Take refuge in a fort fit for kings and Ra­jputs

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE - Char­lotte John­stone

A ma­jes­tic, 18th-cen­tury fort with a sun­set-hued façade and seraphic views of the Aravalli peaks. Once a war­rior fort oc­cu­pied by kings and Ra­jputs, this ho­tel now of­fers pala­tial in­te­ri­ors, dreamy in­fin­ity pool and ex­cur­sions that will make your In­sta­gram feed the envy of ev­ery lux­ury nomad in your fol­low­ing.

The fort sits on a hill in the Aravalli range, about an hour’s drive from the city of Jaipur. At the foot of the mound is the vil­lage of Bis­hangarh, which the ho­tel was named af­ter. It’s a se­cluded spot, sur­rounded by fields, bendy roads and pock­ets of houses, but with plenty of ac­tiv­ity in Bis­hangarh, you don’t feel out of touch. The ho­tel can ar­range trans­fers and taxis for get­ting around.

Alila means “sur­prise” in San­skrit, a prom­ise ful­filled by the fort’s strik­ing peach-pink façade. Its 230-year his­tory is just as colour­ful. Be­fore it was re­fur­bished as a mod­ern five-star ho­tel, it be­gan life as a de­fence fort and nods to its past have been beau­ti­fully wo­ven in with ar­chi­tec­tural in­flu­ences from the Bri­tish and Mughal eras – from Tu­dor-style ogee arches (petal­shaped) to mir­ror-mo­saic Tikhri art. De­fy­ing the rule of pro­lific op­u­lence in In­dian ho­tels with her­itage, this boasts clean lines and min­i­mal­ism, with lots of smooth mar­ble and dark woods.

Head down to the haveli (man­sion) at the foot of the fort and spend your day be­side the heav­enly swim­ming pool, which over­looks the or­ganic kitchen gar­dens and grassy lawns. En­joy yoga or in­dulge in an ul­tra-luxe treat­ment at the spa. For some­thing dif­fer­ent, the ho­tel can ar­range an Alila Ex­pe­ri­ence; per­haps a cook­ery class, tem­ple visit or camel ride through the vil­lage? Staff are de­light­ful, go­ing above and beyond to make you feel com­fort­able, al­ways with a smile. A cou­ple of open-air 4x4s are on call to take you up and down the drive­way. Niggles? A de­lib­er­ate lack of signs, in keep­ing with the min­i­mal­ist aes­thetic, which means you may get lost and end up telling the chefs all about your day.

There are 59 rooms and suites in four cat­e­gories: Her­itage, Royal, Grand, Off NH-8 at Manoharpur, Bis­hangarh, Jaipur 303 103, Ra­jasthan, In­dia (0091 142 227 6500; tele­graph.co.uk/tt-alilafort). and Re­gal, all lo­cated in the main fort. Rooms are large, with sim­i­lar fur­nish­ings but dif­fer­ent lay­outs, and dé­cor is a taste­ful mix of white mar­ble with grey up­hol­stery, dark-wood fur­ni­ture and colour­ful cush­ions and throws. All of them fea­ture huge beds, enor­mous tele­vi­sions taste­fully con­cealed in cup­boards and large bath­rooms. Views from all rooms are sur­real, es­pe­cially at sun­set.

Ex­ec­u­tive chef Nishesh Mani Tri­pathi’s menus are In­dian-based with in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ences – think sous vide wa­ter­melon sashimi, duck vin­daloo and ar­ti­choke ravi­oli. In­gre­di­ents are lo­cally sourced where pos­si­ble, with pro­duce grown in the or­ganic kitchen gar­den. There are sev­eral din­ing op­tions, from a Mediter­ranean lunch at the haveli, to Amarsar, an airy and at­mo­spheric, tile-en­crusted room, which of­fers dishes in­spired by the Silk Route. Mad­hu­veni is su­perb for a pre-din­ner cock­tail but the high­light was din­ing un­der the stars at Nazaara. Break­fast at Amarsar is a con­ti­nen­tal spread matched with de­cent à la carte op­tions, from Amer­i­can-style pan­cakes to south In­dian dosa.

Dou­ble rooms from £205 in low sea­son (April to Septem­ber); and from £410 in high (Oc­to­ber to March). Break­fast in­cluded. Free Wi-Fi. No adapted rooms. A few cor­ri­dors have a cou­ple of steps, how­ever guests with wheel­chairs can be as­sisted.

Yes, there are two in­ter­con­nect­ing rooms and a kids’ club. Cox & Kings of­fers a six-day/ four-night trip to In­dia, in­clud­ing three nights at Alila Fort Bis­hangarh, priced from £1,595. This in­cludes a night in Delhi, an overnight flight and pri­vate road trans­fers (020 3642 0861; coxand­kings.co.uk).

Amarsar, where the food is in­spired by the Silk Route

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