Even the word conjures up images of marble-clad temples and sultry, burning sunsets. My love of India began with the fantastical tales of Rudyard Kipling and Frances Hodgson Burnett. Trips in my twenties, from the hippie beaches of Goa to the undiscovered Andaman Islands, intrigued me further. Then my career in fashion drew me in even more – who can fail to be inspired by the country’s artisans and rainbow of colours?
Having studied Indian history, my husband, George, shares my love for the country (luckily!), and we had always planned to save the Land of Kings for our honeymoon, when we could experience it like real royalty. Here are our highlights…
STOP ONE Jaipur THE DESTINATION
Rajasthan’s capital, also known as The Pink City, is a place of exhilarating contrasts. Monkeys clamber across rooftops and tuk-tuks hustle for space while, close by, women sit cross-legged, threading marigolds into garlands. The streets pulse with a heady mixture of old and new, making it a city ripe for exploring.
Honeymoon in Rajasthan – Travel to Rajasthan Photo Gallery
Begin your trip at the magnificent SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace, a 15-minute drive from Jaipur’s old city. The hotel’s interiors are like something from a book of fairytales, with bright bespoke wallpapers (46 in total) by designer Adil Ahmad adorning the walls. The Maharani’s Apartment is as royal as the hotel itself, filled with rich magenta ceilings and lotus-flower wallpaper. A private dining room opens out onto a pool which soaks up rays from the morning sun, while pinkturbaned butlers second-guess your every whim (mentioned flippantly that you’ve not yet read a book on Jaipur?
Well, don’t be surprised to return from dinner to find one gift wrapped on your bed, like I did!). Next, spend a night back in the old city at Samode Haveli mansion. Book room 115, an original Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors) for something really special. With hand-painted, 200-year-old vignettes of Krishna festooning the walls, it’s a jewellery box of a room. You’ll be woken by the call to prayer at dawn, so head straight to the courtyard to join experience manager Sujit Rathore on a walk through the twisting streets as the city stirs from sleep. Expect masala chai brewing and locals breakfasting on street-side delicacies.
THE DREAM TICKET
Much of Jaipur’s City Palace is off limits to tourists, but Rajmahal guests have access to the private quarters. Marvel at the mirrorwork in the Sheesh Mahal, then visit the artists’ studios. The royal family have long supported local artists; this is your chance to watch them at work.
Chhatra Sagar camp THE DESTINATION
Drive directly out of town and you’ll be greeted by one thing: calm. The car horns fade, the roads become bumpy, and the city smog lifts to reveal big, beautiful skies. THE ACCOMMODATION The familyowned, boutique Chhatra Sagar camp is so much more than a stop-over between cities. Conceived as a dam in the 19th century by nobleman Thakur Chhatra Singh, the area is now a reservoir, replete with pink flamingos, antelope and migratory bar-headed geese. Run by Singh’s greatgrandchildren, the luxury tented camp shows a slower, more serene side of Rajasthan, where the tranquillity is broken only by birds swooping by.
Request a tent on the hilltop, then enjoy Champagne on the terrace as peacocks call into the dusk. THE DREAM TICKET Evenings here are exquisite. There is no menu. Instead, waiters bring out course upon course of organic food sourced from the estate’s farms. Try the delicate lotus-flower pudding (a melt-in-the-mouth delight with a hint of rose and cardamom), head out to the campfire for a fresh mint tea with honey, then look up at the sky. Have you ever seen so many stars? Chhatra Sagar from £440 per double room, per night; chhatrasagar.com
STOP THREE Jodhpur THE DESTINATION
A two-hour drive west will get you to Rajasthan’s renowned Blue City. Jodhpur is an intriguing maze of cobalt doorways, indigo archways and cerulean walls. Lose yourself in the winding streets of the old city and inhale the heady scent of incense, roses and spices on sale in the Clock Tower market (visit Suncity Spices to pick up supplies for your kitchen).
Heritage hotel Umaid Bhawan Palace is the home of the erstwhile royal family of Jodhpur. Rooms look out across manicured gardens filled with strutting peacocks and bursts of bougainvillea. Tuck into a breakfast of dosa crêpes on the steps overlooking the hotel’s Baradari marble pavilion, then take a twirl through the staggeringly beautiful domed entrance hall (no lobby will ever seem the same again). A short drive south of Jodhpur takes you into desert territory. Rising from the haze of dust like a castle in the sand sits Mihir Garh. Designed by owner Sidharth Rohet as an ode to the sun, this is the place for soaking up Instagram-worthy sunsets and pastel skies.
The nine-suite hotel is also home to around 20 Marwari horses, a rare breed indigenous to the region and known for their distinctive curled ears. Feed the mares jaggery cane sugar (Krishna, a famed brood mare, is the friendliest) and fall in love with the foals. The horses are so gentle, even beginners can take a guided dawn ride through the fields. For an unforgettable evening, the hotel’s Shikar dinner is a must. A camel ride takes you to a secret spot (you’ll hear drums and tanpura music as you approach), where dancers twirl you around the fire before a candlelit path leads you to a table for two.
THE DREAM TICKET
Climb the cobbled ramparts of the towering Mehrangarh Fort, which rises 410 feet above Jodhpur. We were lucky enough to do so by night, as guests of British Polo Day – a networking event of polo and black-tie parties with Rajasthan royalty. Our ascent was punctuated by local dancers, puppeteers and even fire eaters greeting us at every corner, while dinner at the summit was followed by a night of dancing to disco classics in the courtyards. Umaid Bhawan Palace from £715 per person, per night; tajhotels.com Mihir Garh from £412 per suite, per night; houseofrohet.com/mihir_garh
STOP FOURHead for the hills THE DESTINATION
Back on the road, even the motorways are awash with colour. Builders’ trucks resemble carnival vans with floral-painted bumpers and tinsel-adorned windscreens, while motorbikes speed by with a flash of saris catching the wind. A three-hour drive south brings you to the Aravalli mountains – expect monkeys to hop along beside you roadside as you climb!
For all the colour and majesty, it’s the people of Rajasthan who’ll stay in your heart long after the trip is over. The noble Singh Chundawat family are a case in point. They founded and live at Dev Shree in Deogarh. From the 8th-century pillars to the veranda with views of the lake, it is undeniably beautiful. But it’s the hot brandies by the courtyard fire, followed by dinner with the family (plus pancakes cooked for breakfast by their charming son!) that really set this place apart. Also in the hills, an hour’s drive away, you’ll find Rawla Narlai. Dating back to the 17th century, this meticulously restored retreat was once the Maharajah of Jodhpur’s hunting lodge. Room six may be tiny, but with original floral frescoes set amid stained-glass windows, it certainly steals the crown for honeymoon romance.
THE DREAM TICKETA
Jeep safari at Dev Shree takes you deep into the heart of local life, ending with hilltop sundowners with views across the Aravalli range. Look closely and you might just spot a leopard slinking between the granite rocks. Dev Shree from £200 per double room, per night; devshreedeogarh.com Rawla Narlai from £92 per double room, per night; rawlanarlai.com STOP FIVE Taj Lake Palace THE DESTINATION Udaipur is a two-hour drive away, so make sure to leave early and fuel up at one of the roadside stalls for kadai milk – stirred for eight hours to form a sweet, moreish treat. Rajasthan’s White City is renowned as its most romantic – look out for the serene Lake Pichola and the fantastical City Palace that sits alongside it.
From the moment you step onto the jetty at Taj Lake Palace for a private boat ride to the hotel (made famous as the setting of Bond movie Octopussy), you’ll feel like a film star. And the Khush Mahal suite is suitably cinematic. Translated as ‘Palace Of Happiness’, the queen’s suite was named for the feeling of joy it imparts, with its swing suspended in the centre and stained-glass alcoves looking out onto the lake.
THE DREAM TICKET
This palace is so majestic, you may just start referring to yourself as the royal ‘we’. Private dinners of thali-style curries and dahls in the lily courtyard are scented with jasmine incense. A waiter must have overheard how much I loved the scent and taken note, because the team gave me a box as a gift on departure! We waved until they were dots in the distance, then saw our last sunset drop from the jetty. Now thatÕs what I call a farewell party. Taj Lake Palace from £541 per person, per night;tajhotels.com