Memorable Small Places to Stay in Rajasthan

David Pettitt

Vibrant Rajasthan, with its opulent palaces, grand forts, medieval bazaars and colourfully clad women is, for many, ‘India’. With its princely history and heritage buildings, Rajasthan has a thriving and well-developed hotel scene and over the years many beautiful small hotels have opened in this north Indian state. Mighty ancestral forts, colonial bungalows, desert hideaways and art deco palaces are just some of the unique and memorable Rajasthani bolt-holes and here are our favourites.

Chhatra Sagar – Nimaj, near Jodhpur

Surrounded by farmland and small villages, Chhatra Sagar is located in the heart of Rajasthan in a rural location to the east of Jodhpur. Comprising of a series of tents pitched on a dam overlooking a picturesque lake, Chhatra Sagar is one of India’s finest family-run small hotels. Tents are comfortable and beautifully appointed and the setting is magical with exceptional, uninterrupted views. Explore the farm and local temples to meet the villagers or enjoy a spot of birding from your veranda / www.chhatrasagar.com 

Chhatra Sagar in Rajasthan

Udai Bilas Palace – Dungarpur, near Udaipur

Dating from the 19th century, this spectacular palace complex is one of Rajasthan’s finest, and most authentic, heritage hotels. Originally built by Maharawal Udai Singhji II, a great patron of the arts, the palace was enlarged in 1940 which resulted in a unique blend of art deco and Rajput designs. The majority of the furnishings today remain from this period with many historic English fixtures and fittings. The present Maharaja also has an extensive heritage car collection and there is a lovely pool / www.udaibilaspalace.com

Udai Bilas Palace in Dungarpur in Rajasthan

The Serai – Thar Desert, near Jaisalmer

A luxurious tented camp set in the heart of the Thar Desert an hour outside of the ancient fortress of Jaisalmer, The Serai offers excellent accommodation with a chance to fully experience Rajasthan’s evocative desert environs. The 21 tents are immaculate, decorated in desert colours and with roomy bathrooms, whilst the stunning pool and gorgeous spa make this a sophisticated retreat. Visit Jaisalmer, take a camel safari and desert drive or, simply, enjoy sundowners on the sand dunes / www.sujanluxury.com/the-serai

The Serai near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan

Ranvas – Ahhichatragarh Fort, Nagaur

Few hotels in Rajasthan can better the spectacular location of Ranvas – a 33 room hotel positioned within the extraordinary Ahhichatragarh Fort in Nagaur, northern Rajasthan. Housed in a series of havelis originally built for the sixteen wives of the 18th century Maharaja Bakht Singh, the rooms are beautifully decorated and there is also a lovely swimming pool. Undoubtedly, however, what makes the hotels so special is its location in the heart of one of India’s most formidable fortresses / www.ranvasnagaur.com

Ranvas in Nagaur in Rajasthan

Dera Mandawa – Jaipur

This small boutique haveli hotel is one of Jaipur’s best kept secrets. Over 125 years old and still family owned, Dera Mandawa combines traditional Rajasthani style with modern facilities. The suites are spacious and thoughtfully appointed with antique furniture and en-suite bathrooms and the main courtyard is the perfect place to relax. Set in central Jaipur, the city’s markets are a stone’s throw away and it is an enjoyable 30 minute stroll to the stunning Hawa Mahal and City Palace complex / www.deramandawa.com

Dewa Mandawa in Jaipur in Rajasthan

Rawla Narlai – Narlai

Located in the village of Narlai midway between Udaipur and Jodhpur in the heart of the Aravalli Hills, Rawla Narlai is the perfect rural escape. Originally the home of a local village chieftan, this small 17th century former hunting lodge has been carefully renovated and restored. The simple but comfortable rooms, beautifully decorated with traditional fabrics and art work, overlook a central courtyard and there is also a welcoming pool – an ideal place to relax after exploring the bustling village streets / www.rawlanarlai.com

Rawla Narlai in Narali in Rajasthan

Shahpura Bagh – Shahpura

Originally the summer residence of the rulers of Shahpura, the 30-acre estate was granted by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to the current family in 1630 AD for successful military campaigns against the Marathas and Afghans. Set between Jaipur and Udaipur, Shahpura Bagh offers elegant colonial-style accommodation, home-cooked Rajasthani food and an enticing swimming pool. The grounds are extensive, explore a nearby 17th century fort, ride a bike or visit the local town and temples / www.shahpurabagh.com

Interior of Shahpura Bagh in Rajasthan

Bhainsrorgarh Fort – Bhainsrorgarh

Situated south-west of Kota, this impressive, rambling 18th century fort is surrounded by its own village and sits high on a promontory jutting out into the River Chambal. The river is dammed downstream so is always full and looks truly beautiful all year round. The fort sits on the cliff edge and the views are spectacular. Family owned, the traditional rooms are spotless and charming and the gardens are a delight. This is an area yet to be fully discovered and remains unexploited and rural / www.bhainsrorgarh.com

Bhainsrorgarh Fort in Rajasthan