Take refuge in a fort fit for kings and Rajputs
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