The luxuries of Indian maharajas and maharani stunned the world in the late 19th century, and nowhere was their wealth more evident than in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan, home to 18 royal families and a host of royal addresses.
As the Maharajas’ fortunes waned in the 20th century, many of their palaces, forts and havelis (important townhouses) remain, along with the luminous Rambagh Palace in Jaipur (in 1957) and the Lake Palace (1968), Pichola in Udaipur, featured in the James Bond movie Octopussy. A marble marshmallow that covers an island in the lake.
Tom Barber, co-founder of Indian travel expert Original Travel, says these heritage properties, which retain containment-era features such as jali (ornate lattice work) and jharokha (balconies), have become symbols of affordable luxury and have an lasting reputation today.
“The quality of service, style and size of rooms is nothing to be underestimated,” says Barber, “despite some palace hotels sitting at higher price points compared to simpler Indian offerings, for example compared to Thailand or the Caribbean.” He adds that these hotels are usually priced in Indian rupees and are currently better value when converted to sterling than the dollar-based winter sun options.
The sheer number of heritage accommodations combined with the fact that post-pandemic room rates are frozen in India and breakfasts are included as standard make Rajasthan a relatively wallet-friendly option, whether you’re seeking high-end luxury with amazing service. or mid-range value.
Hot new legacies to launch across the state include 1880s The Johri in Lal Haveli, Jaipur; Restoration of a sandstone haveli in Jaisalmer, Gorbandh Palace (opening in May) and Six, an opulent 48-suite resort that combines two original palaces and two temples in a 14th-century walled fort, two hours south of Jaipur. Senses Fort Barwara.
And with the long-awaited reopening of India’s e-visa program for British passport holders visiting India, perhaps there has never been a better time to plan a trip.
The ten best for heritage value
Ajit Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur
Ajit Bhawan offers the luxury kit and cabin at a mid-range price. This former residence of a Jodhpur prince was built in 1927 and became a hotel ten years ago and is keeping its prices at 2019 rates even as India tourism opens. Jali has period details such as latticework, balconies, chandeliers and damask curtains.
Mist fountains and the aquamarine pool under the palace arches are other highlights, and newer tent houses are characteristic (although less luxurious than palace rooms, double check what you’re booking).
Double bed and breakfast from £170 (00 912912513333; ajitbhawan.com)
Jaiwana Haveli, Udaipur
With rooms costing the same as a meal for one in the UK, this haveli captures the combination of location and price. Located on the shores of Lake Pichola, it is within walking distance of both the City Palace and the ghats, the beach steps surrounding Lake Pichola.
Parts of the hotel are 200 years old; the rest is a magnificent labyrinth of stairs (no lift), courtyards, balconies and terraces. Ask for corner rooms 31, 41 and 51, each with two windows overlooking the lake, or dare up a spiral staircase for a suite with a private balcony.
£36, couples from B&B (00 91 9829005859; jaiwanahaveli.com)
Raas Jodhpur, Jodhpur
This mix of ancient and modern architecture is located in the heart of Jodhpur’s old city, making it the perfect base to explore Blue City’s winding streets filled with boutiques, art galleries and cafes.
Although post-pandemic rates have increased (around 30 percent in 2019), it’s still excellent value, with amenities equivalent to any £400 per night property in Europe (generous sized heated pool, best spa in town, a destination restaurant). ). However, its highlight may be the view of Mehrangarh Fort, best seen in moonlight from the rooftop bar.
Double rooms from £264, B&B (00 91 82399 26000; raashotels.com/jodhpur)
Alila Bishangarh, Manoharpur
Set opposite a 230-year-old hill fort with 360-degree views of the rugged Aravalli terrain an hour north of Jaipur, this masterfully restored heritage estate brings to life the martial history of the Rajputs (powerful clans that ruled a piece of land). North India) amidst five-star comfort, on par with the brand’s Caribbean property (costing £1,380 a night).
Don’t miss the fort history tour and request a spot within the fort walls at sunset to get a view of the setting sun over the Rajasthani countryside from old rifle holes. The hunter-style Rajput cuisine served at the Amarsar restaurant includes local ingredients cooked in sandboxes.
Double rooms from £306, B&B (00 91 7230058058; alilahotels.com)
Newly opened after the pandemic and with room rates fixed through 2023, this haveli dates back to the 1800s and is located in the heart of the walled city of Jaipur. Its luxury fittings are inspired by the 19th-century jewelers of the Pink City, with suites named after gemstones and arranged around a shaded courtyard.
The vegetarian restaurant is excellent – don’t miss the spinach chaat (crispy spinach mixed with sweet and tangy sauces). Walk past the nearby market or take a short tuk-tuk ride to the famous Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds) and the City Palace Museum for great sightseeing and shopping.
Double bed and breakfast from £224 (00 91 89055 51680; thejohrijaipur.com)
Narain Niwas Palace, Jaipur
Be taken to a bygone era and thankfully expect to pay retro prices for it. Spacious rooms with four-poster beds and royal portraits evoke the royal lifestyle, as do the shimmering chandeliers in the common areas (although bathrooms are more standard).
The resident peacocks likely pass you by on a stroll through the gardens, and they’ve even been known to invade the hotel’s famous Bar Palladio, whose sumptuous interiors are an Instagrammer’s delight, transforming into a candlelit wonderland at sunset.
Double from £76, room only (00 91 141 256 1291; hotelnarainniwas.com)
It’s not cheap, but this award-winning modern palace on the Udaipur waterfront is great value if you’re looking for a one-time splurge (you can even pre-book and get a discount with Oberoi’s Early Advantage Rate. £15 spa credit). When you reach it in noble style on a beautiful boat, its domes and domes rise above the enchanting Lake Pichola.
Peacocks roam the lush gardens, most notably around the Bada Mahal, a 25-foot rock structure built in 1886 where the Rajasthani royal family once watched fights between tigers and wild boars. There’s no such guts these days – instead the attentive service, world-class food, a spa with bells and whistles, and the feeling that even maharajahs have never been better.
Premier, £546, doubles from B&B (00 91 2942433300; oberoihotels.com)
Jai Mahal Palace, Jaipur
Now owned by the Taj luxury group, this hotel has hosted three Jaipur heads of state since it was built in the 1740s. An opulent complex of royal chambers, pavilions and pillars set amidst 18 acres of gardens, this haunt offers all the Taj comforts but is £100 less per night than its Mumbai sister property.
Play croquet on the lawn and have breakfast on the plant-filled terrace. Do not be surprised if you witness a polo match on the lawn: princes have always played polo here, and there are exhibition matches even today.
Double bed and breakfast from £269 (00 91 141 660111; tajhotels.com)
Narendra Bhawan, Bikaner
This haveli offers intimate glimpses into the life and times of Narendra Singh, the last Maharajah of Bikaner, who lived here until his death in 2003. It’s filled with handmade trinkets, with corners lit by chandeliers and lined with rich velvets. Rooms here are available for as little as £30 per night.
Music lovers should not miss the photos of the Maharaja’s dogs, while enjoying the antique piano with the lyrics of Edith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien”; He had over 100 pet dogs.
£122, B&B couples (00 91 7827151151; narendrabhawan.com)
Hill Fortress, Kesroli
In northeastern Rajasthan, this transformation of a 700-year-old hill fort provides the perfect stopover on the way from Delhi. The seven-towered fortification saw its heyday under Ranawat Thakur Bhawani Singh, a colorful figure famous for his equestrianism in the late 19th century.
These days, the fragrant interior gardens and daily afternoon teas in the old zenana or women’s section stand out. Royal categories for chubby and more stylish splendor for Splendor.
£96 from B&B Couples (00 919829005859; neemranahotels.com)
Additional contributions by Geetanjali Krishna