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The best of Rajasthan
This is the perfect Rajasthan trip: a 12-night journey to explore its stone forts and marble palaces, staying in five of the country's best hotels, and taking in the pink city of Jaipur, the famous step wells, a Raj-era hunting lodge in the Aravalli foothills (India's oldest mountain range), the spice markets of Jodhpur and a big-cat safari in leopard country.
Start in Jaipur, the state capital, painted pink for Queen Victoria's visit in 1876, with two nights in the wildly decorative Suján Rajmahal Palace. Then it's on to Lakshman Sagar in Pali, an untamed land of desert, nomadic herders, farms and traditional villages. After a night here, move on to RAAS Jodhpur, where the call to prayer echoes through the city streets.
The next two nights are at Suján Jawai, the ultra-chic tented safari camp where leopards are often spotted. It is also close to the airy citadels of Kumbhalgarh Fort, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On day nine, travel to RAAS Devigarh, an 18th-century fort with a glorious spa that's one of the most charming places to stay in Rajasthan. After two nights here, round off the trip with lunch in Udaipur overlooking Lake Pichola, before a quick flight to Delhi for the return leg home.
A private ride up to the top of the Amber Fort
Leopard spotting at Suján Jawai Camp
A guided shopping trip in Jodhpur
Three free spa treatments
India's finest heritage hotels
- Return international flights with British Airways
- All regional flights
- All accommodation in a double/twin room with breakfast
- Suján Rajmahal Palace, Jaipur also includes afternoon high tea and laundry services
- Suján Jawai is on Jungle Plan which include all meals, two daily wilderness drives in a shared jeep, laundry and 30 minute foot massage
- Accommodation at both RAAS Jodhpur and RAAS Devigarh includes one dinner with a bottle of house wine and a one hour Ila spa treatment plus a 20% discount on all food and beverages and any further spa treatments
- All experiences listed including elephant ride to the Amber Fort, open jeep tour in Lakshman Sagar, cookery demonstration and dinner with a local family in Jodhpur, game drives in a vintage jeep in Jawai and village walking tour in Delwara and visit to Crystal Gallery in Udaipur
- All transfers, sightseeing with an English-speaking guide, and driver using an air-conditioned Toyota Innova car at all places
- Entrance fees and video/camera fees at monuments as per itinerary
- UK and Indian departure taxes and charges and porterage at airports
Day1Fly to DelhiNew Delhi, India
Overnight flight from London Heathrow to Delhi International Airport.
Your journey starts in the state capital and largest city of Rajasthan, Jaipur, painted pink, the traditional colour of welcome.
Your base for two nights is the wildly decorative Sujan Rajmahal Palace Hotel, whose corridors and bedrooms are tricked out with traditional Mogul motifs and 46 different wallpapers alongside family furniture, portraits and photographs.
Day3Explore JaipurJaipur, India
Venture out for a morning excursion to the Amber Fort with an elephant ride up the hill where mighty gates, temples, pavilions and gardens surround the 17th century palace and its huge ornate halls. Lose the masses by taking a guided heritage walk of the often-overlooked Amber village with its seldom-visited temples, havelis, step wells and a fascinating museum of textiles
Later explore the City Palace in the centre of Jaipur, the Jantar Mantar Observatory (where the 27.4m high Samrat sundial is accurate to two seconds) and the Hawa Mahal "Palace of the Winds", once used by the ladies of the court to watch the daily goings-on in the street below.
Today your driver will take you by road to Lakshman Sagar in Pali, an untamed land of desert, nomadic herders, farms and traditional villages between the Aravalli hills and Jodhpur. It was built in the late 19th century as a hunting lodge by the then Thakur of Raipur, Lakshman Singh Ji to host other noble families and British emissaries. Now there are 12 stone-and-adobe thatched guest cottages dotted around, some reached by a path that winds beneath an ancient banyan tree, others near a lake, where antelope and peacocks sip each evening.
You have the rest of the day at leisure with car and driver at your disposal. Activities available include nature walks, angling and cycling, kayaking, bird-watching and star gazing.
After a day of rest, head to the nearby village to experience the local life. Have a breakfast of freshly baked bajra ki roti lathered with homemade butter and piping hot tea in the fields with the local shepherd. Then learn the art of turban tying, ask the potter to share his trade secrets or get traditional henna tattoos.
Later transfer by road to the Blue City to the RAAS Jodhpur hotel, where the sound of the call to prayer echoes through the city streets. Local resident Mrs Bhavna Singh offers a cooking class for you to learn the basics of Rajasthani cuisine, explaining when and how to use different masalas for unique flavours. This is followed by dinner with her family.
Day6Explore JodhpurJodhpur, India
Today is spent exploring Jodhpur with its incredibly beautiful palaces, housing impressive collections of miniature paintings, weapons and armoury, palanquins, howdahs and jewellery. Stop at the marble pillared Jaswant Thada cenotaph, built to commemorate Jaswant Singh II and housing the portraits of the successive rulers of Marwar. In the afternoon, shoppers will be thrilled by a guided visit to the Clock Tower Bazaar which offers everything from fruit and spices to textiles and bangles; rare books to American WW II jerry cans to junk jewellery.
Days7-8JawaiJawai Bandh, India,
The next two nights are at Suján Jawai, the super smart safari camp where leopards are highly visible. Guests can seek out these normally elusive Big Cats with the in-house trackers. Jawai's nine canopied tents are outfitted with chrome campaign desks and crimson lampshades and cushions that echo the red turbans of the local Rabari herdsmen. Winding paths lead to a splash pool, a dining tent, and a clearing where guests feast on thali curry by starlight. The camp is also close to the airy citadels of Kumbalgarh Fort, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On day nine, travel by road to Delwara, stopping to visit the 15th century Ranakpur Jain Temples, one of the biggest and most important Jain temple complexes in India. And then on to the wondrous RAAS Devigarh, one of the most beguiling places to stay in all Rajasthan, an 18th century fort with a glorious spa and views of the Aravalli Hills all around.
The local 450-year-old village has four Jain temples, which formed the inspiration for the famous temples of Dilwara near Mount Abu. The area has a varied community comprising Jhalas (Rajputs), Patels, Gametis (Bhil tribe), Muslims, and Jains.
Throughout your stay you will have a car and driver at your disposal.
After two nights here, round off the trip with a visit to picturesque Udaipur for lunch overlooking Lake Pichola before a quick flight to Delhi for the return leg home.
SUJÁN RAJMAHAL PALACE
The wildly decorative Suján Rajmahal Palace, set in expansive gardens, is one of Jaipur's true delights
The Rajmahal Palace was home to Sawai Man 'Jai' Singh, the Maharajah of Jaipur, and his glamorous third wife Gayatri Devi. Here they entertained Lord Mountbatten Jackie Kennedy and the Queen and Prince Philip.
This 18th-century palace has a combination of original features from the Mughal era and more modern decoration in strong colours - a pink room! a green room! - and bold patterns and detailing. Colonnaded porches run along front and back. And the gardens are delightful: lawns and formal sections skirted by worn old shell-pink walls and stone balustrades around a swimming pool, with palms and heaps of subtropical flowers.
"The Sujan Rajmahal Palace is an oasis of psychedelic luxury in bustling Jaipur; it feels like the home of an Indian eccentric and is my favourite place to stay in India."
Matthew Buck, Condé Nast Traveller Photographic Editor
This former hunting lodge has been re-imagined as a stunning eco-resort with 12 cottages and roaming peacocks
This place is low-key, but clever, with two beautifully restored buildings positioned around a lake, one the Mardana (male) and the other the Zenana (female) wing of a 19th-century hunting lodge erected for the Thakur of Raipur. The Zenana has sexy pink interiors, a courtyard fountain, crazy psychedelic mosaic floors, and intimate alcoves full of cushions, silky fabrics, and knitting needles stuck into rolls of neon-pink wool; it's bonkers and wonderful. The Mardana is painted in a boyish cobalt blue and has daybeds and hidden nooks on the roof for naps, and telescopes for stargazing.
With fabulous views of the Mehrangarh Fort, this collection of haveli buildings offers the perfect Jodhpur hideaway
Right in the heart of Jodhpur is this meticulously restored cluster of haveli buildings, reimagined as a sharp, crisp minimal space at the edge of the red sandstone ramparts of Mehrangarh Fort.
At night the courtyards, gardens and pool are lit by hundreds of flickering lanterns and supper is a feast of fresh fish flown in from Calcutta.
There is nowhere quite like this Rajasthani safari camp where luxurious suites and leopard sightings make for thrilling combination
This sophisticated camp has eight tented suites, where local stone has been combined with smart stainless steel, leather and dramatic black-and-white wildlife photographs, and there are proper bathrooms with powerful hot showers. The camp's garden supplies fresh organic produce for robust Indian feasts served after cocktails in the evening.
The majestic RAAS Devigarh remains one of the most romantic, persistently alluring spots in the entire Aravalli Range
A most beguiling place to stay, an exquisite 18th-century palace with Marwari-horse murals, wooden swings swaying in courtyards and the sounds of ankle-bracelets jangling plus an exceptional Ila-Only spa, magnetic views of the surrounding Aravalli Hills and a sleek, green-slate swimming pool to cool off in.