Umaid Bhawan, near Jodhpur
The skyline of the medieval city of Jodhpur is dominated by two striking sights – the stunning Meharangarh Fort and the immense cupolas of the golden palace, Umaid Bhawan.
Umaid Bhawan, a grandiose Indo-Colonial and Art Deco palace, is the stuff of fairy-tales. Home to Gaj Singh II, the current Maharaja of Jodhpur, it is part private residence and part lavish museum-hotel (managed by the Taj group). A day here often begins with a relaxing breakfast on the terrace amidst strutting peacocks, followed by a walk through the manicured gardens, or a dip in the pool, before taking a vintage car ride around the city, butler in tow.
Umaid Bhawan was built by no less than three thousand builders, who set to work between 1928-1943, fixing each sandstone block in place by hand. Once complete, it became one of the largest private residences in the world, with no less than 374 rooms, set amongst a sprawling 26 acres of gardens.
It is just as grand today, in fact for a truly jaw-dropping experience, honeymoon or holiday, Umaid Bhawan is hard to beat. Much-loved by countless celebrities and royals, it has hosted many spectacular – and much-publicised – events over the decades. One of the most reported was, of course, Elizabeth Hurley and Arun Nayar’s marriage that took place in the regal gardens in 2007.
Once the residences of visiting royalty, the Historic Suites are the perfect choice for honeymooners and those who set out to impress. Incorporating Neo-classical design, the suites are all themed and come with their own private sit-out area and a five-fixture feature bathroom, including a steam room and en-suite couples therapy room.
Whatever you do, find plenty of time for the spa. Located just off the main atrium – which is always resplendent with vases of freshly-cut flowers and oil paintings – the Jiva Grande spa is a perfect place for R&R. The menu of spa treatments is predominately Indian but expertly mixes traditional treatments with contemporary therapies. After a busy day exploring Jodhpur – with it’s markets, clock tower, unique indigo-washed houses – half-an-hour of Champi (Indian head massage) will be just what the doctor ordered. Or, go for an Indian aromatherapy massage which will leave you refreshed and ready for the next leg of your journey.
It’s not all about the spa though – the marble squash courts and grand tennis courts make for a perfect distraction, while the indoor Zodiac pool, yoga studio and a temperature controlled Jacuzzi all add to the experience. This hotel is simply one of the very best in India, even if you don’t stay try to go for dinner, a tour or a spa treatment.