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The walled Rajasthani city of Jodhpur is the younger brother of the more popular Jaipur. Because it does not have as many international flight connections as Jaipur does, the Blue City preserves an air of rustic and untouched charm and the blue indigo colour of the Brahmin castes used to paint their houses to keep them cool and repel insects has become the city’s signature landmark.
The Mehrangarh Fort, an impressive sight sitting high above the city, is in a well preserved condition because the royal family lived here until the 1950s. Get an audio guide and hear the stories of war, love, royal life and history. Don’t miss a visit to the restored Rajput gardens at the bottom of the fort, especially at night when the white and perfumed flowers in the Moonlight Garden is lit.
As the rush of luxury hotel chains is yet to arrive in Jodhpur, the best luxury hotels in Jodhpur are instead more local and authentic and less flash. After Udaipur and Jaipur, Jodhpur is the lesser explored royal city of Rajasthan.
1. Rawla Narlai
Photo from Rawla Narlai
Once a hunting lodge and one of the Jagir Villages of Jodhpur’s Royal family, Rawla Narlai is a 17th century stunning rustic heritage property surrounded by nature, the Aravalli Hills and a grand granite rock called Elephant Hill. It is one of the places where one wonders what it would be if walls could speak.
Still owned by the Jodhpur royal family, Rawla Narlai has a mixture of heritage rooms restored from their former splendor and decorated with antique pieces and a group of luxury tents around a pool. The entry level rooms have hand painted murals on the walls while the top Luxury Grand Heritage Rooms have white marble carved works. The Narlai Suite is still used by the Maharajah when in town, talk about royal quarters! But perhaps the most incredible of experiences is enjoying a romantic meal in the 16th century step-well of Narlai, surrounded by oil lamps and complete with a regal Rajasthani meal. Narlai’s location in the countryside also afford opportunities to enjoy tea by the lake or a horse riding adventure. If you are lucky you may spot a leopard on a safari around the area. The lodge is about 2,5h drive both from Udaipur and Jodhpur so city tours can also be organised.
2. RAAS Jodhpur
Photo from RAAS Jodhpur
Just like its sister property in Udaipur, RAAS Jodhpur is a fantastic hotel in a privileged location, this time, in the middle of the Blue City of Rajasthan, with impressive views of the Mehrangarh Fort. The hotel was an 18th century Haveli and the rooms are contained part in the ancient buildings, including the Rajput residence, and the rest in a new wing. Inside, the decoration has preserved a mixture of old and new using the traditional pink sandstone of Rajasthan with dashes of modernity and the blue that makes the city famous. The Heritage Suites have balconies with amazing views and cast iron bathtubs but the star room is the Stepwell Suite, a room with views over the 18th century stepwell that was hidden and has been adopted by RAAS.
In the complex, there is also an old temple, an entertainment rooftop with a restaurant and bar and a pillared pavilion. The rooftop restaurant has been touted as having the best views in India and has a direct unobstructed view of the Fort, especially and beautifully lit at night. In winter, the heated pool is a welcoming feature in the cold desert-like Rajasthani weather.
3. Umaid Bhawan Palace
Umaid Bhawan Palace was named Best Hotel in the World by TripAdvisor’s travelers in 2016 and is a Taj Hotel property housed in half of a heritage royal palace. The remaining half has the family museum and remains the residence of the Maharani Badan Kanwar of Jodhpur and his family and descendants. It is still the world’s sixth-largest private residence and shares the use of palm court marble with the Taj Mahal. The Palace was commissioned in 1929 and constructed between the 1930s and the 1940s, sporting an Art Deco design, unlike other Rajasthani palaces.
Umaid Bhawan was originally built as the Maharaja’s employment project for the locals to relieve famine at the time. The opulence is such that the hotel has a squash court made of marble and an underground pool. The Maharajah and Maharani suites, his and hers royal quarters, have a bathtub cut from a single piece of marble and a mirrored bar. The sheer scale of the construction is enough to leave anyone speechless. Don’t miss out on the champagne Museum Walk tour
4. Mihir Garh
The Fort of the Sun was the dream project of its owners Sidharth and Rashmi Rohet, who used to come to the dunes on location to watch the sunset. The hotel was built anew, from local materials and styles, and opened in 2009. There only 9 large suites, all of which are 1,700 sq feet and have raised jacuzzis with stunning views or plunge pools and all come with bathtubs in where to soak away the desert dryness.
The hotel offers village walks, horse riding excursions and exploration into the desert. The hotel can also organise visits to the Bishnoi people, known as the “Premier ecologists of the world” because of their no-harm, full vegetarian approach to life and the environment. Be sure to take part in some of the exclusive experiences like the Royal picnic, in a tent set just for you by a river, or the Sikhar desert diner, in the Thar Desert.
5. Vivanta Hari Mahal
Photo from Vivanta Hari Mahal
This is not an ancient building per se but a recreation of a 14th century fort and it is regal nonetheless. Vivanta offers all the expected touches of a modern international hotel but lacks the charm of other old buildings. It is comfortable and convenient and has a slightly more business-focus than the rest of the hotels on this list. However, for service, value for money and universal standards, Vivanta does not disappoint. All the regional activities are possible, including a visit to the Bishnoi village and a dinner at the Thar desert.
Photo from Ranvas
About two hours from Jodhpur, Ranvas was opened by the Maharaja of Jodhpur in the Women’s Quarters of the Nagaur Fort complex Garden Palace. The rooms are in the havelis, the quarters where the Maharajah’s queens lived in the 18th century. The renovations brought antique furniture and fabrics and highlighted the beauty of the place. Like the area it is located in, Ranvas is rustic, truly off the beaten path, without the typical modern amenities like TVs and bathtubs. All reviews on TripAdvisor are extremely positive, highlighting the hotel as a hidden gem and the best part of a Rajasthani trip. Ranvas is a very special place, but with such uniqueness also comes the downside of its charm. I like the feeling of a place that is unfinished, beaten by history and lacking in modernities that one should not expect in the middle of nowhere, in stark contrast with Vivanta Hari Mahal. The location is as far from Jodhpur as it is from Bikaner, so you can equally visit both beautiful cities.
7. Chhatra Sagar
A stunning and very unique luxury tented resort set atop a dam. It is hard to find the right words to describe it because it is so precious because of its location by the water, and at the same time so timelines. The resort was constructed above a dam built by Thakur Chhatra Singh of Nimaj, a noble of the desert kingdom of Merwar, today known as Jodhpur, who wanted to create a reservoir that would harvest the monsoon rains and turn the arid area into fertile farmland. The noble was known to organise tea parties and celebrations by the dam in the 1920s, constructing and dismantling a tented camp every time.
Named after the reservoir, Chhatra Sagar was built and is managed by the great grand children of the noble as a permanent settlement reminiscent of those parties. The 11 tents are luxurious and all have stunning views of the reservoir and the immense sky. Inside, there are antiques and Mughal art and evenings are spent by the campfire and the water in complete peace.
The tented camp is about 2h drive from Jodhpur airport and can organise bird watching excursions and local visits to farms and villages. Note that the Camp is only operational from 1st October till 31st March. It is closed during summer and monsoon months.
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8. Pal Haveli
Photo from Pav Haveli
A haveli built in the 18th century by a Pal Noble has been transformed into a regal hotel in the heart of Jodhpur, within the walled city but is still managed and owned by the family. The rooms are over the top, with an explosion of colors in the paintings, carpets, furnishings and wall carvings. Intricately carved and painted arched walls separate the living room from the bedroom in each spacious room. The rooftop has magnificent views of the city’s main landmarks including the fort. It is a building steeped in history in a privileged and convenient location for exploring the city.