True luxury is when a warrior fort metamorphoses into a beautiful hotel, and Alila Fort Bishangarh, Jaipur does this with ease. We got a chance to soak in this beauty — which is located just an hour away from Jaipur and three-and-a-half hours away from New Delhi — and we fell in love with it instantly. Here’s why! Text by Japleen Kaur. Photographs By Abhinav Chandel.
As soon as I reach the toll plaza, six-kilometres away from the property, a majestic structure perched at a distance catches my attention. Pointing towards the tall buildingS, my driver explains to me how that is going to be my home for the next two days. This glimpse is all I need for my excitement to shoot up!
This happiness remains intact when I reach the property. On entering, the staff greets me with a soothing herbal welcome drink — the ideal way to take away the tiredness of the road journey. Once done drinking, I decide to explore the property.
The haveli section of the property is constructed as an addition to the ancient fort. It is replete with amenities like an infinity pool, kids’ play area, high-end gym, and a restaurant. Juxtaposing this modernity is the designs and aesthetic of the space. The Jaipur Gharana architecture here featuring Rajput and Mughal influences, coupled with uncluttered interiors judiciously woven with Rajasthani elements like jharokha-style windows, stone jaali work, brass embossed panels, tarkashi, hand block printed fabric, old-style doors and wall frescoes with mirror work complement the magnificent architecture beautifully. With such ornate designs, calling such a gorgeous property a ‘hotel’ seems frivolous.
After a long and detailed tour later, a jeep takes me to the gates of the fort from where I am given the keys to my room. Over the course of the next 48 hours, my itinerary is packed with many experiences. But, for now, I grab some rest.
Morning Hike And A Dreamy Breakfast
If you like your vacations loaded with nature trails, opt for an early morning hike at Bishangarh. Guests can choose from either of the three hikes offered, depending on time and preference. I choose the short hike that weaves through a village called Taal Vraksh. While I explore, the many temples and their accompanying stories keep my mind occupied throughout. The hike concludes with a packed lunch laid out in the middle of a jungle. I indulge in some delectable kadhi kachori, watermelon juice, stuffed parathas, and masala chai. Biting into my food, I take a moment to soak in all the tranquility while the subtle chirruping of birds instill a feeling of serendipity in me. Truly an exquisite experience, I think to myself.
Spa At Fort Alila
The spa at Alila Fort Bishangarh, Jaipur is located in the dungeons of the fort, an enticing enough reason for me to book a slot immediately. They have a wide-ranging therapy menu for you to choose from. For couples who wish to relax in a cave, one can opt for a couple’s massage package that takes place in a special room out in their spa garden.
Lunch At The Organic Garden
The chefs at Alila Fort Bishangarh, Jaipur can make even the healthiest of seemingly boring meals look and taste interesting. For lunch, I am seated in the property’s three-acre organic garden where Chef Manish has prepared a hearty and delicious lunch. A peek at the dish is all I need to see the precision and authenticity of the farm-to-table concept that exists here. The idea of ‘zero miles’ comes to life here. All produce is either grown on the property, or is locally sourced from the Bishangarh village itself. As they say, you truly know a place if you eat locally, and Alila Fort is a staunch believer of this! From the sweet potato and pomegranate chaat as starters, baajre ka bhaat for main course, and a simple yet comforting chaaval ki kheer for dessert, everything is delicious.
The artisanal tour, as the name suggests, is a specially curated tour as per one’s interests. Irrespective of what you choose though, each one aims at taking you back to the basics. For the tours, the staff takes you to the village to meet artisans hard at work. Whether it is a goldsmith carving delicate jewellery or the potters getting their hands dirty to show their art, it’s bound to be memorable.
Whenever I travel, the sheer difference in cuisines of each place bowls me over every time. A similar experience took place here as well. While here, I get a glimpse of traditional Rajasthani cuisine, and even get a chance to learn how its made at a masterclass session. While chef cooks adraki chicken and a local vegetable called ker sangri, I take down copious notes with the hope of recreating it someday. Yum recipes aside, the various tips he gives me during the two-hour class is sure to make me a better cook, if not a great one!
Dinner Date Under The Stars
Of the five restaurants here, each offering different cuisines like Silk Route, Global Tapas, or even Mediterranean, I head to Nazaara, a rooftop Indian Rajput cuisine restaurant. Here, the dim lights, and dishes cooked over a sandpit urge me to linger around longer than just during meal times. Although their menu overhauls every day, the courteous staff takes me through each one of them, while also giving me a background of how it is prepared. Adding symphonies to this candle light dinner are the local musicians and dancers who keep me blissfully entertained.
However, Nazaara is not their only mesmerising restaurant. While on one end, their royal restaurant Ambarsar serves great food from the Silk route, on the other end their bar Madhuvani — named after a (now) dried up neighbourhood river — offers delectable snacks. If you wish to sip on some coffee and watch the world go by, the Kachchawa lounge is ideal, thanks to the library it houses as well. However, at Alila Fort Bishangarh, Jaipur even a walk through the corridors is enough for you to soak in the raw beauty of the warrior fort. Irrespective of whether you’re a lover of history, this place is worth the visit. It’s sure to leave you enriched, and spellbound. It sure did for me!