Think forts, history, culture, club it with gorgeous aerial view points, & breezy terrace escapes and you have the Neemrana Fort palace cum resort, nestled in the mighty Aravallis; an enchanting rendezvous with history.
A flagship property of the Neemrana hotel resorts, the 15th century fortified palace on the Delhi-Jaipur highway, was acquired in 1986 and thereby restored. With its unique ‘non-hotel’ hotel concept, the property offers a charming retreat into history and the regal ways, with the spotlight on the ‘simplistic yet intricate’ decor, and an experience which is as close to ‘authentic’, without treading onto ‘luxurious’ or ‘superficial’. With a total of 77 rooms and suites, this 14 tiered property with numerous steps and ramps, also houses 2 lifts, although not omnipresent, but quite forward-looking in its architectural plan.
On a rainy Friday evening, after a short drive of about 2 hours, we checked-in to the heritage resort. My first look of the property was the entrance with its rustic looking, towering metal gate leading up to the reception. I was awe-struck with the charm of the fortified walls and the hill-top views from the terraces enroute, as we made our way through cobbled alleys and passage-ways to our room ‘Chini Mahal’. Overlooking the ‘diwan-e-khaas’ and the Aravallis beyond, the Chini Mahal offers a cosy stay for two. I’d recommend a suite in case travelling with a bigger group of family or friends.
At the hour of dawn, we went about our first tour-about of the property. Enchanted with picturesque aerial top views of the setting sun over the adjoining town from the iconic ‘Mukt Bagh’ and ‘Uncha Bagh’, of the various facades and jharokas and of the glorious fort stretching over an expanse of 25 acres. Neemrana offers stunning sky top views from its numerous terraces, some that let you admire the sunset, others that allow you to soak in the calming embrace of the breeze that brisks past you leaving one rejuvenated and refreshed. Truly majestic!
Traveller alert: The property houses not one but two pools, the Raj Kund and Suraj Kund (heated pool), the latter I only discovered later upon my husband’s (only) treasure-some finds. 😉 A lesser known fact, the fort palace has two sections, the old and the new, merging in a way that’s hard to tell the difference, to recreate the past.
Under the star-lit sky, the fort hotel looks even more magically astounding. After a quick shower and change of clothes, we found ourselves besotted at our ‘secret spot’, atop the Hawa Mahal. Discovered upon the suggestion of the polite bartender, Prateek, who led us to the terrace-top, a spot that became a favourite for our evening tête-à-tête in the dim-lighting playing magic against the teeming chain of lights adorning the fortress walls, and the distant yet gleaming embrace of the city views.
The next morning, after sipping on the spiced Hilcart tea provided in the room, breakfast was served at ‘Jalgiri’. We spent most of our day time under the shaded lobby hall ‘Suryaast’ perfectly designed to savour the cool breeze on the wooden deck chairs. Post another hearty meal of lal maas (fiery mutton), lentils, and the delightful steamed coconut pudding, we retreated into our room for a short siesta! We made it in time at 4:30 P.M. by the reception area for a quick guided tour of the property, where we learnt about the mardana (outer area for men folk) and zenana (inner areas meant for women) sections of the Hindola Mahal, the Sheesh Mahal, the Suraj Pol (sun gate) and Chand Pol (moon gate) entrances. It was a revelation that the Chhoti Rani (youngest wife of the erstwhile king Raja Rajinder Singh from the lineage of Prithvi Raj Chauhan) currently resides in the nearby town of Vijay Bagh. It was rather befitting that none other than the co-founder of the Neemrana properties, Mr. Aman Nath was there for the weekend. “He frequents the property almost every weekend.”, informed the waiter at Jalgiri when we enquired about ‘the man with his daughter’, who was being addressed ‘saab’ at the next door table.
Ready for the extravaganza presented by the folk group ‘Banay Singh International Rajasthani Prajapat dance troupe‘, we took our positions at the amphitheatre. The evening sky bedazzled in its glory the orchestrated symphony of the artists who sung, and danced their ways into our hearts with the perfect sur, ghazals and melody. The beautiful renditions of ‘Padharo Maare Desh’ and ‘Ghoomar Ghoomar’ stood out for me. In that moment, I was reminded of my time at Jodhpur & Jaisalmer, and the lake city Udaipur, in Rajasthan ( links take you to my blog posts on these marvellous cities).
My Favorite spots in the heritage resort:
Although every spot in the palace offers a picture-perfect view, but here are my top favourites, which we kept going back to.
Atop the Hawa Mahal: Needless to say, the peace and quiet under the breezy night sky with some evening drinks, snacks and sumptuous food served on the table, was the perfect setting for a romantic dinner and conversation about quieter times reminiscent of our childhood. Much to our surprise, the first night we even had a big mongoose for company, who it seemed had been displaced from its place of rest.
The Pool-side: I thoroughly enjoyed the calming sound of the waters and the tweeting of the birds chirping by the pool side. The only thing missing was the dip in the waters, so what the pigeons were better off than us in the wake of the human-induced pandemic!
Suryaast: It wasn’t a coincidence then that the Gods had orchestrated a harmonic symphony of travel, inspiration and views juxtaposed to weave magic of words as I carefully shifted through the beautifully written text in the Raghuram Rai production – ‘The Tickles of Travel’, while breathing in the city landscape views from the ‘Suryaast’. That the squirrels there too enjoy the views caught us by surprise, as we found them to be rather playful, & forthcoming, and seemingly nibbled at even the thought of food!
Mukt bagh/Uncha Bagh: On both days, we found ourselves, admiring the sun playing hide and seek and finally being carpeted under the breezy clouds, an interplay of time lapse between what was, is and will be !
The panoramic views of the property shed light to its charismatic charm at different times of the day. Being sure of not to miss its beauty at sunrise, sunset and under the gleaming night sky, with the vast expanse of the fortress walls teaming with lights, I found myself torn between the pages of history. Well, what could be more historic than being in the middle of a fort in the midst of a seething pandemic. Time slipped like sand!
Travel and safety during Covid 19:
Taking cue from my Instagram with queries replete on whether its safe to travel during this pandemic, here’s my take: Travel but at your own risk. Though fairly well equipped, one definitely cannot let down their guard, and masks are recommended while roaming in the property. Stay as far as possible from crowds, especially during the guided tour. At other times, it is not much of an issue since the property is well spread out!
With a total of 45 rooms occupied that weekend, we were told that Saturdays are the busiest at the hotel. So, one could possibly plan their travel accordingly. The staff was neatly dressed, and food was served at the table, to avoid crowding around for buffets. Overall, I felt safe whilst taking all the necessary precautions.
Neemrana is a place you go to not to indulge in luxury, but to find a connect with the past, which links to the present, to find inspiration at every corner, and in turn to find yourself.
When you travel, you see.
When you see, you discover.
When you discover, you transcend.
Afloat on the kaleidoscope of possibilities.
Between space and time!