tragic state of repair before the inspired Samode brothers decided to put their life, heart and soul into restoring it and bringing it back to life.

One of the first palaces to be restored and converted into a hotel, Samode Palace has been re-born and is now an outstanding boutique hotel. History is everywhere here and part of the hotel is open for exploration and taking a wander through the extraordinarily beautifully painted, arched rooms.

With exquisite frescoes and mirror-work throughout the property, the traditional yet modern bedrooms and suites are fabulous. It offers 43 rooms, including 23 suites.

A large, sprawling palace with endless different wings, terraces, courtyards and levels, the dreamy rooms are scattered all over the building and each is gorgeous, colourful, Rajasthani and unique. The ingenious bathrooms are equally fun, well-equipped and stylish.

The vast Royal Suites, with their balconies and Jacuzzis, are more like ‘homes’ than rooms, and the sort of place you simply don’t want to move out of.

Samode Palace is set on the outskirts of Jaipur, a 50-minute drive from the centre of town.

Six Senses Fort Barwara: (opening 15th October 2021)

Six Senses Fort Barwara has been developed within a 700-year-old fort overlooking the village of Chauth ka Barwara, in Rajasthan. Previously owned by the Rajasthani Royal Family, the fort was constructed in the 14th century by the Chauhans and sits opposite the temple of Chauth ka Barwara Mandir.

There are 48 suites ranging from 753 square feet (70 square meters) to 3,014 square feet (280 square meters). The East Wing overlooks the countryside and the West Wing offers views to Barwara village and beyond. Each accommodation is designed in contemporary Rajasthani style, reinterpreting the fort’s rich history while subtly incorporating state-of-the-art technology along with handmade mattresses, cotton bedding, and all the fundamentals for a good night’s sleep.

The three restaurants take you on a culinary journey of specialized Rajasthani-inspired fresh, sustainable cuisine.

The 30,000 square foot (2,800 square meters) Six Senses Spa and fitness center is located within the original women’s palace and both temples. It offers an extensive Ayurvedic “whole body” healing system, meditation, and personalized wellness programs based on the preventative principles of Eastern medicine and result-oriented Western influences.

Guests will be offered daily safari drives to Ranthambore National Park (30 minutes drive from the resort), famous for its tiger population as well as leopard, nilgai, wild boar, sambar, sloth bear, rhesus macaque and other wildlife, birds and reptiles.

Six Senses Fort Barwara is a three-hour drive from Jaipur and a 30-minute drive from Ranthambore National Park, where you can go in search of the region’s wild tigers.

Shekhavati:

Deeppura Garh:

This majestic, 200 year old fort sits on the edge of the quiet village of Deeppura just 15 mins from Sikar and 1 hour from Nawalgarh and Dunlod, in the heart of Shekhavati. It is 3 hrs drive from Jaipur.

It is surrounded by farmland and has lovely views. Deeppura Garh has been entirely restored from ruin by the delightful and talented Italian owner Maria Grazia Baldani and the inimitable interior / architectural designer Phillippe de Villegas.

Sensitively and brilliantly returned to its former glory, Deeppura Garh opens its doors to guests with a hugely warm welcome and 10 gorgeous, chic, cool, sophisticated rooms and suites. It’s a rambling property which abounds with roof terraces, secret gardens, flower-filled courtyards, a huge pool and pool garden, shady gazebos, and beautifully landscaped areas.

Throughout the property original frescoes, stunningly painted hidden rooms, and splashes of vibrant colour make it fun and exciting to explore. With the large pool and tibari (gazebo) in the garden, it has an almost Mediterranean feel to it – western chic meets Rajasthani tradition.

Sapotra, District Karauli:

Ramathra Fort:

This dreamy little hotel lies in a beautifully unspoilt and pretty area of eastern Rajasthan, south-east of Jaipur (4 hrs drive) and nestled between Ranthambore and Keoladeo National Parks.

The 350 year old Ramathra Fort was originally the 17th Century stronghold of the Jadoan Rajputs and today belongs to their descendants, who have devotedly restored this unique fort and it now oozes charm and warmth, beguiling all who stay here. It sits on a mound, surrounded by farmland, wilderness, lakes, gorges, plateaus and hillocks.

The views are spectacular and even during the driest months, the area remains green and the lake retains its water.

Accommodation comprises of 6 rooms (twin and double) and 6 garden tents (twin & double). The six tents are scattered around the perimeter of the garden inside the ramparts.

The 6 rooms (including 2 suites) are on the first and second floor of the main fort and have spectacular views out over the farmland and forest below. The use of Karauli stone and traditional construction techniques upholds an authentic sophistication while not compromising on luxury and comfort.

Jodhpur and near-by:

RAAS Jodhpur:

This glorious hotel lies at the foot of the mighty Meherangarh Fort, in the heart of Jodhpur’s Walled City. It is the only luxury hotel in the old town and the views of the fort above are quite spectacular.

The hotel has forty rooms and suites, each of which had been constructed to their distinctive design principles. Their signature style balances the historic charm of the original Rajput residence and the sleekness and simplicity of contemporary design.

Modern artwork and age-old pink sandstone blend in perfect combination, interspersed with polished black terrazzo and flashes of Jodhpur blue. This magical atmosphere allows guests to enjoy the royal splendor of bygone years, whilst simultaneously being treated to the luxuries of the modern age. Each room boasts ample space and luxury amenities.

The Rohet House:

This 375-year-old fortified desert home of the descendants of the Rathores lies on the banks of a small lake teeming with birdlife, just 45 mins south of Jodhpur. The Singh family still reside here and run the hotel, restored in traditional Rajput style and filled with historic trophies and delightful details.

This gorgeous home has 10 elegant rooms and suites and is situated in the new town of historic Jodhpur. Spread over 3 floors, roof terraces abound and look over the small garden and pretty pool area.

For chilly winter nights there’s a wonderful, cosy, comfy sitting room whilst the shady, pillared verandah leading out to the pool is the perfect place to relax on warm spring days – a welcome respite after the intensity of exploring Jodhpur.

In addition to these inviting areas, there are plenty of shady nooks and crannies to tuck yourself away for a peaceful moment with a book. The detail, perfection and love that has gone into the design, décor and furnishings is clear to see. With the famous blush red Jodhpur stone and soft hues throughout, everything is easy on the eye and it’s a hugely soothing place to stay. It exudes an extraordinary sense of calm and makes for the most wonderful ‘homecoming’ after exploring the busy but fascinating city of Jodhpur.

Ratan Vilas:

Ratan Vilas Jodhpur, a heritage hotel today, was once the private home of Maharaj Ratan Singh.

It is a restored heritage mansion located just outside the walls of central Jodhpur yet within easy reach of the sights. The property serves both as a family home as well as a guesthouse and offers a peaceful stay in the blue city.

Ratan Vilas is a small friendly, family run hotel family run by a family of polo enthusiasts. The property definitely feels like a home with lots of family antiques and memorabilia but at the same time offers comfort with air-conditioned, en suite rooms each of which are individually decorated, spacious and feature antique furniture along with beautiful Indian fabrics.

The hotel has just twenty rooms in total of which the rooms overlooking the pool come highly recommended. The hotel also features a lovely pool area for relaxing by when you are not exploring the blue-city.

Ratan Vilas is a great property for those who appreciate true Rajput hospitality and the owning family (the grandson of the Maharaja who built it) are often on sight.

Bal Samand Lake Palace:

This 17th Century Red Sandstone Bal Samand Palace is located in the ancient capital of Marwar, Mandore, just 8 km outside the centre of Jodhpur.

Built by Mahajara Jaswant Singh I of Jodhpur at the peak of the Rathore rule, Bal Samand is a fine example of Mughal architecture, with extensive pleasure gardens, designed to create an oasis away from the fierce Marwar extremities.

The Palace is set within 60 acres of lime and pomegranate orchards and landscape gardens, which lead up to the promenade overlooking the 12th Century reservoir. In more recent times a tradition has developed with the Royal Family celebrating the first rains in Bal Samand, a custom which has led to the palace being referred to as a Monsoon Palace.

The Palace features ten suite bedrooms (only the Maharani suite is lake facing), all decorated in the traditional Jodhpur style. Traditional seating areas, dining alcoves, period furniture and spacious bathrooms offer spectacular views of the lake and gardens.

Mihir Garh:

This superb “Fortress of the Sun” overlooks the Thar desert, right in the heart of Rajasthan, 45-minutes south of Jodhpur. Mihir Garh is designed throughout by Sidhart Singh and his wife Rashmi, was born out of their desire to share this heaven on earth.

The fortress mirrors the architecture of the local villages, with its rounded edges, open fireplaces and alcoves, and the colour of the stone merges seamlessly with the surrounding sand. Mihir Garh stands as a tribute to this land swept by the desert winds and has been designed as an eco-friendly hotel.

The fort holds nine magnificent suites. Each one is more than 1700 square feet of pure luxury. Private Jacuzzi’s or plunge pools with each suite, re-define the word indulgence. Numerous alcoves, lounges and common areas commanding spectacular views have been designed to experience intimacy – with yourself and another.

Reggies Camel Camp Osian:

Reggies Camel Camp is an easy 60 Km drive from Jodhpur. With expansive views of the mighty Thar desert on one side and the ancient 8th century temple town of Osian on the other, Reggie’s Camel Camp, the original luxury tented camp in India, offers an unappalled experience of rural Rajasthan.

Venturing out on camel or jeep, one can meet the proud local tribes, the Bishnois and Bhils, potters and weavers and shepherds in their natural surroundings, not to mention the various varieties of desert wildlife such as blue bulls, gazelles, foxes, peacocks and partridges.

Enjoy your desert camping experience in spacious, custom designed tents with ceiling to floor cotton netted front opening allowing for maximum ventilation while giving you sweeping views of the dunes. Each tent has a large en-suite bathroom with fully plumbed w/c, hand basin and shower. The interiors have been furnished in colonial style with ethnic accents.

To guarantee an uninterrupted night’s sleep, the tent structure is stitched to the groundsheet ensuring you will not be visited by any uninvited creepy crawlies.

Unique Experience: You also have an option of combining your stay at Reggie’s permanent Camp Osian with an overnight Private Mobile Camp Camel Safari.

Samsara Desert Camp and Resort:

Samsara is an alluring oasis amidst the endless dunes of the Thar. Beautifully landscaped exteriors compliment creative interiors. Carefully laid out water bodies of moats and fountains, around the property provide that soothing ambience for a perfect get-away from the pandemonium of the city.

The Campsite at Samsara offers 21 luxury tents with en-suite bathrooms, a dining tent with bar, bonfire and evening entertainment.

The luxury tents have vibrant block-printed interiors complimented by carefully designed and locally crafted furniture and rugs showcasing the rich heritage of Rajasthan. All tents come with en-suite bathrooms that have been designed for uttermost comfort using high end hardware accessories.

It also offers a Desert Lounge which is a specially crafted mobile lounge that encourages time out from the traditional camping experience.

The location of The Campsite offers an idyllic backdrop for magical evenings. Dinner under the stars, on the dunes set amongst hundreds of flickering lanterns accompanied by the evening entertainment of narratives by the local bards and folk dancers will leave you mesmerized and wanting for more.

It is located 120 Kms from Jodhpur.

Unique Experience: At the campsite, you have the option of a private dining setup on the dunes or our specially crafted blue pottery dining tent.

Nagaur:

Ranvas:

This stunning hotel lies within the ramparts of Nagaur’s magnificent Ahhichatracharh Fort, on the edge of the Thar Desert, 3hrs drive from Jodhpur.

Each of the ten refurbished havelis has been named after one of the ranis and has two or three bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms and a private courtyard. The suites on the first floor open on to a private terrace. At present Ranvas comprises 27 rooms in total, a swimming pool and two charming restaurants.

They have all been decorated in soft colours and entirely in keeping with their origins, use and design, whilst at the same time modern bathrooms, comforts and amenities have been installed.

There can be few places in the world where one stays in one’s own, virtually private fort, where one can take an evening stroll all around the ramparts, gazing down on busy city life outside the walls. By day, wander through a gate, and enter a world of years gone by to explore the fort, unhassled.

Playing host to the World Sufi Festival each February it transforms into a bustling tented village and comes alive with music, song and dance – truly inspirational.

Pali:

RAAS Chhatrasagar:

About two hours from Jodhpur, on the dam of a reservoir, RAAS Chhatrasagar stays true to the heritage of this corner of Rajasthan, where local nobles entertained guests in luxurious tented camps and savoured the unspoiled landscape, birdlife and big skies.

The 20 luxury tents are placed in a line along the top of the dam, so they share equal front-row waterside views.

Since Raas Hotel Group renovated them in 2019, the tents are now larger, better soundproofed, more private, and lavishly equipped. With heating and air-con for year-round comfort, as well as kingsize beds and deep bathtubs, they feel more like luxury canopied palaces.

You get soft pillows, tea and coffee facilities, and private outdoor seating (front and back) so you can lounge around watching birds skimming over the water and antelope grazing on the jungle-fringed banks beyond.

Modern bathrooms have shower or tub (with hot and cold running water), bathrobes and slippers. After dinner on a cool winter’s night, you’ll find your bed pre-warmed by a welcome hot-water bottle placed between the sheets.

Chanoud Garh:

The charming Chanoud Garh occupies a 300 year old palace and is both intimate and elegant. This delightful family-run hotel can be found within the heart of India’s Rajasthan, in the village of Chanoud, and provides a fascinating insight into the daily lives of the area’s friendly villagers. A stay here enables you to interact with the locals and will give you a real sense of being at home despite being a million miles away.

The hotel is a 2-hour 15-minute drive from Jodhpur and around a 3-hour drive from Udaipur.

With a unique blend of Mewar, Mawar and Raj era architecture, Chanoudgarh offers 10 expansive suites, all furnished with charming antique and contemporary furniture. 

Several rooms are inspired by the architecture of the Victorian era, as they were built during the colonial rule, for weary British travelers seeking a comfortable stay during their hunting expeditions. All rooms have en-suite facilities and a private lounge area.

Manwar:

Manwar Resort and Desert Camp:

MANVAR is an Eco-friendly Desert Tented Camp & Resort in the heart of the Great Indian “Thar” Desert between Jodhpur & Jaisalmer. Its an ideal place to explore Desert life, Culture, Wildlife and Nature. The closest airport is located in Jodhpur, which is 110 kms from the Resort, approx. 90 mins.

On one hand is the Manvar Desert Resort, built in traditional desert village style with eco-friendly innovations. On the other hand, and even more precious in today’s commercialized world – lies Manvar Camp a tented camp seven kilometers from the resort in the midst of the Thar desert, a rare sanctuary of pristine beauty, tranquility and solitude.

Manvar Resort :
21 air-conditioned rooms: 11 Standard, 06 Superior, 04 Deluxe Suites
Restaurant serving both A La Carte & Buffet meals
Outdoor Swimming Pool
Book Shop & Craft Shop

Manvar Desert Camp :
30 standard tents with attached toilets with running hot and cold water
Central Dining Tent providing meals on a fixed plan
Fans are provided in each of the tents and in winters blowers are provided

Manvar Luxury Camp:
10 air conditioned Luxury tents with attached modernized toilets
A Dining tent providing meals on a fixed plan
Heated blowers in winter and fans/aircon in summers

Unique Experience: Besides above stay options, which are permanent locations, for an exclusive desert luxury experience, you can opt for a night at the Manvar Private Mobile Camp. A private staff will set up an airy two-person tent and facilities in an isolated location, giving you the opportunity to experience the wonders of the desert with gourmet dining and comfortable amenities in an intimate, quiet setting.

Udaipur and near-by:

Shiv Niwas Palace:

The crescent-shaped palace was built in the early 20th century, in the reign of Maharana Fateh Singh (period of reign: 1884-1930), and has been meticulously maintained and preserved for guests like you. The palace was reserved exclusively for visiting dignitaries and guests of the House of Mewar.

Today it is a Grand Heritage Palace for guests, combining the elegance of the last century with modern 21st century amenities.

The Shiv Niwas Palace offers thirty-six opulent suites and rooms, some with beautiful balconies looking directly out onto the Lake Pichola. Each room has a unique décor, furniture, and on the walls there are original portraits of the royal ancestors dating back throughout the ages.

There is a large private terrace to relax on and watch the world go by. Staying at the Shiv Niwas Palace, is an opportunity to experience the lifestyle of the maharajas, in this palace of living history, luxury, architecture and the finest cuisine.

Fateh Garh:

Fateh Garh is a wonderfully understated hotel with stunning views over the surrounding countryside, in the Aravalli Hills just outside the beautiful city of Udaipur.

This fantastic little heritage hotel is located outside of Udaipur (20 mins drive), set up in the surrounding Aravalli Hills, with stunning views of Udaipur in the distance, the nearby lakes, as well as the countryside.

The property was relocated stone by stone, pillar by pillar, from a heritage structure, a process of heritage renaissance. It therefore mixes the rich architectural heritage with modern facilities in an understated style and there are traditional values overseen by the host family who still reside at Fateh Garh.

Fateh Garh has 48 rooms and suites which feel spacious and airy. There are 38 Renaissance Rooms which measure 350sqft, seven Heritage Chambers, and three Fateh Garh Suites which measure 500sqft.

Bujera Fort:

Located just outside Udaipur, Bujera Fort is a charming fortress in Rajasthan’s Aravali hills, on the west side of Lake Pichola. Although it has been newly built, there is a feeling about the property that it has been around for centuries.

British owners Trish McFarlane and interior designer Richard Hanlon have created a stylish and sophisticated luxurious retreat, steeped in old-world charm and character, just 15 minutes from Udaipur and forty minutes from Udaipur airport.

Constructed with hand-carved stone columns and salvaged vintage window frames and doors, the property comprises the main Bujera Fort building (with two master suites and five cloister bedrooms) and two smaller houses, Bujera House (with four bedrooms) and Bujera Bungalow (with four bedrooms), which can be booked separately as self-contained units. With a home-from-home atmosphere the bedrooms combine the feel of an English country house with classic fabric patterns, interspersed with Indian antiques.

Built on two levels, this blushing pale pink fortress is set around beautiful flower filled Mogul gardens with cloistered lawns, charming courtyards, glistening fountains, a heated swimming pool and plunge pools. This property has the makings of a magical home-from-home in a heavenly location with views overlooking Udaipur, Lake Pichola the City Palace, the Lake Palace, the Monsoon Palace and Fateh Garh Castle.

Raffles Udaipur:

Raffles Udaipur is located 20 minutes from the airport, from where you’ll need a short boat ride to reach this expansive property that features beautifully manicured, ornamental gardens and panoramic views of the surrounding hills, a tranquil lake, and a 400-year-old temple.

It is located on a 21-acre private island in the middle of the serene Udai Sagar lake.

There are 101 luxurious rooms, suites, and signature suites that boast western décor plus elements of Mughal architecture. Guestrooms have uninterrupted lake views, private gardens, balconies, plunge pools, and an east-west design aesthetic with murals, handcrafted furniture, and other crafts by local artisans.

The property features the famous Raffles Long Bar and Writers Bar, a 1,100 sqm Raffles Spa, a rooftop restaurant, all day dining restaurant, swimming pool, and sprawling deck and gardens.

RAAS Devigarh:

One of India’s most sublime ‘boutique’ hotels, this glorious 18th century, hilltop fort/palace is a little gem, hidden away in the Aravalli Hills, just north of Udaipur. Having been painstakingly restored from ruin, it is a luxurious, all suite ‘palace’ hotel – but one with a difference!

RAAS Devigarh is a quiet oasis, a 45-minute drive from Udaipur, which allows you to rest in peace and enjoy the swimming pool, hot tub, gardens, fitness centre, spa and delightful views.

RAAS Devigarh offers 39 unique suites, each unmatched by any other hotel experience in Udaipur. Seamlessly melding contemporary luxury with ancient beauty, each suite comes with free wi-fi, a minibar, tea and coffee making facilities, and a room service menu.

The Garden Suites are the most modest but no less magical. For many of it’s repeat guests, they become a preference – beloved for their chic simplicity and lovely outdoor patios. The Palace And Aravalli Suites are often a must for first-time visitors – each is different, but all are magically romantic with soul-stirring views over the surrounding countryside and a sense of old-world Rajasthani mystery.

For the ultimate in both privacy and luxury, opt for The Devigarh Suite, complete with its own swimming pool.

Mountbatten Lodge:

Mountbatten Lodge is an opulent 4 suite hideaway nestled in a ruggedly scenic valley and bordered by the Kumbalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, 80 Kms from Udaipur.

You get to experience two of the most important historical sites in the country on your doorstep – the famous Ranakpur Jain Temples and the mighty Kumbalgarh Fort (famous for having the second longest wall after the great wall of China).

The Lodge provides a luxurious base from which to experience the true essence of Rajasthan – horse riding or horse trekking through jungle trails, leopard and jeep safaris, sundowners in the mountains, and interacting with local villagers.

Each of the four suites are superbly furnished with a private plunge pool, enormous four-poster beds, and a spacious bathroom. The two-bedroom suite is an excellent choice for families, and all guests have the chance to share experiences with the owner himself. The meals are lovingly prepared on-site for all the guests.

Unique Experience: You can have an exclusive Marwar Safari Experience spanning 3 Nights which includes 1 night at your private desert camp and 2 nights at The Mountbatten Lodge.

Devshree, Deogarh:

Dev-Shree is a lovely eight-room home-stay in the Aravalli Hills, well located to some of Rajasthan’s major cities, and yet is far enough from them to enjoy some rural peace in a hectic city based itinerary.

It is a 2 hrs. drive from Udaipur airport.

Dev Shree’s design is of a traditional haveli style, stunningly built with local craftsmen cutting the stone and generally creating it. Wide, airy verandahs; pretty inner courtyards; cool corridors; lofty, spacious bedrooms; state of the art bathrooms; indoor and outdoor dining and seating. It’s all very pretty and very much a home as the owners are your hosts.

The rooms are large with a cosy sitting area, some have recessed seating areas. Some open out onto a small terrace and others look over the garden. All rooms have air conditioning, fans, tea and coffee making facilities, safes, hairdryers, showers (no bath tubs), bathrobes and internet.

Located on the edge of the Ragho Sagar Lake, it is home to a large variety of migratory birds in the winter. The surrounding area is heaven for walks, picnics, and bird watching.

Deogarh Mahal:

Deogarh Mahal – Luxury Heritage Hotel in Rajasthan was converted into a Hotel by the Deogarh family members. A part of the Mahal is still occupied by them. The family is closely associated with the hotel and personally supervise and manage it. The care is reflected in the minutest details which have made Deogarh a benchmark of Heritage Hospitality in Rajasthan.

Each of the 50 royal suites and rooms has designated themes, and the walls are adorned with artwork from Deogarh’s renowned school of miniature painting. The highlight is the Maharana suite, the erstwhile abode of the Maharana of Udaipur. It features a bedroom, a bathroom designed like a 1920s train, and a sheesh mahal (glass palace) made with Belgian stained glass and Indian miniature paintings dating back to 1670.

It is located 110 kms from Udaipur (2hrs 30 mins drive).

Deogarh offers accommodation at three locations – Deogarh Mahal, Deogarh Khayyam and Fort Seengh Sagar. Khayyam has 16 luxury lodges and Seengh Sagar has four exclusive suites. These three locations are 5 kms / 15 min drive from each other.

Seengh Sagar is a miniture castle and an isolated gem set in stunning Rajasthani countryside, the property has just four luxurious rooms that surround an inner courtyard, providing an intimate and highly relaxing environment. The beautiful landscape and tranquillity of the location makes for an incredible experience.

Khayyam offers 16 Luxurious AC tents which are water proof on the outside, and have mesmerizing interiors which originate from an old design. Comfort is of utmost importance and is well noticeable by the little details everywhere, from the hot water in the showers to the cosy hot water bottles placed in the beds.

There is plenty to do and at one’s own pace. Morning walks, bird watching and village tours are a treat, and sitting outside ‘Deogarh Khayyams’ Luxurious tents in the starry night sky with a blazing fire is simply divine.

Dungarpur:

Udaibilas Palace Dungarpur:

The 19th Century Royal Residence Udai Bilas Palace lies on the banks of the Gaibsagar Lake in the south-western reaches of Rajasthan. It’s 120km or 2hrs from Udaipur.

The palace has some exquisite architectural designs and edifices inside. It has an air of faded grandeur replete with trophies which cover the walls. The lakeside position makes it a bird watcher’s paradise and it has a magnificent, huge new swimming pool which seems to disappear into the lake.

Every room and suite has been magnificently decorated in a uniquely opulent style, and the attention to detail is astonishing. The wallpaper, upholstery, tiling, rugs, bed linen – even the bathroom fittings – have been carefully selected by the royal family to give each room a distinctive feel.

Little touches are everywhere: cosy alcoves, heart shapes carved into teak bedheads, cut-glass crystal bowls, even mirrored floors. On occasion, the clashing heritage fabrics can be overwhelming, but remain true to their 1940s origins. The palace has many hidden charms – from a Grand Suite featuring its own pooja (prayer room) to the tiny blue-patterned single room with its own staircase down to the lavish gardens.

The Maharawal Suite was the Maharajah’s private residence and is accordingly regal. With its roof terrace, Art Deco ensuite bathroom, writing room, four-poster bed, exquisite mirrored inlay-work, red velvet daybed, lounge area and fabulous views, romantic couples will want for nothing here.

All rooms are ensuite and the bathrooms are vintage works of art. Claw-foot tubs with showers and imported English fittings complement Moroccan tiles, Art Deco mirrors and herbal toiletries in beautiful cut-glass bottles. Bedroom doors don’t have locks, but padlocks are available on demand and security is high throughout.

Alwar:

Amanbagh:

Amanbagh is set within rural countryside a 2-hour journey east of Jaipur in the region of Alwar. Amanbagh has a spectacular setting in the foothills of the Aravalli Hills.

It lies within a walled compound once used by the Maharajah of Alwar as one of the sites for his mobile hunting camps which used to come in search of the elusive tigers known to roam the nearby hills not so long ago.

The resort style echoes the region’s Moghul architecture and in this respect is a modern day Moghul Palace conceived in the present but paying homage to the architecture and design of India’s golden age. Staying in this property provides a very unique opportunity to witness first hand the traditions and culture of rural India.

There are 16 Pool Pavilions and 24 Havelis. Pool Pavilions are set around the perimeter of the resort, each with their own private pool and garden. The Havelis are set amongst the date and mango trees with their own private courtyard, garden or balcony. All suites feature a large bathtub carved from Udaipur green marble and are fitted with Bose sound systems and a personal bar.

Jaisalmer:

Sujan The Serai:

SUJÁN The Serai, an oasis of calm set on a 100-acre private estate of indigenous desert scrub, draws inspiration from the designs of the royal caravan sites of Rajputana.

There is no better place from which to venture into the mystical environs of Jaisalmer to discover its fabled golden fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Their 21 tents are a delightful symphony of styles. They have fourteen tented suites, six luxury tented suites have their own private walled-in gardens and sunken, heated dip pools with Jacuzzi jets.

The exclusive royal tented suite has its own spa, outdoor pool, dining and lounge tents, all walled into a private enclosure.

The finest linen, ‘campaign’ style furniture, Jaisalmer stone floors and beds, soft colours, and locally sourced artefacts all blend to create a classic, understated elegance.

Suryagarh:

Suryagarh on the outskirts of Jaisalmer rises out of the Thar desert, a spectacular sandstone creation with 360-degree views across the landscape. It’s has grand and sumptuous interiors, with it’s rooms, suites and Havelis set around a large courtyard. The grounds are particularly gorgeous in the evening when they’re lit up.

The 72 rooms are spacious and airy, their white-on-cream interiors dashed with vibrant colours and textured fabrics. Carved wood furnishings evoke a bygone decadence while upholstered headboards add a touch of contemporary chic. Large piles of cushions and throws on enormous jute rugs reflect the caravan serais (or resting places) which the Thar Desert is famed for.

The sandstone palette continues into the bathrooms, where you’ll find rainfall showers (and Jacuzzi baths in most).

Even the simplest Pavilion Rooms set the bar high and provide everything you might need for a comfortable stay, while the Suryagarh Suites include your own dining room as well as a private rooftop pool. The large Heritage Rooms are best for travelling families and for indulgence, the Thar Haveli is utterly captivating, and feels as though you’re sleeping among history – with the addition of a private pool.

The hotel is 20 minutes away from Jaisalmer, making it a good option for an escape from the city or a pleasant stopover on your way to and from other Rajasthani destinations.

Bikaner:

Narendra Bhawan Palace:

A brand new hotel in the heart of Bikaner, Narendra Bhawan is a stunning, eclectic, fascinating ‘design’ hotel. Formerly owned by the last Maharaja of Bikaner (HH Narendra Singhji, 1948 – 2003) , the hotel’s interiors play on his journey through life with different rooms and areas reflecting the different stages.

The 82 bedrooms are themed with some being contemporary, others more traditional and others more avant garde – there’s one to suit all tastes!

The interiors of each reflect the different categories / phases of the Maharaja’s life – be it his flamboyant time in Bombay, time in the military or time overseas and finally his calm, later life. They vary from bright and minimalist to more ‘arty’ to more traditional. The public areas have a strong Art Deco theme and are all different and interesting – each has a story.

Gajner Palace (Heritage):

Gajner Palace is a jewel in the Thar Desert, built by HH Maharaja Sir Ganga Singh of Bikaner on the edge of a lake. The property was converted into a heritage hotel in 1976.

The hotel’s compound stretches over 6000 acres. The palace was primarily a hunting resort during the days of the British Raj and attracted several dignitaries, including the Prince of Wales in 1905, Governor General Lord Elgin, Lord Erwin in 1927 and Lord Mountbatten when he was Viceroy of India.

Gajner Palace is divided into four distinctive wings: Dungar Niwas, Mandir Chowk, Gulab Niwas and Champa Niwas.

The hotel’s 13 historic suites are in Dungar Niwas where British dignitaries stayed during their leisure trips to the Palace. Each suite has been meticulously restored to its original grandeur. Every detail, from the furniture to the wallpaper, the four-poster beds and picturesque windows has been carefully recreated exuding an aura of a bygone age. All rooms have been thoughtfully fitted with modern conveniences.

The palace-hotel also offers 32 deluxe rooms in Gulab Niwas (used by glamorous railway officers in former times), Champa Niwas (the recently built section, with a beautiful courtyard surrounded by rooms) and Mandir Chowk (part of the reception area for dignitaries arriving by train and dominated by the presence of an ancient temple and age-old Banyan trees).

You can easily lose yourself in this sprawling majestic palace, with its distinctive terraces and balconies; revered for its fabulous setting and unhurried way of life, explore a world of nature-walks, boat-rides, sanctuary dinners and desert safaris.

It is located just 30-minutes’ drive away from Bikaner.

NOTE: I will further update this blog with a few suggestive routes to incorporate most of above properties, like a circuit itinerary covering Rajasthan to help you plan a private journey.

But you always have the option of selection any one of above properties, as a single location and enjoy it for a longer stay duration, specially during COVID-Era of travel wherein you want to limit excessive travels or transfers to avoid extra exposure.

I must also mention that some of above properties become a great choice for exclusive buy-outs just for your family or your private group of family and friends. This works very well when you are planning getaways for your family reunions, celebrations like birthdays or anniversaries or simply because you prefer to book the entire fort or palace or haveli to yourself to ensure complete privacy, comfort and exclusivity.

How to book:

You can book any of above listed hotels, forts, palaces and/or havelis using services of a boutique travel design company, based out of New Delhi, who enjoy long established connections and are experts in destination Rajasthan at Experiential Travel Journeys Pvt. Ltd.

– Amit Kalsi, Private Travel Designer

Published by experientialtraveljourneys

A Private Travel Designer specialising in private, luxury, experiential, transformational, off-beat, off-the-grid, bespoke, tailor-made, bespoke, authentic, sustainable journeys to destinations worldwide.

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