Rural Rajasthan: From Forts, Castles and Palaces

My journey through rural Rajasthan continued at the foot of the Aravalli Hills, where I stayed in a lovely boutique homestay. Perched by a lake and near the Gokul Fort, Dev Shree was built only a year ago and is a comfortable place to relax at home. With true Indian hospitality, the delightful hosts prepared a delicious home cooked meal, and sat down with us as they told explained the history of their local area. Then very graciously they also agreed to be my guide the next day, even the family dog was happy to join us. We explored the local step-well that is an architectural miracle, and a Hindu Temple hidden like a gem amidst a cave.

From this cozy homestay, I headed to Fort Begu in Chittogarh.  Now a heritage hotel, this amazing structure was built in 1430 and has seen its share of battles and heroic wins. While much of the Fort has since been renovated, like badges of honor there are still some battle scars to be seen amidst the vivid painting and delicate mirror work. My room was stunning, decorated with original glass mirrors. The nearby village is a wonderful place to see the tranquility of local life and explore two nearby Jain temples. By late afternoon, we visited the summer palace. While it’s no longer fit for a Maharaja, it’s the perfect vantage point for sundowners.

The next day we travelled to Bhainsrorgarh Fort, which is spectacularly positioned looking over the Chambal River. An early morning boat ride on the river was a lovely way to experience the region. Crocodiles basked in the morning sun, birds flew over head and village life continued on, while we watched from the water. The property is very relaxing, and while I was tempted to just put my feet up, I felt compelled to learn about the local cuisine, and was fortunate enough to be given my own cooking lesson.

Leaving the peaceful surrounds, we headed to Jaipur, which feels like a second home to me now. I’ve stayed many times at Dera Mandawa, and always enjoy their hospitality. During my visit to Jaipur I visited a few properties, including Dera Amer, located at the foothills of the Amer Fort. They have four luxury tents, where you can live alongside the elephants and see a side of Rajasthan that is rarely explored. Nearby, Sujan Raj Mahal is another spectacular property that I inspected. Their incredible use of colors, decadent wall paper and hand-crafted textiles is truly inspired. 

Nearby, I couldn’t resist visiting some of my favourite shops, including Andraaab that creates delicate Kashmir pashminas that are found throughout India and even as far afield as New York.

Leaving Jaipur, with slightly more baggage, we headed to Talabgaon Castle, a 200 year old fort that has been painstakingly restored. It’s the perfect backdrop for a horse safari on some lovely Mewar horses. But no visit to Rajasthan is complete without a camel ride, so on the back of a cart we headed through the quaint village. A village so small that there’s not even a police man in sight, the friendly head chieftain showed us around and welcomed us to his home town.

From a Fort to a Castle, Patan Mahal was the final stop in my Rajasthani journey. This magnificent castle is nestled between three hills, which provides a picture-perfect backdrop. The adventurous can even hike to the old palace, but the view over to the Fort is so mesmerizing it’s hard to leave the grounds. It was the perfect end to this part of my trip. Delhi and Bhutan were now beckoning.

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