●Birders Inn – Bird Sanctuary Road; 011-91-056-4422-7346; birdersinn.com; clean but Spartan; pretty garden.
●Laxmi Vilas Palace – Sagar Road (Kakaji Ki Kothi); 011-91-056-4422-3523; laxmivilas.com; 19th Century Palace.
Sights & Sites
●Keoladeo National Park – wildlifeinindia.com/keoladeo.html; World Heritage site; famous avifauna sanctuary that sees Ks rare birds (such as Siberian Crane); 230-400 species.
●Royal Tents Pushkar – 011-91-029-1257-2321; jodhanaheritage.com.
JAIPUR (includes Alwar, Amer, Tehsil Amer & Tehsil Ballupura)
Bars & Nightclubs
●Bar Palladio – Kanota Bagh, Narain Singh Road (at Narain Niwas Palace Hotel); 011-91-014-1256-5556; bar-palladio.com; chic & frequented by expats.
●Polo Bar – Bhawani Singh Road (in Rambagh Palace); 011-91-014-1221-1919; tajhotels.com; home of perfect gin & tonic.
●Amanbagh – Ajabgarh (Alwar); 011-91-014-6522-3333 or 800-477-9180; amanbagh.com; beautiful, romantic hideaway in Aravali Hills; walled oasis; beautiful gardens.
●Devi Ratn – Jamdoli, Agra Road (Tehsil Ballupura); 011-91-014-1305-0211; deviresorts.in; 60-suite, 3-villa hotel outside Jaipur; newly-constructed buildings inspired by area’s historic sites; suites in jeweled colors set off by black-&-white zigzag terrazzo floors.
●Diggi Palace – Sawai Ram Singh Road (Shivaji Marg); 011-91-014-1237-3091; hoteldiggipalace.com; best budget option in Jaipur; overnight in this rambling, 200-year-old haveli for fraction of rates charged elsewhere; drawbacks of this budget-value haven are that it can be busy and is long walk from Old City; surrounded by big, open lawn; within walking distance of Ram Niwas Gardens and Central Museum; brand-new pool; rooms vary in size, but all feature clean, cool, white tiles and whitewashed walls; some have antique furniture; book air-conditioned room set around cool, open courtyard; substantially larger and still great value; #108 is gorgeous 1st-floor room with large, 4-poster metal frame bed and big bathroom; alternatively, book cool, quiet cottage rooms, which have marble floors and bright block-print fabrics (all have tubs and showers), away from potentially noisy main building and overlook garden; for access to semiprivate veranda, ask for #209, spacious suite with large bathroom and shared balcony overlooking courtyard; must book ahead.
●Nana Ki Haveli – Fateh Tiba, Moti Dongri Road; 011-91-014-1261-5502; nanakihaveli.com; cozy B&B with 15 stylish rooms and delicious home-cooked food.
●Narain Niwas Hotel – Kanota Bagh, Narain Singh Road; 011-91-014-1256-1291; 1 of best heritage hotels in India; built in 1928 in Anglo-Indian style.
●Oberoi Rajvilas – Goner Road; 800-562-3764; OberoiRajvilas.com/Rajvilas-Jaipur; nestled amid beautifully maintained gardens and pools, sunken baths; teak-floored tents; spa; library bar.
●Ram Jharokha Guest House – Peelwa Gardens; 011-91-014-1260-3745; spacious double rooms, friendly owner, and decent home-cooked meals.
●Rambagh Palace – Bhawani Singh Road; 011-91-014-1221-1919; tajhotels.com; Taj flagship; 1st palace in India to become hotel; paramount service; Rajmata Gayatri Devi still in residence; 47-acre estate; occasional elephant polo games; 46 rooms (all opulent); 33 suites, many with original chandaliers and fountains are most interesting; Suryavanshi and Prince Suites have terraces; Pothikhana Suite was once Maharaja’s study.
●Rasa Resort – Kunda, NH-8 (Tehsil Amer); 011-91-012-4488-8011; rasaresorts.in; 40 square tents with glass wall facades and canvas sides, blending modern design with nature-based tourism; futuristic compound adjoins 16th Century fortress; affordable.
●Samode Haveli – Gangapole; 011-91-014-1263-2407; samode.com; 200 year-old residence converted into 30-room hotel, tucked in hillside in old, walled city; many original frescoes and mosaics remain; series of courtyards provide town views at different levels; large pool with daybeds; rooms appointed with antiques; request room with courtyard or terrace; Sheesh Mahal (Mirrors Palace) Suite #114 (make sure you do not get #115) is most romantic, with original, carved archways.
●Kitchen – 51 Sardar Patel Marg; 011-91-014-1411-3000; facebook.com/thekitchenjaipurmodern; shockingly good Italian food.
●Royal Treat – New Ramgarh Mod, Amer Road; 011-91-014-1263-0795; upscale restaurant; furnished in dark woods; good food.
●Anantaya – B-6/A-1 Prithviraj Road; 011-91-014-1236-4863; modern furniture and lighting store.
●Anokhi – KK Square, C-11 Prithviraj Road; 011-91-014-1400-7244; anokhi.com; home furnishings; 300 craftsmen create well-priced cotton bedspreads, cushion covers, and napkins at on-site workshop; dyes are often vegetable-based.
●Best Jaipurnagra Shoe Stores – 56 Johari Bazaar (Pink City); 011-91-09-8284-5688; leather shoes and slip-ons.
●Gem Palace – Mirza Ismail Road; 011-91-014-1237-4175; gempalacejaipur.com; jewelry; 17th Century Moghul reproductions, as well as Victorian pieces; every kind of loose stone.
●Hot Pink – Narain Niwa Palace, Kanota Bagh, Narain Singh Road; 011-91-014-1510-8932; hotpinkindia.com; in Narain Niwas Hotel; run by Gem Palace’s Munnu Kasliwal and jeweler Marie-Helene de Taillac; home furnishings.
●Hot Pink Amer – Amber Fort (near Maan Singh Mahal, Amer); 011-91-014-1253-0178; hotpinkindia.com; in Narain Niwas Hotel; run by Gem Palace’s Munnu Kasliwal and jeweler Marie-Helene de Taillac; home furnishings.
●Jaipur Modern – 51 Sardar Patel Marg; 011-91-014-1411-2000; facebook.com/JaipurModern; concept store; modern homewares & clothing.
●Kripal Kumbh – B18 A Shiv Marg, Bani Park; 011-91-014-1220-1127; blue pottery; beautifully executed; on display throughout eccentric family home.
●Nayika – Tholia Building, Mirza Ismail Road; 011-91-014-1236-2664; nayika.in; quilted, featherweight jackets in every color.
●Rajasthan Fabrics & Arts – Laxman Dwara, City Palace; 011-91-014-1260-1432; museum quality textiles, saris, miniature paintings, and lithographs; vintage fabrics (available for viewing by appointment only).
●Rana’s – 1 Ganpati Plaza, Mirza Ismail Road; 011-91-014-1510-4100; ranasarees.com; for well-heeled brides; also, embellished jackets and skirts, and cotton and silk block prints.
●Royal Gems & Arts – Saras Sadan, Gangore Bazaar; 011-91-014-1232-1334; royalgemsandarts.com; sterling silver designs accented with emerald, topaz, and turquoise; located in 18th Century haveli.
●Salim’s Handmade Paper – Gramodyog Road, Sanganer; 011-91-014-1730-222; handmadepaper.com; place to buy cards, delicate sheet wrapping paper, diaries, and tote bags, trimmed with appliqués, dried flowers, and ribbons.
●Sankhala Handicrafts – Pink City (opposite Hawa Mahal); 011-91-014-1261-0597; embroidered saris and silks.
●Satayam – 174 Laxman Dwara (outside City Palace); 011-91-014-1260-0555; pashmina and silk quilts and shawls, all embroidered and woven by hand; also, short tunics.
●Saurashtra Oriental Arts – 3-4 Jowarsingh Gate, Amber Palace Road; 011-91-014-1263-5647; saurashtraorientalarts.com; ethnic textiles from as far as Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, as well as all over India.
●Soma – 5 Jacob Road, Civil Lines (near Jai Mahal Palace); 011-91-014-1222-2778; somashop.com; block-print quilts and bedding.
●Taluka Tent Overseas – Sardar Patel Marg; 011-91-098-2901-7995; talukatent.com; over-the-top tents and umbrellas; scalloped borders, oversize finge, and vibrant lining; gorgeous showpieces.
●Tholia’s Kuber – Tholia Building, Mirza Ismail Road; 011-91-014-1237-7416; inexpensive semi-precious stone strands (amethyst to spinels to topaz).
Sights & Sites
●Amber (Amer) Fort – Delhi-Jaipur Highway (Amer, 20 minutes north of Jaipur); 011-91-014-1253-0293; rajasthantourism.gov.in; above small Maota Sagar Lake; Mughal and Rajput style mix, surrounded by cool gardens (Dilaram Bagh).
●Bapu Bazaar – 1 of many colorful markets in old city, just west of Sanganeri Gate; textiles and leather shoes.
●Central Museum (Albert Hall) – Adarsh Nagar (south of Old City); 011-91-014-1257-0099; alberthalljaipur.gov.in or alberthallmuseum.com; housed in recently renovated Albert Hall; costumes, decorative arts, drawings, musical instruments, and tribal-ware.
●City Palace – Pink City; 011-91-014-1260-8055; Jaipur’s main attraction; Diwan-i-Khas hall houses 2 urns, largest silver items ever manufactured; also, see 18th Century Chavi Niwas (“Hall of Images”); make sure to see Blue Room.
●Gem Palace – M.I. Road (near Mahavir Marg); 011-91-014-1237-4175; gempalacejaipur.com; when Rajasthan maharajahs deprived of “privy purses” in 1972, many sell family jewels; Gem Palace, whose owners had served their needs for 4 generations, discreet place to do so; these items now displayed, along with Mughal period antiques; can also view craftspeople creating new pieces.
●Hawa Mahal – Hawa Mahal Road (Badi Choupad, J.D.A. Market, Pink City); 011-91-014-1261-8862; hawa-mahal.com; Jaipur’s most distinctive landmark; extraordinary pink-painted, delicately honeycombed hive that rises 5 stories; constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh to enable royal household ladies to watch city’s life & processions; top offers stunning views over Jantar Mantar & City Palace, as well as over Sireh Deori Bazaar; small museum (Saturday-Thursday), with miniature paintings & some rich relics, such as ceremonial armor; claustrophobes should be aware that narrow corridors can sometimes get extremely cramped & crowded; entrance is from back of complex; valid Amber Fort composite ticket will also gain you entry.
●Kanak Vrindavan Valley – Amber-Jaipur Road (adjoining Amber Fort); jaipur.org.uk; at Nahargarh hills’ bottom, adjoining ex-Amber Fort; Govind Deoji Temple, with its beautiful and delicate carvings, spreads holy aura of spirituality all over with its chhatris, lattice, and mirror work; covered with Dhok and Kadama trees, water cascades, blossoms, brook, and ponds; divided into 8 sections, garden comprises fountain series.
●Neemrana Fort-Palace – 122nd milestone Delhi-Jaipur Highway (Alwar, near Neemrana); 011-91-011-4666-1666 or 011-91-094-1405-0044; fort-palace.neemranahotels.com; 2-hour drive from Delhi; 15th Century fort is among oldest and most accessible heritage hotels in Rajasthan; ruins make up 11 floors; audio tour available.
●Pink City – city’s old, walled quarter; endless market stall rows.
●Ram Niwas Gardens – Ajmeri Gate (near Albert Hall); jaipur.cc/Zoo.htm; historical garden and zoo; 33 acres; built by Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh in 1868; within garden is Central (Albert) Hall Museum; also has bird park, the Zoo, Ravindra Rang Manch Theatre, art gallery, exhibition ground, gymnasium, and several cafes and picnic spots; run-down.
●Shri Pratap Singh Museum – Lal Mandi, Hazuri Bagh; 011-91-019-4231-3440; spsmuseum.org; old maharajah palace with textile and papier-mache collection; barely preserved.
●Serai – Bherwa (Chandan); 011-91-029-9720-0014; the-serai.com; luxurious desert camp & spa, close to medieval city of Jaisalmer; on 100-acre private estate (indigenous desert scrub).
●Suryagarh – Kahala Phata, Sam Road; 011-91-029-9226-9269; suryagarh.com; dramatic and elegant; highly-reviewed.
Sights & Sites
●Jaisalmer Fort – Trikuta Hill; jaisalmer.org.uk; among world’s largest forts; built in 1156 in Thar Desert; sandstone walls are lion color during day, fading to honey-gold as sun sets, thereby camouflaging fort in yellow desert.
●Jawai Leopard Camp – Jawai Dam (Pali District); 011-91-011-4617-2700; sujanluxury.com; on 20 acres in isolated, rural area; 12 white-canvas tents, raised wooden deck, infinity pool; not in national park so no pesky rules; also, leopards very friendly (not afraid of people) and frequently seen.
JODHPUR (includes Osian)
Bars & Nightclubs
●J Bar – Ajit Bhawan Palace, Circuit House Road (at Ajit Bhawan hotel); 011-91-029-1251-3333; ajitbhawan.com; cozy.
●Reggie’s Camel Camp – behind Tagore School (High Court Colony, India Safari Club, 1 hour outside Jodhpur); 011-91-029-1243-7023; camelcamposian.com; few places recall maharajah era better; dark woods, mounted trophies, royal hunting party pictures.
●Trophy Bar – near Circuit House Road (at Umaid Bhawan Palace); 011-91-029-1251-0101; tajhotels.com; bar servicing sandstone palace with 15 gardens and private museum; evokes colonial hunting lodge; try signature cocktail, Mathania (martini infused with chilies).
●Ajit Bhawan – Ajit Bhawan Palace, Circuit House Road; 011-91-029-1251-3333; ajitbhawan.com; inviting and warm; bar is especially cozy; gravel paths and tiny lanes connecting rooms give spacious outdoor vibe; big rooms; mud walls give earthy smell, though.
●Bal Samand Garden Retreat – Mandore Road; 011-91-029-1257-2321; jodhanaheritage.com.
●Heritage Kuchaman Haveli – inside Merti Gate; 011-91-029-1254-7787; kuchamanhaveli.com; tucked on residential side street; converted 18th Century mansion.
●Raas – old city; 011-91-029-1263-6455; raasjodhpur.com bold mix of new and old (3 uncompromisingly modern buildings attached to large, internal courtyard of 18th Century haveli (townhouse); 32 rooms and 7 suites; restaurant and spa; pink sandstone pool.
●Reggie’s Camel Camp Oslan – behind Tagore School (High Court Colony, India Safari Club, 1 hour outside Jodhpur); 011-91-029-1243-7023; camelcamposian.com; few places recall maharajah era better; dark woods, mounted trophies, royal hunting party pictures; if you stay anywhere in India, stay here.
●Royal Tents Mehrangarh Fort – 011-91-029-1257-2321; jodhanaheritage.com.
●Sardar Samand Lake Palace – Sardar Samand Lake (Jodhpur); 011-91-029-1257-2321; jodhanaheritage.com.
●Umaid Bhawan Palace – (near Circuit House Road); 011-91-029-1251-0101; tajhotels.com; sandstone palace with 15 gardens and private museum; some rooms have fireplaces and/or verandas; Art Deco furnishings; royal family still in residence.
●Vivanta by Taj Hari Mahal – 5 Residency Road; 011-91-029-1243-9700; vivantabytaj.com; good for businessmen.
●Pillars – (near Circuit House Road, at Umaid Bhawan Palace); 011-91-029-1251-0101; tajhotels.com; restaurant servicing sandstone palace with 15 gardens and private museum.
Sights & Sites
●Jaswant Thada Cenotaph – built in 1889 for king, Jaswant Singh II, as memorial temple; marble cut so thin can see through it.
●Mehrangarh Fort – Fort; 011-91-029-1254-8790; maharajajodhpur.com; perhaps best-preserved of Rajasthan’s 100s of forts; excellent audio guide in English; make sure to visit Chokelao Bagh, fragrant garden with exotic flora (sweet white kamini and chandni flowers).
●Ranakpur – among most spectacular, Jain-faith temples; hillside resort.
●Connaught House – Rajendra Marg (Mount Abu); 011-91-029-7423-8560; jodhanaheritage.com.
●Ranvas – Ahhichatragarh Fort; 011-91-011-4603-5500; jodhanaheritage.com; means “Hooded Cobra Fort”; renovated from 12th Century ancient mud fort.
●Royal Camp – Ahhichatragarh Fort; 011-91-022-6150-6363; nivalink.com/campnagaur; tents; open only from October to March.
Sights & Sites
●Ahhichatragarh Naguar Fort – mehrangarh.org/t_nagaur.htm; "Hooded Cobra" fort; massive, 12th Century restored ruins; unique water-recycling system; at ruins’ heart, richly painted Rajput–Mughal palace complex.
●Camel Fair – January-February.
●Rawla Narlai – Jodhpur National Highway (near Desuri, Pali District); 011-91-029-3426-0425; narlai.com; located halfway between Jodhpur and Udaipur; former hunting lodge for Jodhpur royal family since 17th Century; now tranquil retreat, fusing somewhat rustic local village aesthetic with majestic splendor; 20 rooms and 5 tents scattered over 3-acre property; room #9 is oldest and most atmospheric, with original frescoes; visit nearby stepwell, Amba Bagh.
●Chhatra Sagar Nimaj – Pali-Marwar District; 011-91-029-3923-0118; chhatrasagar.com; luxury birdwatching base.
●Rohet Garh – Pali District; 011-91-029-3626-8231; rohetgarh.com; hour’s drive from Jodhpur, near Thar Desert edge; 36-room heritage property; well-appointed rooms have gentle luster; 1 of India’s finest stables of Marwari horses; provides customized excursions.
●Samode Palace – Gangapole; 011-91-014-2324-0014; samode.com; less than hour north of Jaipur, in Aravalli Hills; 400 year-old, 43 room palace with village views; destination in and of itself: private dinners, village strolls, spa; 2 pools, 1 mosaic-tiled and 1 infinity; 4 “royal suites” have fireplaces, courtyards, and outdoor whirlpools; rooms #s 104, 106 & 110 are large enough to qualify as suites, with balconies that overlook hotel’s entrance.
●Aman-I-Khas – Sherpur Kiljipur; 011-91-074-6225-2052; amanresorts.com; at Ranthambhore National Park (Tiger Preserve) entrance; 3-hours southeast of Jaipur; paya homage to customary Moghul traveling tents; elegant; traditional stepwell and spa; tremendous bird-watching at hotel and twice daily safaris into tiger preserve; good, organic food.
●Khem Villas – Sherpur Khiljipur; 011-91-074-1403-0262; khemvillas.com; at entrance to Ranthambhore National Park (Tiger Preserve); 3-hours southeast of Jaipur; all-inclusive, 15-unit camp on 10 acres; safari experience; evening cocktails by private lake or organic, vegetarian meals taken family style in game lodge fashion (ask for Indian menu, western dishes are hit-or-miss); main lodge furnished in Rajasthani style with Anokhi hand-blocked printed quilts and colorful cushions; rooms within lodge, as well as tents, and 6 thatch roof cottages come with massive stone tub in private courtyard, illuminated by candles in rose petal-strewn bowls; evening game drives bring close alligators, sloth bears, and wild boar, as well as leopards and tigers; April-June best time for game viewing; either of 2 cottages with open views of farmland, ponds, and Ranthambhore’s rocky escarpment are best units.
●Oberoi Vanyavilas – Ranthambhore Road; 011-91-074-6222-3999 or 800-562-3764; oberoihotels.com; at Ranthambhore National Park (Tiger Preserve) entrance; 3-hours southeast of Jaipur; nightly hot water bottles in bed to warm up feet; main building recreates hunting palace with elephant and peacock murals; air-conditioned tents among lemon and mango trees have embroidered, interior canopies; excellent food.
●Sher Bagh – Sherpur-Khiljipur (in Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve); 011-91-074-6225-2120; sherbagh.com; luxury tented camp.
SION (includes Chunabhatti, Kelwara & Ranakpur)
●Maharani Bagh Orchard Retreat – A-205 Godrej Coliseum (Chunabhatti, behind Everard Nagar, off Eastern Express Highway); 011-091-022-6150-6363; nivalink.com/maharanibagh; situated between Jodhpur, Mount Abu, and Udaipur; set among orchards, surrounded by Aravalli hills; laid out in late 19th Century by Jodhpur Maharani; only 4 km from Ranakpur Temples and 50 Km from imposing Kumbalgarh Fort.
Sights & Sites
●Kumbalgarh Fort – Kelwara (56 miles from Udaipur, 2-hr. drive one-way; 1 hr. from Ranakpur Temples); 011-91-014-1511-0598; kumbhalgarh.in or kumbhalgarhfortwalk.com; Mewar fortress in Rajsamand District built in 15th Century.
●Ranakpur Temples – Ranakpur (40 miles from Udaipur, 2.5-hr. drive one-way); 011-91-029-3428-5019; udaipur.org.uk; Jain Temple, in particular, among faith’s most spectacular temples; built in 1439 around measurements based on number 72, age at which Jainism founder achieved enlightenment; hand-carved marble pillar maze.
UDAIPUR – considered India’s Venice
●Devi Garh – Delwara; 011-91-029-5328-9211; deviresorts.com; 18th Century palace, nestled in Aravali Hills; 39 suites; spa.
●Oberoi Udaivilas – Haridasji Ki Magri; 011-91-029-4243-3300 or 800-562-3764; oberoihotels.com; top-scoring property in Asia, Australia, and Pacific Nations; surprisingly low-tech, of 36 rooms, all have private courtyards; 4 luxury suites are best, with private pools; location is former hunting grounds by Lake Pichola; perfect food, setting, and views; spa.
●Taj Lake Palace – Lake Pichola; 011-91-029-4252-8800; tajhotels.com; 18th Century palace (white marble) in Lake Pichola with courtyards, corridors, and pavilions inlaid with stone and gilt molding and mirrors; 83 rooms; Khush Mahal Suite has particularly warm ambiance; Sajjan Niwas Suite has terrace; spa; small pool.
●Café Edelweiss – 73 Gangaur Ghat; 011-91-094-1423-3571; German bakery and coffee shop.
●Darikhana Restaurant – in middle Lake Pichola (at Jagmandir Island Palace); 011-29-4242-4186; hrhhotels.com; stunning, with exotic birds wheeling overhead and elephants guarding nearby garden.
Sights & Sites
●City Palace – City Palace Complex; 011-91-029-4252-8016; sprawling maharana’s palace (largest in Rajasthan); on ridge overlooking lake; rises 5 stories, with balconies, cupolas, and towers connected by narrow passageway maze; rooms inside City Palace Museum contain decorative art: antique furniture, enamels, glasswork, and paintings.
●Jagmandir Island Palace – in middle Lake Pichola; 011-029-4242-4186; hrhhotels.com; stunning complex built by Maharana Karan Singh for his son to use as pleasure palace.
●Lake Pichola – made in 1300s.