India has a magical history. Each of these heritage properties have a rich story to tell, from a stately fort redolent with tales of honor and sacrifice to a colonial residence steeped in sporting history to havelis intertwined with love and war. A world away from chain hotels (and more affordable), they are often run by the owners themselves. So, not only can you hear these legends first-hand but you can enjoy the homely feel and fascinating insight into life in a real Rajput home.
An immaculately restored 17th-century royal retreat, between Jodhpur and Udaipur, Rawla Narlai lies in a pretty traditional temple town – and perfectly exemplifies the magic of rural Rajasthan. The 32 rooms are individually decorated, set around a series of idyllic courtyards, bright with flowers. Traditional furnishings, ornate frescoes and painted archways add to the authentic atmosphere. Meals are traditional Rajasthani cuisine (curried goat, lamb and chicken, a good range of vegetarian dishes, and bread straight from the clay oven) – and you can dine out under the stars in the lamplit entrance court. During the day, there is plenty to do, including walking, riding and leopard safaris. On return, cool off in the magnificent pool hidden in the walled garden.
Set on the edge of the Thar Desert, just outside Jodhpur, Rohet Garh is a heritage hotel of great charm and character. Once the ancestral seat of nobility in the local maharaja’s court, this 18th-century lakeside fort has been gloriously restored. The 34 spacious rooms have antique furniture, pretty frescoes, beautiful bedcovers and hanging chairs. Cream-coloured cupolas, mosaics and murals give a nod to the colonial days, alongside the pavilion-lined pool, arched verandas and marble fountains within the manicured lawns. This heritage hotel is also famous for its fine traditional cuisine.There are plenty of activities on offer. Guests can take their pick from a jeep, camel or horse safari before exploring the local villages and wildlife.They also have tented accommodation close by which was once visited by Madonna followed by a string of celebrities and worth spending a night in.
Once the summer residence of Shahpura’s ruling clan, Shahpura Bagh is the ideal place from which to explore rural Rajasthan. With an idyllic, unspoilt setting, between Jaipur and Udaipur, this family-owned boutique hotel feels more like a homestay with the family still inhabiting one of the two buildings. There are nine beautifully-appointed bedrooms, with antiques and Kashmiri carpets. The grounds are equally glorious with the 45-acre verdant estate overlooking two lakes. The chef cooks up old Rajasthani family classics, which are served in a charming dining room. Days are spent exploring the local villages before relaxing in the huge pool. There’s also a stunning stepwell and exquisite temple to enjoy before finishing with a refreshing lime soda at the old fort at sundown.
Former 18th-century fortress-turned boutique hotel RAAS Devigarh makes for a glamourous escape. Sitting among wheat fields in the Aravalli Hills, bordering Delwara, a village known for its ancient Jain temples, this labyrinth property is a crenelated vision of suites, gardens, idyllic spa and pool. Hidden away up narrow staircases are 39 sumptuous suites. They are the epitome of contemporary design: all white, offset withvivid splashes of silver, peacock green and saffron yellow. Local marble and semi-precious stones top off the truly luxurious feel. A top-notch chef serves locally-inspired cuisine in the white marble dining room, and barmen shake up cocktails fit for royalty in the gilded open-air bar. There are also magical venues for private dining by candlelight, including the historic mirrored Sheesh Mahal.
One of the best heritage hotels in Bikaner in northwest Rajasthan and home to the Maharaja of Bikaner, this delightful red sandstone bungalow, Karni Bhawan Palace,is a fine example of art deco style. The palace has 31 huge rooms filled with antique furniture plus all the contemporary facilities guests could want. Large windows, Doric-styled pillars and ornamental staircases line the property. Beautiful paintings and old photographs of the royal family dot the corridors. The lush green gardens are lovely for relaxing in. The multi-cuisine restaurant Manwar serves delicious continental and Indian cuisine. There is also a pool-side restaurant, offering Tandoori, Punjabi and Chinese food.The well-stocked Maikada Bar is perfect for enjoying a drink beforehand.
Off the beaten track, on the edge of Rajasthan’s Thar Desert, between Jodhpur and Bikaner, Ranvas sits within the high walls of Nagaur’s magnificent 12th-century Ahhichatragarh Fort. A superb restoration of the former women’s quarters, there are 27 rooms spread across ten 18th-century stone havelis, each originally built for a queen and her servants. Rooms have a stylish simplicity: whitewashed walls, stone floors, carved columns and alcoves containing antiques from the maharajah’s personal collection. Silk cushions, brocade throws and local dhurries add splashes of color. Meals are taken in the majlis, an open-sided pavilion where the queens would meet the maharajah. There’s also a courtyard with fountains, peacocks and pomegranate trees plus an inviting pool.
An utterly peaceful retreat, Lakshman Sagar, formerly two19th-century hunting lodges, looks out across the barren beauty of rural Rajasthan. A three-hour drive east of Jodhpur, the property is spread over 32 acres along a small lake, where peacocks parade and antelope come to drink. There are 12 thatched cottages, which are aluxury take on traditional village homes. Each has been given an imaginative makeover with soft furnishings in bright sari hues glowing against the sand-coloured walls. A rock-cut swimming pool stretches out enticingly below. Meals, made using old Rajput hunting recipes, are served on a terrace overlooking the lake. Guests can spend time in the local villages alongside taking pottery classes, cooking lessons, horse-riding and angling in the lake.
These ideas are just a starting point for what your trip to India could include. To start planning your luxury tailor-made holiday to India, please contact us. Each trip designed by Rajasthan Tours is created uniquely for you, working to your budget, style and interests with an absolute commitment to quality. We take the work off you to allow you to enjoy the most memorable holiday experience.