Set in Jodhpur’s old walled city, in the shadow of majestic Mehrangarh Fort, Raas Jodhpur boutique hotel brings an 18th-century haveli (maharaja’s mansion) bang up to date. A butler-serviced pool and smart alfresco dining may speak of the Med, but the call to prayer from a nearby mosque is a soul-stirring reminder that you’re in the heart of Rajasthan.
Get this when you book through us:
A fruit basket; two-nights stays get a heritage tour, three-night stays a cooking class, and four-night stays a bottle of wine and return transfers
Noon; check-in, 2pm. Both are flexible subject to availability for an additional fee.
Double rooms from £154.34 (INR15,436), including tax at 18 per cent.
Rates include continental breakfast and all taxes.
Slip into Ila Spa for some holistic, spiritual treatments.
At the hotel
Gardens, cushioned alcoves, spa treatment rooms, DVD/CD library, free WiFi throughout. In room: flatscreen TV, DVD/CD player, minibar, Kama Ayurveda toiletries. Suites in the Heritage Wing offer iPods.
Our favourite rooms
Set within the original Rajput residence, the three Old Wing Suites are the last word in romance. Rose-hued sandstone, carved jaali screens and splashes of Brahmin blue set the tone for these luxury abodes. Outdoor terraces lead into dimly lit living areas with cool tile floors and stone walls. Low-slung king-size beds and sumptuous freestanding bath tubs are fit for a Maharani.
The 18-metre heated infinity pool brings a splash of Ibiza to the Indian desert, with white-canopied sunloungers, chilled tunes and switched-on bar service to boot. Book ahead for poolside yoga.
Sari-fabulous wraps, feather-light cottons and broad-brimmed hats for Mrs Smith. Mr Smith, look to owner Nikhilendra's designer desert kit of crisp linen shirts, khaki cotton pants and aviator shades. If you don't want to wake with the pre-dawn azan from Laiquan mosque, use the earplugs provided in each room, but we reckon you're missing out on this melodic start to the day.
Pet dogs and cats are welcome, and smoking is allowed in outside sitting areas.
Junior Smiths are welcome. Baby cots are free, or under-4s can share their parents' bed at no extra cost. Extra beds (suitable for 5-12s) cost INR5,000 a night (plus 18% tax a night; includes breakfast). Babysitting can be arranged for INR300 an hour.
Raas welcomes kids of all ages, with child-friendly activities, menus and bedding on offer.
Older kids, who'll appreciate the hustle and bustle of Jodhpur.
The ground-floor Garden Rooms open onto private grassy courtyards, making them pick of the bunch for Smiths travelling en masse. Baby cots can be added for free, and extra beds for under 12s cost INR2,300.
Hotel staff are only too happy to arrange treasure hunts, cooking classes, flower decoration sessions and music lessons. Beyond the hotel, the markets will dazzle and Mehrangarh Fort's Flying Fox lets juniors channel their inner Batman.
There's no dedicated kids pool, but the shallow ledge provides for safe splashing. Inflatables and arm-bands are on offer, and from 7am to 10pm a lifeguard will keep an eye on tiny tots.
Children can pull up a pew at both restaurants, where special menus and highchairs are provided. Pizzas, salads and noodles are sure to please young appetites. You can also ask the kitchen to prepare packed lunches, or heat up baby food and milk.
With 24 hours' notice, babysitting can be arranged for INR300 an hour.
No need to pack
Highchairs, baby cots and pool toys are all on tap.
Organic vegetables and herbs are grown in the grounds and at the owner's kitchen garden nearby, and swaying stands of aromatic lemongrass act as a natural insect repellent. Local materials have been used in construction, plus solar power and recycling programmes are in effect.
Bandari's billowing drapes, crisp table cloths and shadow-casting lanterns are seriously seductive.
Smart and simple, with a dash of safari-chic. A pashmina to throw around your shoulders during winter months.
Raas has two: white-hot Bandari Restaurant, which offers elegant indoor dining and sun-drenched poolside posing; and elevated Dari Khana, a relaxed space of cushioned banquettes, candle-lit tables and scene-stealing fort views. Chef Vishal Gautam has crafted a crowd-pleasing menu of Indian classics, Thai treats and Mediterranean favourites, with authentic Rajasthani fare a highlight of Dari Khana. In keeping with the observances of the Old City, the kitchens are pork- and beef-free zones.
With a bird's-eye view of both the pool and Mehrangarh, the Roofttop Bar offers a pinch-me-quick set of sights. Sip on a mojito as you watch the sun set and the lights of the fort begin to twinkle.
The restaurants and bar stay open until 10.30pm, though may close earlier during the low season.
You can dial up a margherita pizza, pad Thai or club sandwich around the clock.
Located in the heart of the Old Walled City, Raas Jodhpur is within easy reach of mesmerising Mehrangarh Fort and the Clock Tower markets.
Touch down at Jodhpur Airport – Jet Airways and Air India fly in daily from Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur and Udaipur. The hotel is a 20-minute drive away.
The Jodhpur Railway Station has good rail links with the rest of the country. Visit: www.indianrail.gov.in for timetables and fares.
Tuk tuks are the best way to travel around town – book the hotel's own Brahmin-blue number for market jaunts or trips up to Mehrangarh Fort. The narrow lanes of the Old Town are tight, so leave the driving to the locals.
Worth getting out of bed for
Raas lets guests tap into the surrounding region with a choice of culture-laden experiences. Guided walks offer a gentle introduction to this intimate, yet frenetic city, or if you'd rather zip around the streets, book the services of the hotel's bespoke tuk tuk. A Bishnoi Village Safariintroduces you to the no-frills lives of this animal- and plant-loving Hindu sect. Transfers to the villages are of the choose-your-own-adventure type. Opt for a camel trek, open-topped Jeep or a chaffeur-driven air-conditioned car (but then you're missing out on half the fun). A temple-hopping tour of the Ossian desert is also on offer.
It's impossible to ignore the mighty Mehrangarh Fort, which looms large over the hotel. Take a guided audio tour to learn all about this fabled fortress. Once you've explored it from the ground, see it from above with Flying Fox zip lines, which zig and zag over the walls and around the mountain.
Brave the bustle of the Clock Tower market, where trolleys topped with glass bangles, incense and fruit give way to stores filled with antique fabrics, terracotta pottery, clothing and jewellery.
For Indian classics and barbecued meats, nab a table in the leafy courtyard of family-friendly On the Rocks, near the Raika Bagh train station. If polo's more your schtick, hightail it to Hanwant Mahal (+91 98 297 44417) on Umaid Bhawan Hill, just beneath the Palace. There's a vista-flaunting rooftop terrace, private-dining nooks and a Champagne Lounge adorned with vintage polo photos. Regional Rajasthani dishes shine at the Raj-tastic dining room in Ajit Bhawan Hotel.
At the entrance to Mehrangarh Fort, Café Mehran makes the perfect pitstop after you've scrambled up, down and around the palace. Tuck into a Rajasthani thali plate, a light snack or a refreshing iced tea.
Sorry, Brad. Apologies, Angelina. The real Mr and Mrs Smith have just stolen your thunder.
By the time Hollywood’s golden couple arrive in Jodphur, smack bang in the heart of Rajasthan, for a film producer pal’s mega-wedding, the missus and I have already done the town, drunk it dry, hit every hot spot and left wearing the T-shirt.
Jodphur, the ‘Blue City’ of Mughal legend, makes Hollywood look like Hicksville anyway. For starters, instead of a rusting rabble of letters on a hill as a totem, this madcap metropolis looks heavenward to Mehrangarh, ‘Citadel of the Sun’ – built in 1459AD as the world’s mightiest fort (it’s now the castle in the clouds hosting Brangelina).
As views from a hotel go, Rao Jodha’s palace battlement is tough to top. But if Mehrangarh embodies the eyes and mind of the Walled City, Raas – nestled at the foot of that mountain – is the kiss Brahman, god of gods, planted at its feet.
Four heritage buildings of rose-red sandstone make up this most beautiful of hotels. For 300 years it was a family residence, replete with pavilions, stables, guard houses, temples and a guesthouse named Dari Khana – ‘Chamber of Carpets’.
Brothers Nikhilendra and Dhananajaya Singh have refashioned that family manor into 32 rooms and seven suites skirting sprawling terraced gardens, infinity pools, restaurants, spas and boutiques – a place of subtle odysseys for blue-chip travellers not easily awed. From the get-go, the panoramic vista of Mehrangarh – hues shifting with the sun’s movements – guarantees that awe. But thereafter we make Raas an epic of immersion. Outside the hotel it’s a riot of chaotic colour. Inside, birds trill, water tinkles and passion simmers. Best to just go with the flow…
Easy when there’s an ice bucket waiting, and French champagne to drink on the balcony of our Luxury Room. Slick yet rustic, this upstairs suite is freckled by the sun spots refracted through honeycombed jhali (window screens) and set to the music of birds, frogs and squirrels chattering in a hubbub from the frangipanis that frame that view.
The only way to counter the utter bedlam of Jodphur is to hit it hard, fast and often. So our forays outside Raas are conducted like raids. We zip between bazaars and market squares via the labyrinth of dusty veins that circulate the city’s lifeblood, encountering textiles, ornaments, spices, omnipresent sacred cows and humble, happy locals. It’s a whirlpool of energy and adventure but we keep our wits and bearings by the six huge gates – the ancient borders of the city that human tides have long since burst.
Waiting for us, as for generations, is Raas: eye of the hurricane, end of the rainbow. In the morning, woken by wailed prayers from the neighbouring mosque, we’re revitalised. Our days start poolside with the house-special saffron lassi, breakfast drink of deities (a far cry from the oft-touted ‘bhang’ lassi where a liquidised cannabis is added in measures one café described thus: ‘strong/ super-duper sex strong/ full-power 24-hour’).
At night, gloriously spent, we return to one of Raas’s two restaurants, Dari Khana. A haven for romantic dinners, it sits centrally, bathed in floodlights from the Fort up above and swimming in the scent of the hand-ground spices chef Vishal Gautam lets us source with him from a 200-year-old spice arcade on the arid outskirts of town.
With limbs zinging from exotic scrubs at the spa, we kick back as karma kicks in. A red sun is setting over the Blue City. Frogs hop from their ponds to the pool and serenely breaststroke up and down. Bollywood operettas are wafting from speakers hidden in the shrubbery and candles sit spluttering light from arched nooks in the haveli (Maharaja’s mansion).
I suspect Brad and Angelina might refer to this twilight zone as ‘Hollywood Hour’. Whatever. Right now the real Mr and Mrs Smith are, like Mehrangarh, sitting pretty.