Rajasthan, the ‘Land of Kings’ showcases royal India at its best. Ancient forts and exquisite palaces are the perfect backdrop to the rural beauty of Rajasthan. For hundreds of years, Rajasthani royalty would commission lavish palaces and robust fortresses, most of which are still standing proud today. Many of Rajasthan’s extravagant palaces have since been converted into opulent hotels and are the perfect complement to any luxury tour of Rajasthan.
Experience the life of a Maharaja (King) with our list of Rajasthan’s top luxury hotels:
1. Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur
The Taj Group are responsible for many of India’s most extravagant hotels, and the Taj Lake Palace is surely the jewel in the crown. The Taj Lake Palace is located within Lake Pichola, and appears to be elegantly floating on the shimmering lake. A traditional barge collects you from the river banks and transports you across the waters to the decadent Lake Palace.
Rooms at the Taj Lake Palace are just as enchanting. Each room has a unique history to tell; perhaps the most captivating is the Chandra Prakash Suite, meaning Lustre of the Moon. The ornate carvings, sculpted marble columns and fine Rajasthani furniture impressed even the Maharaja who, during the 1930’s, held court in this very room.
An experience not to be missed is a boat ride into the glowing sunset on a 150 year old ceremonial barge, complete with candlelight and a traditionally dressed ore man; an impossibly romantic scene. Indulge in a stroll around the grounds with your personal escort, armed with pate, bubbly and caviar.
The story goes that a young prince, Maharana Jagat Singh II, built this palace on a beautiful island in Lake Pichola, the heart of Udaipur, to revolt from his father during the 18th Century. The island was then known as ‘Jag Mandir’. Construction began in 1743 and was completed in 1746.
The ancient dynasty of Rajasthan, previously known as ‘Mewar’, had an abundance of palaces. In addition to Taj Lake Palace, there was the opulent Udaipur City Palace, which was the official residential palace during winters. What started as a young prince’s rebellious gesture was converted into one of the most romantic hotels in the world, by Maharana Bhagwat Singhji in 1963. The Lake Palace’s sumptuous reputation was firmly cemented when the James Bond film ‘Octopussy’ was shot here. The palace was the isolated lair of the film’s Bond girl.
2. The Taj Rambagh, Jaipur
The Taj Rambagh is undoubtedly Jaipur’s most luxurious hotel, and was once the residence of the Maharaja. This extravagant and authentic palace has gracefully stepped through many royal transitions. The Rambagh Palace is a fine example of the elegant life of a Rajasthani Maharaja. With exquisite rooms, marbled corridors and majestic gardens, the Rambagh certainly has a story to tell.
The Rambagh Palace is a living legend in Rajasthan, and affectionately referred to as the ‘Jewel of Jaipur’. Originally constructed in 1835, the palace has served as a royal residence, royal guesthouse and a hunting lodge. Until 1957, the Rambagh was the home of Jaipur’s Maharajas. It was then converted into a luxury hotel, which has since had the pleasure of welcoming Lord Louis Mountbatten, Prince Charles, Jacqueline Kennedy and many more stars.
The Taj Rambagh offers a selection of authentic rooms, such as the Historical Suites, Luxury and Palace Rooms, Royal Suites, Grand Royal Suites and the Grand Presidential Suite. The latter of which boasts 1800 square feet, an on-call personal butler and arched French windows which open out on to Mughal gardens, Nahagarh Fort and the Aravali mountain range.
3. Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur
The Umaid Bhawan Palace, again a Taj Group hotel, is the last of Rajasthan’s great palaces. Built between 1928 and 1943, for Maharaja Umaid Singh II, the palace was instigated as a means of employment for locals during the period’s great droughts and famines. The Umaid Bhawan Palace was intended to replace Mehrangarh Fort as the pride of Jodhpur.
The Umaid Bhawan Palace is nestled high above the Blue City of Jodhpur, looming over the vivid sky-blue buildings below. The palace is also one of the largest private residencies in the world, set amongst 26 acres of gardens.
The palace was constructed on a flamboyant scale, a nod to the great Rajasthani palaces of the past. Also known as ‘Chittar Palace’ due to the local Chittar sandstone used to build it, the Umaid Bhawan palace has served as the principal residence of the Jodhpur royal family since 1943.
The palace was designed by Edwardian architect Henry Lanchester, and is a fusion of eastern and western influences.
There are a selection of rooms at the Umaid Bhawan Palace, from Palace Rooms, Historical Suites and Royal Suites to the Maharaja Suite and Grand Royal Suite. The Maharaja (King) Suite is adjacent to the Maharani (Queen) Suite, separated by a crystal fountain. Inside, there are murals of leopards and tigers, along with faux leopard skin sofas and original artefacts.
Not to be missed is a ‘Champagne Museum Walk’ through the palaces very own museum. The Umaid Bhawan Palace Museum houses a grand selection of Victorian and Edwardian watches, porcelain, 19th and 20th Century weapons, royal miniature paintings and intricate cutlery from the Maharaja’s personal collection.
Madeleine Hann is CEO and Co-Founder of Indian Excursions Co.