Suján Luxury Camps and Palaces, as with the best resorts in India, have a way of staying true to the essence of India. That is the India of so many layers: the brilliant colors popping from the tapestries; the glint of jewels from the eyes of sculpted peacocks and ornate room décor; the spicy cooking scents and curling smokes of sandalwood; the sounds of melodious conversation, mixed with street sounds and somewhere a tabla or sitar. The fantastical builds in pale stones and marbles remind wanderers of India’s great emperors and heady days of the ruling rajas.
Suján Luxury Camps and Palaces reside amid the best resorts in India and take this concept to other levels with four distinctly different properties in India, each offering an immersive experience of place that expresses to the soul of the land.
Resort in Jaipur: Suján Rajmahal Palace
To know luxury in India, you need to look to the tradition of royalty, through the Mughal empires of the Middle Ages and onto the Rajah ages that governed through India’s independence.
The Palace is an original hold over from the 18th century. Built in 1729 as a second palace in Jaipur and used more recently as a guesthouse for royal family guests (think Queen Elizabeth II and Lord Mountbatten and even Jackie Kennedy).
It was turned into a hotel in 1979 run as part of the Taj collection and only in 2015, became a Suján, as part of a very small collection of precious properties in India and now, also Kenya. The Rajmahal, considered one of the best hotels in India, is still owned by the descendants of the royal family of Jaipur.
The property keeps much of what is royal and historic about it alive and well in the ornate wallpapers and textiles, classic architecture old world art items amid 14 grand suites, each one an original. Then, there are the quiet flourishes: the dripping glass chandeliers, the palm court terraces, the impeccable service delivered in Old World style. To stay at the Rajmahal palace is to immerse in a style of life that, until recently, could not be bought but only born into. Today it remains a living museum where guests can explore and take mini journeys, through an antique lamp, an heirloom chair or a palatial guest room, into the past.
VIPs will want to stay in the royal apartments fit for a maharaja and maharani with multiple bedrooms, a large private terrace and a private plunge pool. These quarters are often used by the owner’s family — Princess Diya Kumari, whose teenage son is the future maharaja of Jaipur.
Jaipur, India’s sparkling city of gems, is all around and the Rajmahal is an easy 15-minute walk from the old walled city gates. There are still plenty of jewels to be browsed in Jaipur, known for its commerce in rubies, emeralds, topaz and moonstone. The medieval, rose-hued sandstone walls crowd with young stone polishers, sophisticated jewelry designers and wallas passing tea through the busy streets.
As a destination in India, Jaipur is a must and an easy add-on to any stop in Delhi or Mumbai, and a stay at one of the best resort hotels in India makes it shine.
Resort in Ranthambhore: Sher Bagh Luxury Camp
For the best resort to consider when seeing tigers is a priority, Sher Bagh in India’s Ranthambhore National Park allows a glimpse of another side of India: its wild side. Guests are met with a dozen hand-stitched tents sheltering super luxurious double-bedroom spaces with magnificent en-suite bathrooms and private verandahs. It all takes on the character of an early 20th century tiger hunt, complete with sunset G&Ts.
Guests set out in jeeps by day searching for the few elusive tigers still living in the reserve. By night the stars come out, arboreal lanterns show the way to exquisite candlelit dinners cooked in clay ovens and using handpicked ingredients from the Sher Bagh farm. Then it’s time to settle by the campfire for tall tales of tigers that got away. Mornings are met with a full English breakfast, followed by a light and usually Italian lunch. If it does not feel like a tiger day, guests can take a horse or camel safari, or visit the 8th century Ranthambhore Fort in the heart of the park.
Although this is a camping and soft adventure experience the property is not without its urban amenities. There is Wi-Fi throughout the camp, medical services on demand, a library, laundry and bar, a swimming pool and even a Jungle Spa. As with all the Suján properties, Sher Bagh is a member of the Relais & Châteaux collection that seals in its status as one of the best resorts in India.
Sher Bagh runs seasonally from October to April, easily accessed by an airfield in Sawai Madhopur, around 10 miles from Sher Bagh or a helipad some two miles away from the Camp. The nearest commercial airport is Jaipur, 130 miles away. Guests can take a train from Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Jodhpur and other cities to Sawai Madhopur Junction eight miles away in excursions running three (Jaipur) to seven hours (Jodhpur).
Resort in Jaisalmer: Glamping at the Suján Serai
The Serai is a desert camp near exotic Jaisalmer. Fourteen tent suites, six luxury suites and a royal tented suite dot the rocky landscape, each a vision of Victorian luxury safari life within through large king beds, plush rugs and places to put those oversized steamer trunks. Some 21st century luxuries here include air-conditioning for those guests who want it, heating as well, hairdryer, Wi-Fi and stocked mini-fridge.
Guests come for the calm and the quiet and while they won’t spend days chasing tigers they may get to see a Great Indian Bustard or a family of gazelles. The golden citadel at Jaisalmer, too, is a great take-in as it was created in 1156 AD and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site guarding the old trade routes of the Great Thar Desert.
The landscapes of The Serai shift with the dunes that can be watched during amazing sunsets from verandahs or the pool. The main pavilion tent offers reception, sitting areas and a cocktail lounge, all accented with candle alcoves.
Guests can have meals in the dining tent or alfresco wherever they wish. Breakfast can be healthy continental, full English, or traditional Indian (try a delicious Masala omelet). Lunch can be traditional vegetarian thali or a light European selection. The dinner menu is a mix of carefully chosen chef surprises that fuse familiar western dishes with the ingredients and spice of Rajasthan.
The Serai’s location is less than an hour outside of Jaisalmer, a once thriving trading metropolis that is now a relic on these roads, but still very much kept up with intricately carved stone structures, ancient trading houses and step wells, temples and stone palaces and narrow, winding streets where visitors can browse and shop for silks and crafts.
The Serai is open from the beginning of September to the end of March. There is little in the way of convenient rail service. However, guests can fly to Jodhpur Airport (160 miles) and arrange transport to the camp through The Serai. There is also a small airstrip some 30 miles away.
Nature Resort in Rajasthan: Jawai Leopard Camp
For guests looking leopards, this camp near the Jawai Dam is the place to go. While leopard sightings are, perhaps, a secondary benefit, Jawai, between Udaipur and Jodhpur, provides plenty of incentive without the spots.
The camp offers ten spacious, creamy colored, hand-stitched tents with red and saffron-accented interiors, plenty of leather and chrome appointments and luxury amenities one would find at any five-star retreat. As a Relais & Chateaux property, Jawai keeps the standards as one of the best resorts in India but prides itself on presenting an exquisitely local experience in the Thar Desert, although completely saturated in luxury.
The 100-acre private estate offers a heated pool, a spa, a private walled garden and views of the dramatic rocky landscapes all around. Guests can dine under the stars on local tribal dishes while listening to their hypnotic strums and chants in private performance. Those in search of the elusive Indian leopard will rise before dawn and track these solo predators with the help of a knowing guide. Unlike Africa, an absence of lions here allows leopards to wander the paths and bush rather than hide in the high branches.
The leopards roaming the area are revered by the local villagers, who see the big cats as guardians of the hills. There are rarely attacks on humans, perhaps one in memory that may have happened 160 years ago.
While a stay at one of the best resorts in India is enough reason to go, there is much to see in Jawai. Jawai Bandh Lake is great for spotting birds, crocodiles and flamingos from the rim of the reservoir. Ranakpur Temple, a mysterious Jain temple is a marvel of 1,444 intricately carved white stone pillars, built 1496. Then there is Kumbhalgarh Fort, a 15th-century fortress that is a UNESCO World Heritage site and sits at the end of what is reputed to be the world’s second-longest wall.
Getting to Jawai is easiest through Udaipur, located 93 miles away. Jodhpur is 99 miles away. The train station at Jawai Bandh connects by a day train with Ahmedabad and Jaipur.
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Kurtz-Ahlers & Associates– Curator of undiscovered luxury travel locales with insider info and news from our worldwide portfolio of hotels, wellness retreats, and eco-resorts. View our portfolio on our Online Directory.
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