Ever wondered what it’s like to live in a palace? Here you can get the regal treatment.
I’ve scouted many a hotel to add to my worldwide wanderlust wish-list, but only in India would an actual palace be among them. I was searching booking.com for an out-of-town stay near Jaipur — somewhere that would be a rural retreat for my friend, stylist Amber Armitage, and I before we hit the Pink City proper for five days of print- making workshops, market madness and more — when I found Samode Palace.
Nestled in the rugged Aravalli Range about an hour’s drive from Jaipur, this accommodation is just the kind of respite you need on a trip to India. A splendid example of the regal Rajasthani aesthetic, the sandstone building was built as a fort in the 16th century, converted into an elaborate palace in the 19th century, then began its third life as a heritage hotel in the 1980s.
Its tall gates open onto a garden where pink bougainvillea spills over the walls and the bobbing heads of potted dahlias usher you up the staircase to the front entrance. Inside, a maze of corridors, stairs and arched doorways leads you from terraces to courtyards, revealing enchanting scenes at every turn.
You could lose yourself exploring the opulent interiors, or take the tour guided by staff impeccably dressed in starched white kurtas. According to booking.com, more than a quarter of global travellers consider the social media potential when choosing their accommodation, so you may be pleased to hear that as well as educating guests on their surroundings, the staff are more than happy to help you display them to best effect — if you want a crack-up photo of yourself reflected in a mirror or through a keyhole, you got it!
Filled to bursting with antique furniture, the suites themselves embrace the perfectly imperfect and invite you to relax like a royal on your cushioned daybed, soak in the tiled bath and step out onto the balcony to watch the sun set over the mountains.
Being away from the city provides a sense of serenity, yet you won’t be at a loss for things to do here. Take a sunrise walk up into the hills behind the palace to explore the ruins and temples. Afterwards, skip the buffet breakfast and go for the cooked-to-order masala dosa — a South Indian crêpe made from a rice and lentil batter, filled with spiced potato and served with chutney and coconut sambar. A visit to the village right outside is also a must; stroll the cobbled streets to see bangle-makers, metalworkers and artists plying their trades.
Further afield, you could enjoy a hot air balloon ride or wildlife safari, but spending the afternoon at the palace cooling off in the marble and mosaic swimming pool or lazing on a lounger by the rooftop infinity pool can be the ideal antidote to trying to fit too much in. India is a destination of colourful chaos, so it doesn’t hurt to slow down and bask in a moment of royal relaxation.
Words & photography