Summers and Rajasthan don’t go together 😀 but for the traveler-in-me this one day/night trip was like an oasis in the desert, knowing that this summer I had no travel plans (for numerous reasons).
Most importantly I have ticked off one of the experiences that was on my list — The Luxurious Neemrana Fort Experience ❤
I have already been to three properties under Neemrana Hotels — The Piramal Haveli, Hill Fort Kesroli & The Pataudi Palace (this one is no longer a part of the group) and each one was a memorable trip.
This 15th century fort built by a local chieftain Nimola Meo was under the Chauhans (direct lineage of Prithviraj Chauhan) till 1947. Thereafter, the then raja/ruler moved out of the dilapidated fort-palace. After nearly four decades, the fort was bought by Aman Nath** (in 1986).
The fort is an easy drive of ~2hrs from Delhi. We stopped for a light much on the way and in no time were at our destination.
There was a child like joy as the fort came into view 🙂 Everything suddenly felt larger than life as we alighted from our car. There was quite a bustle at the huge fort gate with people checking in & out. A massive Suraj Pol (gate) dominated the entrance.
After a quick check-in I started exploring the fort level by level (there are 14 levels). This bit is quite interesting and I am sure one will miss something or discover something that the other has not 😀 Each level and its nook and corner has something to admire! When you look down from the higher levels you will be mesmerized by the view…… wide spread fort and peaceful village surrounding it.
I headed for our room after exploring a part of the fort. Our room was right at the top ….. yes the 14th level! This level has the Apsara Mahals namely Urvashi, Menaka & Rambha. Ours being the Urvashi Mahal.
The mahal was exactly as seen on their official website. A high antique bed. Doors and windows with colored glasses reflecting beautiful hues. A sun terrace and cute little private sit out …… both with amazing views of sunset & the world below ❤ The bathroom had huge windows with a view. Being at the highest level gave us the liberty to leave one of them open 😉 The room was equipped with all modern facilities (except TV) and the toiletries are from their in-house spa with a hmmmm……a refreshing lemony!
After settling in the room, I headed back to my exploring. There are two swimming pools — one for the adults and another one for the kids and their parents —- both already had plenty of takers. One of the view I most enjoyed was that of the pristine blue pools with a splash of green surrounding it against the medieval charm of the fort. The generous use of aqua color here and there breaks the monotony and gives the ambiance a peppy, grand look. It also happens to be one of my favorite colors!
The amphitheater was a symmetrical delight. Arches opening to the view of the fort and village; mashaal like lights; a semi circular seating ……all came together to give it a magnificent look & feel.
The fort on the whole has an original section; a new wing constructed while restoring the ruins and some more new wings coming up to accommodate more than its current capacity of ~190 people.
Once through (I am sure I must have missed a few things) we headed for the evening tea at Hawa Mahal. The seating was well arranged and there were small jharokhas too to sit by and enjoy the world outside it. I loved their in-house butter cookies.
By the time we had our coffee, my friend’s 4 year old daughter was all set to hit the pool ….. and so started our mermaid chapter. The children in the pool seemed to be having a wonderful time with many of them not willing to leave the coolness of the pool.
After an hour of swimming we headed back to our room to catch the sunset and some rest. The sun was a big orange while bidding us good bye for the day. I wish it was cloudy for those beautiful sunset experience. Gradually the fort was all lit up and the village lights twinkled as well. It seemed we were looking at a starry sky.
A quick shower, some peace time and we were all set for a scrumptious buffet dinner at the Jalgiri Mahal. The dinner room was tastefully done up (again the use of aqua was just the right choice). The buffet spread had variety for both the vegetarians & non vegetarians. The live pasta counter was popular with the chef whipping lip smacking pasta for us 🙂
Once we finished dining we went down all the way to look at the fort in the night with lights on. The nights are so peaceful in villages…….. a far cry from the noisy cities. Even though it was summer, the weather there was much tolerant and breezy. We spent some tranquil time there and called it a day while making the final ascent to the top. The fort lights went off at 10 pm and in no time we were ready for slumber-land.
The next morning I did wake up early to catch the sunrise but I guess I was late. Nevertheless, I had the whole fort to myself as most were either still asleep or in their mahals. Through out our stay we heard the peacocks but saw none……. until now! From the fort rampart I could see the village houses and on the terrace of one, a peacock performed for good 8 mins non stop. I watched its show like a true admirer.
My morning stroll (read climb) was through and back in the room we readied ourselves for breakfast, camel cart ride and then check-out.
The breakfast, a lovely spread of Indian and continental, was served in the Jalgiri Mahal. In winters, seating for breakfast & lunches extend to the sun basked terraces as well.
We ate like queens and strolled down to the entrance gate for our camel cart ride.
The ride took us through the Neemrana farmhouse where they grow their own organic vegetables and have cows/buffaloes for milk. The highlight of the ride was the Rani ki Baoli or Neemrana Baoli (stepwell).
The step well is under the government, littered by people and needs some maintenance from tourism point of view. Built in the 1760s it is a 9 storey stepwell. I had read somewhere that its being developed as a crafts haat (bazaar) under the Rural Tourism project (Union Government). The steps leading down to the lowest storey were pretty worn out. Though I did not go down I managed to take a shot of the stepwell 2nd -9th storey from the top floor’s broken edges.
Once back from the ride we went through the check out process. Certain feedback was shared with the GM of the fort who was prompt in taking note of them. Hopefully they turn into actions as apt.
Just before leaving I went into their Neemrana Shop to see if I could pick up something as a souvenir……. and I did find a couple of things 🙂 Their shop has an interesting collection of handicrafts from Indian villages/state famous for it. An outlet is there at Khan Market, Delhi though I found the collection at the Fort more varied.
…………………… and with this we moved out of the fort back to our home! We returned with a spring in our step and joy in our heart ❤ The getaway to this magical fort was bliss!
I look forward to experiencing more properties of Neemrana non hotels as and when my pocket allows ;-D
Some quick take offs
- Though winter is the best time to visit the fort, late summer (close to onset of monsoon) and monsoon are not a bad choice either. There was quite a rush even in June when we went
- To get rooms with lesser price ensure you book early because they are the first ones to be taken
- Ample parking space is there and if you have a driver, they have a free dorm facility for them (first come first serve) with food which is chargeable.
- I was pretty happy with their service be it at the entrance, the reception, the bell boys, the room service or their staff at the restaurants and other facilities. Smiling, efficient, prompt and helpful.
- The fort may seem like a maze in the first instance….. but its simple if you stick to a path pattern. However, at every level their staff is there to guide you if you feel lost.
- There are a lot of activities to choose from — you may opt for rejuvenation at the spa; spend some cool time in the swimming pool; enjoy the grand vistas and architecture through fort exploration; feel the adrenaline rush while zipping across Neemrana with Flying Fox; be part of the rustic life and enjoy the camel ride to the baoli; take a vintage car ride like royalty; hit the in-house gym to keep up with your fitness regime; on weekends connect with your roots through cultural programmes or simply relax “doing nothing”
- Try to indulge in activities that you may not get to experience in your town or city.
- The higher up the rooms the better the views.
- There is no room service so avoid taking elderly people as it will not be convenient for them to keep climbing up and down (there is no lift facility)
**Aman Nath is a writer, hotelier, and architectural restorer. He is the co founder & charirman of the Neemrana ‘non-hotel’ Hotels along with Francis Wacziarg. He has co-written and authored many illustrated books on Rajasthan and Indian arts that have won him National awards and is also the first Indian whose book has been chosen by Christie’s for worldwide distribution. Neemrana group of hotels is renowned in restoring ruins and turning them into heritage hotels. The hotel group has been for the Aga Khan Award (2004) and have won awards from UNESCO & the Indian travel industry.
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Monika Ohson / TravelerInMe