With pungent aromas, unashamedly gaudy colors, and deafening sounds from sunrise to sunset, India is sensory overload – in the best way possible. But of all the Indian cities, no other surprises, delights, and exhausts the mind quite like Rajasthan’s capital, Jaipur. Nicknamed the “Pink City”, and rightly so, its streets are lined with photography gold at every turn.
From brightly-painted elephants ferrying locals around to graffitied trucks urging fellow drivers to “blow horn”, the North Indian state is the perfect example of escape amidst utter chaos. And what better way to experience all the above than from a hidden hilltop fort that’s close enough to feel the buzz, but distant enough to actually get some sleep? Thanks to the lavish Alila Fort Bishangarh, it’s all possible.
Location, Location, Location
The rich history, riot of colors, and rolling hills make Rajasthan a bucket-list place for many, but the Alila Fort Bishangarh is still one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Perched on top of a granite hillrock in the middle of the renowned Aravalli Range, the 230-year-old converted warrior fort serves as a cherry on top of the cake – if the cake in question was layered with emerald-colored fields, brightly-colored village dwelling, and unspoiled views.
The fort sits about an hour’s drive from central Jaipur, which means that while you’re never too far from the excitement (especially when the hotel’s drivers are at your beck and call), you have the opportunity to experience a little touch of village life and rest after a long day of sightseeing, too. Win-win.
Being an adapted property, the rooms have all the special details you’d expect from a respectfully restored heritage site. The traditional details merged with modern culture and design means that the rooms not only preserve, but also revive the fort’s incredible history. Long gone are the monkeys and bats that once inhabited the building, and in their place stands a one-of-a-kind boutique resort.
After an intensive seven-year restoration, Alila Fort Bishangarh now boasts 59 rooms and suites that are split into four categories: ‘Heritage’, ‘Royal’, ‘Grand’, and ‘Regal’, each one differing slightly in design. All rooms have enormous beds – the type you just want to jump on – alongside talking-point bathrooms and signature Alila amenities like beautiful bath products. You can also expect lots of dark wood, marble flooring, and roll-top baths. My favorite detail? The breathtaking views of the mountains sprinkled with color, courtesy of the villagers’ homes at the bottom of the fort.
Dining with a Difference
If authentic North Indian cuisine is what you’re after, you won’t be disappointed at Alila Fort Bishangarh. The resort’s three restaurants boast thought-out, varied, and flavorful menus, serving a wide range of dishes using seasonal ingredients and organic herbs grown in the on-site garden.
Nazaara is easily the stand-out eatery here, offering guests the chance to dine under the stars and sample a delicious set menu of vegetarian, meat, and seafood dishes cooked in fire grills and sand pits to create a delicious smoky flavor. The ‘Jaisalmei Khade Masala ka Paneer’ and ‘Dal Nazara’ were winning dishes for me – and that’s rare as I’m a bona fide carnivore. Surprisingly, Haveli, the Mediterranean poolside dining spot, served some of the tastiest spaghetti I’ve ever sampled, trips to Italy included.
If you thought you needed at least a month to experience true India, think again. Thanks to the leisure concierges at Alila Fort Bishangarh, who follow the hotel group’s motto of being “Surprisingly Different”, the tailored-to-you experiences guarantee a big bite of history and heritage in what you thought would be a trip long enough for only a nibble. Depending on how far and wide you want to explore, the resort has an option that will cover as much ground as possible for you, all in comfortable five-star fashion.
I started my exploration with an early-morning trek through the Aravalli Hills, which I learned are the oldest mountains in the world. Venturing through lush meadows, I passed wild cows and monkeys, tiny temples blaring morning prayers, and finally a spiritual guru who lived off the land with little access to water and electricity. During what turned out to be one of the (many) highlights of my stay, I sat down with him for an exchange of two different languages and a lot of laughs over a cup of homemade chai.
But the adventure didn’t stop at 9 a.m. From here, my tour guide took me into central Jaipur, where I managed to cross off all the big sites: Amer Fort, City Palace, and Jaigarh Fort. And because I had packed shoes that were made for walking, I had enough miles left in my soles to explore the wonderfully hectic local bazaars. A word to the wise: be prepared to haggle, giggle, and gawp, because this experience is like no other.
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