Centuries ago there were dozens of kingdoms and principalities where rulers displayed their wealth in the adornment of their stately homes, but the withdrawal of royal privileges and the abolition of the status of royalty in 1971 led them to convert these magnificent homes into hotels.
Few structures evoke the majesty of the Indian courts as splendidly as the countries numerous palaces and ancient forts. Each one offers a fascinating window into India's immense historical and cultural diversity, from the grand royal residences of the maharajas dotted around the country to the castles in the sand.
There are opulent palaces and forts in Rajasthan restored to their original splendor complete with five star facilities and swimming pools with views to die for but there’s character a plenty in many a simpler place.
You will find four poster beds and often have high ceilings and incredible bathrooms. Many of them are still private residences and counted amongst the great palaces of India with the decor invariably being stunning with walls decorated with murals of peacocks and gods and hung with paintings and sepia photographs of maharajas in their full regalia.
Some of them have a magnificent collection of Marvari horses that can be used for riding through the countryside. India must be the only place in the world where you can find yourself sleeping in a king’s bed having only recently met his descendants over a gin and tonic for an update on the latest cricket results.
Today, these palace offer guests a taste of royal living, once only available to kings and queens. The views from their battlements are magnificent - out over the village and distant. You would find a large number of them having a tranquil spa that offers excellent pampering massages whilst the large swimming pool is second to none. Impeccable style and taste are the bywords here - you’ll be tempted to stay on for weeks.
For guests who believe small is beautiful Rajasthan has several of these dreamy little hotels that belong to their descendants, who are your highly affable, energetic and involved hosts. Brick by brick they have devotedly restored these unique properties and it now oozes charm and warmth.
The rooms in such properties are scattered around the premises and facing onto the gardens or overlooking courtyards. The rooms all vary in shape and size and are very prettily decorated in local fabrics and with varied colour themes. They are home to some fabulous frescoes and, with its pretty courtyards and leafy gardens it is difficult to believe that you can stroll out into the bustling city streets.
Luxury camps have in the recent years become the hippest way of experiencing Rajasthan. Largely eco sensitive and built by local workers using local materials, the camps are a relatively guilt-free way to enjoy the tranquility and wildlife of the desert. Each of these tents is carefully placed for commanding views over the desert wilderness. They are very luxurious - more like mini-marquees with smart polished traditional camping-style teak furniture, rich jute rugs and lovely custom designed block-printed tent linings.
Evenings are livened up by camp fire and the experience of sitting on a cushion on the dunes by candlelight while mouth watering snacks are served to you is amazing. With stunning sunrises, mesmerising sunsets and dazzling night skies, life in this peaceful wilderness is spectacularly elemental and extraordinarily silent – quite like the paradox that is India.
A holiday to India is incomplete if we don’t talk about food. Wherever you stay, you’ll be welcomed with traditional Rajput hospitality, delicious meals prepared to secret family recipes and turbaned bearers ready to attend to your every need.
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
Nicola Shepherd, founder and CEO of The Exploration Company, organises unusual trips for HNW and UHNW clients ranging from birthday parties at an Indian Maharajah's palace to reliving Sir Vivian Fuchs's 1950s expedition to the South Pole. Citywealth caught ...
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