RA­JASTHAN PALACE HO­TELS

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - CHRIS­TINE McCABE

SU­JAN RAJMAHAL PALACE, JAIPUR

Fol­low­ing a glam­orous makeover two years ago this small, jewel-like palace, with only 14 suites and owned by the royal fam­ily of Jaipur, makes for a more in­ti­mate bolt­hole than its nearby, and much larger, sib­ling Ram­bagh Palace (one of Ra­jasthan’s first re­gal ho­tel con­ver­sions). Hot de­signer Adil Ah­mad has aug­mented Rajmahal’s 1930s re­fit of the orig­i­nal early 18th-cen­tury palace with be­spoke wall­pa­pers and fab­rics dot­ted with ele­phants, polo play­ers and other royal mo­tifs evok­ing the glamour of the 60s when this was the pri­vate home of the dash­ing, polo-play­ing Ma­hara­jah Sawai Man “Jai” Singh and his beau­ti­ful Ma­ha­rani, Gay­a­tri Devi, and first port of call on the sub­con­ti­nent for a string of guests in­clud­ing Queen El­iz­a­beth and Jackie Kennedy. The palace is a med­ley of fear­less colours, es­pe­cially pink, in the ex­te­rior, staff tur­bans and the jewel-like break­fast room. More: su­jan­lux­ury.com.

ALILA FORT BISHANGARH

A rare fort con­ver­sion, one hour from Jaipur, the newly opened Alila stands on a hill­top, an­cient stone tur­rets (or burjs) and large new jarokha style win­dows af­ford­ing stun­ning views of the Ra­jasthani coun­try­side. A sen­si­tive seven-year restora­tion has left the orig­i­nal fort in­tact with 59 suites above and be­side the struc­ture. Alila’s re­sort ex­pe­ri­ence has a strong Ra­jput flavour: a cognac lounge in the tur­ret, day spa in the dun­geon and “Sol­diers Club” for young guests. In­dian celebrity chef Ran­veer Brar has de­signed the menus for four restau­rants in­clud­ing a cham­pagne and tea lounge of­fer­ing tast­ings and healthy herbal high teas. The large guest suites fea­ture all mod cons, from flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi to lux­ury bath­rooms with deep tubs. Guests are wel­comed at the bot­tom of the hill near the fort vil­lage where the ar­rival com­plex in­cludes a hand­some haveli and swim­ming pool. More: alila­ho­tels.com.

PAL HAVELI, JODH­PUR

A more mod­est al­ter­na­tive to Jodh­pur’s sprawl­ing hill­top Umaid Bhawan Palace, this at­mo­spheric haveli, built by the Thakur of Pal in 1847, and still oc­cu­pied by three gen­er­a­tions of the Pal fam­ily, lies at the heart of Jodh­pur’s mag­i­cal old walled city. Push open the enor­mous fortress-style wooden doors into a large court­yard and the sounds of the mar­ket and crowded streets fall away. Dark, cool in­te­ri­ors shel­ter fres­coes and other fam­ily trea­sures; the bar is stuffed with tro­phies and set with stools fash­ioned from sad­dles; the 21 quirky gue­strooms fea­ture hand-carved beds and old fam­ily pho­tos. Doors are se­cured with slid­ing bolts and enor­mous locks and thick, in­tri­cately screened win­dows shield guests from the bus­tle of the streets. The open-air rooftop restau­rant of­fers in­cred­i­ble af­ter-dark views across the an­cient city and up to flood­lit Mehran­garh Fort, the most im­pres­sive in In­dia. More: pal­haveli.com.

RAWLA NARLAI

Trav­ellers are well re­warded for head­ing off the beaten track to stay at Rawla Narlai, a re­mote 17th-cen­tury royal hunt­ing lodge tucked away in a small vil­lage in the Aravalli Hills be­tween Jodh­pur and Udaipur. Still owned by mem­bers of the Jodh­pur royal fam­ily, and well known to In­dophiles, the beau­ti­fully re­stored prop­erty fea­tures 32 gue­strooms in two wings. Each cham­ber is dif­fer­ent and those in the his­toric wing fea­ture lovely time­worn fres­coes, block-printed fab­rics and an­tique fur­ni­ture. The walled gar­den and swim­ming pool are charm­ing; the restau­rant is adorned with an­ces­tral por­traits. Given the lodge’s re­mote lo­cale, man­age­ment of­fer a wide range of sight­see­ing op­tions in­clud­ing train sa­faris, trekking, horse rid­ing and game drives to spot for leop­ards. Be sure to sign up for the can­dle­light feast in a nearby 16th-cen­tury step­well; trans­fers are via bul­lock cart. More: rawla­narlai.com.

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