In a game of word and image associations, think of Rajasthan and one can immediately visualize a land of forts and palaces, colourful red turbans and cholis, large sand dunes and camels. If culture could be a physical manifestation, it would be here in Rajasthan.
Earlier before India became a sovereign state, Rajasthan was divided into a number of kingdoms, each with its own Maharaja or Nawab. But after India’s independence, the rulers’ titles were taken away, although they were still allowed to retain their huge properties. Soon they realized that it was difficult to maintain these palatial buildings and gardens, and rather than let them go to waste, they decided to open their doors to tourists by converting these massive properties into ‘heritage hotels’.
These heritage hotels came across as very different from the regular, more conventional hotels that people were used to. And now these are quite popular, especially among foreign tourists, thanks in part to the many low-cost flights to India you can now find. Most of these heritage hotels and havelis accord a traditional welcome to their guests and don’t be surprised if someone applies tilak on your forehead and garlands you with flowers when you step in.
It is quite an experience, walking through those long corridors with high ceilings, looking at the paintings and portraits of the royal families, sitting in the courtyard and taking in the green surroundings as someone serves you freshly made tea.
Some of the best heritage hotels in Rajasthan have been listed below, and are categorized by destination.
Jaipur – The capital of Rajasthan, it is also known as the Pink City and is, not surprisingly, the main hub for all commercial and business activities. Some of the best Heritage Hotels in Jaipur are Samode Haveli, Rambagh Palace, Royal Heritage Haveli and Raj Vilas.
Jodhpur – Rajasthan’s second largest city, Jodhpur is often called the ‘Blue City’ because a large number of houses and buildings are painted in that color, and a top aerial view makes the city appear as if a blue paintbrush were run over it. Here, Umaid Bhawan Palace, Karni Bhawan, Bal Samand Palace are the top Heritage Hotel recommendations.
Jaisalmer – The ‘Golden City’ , Jaisalmer has become very popular on the tourist circuit for its deserts and safaris, especially the moonlit ones. Some of the best Heritage Hotels here are Fort Rajwada, Narayan Niwas Palace, Gorbandh Palace and Jawahar Niwas Palace.
Udaipur – The City of Lakes, Udaipur used to be the capital of the historic kingdom of Mewar. Some of its best sightseeing includes the many Rajput-era palaces. Devgarh Fort Palace, Shiv Niwas Palace and Udai Kothi are among the best Heritage Hotels here.