An erstwhile warriors’ retreat just outside Jaipur, Alila Fort Bishangarh is a lofty, looming sandstone castle made into a luxury hotel. The original turrets and battlements remain intact, as do the hefty wooden doors, maze-like interiors and rock formations in the basement. Curries are slow-cooked over coals and served by starlight on a terrace at the base of a tower, the pool at the bottom of the hillside showcases the hazy castle directly to your sunlounger, and the spa offers every therapy school of thought going.
Get this when you book through us:
A two-hour 'Journey to Discover Bishangarh' excursion into local life for two
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm, also flexible.
Double rooms from $121.77 (INR8,700), excluding tax at 28 per cent.
Rates include breakfast.
The original 230-year-old fort is an example of local architecture that was influenced by both the Mughals and the British – look out for gaps in the two-metre-thick ancient walls that once housed firearms.
At the hotel
Valet parking, free WiFi throughout, kids’ club, gym, bicycles to borrow. In rooms: LED TV, air-conditioning, free bottled water, minibar, tea- and coffee-making facilities and a fridge.
Our favourite rooms
For cosiness, opt for one of the smaller Heritage Rooms, which have intricately carved wooden window frames. The Regal Suites are predictably massive, with a honeymooner-friendly bath tub in the middle of the lounge. To feel like Rapunzel, choose one of the rooms in the tower, which have seating areas within the turret to enjoy the fairy-tale Rajasthan romance.
There’s an outdoor pool and bar at the bottom of the hill; buggies will transport you there and back.
The spa has an impressive treatment menu, incorporating Ayurvedic, Balinese and Javanese techniques. Even the kids can get in on the action with children’s massages. Yoga, Pilates and personal training are also available. Couples should book the double treatment room – it has a roof terrace with a bath tub on it.
This is a really old fort built onto a hillside – heels are not a great choice. Chic but sensible flats are the way to go here.
The hilly landscape will be tricky to navigate in a wheelchair, but some of the rooms are suitable.
All ages are welcome. Babysitting can be arranged for 700 rupees an hour. The Play Alila kids’ club is free.
Babies and up.
The spacious Regal Suites have plenty of room for families.
Play Alila looks after children with age-appropriate activities, such as face-painting, cycling, games and films. There’s no extra cost.
Cycling, badminton, football, cricket. There’s an outdoor playground and indoor playroom, as well as gardens.
There’s a smaller plunge pool next to the main pool, just for little Smiths.
Children are welcome in all of the restaurants, but not the bar. Highchairs and special menus are available, and staff are happy to heat up baby food.
Babysitting costs 700 rupees an hour and requires a day’s notice to book.
Nab the table closest to your sunlounger at Haveli. At Nazaara, commandeer the table at the very edge of the tower – it has the best spot in the entire fort for sunset gazing.
Sparkly and starry-eyed to match the constellation canopy at Nazaara; kaftans and cover-ups at Haveli.
There are three: Amarsar, Nazaara and Haveli. Amarsar serves contemporary Indian cuisine in a traditional setting (arches, hand-painted walls, thikri mirror work). Up on the roof of one of the turrets, Nazaara is a starlit set-up, with tables strung along a terrace next to the battlements. The curries are cooked in clay pots that are buried in a bed of sand over the coals – smoky, slow-cooked flavour guaranteed. There’s also a tandoor and fire grill (cue carnivorous, caveman-pleasing scent). Down by the pool, white-walled Haveli serves Mediterranean-inspired salads and snacks, including a series of flatbreads, toasted sandwiches and tacos (with ingredients largely coming from the hotel’s organic garden). Breakfast is an interesting thala arrangement, with a selection of different dishes designed to give you a taste of India from across all of its states.
The Madhuveni bar has a cigar lounge and serious selection of whisky and cognac. Tapas gets an Indian makeover here: try small plates such as mint chicken with fermented cauliflower and chili jam, or a smoked-yoghurt kebab with ginger and date chutney.
Amarsar is open from 6.30am to 11.30pm. Haveli runs a lengthy lunch service between 11am and 7pm. Nazaara's hours are 7pm to midnight. The bar serves food between 11am and 11.30pm. The cigar bar opens from 11pm to midnight (3am on Friday and Saturday).
The full menu is available during restaurant hours.
Alila Fort Bishangarh is in rural Rajasthan, between Delhi and Jaipur.
Jaipur’s airport is closest; allow an hour and a half for the 70-kilometre drive. Hotel transfers cost 6,000 rupees each way, plus tax; from Delhi’s Indira Gandhi airport, the drive should take three hours.
The railway station in Jaipur is 60 kilometres away; hotel transfers can be arranged for 6,000 rupees each way, plus tax.
The hotel is a few kilometres off the Delhi-Jaipur national highway, making it a perfect Golden Triangle pitstop; there’s a carpark and free valet parking when you arrive. The drive to the Pink City should take an hour.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel is in the heart of the Golden Triangle, so you’ll be able to get to and from some of the major sights in a day. Nahargarh Fort hangs off the edge of the Aravalli Hills and is perfectly placed for views of Jaipur. Back in town, explore the City Palace to admire the Mughal and Rajput blend of architecture, and the seven-storey tower of the Chandra Mahal that still accommodates royal descendants today. If you’re desperate to see tigers, even if it’s not technically in the wild, jump in a Jeep and visit the Nahargarh Biological Park, a 720-hectare conservation area in the foothills of the Aravalli mountains that’s home to tigers, panthers and lions, as well as 285 species of bird. Don’t miss a trip to the Amber Fort in Jaipur to check out the impressive array of maharaja abodes, marble floors, columns and courtyards of this sandstone palace.
Head to neighbouring hotel Samode Palace to check out the chandeliers and colourful walls of the opulent dining-room. Classic curries await at the Peacock Rooftop Restaurant in Jaipur, which has far-reaching views out over the city and a loyal vegetarian following. Don something dressy and make for Cinnamon at the Taj Hotel in Jaipur, once the favourite eating spot of the prime minister of the state and still the place for fine-dining with a side of glorious Rajput design.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this rural hotel in Rajasthan and unpacked their textiles and trinkets, a full account of their boutique break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Alila Fort Bishangarh near Jaipur…
If you’ve ever fancied yourself as a Rajput warrior, Alila Fort Bishangarh is the hotel for you. This towering, turreted structure is high on a hillside an hour outside of the Pink City of Jaipur (intriguing historical fact: Jaipur was painted its signature rosy shade in honour of the Prince of Wales – later Edward VII – in 1876; he must have liked dusky tones). It’s perfectly placed for Golden Triangle explorations, south of Delhi and west of Agra – though don’t expect the drives to be short. The village of Bishangarh lies at the base of the summit, as does the hotel’s buggy-accessible pool, which has the fortress as its somewhat spectacular backdrop. Back up on the hillside, Alila’s concierge can arrange a host of activities, from trips to local villages to helicopter rides, tiger tracking and cookery classes. It’s hard not to get lost within the vast, maze-like interior – but there’s always a new archway, intricate wall detail or hidden area (libraries, lounges, terraces) to discover. ‘Atmospheric’ doesn’t even come close to doing it justice.
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