Umaid Bhawan Palace: India
Our World | On 07, Jan 2011
A further amazing location in India is Jodhpur, the ‘Blue City’, founded as the 2nd city of Rajasthan and standing alone as the cultural and spiritual capital of this, the Land of the Kings. Only an hour flight from Delhi, Jodhpur offers an alternative to the traditional.
There are 12 domestic carriers to 70 destinations within India so plenty of options. The airport in Jodhpur is the military base and overall is quite acceptable. After a 15 minute transfer you arrive at the Umaid Bhawan Palace.
Perched high above the city, this is the last of the great palaces of India and one of the largest private residences in the world. Set amongst 26 acres of gardens where the peacocks roam freely, you truly can lose yourself in this beautiful setting! The Maharajah still resides with his family in one wing and is of course available to attend functions if required. The Palace is a golden-yellow sandstone monument conceived in the grandest possible scale – you’ll have seen similar copies in Dubai hotel architecture, however this is the real thing! Converted in to a luxury hotel only in 1997, this was once the sole preserve of princes and kings – and that’s how it still feels.
What does this fantastic property offer? Well, there are 65 rooms and suites within the 347 room building – every room is palatial. It has its own private museum, a majestic neo-classical ballroom, 2 restaurants, smoking room, billiards room, library, lounges, an outdoor pool, an indoor subterranean pool, unique marbled squash courts, tennis courts and a holistic Spa (I know, impressive!).
The hotel’s service levels are quite incredible – you almost have to tell them to leave you alone! Having said that there is definitely a slight feel of inexperience here with the local staff, so be aware of this issue for aspects such as check-in/ check-out. It should also be noted that there are no lifts (apart from small service ones) and long corridor walks to access the bedrooms and suites (so not for the frail).
Jeep safaris are always fun. Keep the journeys within a 2 hour driving range of the hotel; this still gives you plenty of options though. Stops can be made to watch the rugs being made and also give delegates the chance to test their bartering skills if they want to purchase one! The market in Jodhpur itself is quite fascinating – the traffic of all types, the noise, the smells, excellent shopping for pashminas and throws – but best to have an experienced guide with groups of up to 10 people to have any sort of control.
Finally, a ‘must do’ just a couple of miles from the Palace is the imposing Fort ‘Mehrangarth’ on a low range of sandstone hills, about 125 metres above the surrounding plains. This is a truly magnificent setting and would work perfectly for a memorable and truly unique Gala Dinner. The Palace provides staffing and catering. Cocktails and entertainment on the garrisons overlooking the city are recommended, and then just sit back and enjoy the silver service Thali dinner served in the courtyard.
If you’re looking for the ‘wow’ factor, it’s waiting for you in Jodhpur!