RAJASTHAN PALACE HOTELS
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.
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.