The name ‘Rajasthan’ literally translates to ‘the Land of Kings’. Situated in the North-western part of India, sharing its border with Pakistan, Rajasthan is home to the hot desert, camels, and scores upon scores of colour.
About 60% of Rajasthan is made up of the Great Indian Thar Desert then where does the colour come from?
The colour in Rajasthan arises not just from the natural beauty of the state, be it the yellows, and browns of the desert sands, greens of the scanty vegetation, and the rich blues of the sky, but from the people that live here.
Rajasthan is also home to some of the most exquisite forts in all of India, and perhaps even the world. Intricate designs line both the exteriors and interiors of these forts, whose beauty is amplified by the surrounding stillness.
Over time, the Rajas and Maharajas [kings], who had made these forts, or mahals, their homes, slowly turned into modern-day entrepreneurs. And so, heritage hotels in Rajasthan were born, where complete forts, or parts of it, were converted into luxurious accommodations for people seeking relaxation in opulence:
1. Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur
A true ‘royal escape’, the Lake Palace by Taj is a luxury hotel sitting on the island of Jag Niwas in Lake Pichola, accessible via speedboats from the City Palace jetty. It was built sometime between 1743 and 1746 by Maharana Jagat Singh II and boasts a rich history, housing a line of kings and European colonials during its early age.
In 1963, it became the first luxury hotel in Udaipur. Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces took over the chore of perfecting the luxury standards of the palace-turned-hotel in 1971.
The palace’s decadent reputation was cemented when the James Bond film Octopussy was filmed on the premises.
Tariff: Royal Suites at the Taj Lake Palace cost approximately ₹ 34,000 per night while the Grand Royal Suites with the view of the lake can cost up to ₹50,000 for a night’s stay. Prior booking is a must.
Find more about the Taj Lake Palace here.
2. Shahpura House, Jaipur
Rao Dhir Singh, a scion of the Shekhawat Clan of Rajputs, restored and renovated the palatial houses belonging to his family- Shahpura Haveli and the family-home in Jaipur, in the 1950s. Maharaja Surendra Singh converted Shahpura House into a top-notch hotel in 1991. The royal family still resides in the House.
As one of the most recommended hotels in Jaipur, Shahpura House is home to elaborate suites that display intricate motifs and murals. Like many historic houses, Shahpura House is a curious mixture of the old and the new.
The sprawling palace houses a durbar (a large reception hall), complete with an awe-inspiring chandelier and cocktail bar, a rooftop terrace that hosts cultural shows, and modern amenities like swimming pools and spas.
The Shahpura House is about 4 kilometers from the city centre of Jaipur.
Tariff: Deluxe rooms at the Shahpura House start from ₹ 5000, with the most expensive Shahpura Suites ranging from ₹ 8,000 to 10,000, for a one night stay.
Find more about Shahpura Haveli and House here.
3. Fort Barli, Ajmer
Ask a traveller who has visited Fort Barli Hotel, and their first retort will probably be: Do you mean that fort with the gorgeous infinity pool?
A perfect combination of modern amenities and old-world charm, Fort Barli is relatively low-key, which only adds to its serenity. It has just eight rooms in total, styled in typical Rajasthani décor, topped with all facilities. While this may not be as fancy as a lavish luxury hotel, it manages to convince you of the hospitality of the Rajasthanis, who remove the commercial factor from their service and, in fact, welcome you as though welcoming a guest at home.
The Fort has been owned by the royal family of Darbar Devi Das ji for sixteen generations, although it has only recently been brought back to its former glory. The family create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and are on hand to explain the history of the property and a tour of the Fort.
A bullock cart ride is an added treat for the guests, taking you on a round of the village whose women still cook over open fires, just like in the olden days.
Tariff: Super Deluxe rooms at the Fort start from ₹ 13,000, while the Royal Suites are charged at ₹ 15,000, per night.
Find more about Fort Barli here.
4. Vivaana Culture Hotel, Churi Ajitgarh
Carefully restored to its original glory (and perhaps more), Vivaana is a 19th century Shekhawati twin Haveli, situated 10 kilometres from Mandawa. It is home to scores of paintings, frescoes and invaluable artifacts, making it a fascinating bowlful of history.
The rooms of this boutique hotel have been designed keeping in mind the needs of an international traveller, and so amenities like a well-stocked library, Yoga lessons, multi-cuisine dining, and even rooftop star-gazing are all a plus point. Vivaana is also popular for its destination weddings, film screenings, music concerts, and other cultural programs.
The tour desk at Vivaana can organise a variety of excursions and activities, including a walk-through of Vivaana, camel and horse safaris, and kite flying.
Tariff: The cost for a one-night stay in a Deluxe Room stands at ₹ 7,000 while the Luxury Room and Royal Room costs ₹ 10,000 and ₹ 12,000 respectively.
Find more details about Vivaana here.
A little something extra to watch out for:
The Pushkar Camel Fair is held each November, in Pushkar (Ajmer). It is one of India’s most highly-rated travel experiences, a spectacle on an epic scale, attracting more than 11,000 camels, horses and cattle and visited by over 400,000 people over a period of around fourteen days. Carry lots of water and plenty of space on your camera to capture some beautiful shots.
Which one of these majestic palaces do you think is the best? Been to any other Heritage hotels in India? Tell us in the comments below.