PRICE: Worth maxing out for
Umaid Bhawan at Jodhpur, India, is unlike anywhere else you have ever stayed. It is one of the largest private residences in the world. Only marginally smaller than Buckingham Palace. Add to this the accolade of being voted as the Best Hotel in the World by TripAdvisor in 2016 and inclusion in the Gold List by Conde Naste in 2015 and you will begin to get the very distinguished picture.
Umaid Bhawan is still the live-in residence of the Maharaja of Jodhpur, although you won’t see him in the corridor in his dressing gown and slippers; he occupies a separate, private wing.
The hotel takes up about two-thirds of this magnificent 1930s Art Deco masterpiece. On first arriving, the sheer scale of it all can be a little overwhelming. Sipping champagne from a crystal cut glass with 103 feet of space between your head and the magnificent blue ceiling dome leaves you suddenly feeling rather small.
But you quickly realise you aren’t small at all. Far from it, In fact, you’ll be treated like a member of the Maharaja’s own family. Staying at Umaid Bhawan is a privilege that few will ever experience. Your every whim will be catered for. Your every need will be anticipated before you are even aware you have it.
So, in your suite, if you suddenly decide you fancy a sip of something stiff, you don’t have to raid the minibar or summon the butler. You just need to pour from the decanter selection on your sideboard. And if you are by the pool looking towards the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur and want a magazine or newspaper to browse, just dig into your recently-delivered wicker hamper, past all of the nibbles and cold drinks, to find one that takes your fancy.
The rooms defy description. As you might expect of a royal palace, they are extremely spacious, with huge sumptuous beds and sheets so soft you’ll want to remain between them all day! The bathrooms are huge with walk-in rain shower and separate bath often adjacent to the window so you will have a fantastic view overlooking the spectacularly manicured gardens and courtyards.
Naturally, you’ll dine like kings and queens. Risala is the more formal of the two restaurants, serving up mouthwatering Indian and European fusion cuisine cooked to perfection. Your alternative is to dine on the verandah within the colonnades. The aptly named Pillars restaurant offers a dazzling array of Rajasthani delicacies, familiar Western treats and a lip-smackingly brilliant silver towered afternoon tea.
A daily history tour departs from the lobby at 6pm. The resident historian will deliver fascinating facts and anecdotes whilst guiding you through the long marble-lined hallways and yellow-hued stone courtyards.
On your doorstep
Umaid Bhawan is on the far edge of town with nothing of great interest close by. But there is a very interesting museum on site, with a collection of fascinating artefacts, from swords and ceremonial dress to the the Maharaja’s own collection of classic cars.