Once you know family-run Kaner Retreat is named after the oleander (AKA the desert rose) the rest clicks into place; after all, it is billed as ‘the first botanical resort in India’. It may be set against the torrid sand dunes of Rajasthan's Thar Desert, but botanics do abound at this redbrick retreat, where each of the 10 standalone villas has been delicately designed to reflect the distinct characteristics of a native flower. From the handcrafted courtyard kiwads (grand carved doors) that greet your arrival to locally commissioned artworks, woven tapestries and antique furnishings, there’s not an inch of your room that hasn’t been ‘florally’ thought out. Beyond your secluded sanctuary, dining spots are equally scenic; breakfasts are dished up daily in the view-graced glasshouse, lunch is alfresco amid thousands of olive trees and dinner is wherever you want it, including atop the dunes.
1pm. Earliest check-in, 2pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £115.02 (INR11,800), including tax at 18 per cent.
Rates include a breakfast of fresh fruits, bread made onsite with organic marmalades and jams, and eggs how you like ‘em, all served in the Glasshouse Lounge.
Unfortunately the desert terrain isn’t suitable for those with mobility issues.
The retreat opens annually from August to March.
At the hotel
Walking trails and free WiFi. In rooms: private courtyard, plug adapters, air-conditioning, tea- and coffee-making kit, free bottled water, and Ma Earth Botanicals toiletries. There are no TVs to foster a sense of serenity.
Our favourite rooms
All 10 villas have beautiful flowering courtyards, antique furnishings and natural finishes, but the turmeric-hued Hazara Villa is our pick. Here, dark-mahogany shutters open up to flood the spacious villa with natural light, and hand-carved pieces accentuates an otherwise minimalist space.
There’s a small stepwell-style plunge pool, just big enough for a relaxing dip.
Pack light with flowy linens and comfy cottons, and be sure to leave enough space for any local handicrafts you fall in love with along the way.
Each of Kaner Retreat’s three co-owners bring something special; Sanvi teaches horse-riding and music, Sapna grew up in the Thar Desert and is a well-versed botanist (among many other things), and Samir is an astrology pro for evenings spent stargazing.
Little Smiths are very welcome; there’s no kids’ club but camel rides, safaris and flower picking keep them entertained.
The hotel is built in harmony with its surroundings, so sustainability is at the forefront of what they do: the clay for its redbrick exteriors was sourced from a local quarry, furniture is made from reclaimed wood, artwork and handicrafts are produced by local artisans, all rooms and common areas are entirely solar-powered, no single-use plastic is used, and at least 70 per cent of food served is provided by the regions farmers and suppliers. Plus, flowers are planted during the monsoon season to ensure water waste is as minimal as possible.
Sunset meals amid the arid majesty of the Thar Desert, with flowers and a fire – whether just the two of you, or with fellow guests – are a must.
Work with your floral surroundings – searing yellows for the Rohira flower and pastel pinks for blooming Kaners will blend seamlessly.
Kaner Retreat has a few dining spaces. Breakfast is dished-up daily in the Glasshouse Lounge, where its signature redbrick forms grand arches and sweeping views abound. Lunch is served alfresco in the olive groves, and the menu draws inspiration from the Med, offering desert-to-table dishes that change based on what local farmers are growing at the time – although, regardless of season, everything is cooked in hand-pressed olive oil from the surrounding trees. Expect quinoa garnished with caramelised onions, tahini-topped mung lentils, and freshly-baked focaccia. Tailored-to-you dinners are the main event here; thalis take centre stage on the terrace, and turmeric-infused plates grace chef Virender Singh’s curated menu (meals can also be romantically set picnic-style on the dunes as well, just ask staff to set it up). For something a little more formal, a private five-course dinner is available in the Hathai room, where traditional Rajasthani-inspired cuisine is dished up as flautists play. And, to tide you over, afternoon tea with the likes of homemade sorghum cookies can be genteelly taken in the main courtyard.
There’s no bar here, drinks are served as you dine (fear not, this retreat serves both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks).
Breakfast is from 8am to 10.30am; lunch is 1pm to 3pm; afternoon tea is 4.30pm to 6.30pm, and dinner is from 7.30pm to 10pm (9.30pm if dining in the Hathai room).
Located a two-hour drive from Jodhpur, Kaner Retreat is set by an ‘oran’ – a sacred grove among the undulating dunes of the Thar Desert.
You’ll have to fly into Jodhpur Airport, most international flights will require a layover in Delhi or Mumbai, both with an hour-and-a-half flight time on to Jodhpur. Once you arrive, Kaner is just under two hours’ drive away. The hotel can arrange private transfers from £40 each way.
For those arriving by rail, the closest train station is in Jodhpur – a little under a two-hour drive away. Private transfers can be organised by the hotel from £40 each way.
If you’d rather a set of wheels, and are willing to give driving in Jodhpur a go, then the hotel has a free car park onsite. Otherwise, hire a driver to do the hard work for you.
Worth getting out of bed for
Kaner Retreat may be in the middle of the desert, but there’s plenty to fill your days with. Tour the 40-acre olive groves near Phalodi, where the hotel sources all its oil, and finish with a fresh alfresco lunch. Take a guided nature walk through the sacred oran with in-house botanist Sapna (who also hosts a plant-based wellness session that focuses on holistic Ayurvedic rituals). Crane-spotting awaits at the Khichan Bird Sanctuary, or visit the local towns; for history-buffs, ancient outpost Osian houses the region's oldest Hindu and Jain temples, and for those wanting to watch local artisans at work, Pokhran is a hub of weaving and pottery workshops. And adventure-seekers may prefer to spend their days paragliding, safari-ing through the desert, off-roading over the dunes, or camel riding.
Restaurants are few and far between here, but Kaner Retreat’s impressive dining spots and fresh fare mean you’ve already got the best table for head-turning views and delectable dishes. If you’re travelling through Jodhpur on your way to the retreat, stop by On the Rocks for family-recipe Indian classics.
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 serene sanctuary in Jodhpur and unpacked their hand-woven tapestries and terracotta teapots, a full account of their surprisingly green break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Kaner Retreat in Jodhpur…
If you’re looking to get away from it all – and we mean really get away from it all – then Kaner Retreat has you covered. Rising like an oasis amid the Thar Desert’s dunes, it’s set by a miraculously lush sacred grove, known in Rajasthani as an ‘oran’. But this hotel blesses you with more than its botanical gardens and sandy horizons. Private dinners on the dunes, alfresco lunches in the olive groves, desert safaris, holistic healing sessions with in-house Ayurvedic experts, guided nature walks, stargazing sessions and camel rides give Kaner Retreat that otherworldly magic you can only find in a magical middle of nowhere.