No visit to royal Rajasthan is complete without steering off the beaten track. It’s here, in these rural villages, forts and homestays, where some of the most authentic experiences can be found, offering a fascinating insight into the history and culture of the region. It’s the stuff of your imagination: sweeping deserts and craggy hills, forgotten forts and fairy-tale palaces, majestic camels and wandering cows, the very essence of India in all its rainbow-colored glory.
Here are some of our favorite places to stay in rural Rajasthan…
Built by Rao Shakti Singhji, the younger brother of the great warrior Maharana Pratap in the serene Vindhyanchal Ranges, Castle Bijaipuris a 16th-century heritage-listed royal residence, converted into a boutique hotel by the ruling family. Steeped in history, it’s an incredibly friendly place to spend a night or two to break up the journey from Jaipur to Udaipur. The property is also a great base for exploring Chittorgarh Fort. The 16 rooms are spacious, characterful and tastefully decorated. It’s great for families – children will love the games room and the good-sized pool. The local countryside is lovely and birdwatching walks, horseriding and jeep safaris are all excellent fun. More than anything, the home-cooking here is superb, using locally-sourced ingredients.
Quite possibly the world’s smallest luxury hotel, Anopura offers just two guestrooms and a luxury tent. Set amid endless green fields, an hour outside of Jaipur, in the shadow of the ancient Aravali Mountains, it’s a picture of serenity where the only noise is the occasional peacock’s cry. The rooms are spacious with block-printed fabric, locally-crafted furniture, intricate Persian miniatures and marble bathrooms. Both have their own patio. Food is wide-ranging, from local Rajasthani delicacies to an excellent cheese soufflé. There are lots of complimentary activities including bird-watching, camel trekking, Jeep safaris or a visit to the local village. Alternatively, guests can just breathe in the scent of frangipani, relax on a charpoy around the plunge pool and take in the beautiful countryside views.
Surrounded by endless dunes in the heart of the Thar Desert, yet conveniently located just two hours’ drive from Jodhpur, Samsara is ideal for those looking for an authentic desert experience. Dotted between fountains, the 21 luxury tents are beautifully-appointed with locally-sourced furniture, vibrant block-printed fabrics and traditional dhurries. During the day, we recommend the exhilarating Jeep safari, which dips in and out of the golden sand dunes. Guests can stop by a local potter and blacksmith to get a glimpse of the local trade as well as spot wildlife (from eagles and wild boar to large and small antelope). Evenings are magical with dinner under the stars, amongst hundreds of flickering lanterns, and accompanied by colorful folk dance performances around a blazing bonfire.
An immaculately restored 17th-century royal retreat, between Jodhpur and Udaipur, RawlaNarlai 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.
The vision of royal Rajput couple, Shatrunjai and Bhavna Singh, Dev Shree is a traditional haveli newly created in a wonderful lakeside setting in the family’s ancestral village of Deogarh. Seven spacious and well-appointed suites with luxurious bathrooms offer views of the surrounding lawn and gardens which play home to croquet and outdoor meals. Afternoon tea is taken on the pillared verandah and guests gather together for pre-dinner cocktails in the central courtyard. The grand dining room serves traditional dishes in style. Activities include a rural single-gauge train journey through dramatic scenery, a culinary workshop using local ingredients and – the highlight – the Sundowner special, a jeep ride to watch the sunset over a glass of wine.
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 with vivid 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.
An utterly peaceful retreat, Lakshman Sagar, formerly two 19th-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 a luxury take on traditional village homes. Each has been given an imaginative makeover with soft furnishings in bright sari hues glowing against the sand-colored 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.
One of luxury group Aman’s most beautiful properties, Amanbagh is a rose-pink collection of villas set in grounds once used by Mughal princes as a base for royal hunting parties. The 37 suites and villas echo its majestic past with king-sized beds, luxurious bath tubs carved from a single slab of Udaipur green marble, vaulted ceilings, and private terraces. At the heart of the hotel is a stunning 33-meter sea-green marble pool – take a dip then flop onto one of the eucalypt-shaded sun loungers. The spa is equally relaxing with massages, scrubs, and facials, complemented by daily yoga. The Mughal-inspired restaurant offers an international array of dishes while private candlelit dinners can be served in the gardens, on the roof terrace or in an old chhatri.
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.