Reshma S Kulkarni
Take in majestic views from your palace room, enjoy royal services at your disposal and delight in entertainment once meant for Rajas and Ranis at some of the best forts and palaces turned hotels in the country.
Lake Nahargarh Palace, Chittorgarh
Amidst a private lake, surrounded by the Aravalli hills, Lake Nahargarh Palace was the hunting lodge of the royal family of Salumber and Parsoli. It was bought over by late Maharaj Nahar Singh of Ralavata and developed into a magnificent palace by his son. Guests are ferried across, on motor boats, to the palace abode, which has 35 lake-view rooms with a lush central courtyard, long wide corridors retained from ancient times, brass artefacts lining the walkways and a Lake Shore Grill. For nature lovers there`s horse riding, forest trekking, bird watching as well as a jungle safari to the adjoining wildlife sanctuary. The hotel`s architectural grandeur, authentic cuisine and folk dances immerse you into the regal Rajasthani way of life.
Fort JadhavGadh, Maharashtra
Fort JadhavGadh is the only fort heritage hotel in Maharashtra. Built three centuries ago by the Peshwas, located 2,511 ft above sea level, spread over 25 acres of land, and surrounded by lush hillocks, the fort gives you a royal Maratha experience. Sounds of drums and Tutari welcome you at the statuesque main gate, the grand Kholis (rooms in Marathi) largely retain the fort`s style and the original walls in its architectural design. Deluxe and Premium rooms occupying the lower level of the main fort have uniquely designed bathrooms—you can gaze up at the stars and feel the cool breeze coming from the hills, as you shower.
The opulent Maharaja and Maharani suites have private steam baths and direct access to the spa. The Museum Suite overlooks the horse-stable turned museum, ‘Aai’, that displays artefacts from the owner `s (Dr. Vithal Kamat) personal collection. Surrounding a 300 year-old pond are the Royal Tents with 5-star amenities, luxurious seating and beds, canopies and glass wash areas.
Each tent has a kitchen garden growing herbs or vegetables, often used in royal recipes. The hotel also treats guests to the famous Laavani dance and Shivaji’s Dandpatta, a local martial art form in which two metal belts are swung together at speed during fights. Fort tours take you through ancient dungeons that once housed traitors and prisoners. You can also walk through farms or trek up to the hills to spot a deer.
Ranbanka Palace, Jodhpur
Centrally located in the princely state of Jodhpur, Ranbanka Palace was built in 1927 for Maharajadhiraj Sir Ajit Singh, a renowned prince of the region.
The hotel retains the old world charm and glory of the bygone era. Even though some modern conveniences have been added for comfort, the hotel`s Palace Wing has the original rooms and décor of princely times. One of its dining areas, The Baithak, is a Rajasthani lounge complete with bajots (handcrafted low-seating ususally made in silver with intricately embossed patterns) and gaddi massons (another cushioned form of low-seating). Sit back and enjoy traditional music recitals, kaalbelia dances and puppet shows, and savour delicacies with elaborate Rajasthani flavours, including the popular thali prepared by second generation chefs, who once served the royal family. The hotel offers numerous services highlighting the Rajasthani culture, including a shopping arcade with the best Rajasthani textiles, handicrafts, shoes and jewellery.
The Lalit Grand Palace, Srinagar
In the land of blossoming love, scenic beauty and snow clad mountains, The Lalit Grand Palace is placed in the heart of Kashmir. This luxurious property, ringed by the Himalayas, overlooks the Dal Lake. Not too far from Srinagar International Airport and close to the city centre and Mughal Gardens, the hotel has a clear view of Shankaracharya Temple on its left and Pari Mahal on its right.
Restoration of the previously dilapidated palace began in 1998—when militancy was at its highest and many residents were vacating the valley. Some innovative and practical additions have been made, but the architectural style of the existing palace has been maintained. The palace still holds the puja house, darbar (meeting hall), a carpet from Maharaja Hari Singh`s time and the Chinar tree under which Gandhiji once spoke to him.
Its 113 rooms and suites are spread over two residential floors with a choice of differently sized beds, smoking and non-smoking facilities and cottages for luxury. Unique offerings include the Maharaja`s library, spa therapies and heritage walks along the beautiful palace lanes or down an underground tunnel.
Nalagarh Heritage Resort, Himachal Pradesh
At the foothills of the Himalayan Shivalik range, the fort of Nalagarh was built by Raja Bikram Chand in 1421. Nalagarh, the kingdom of Hindur, was founded by Raja Ajai Chand in 1100 A.D. and ruled by the Chandela Rajputs who built the ancient Khajuraho temples.
Even though it has been converted into a heritage resort, the walls and roofs of the old structure have been retained. It has longwide corridors, marble bathtubs with ornate fittings, balconies that look over pristine valleys, badminton courts nestled in the folds of tall mountains, and fireplace and rooftop cafes, with charming wrought-iron furniture. Organically grown vegetables are served at buffets and new building plans include an eco-friendly resort.
A room at these heritage hotels will cost anywhere between Rs.5,000 and Rs. 45,000.