It’s hard not to swoon over Jaipur, Rajasthan’s captivating capital, renowned for its rich heritage and colorful culture. The fabled city, its buildings swathed in romantic hues of pastel pink was built nearly 300 years ago by Maharaja Jai Singh II as a home for both royal palaces and artisans’ workshops. Today tuk tuks crowd the city streets where craftsmen offering hand blocked textiles, vibrant fabrics, handicrafts, traditional foods and exquisite gems, ply their trades in markets, shops and outdoor stalls – in the exact same spots as their forefathers, centuries ago. A sensory delight of aromas and vivid Rajasthani shades of gold, magenta, red, saffron, indigo, fuschia and lavender await at every turn.
In 2015 Sujan Rajmahal Palace located in the heart of Jaipur was meticulously transformed from a royal palace to a stunning luxury boutique hotel, a member of Relais & Chateaux, by Sujan – the prestigious Indian Tourism Company known for luxe safari camps. This regal oasis with 14 sumptuous suites and palace rooms, lush gardens and art deco pool feels like a private palatial mansion and belongs to the Royal Family of Jaipur.
I was smitten the moment I entered the posh drawing room, the fragrance of fresh cut roses and jasmine wafting through the air. Sipping a glass of bubbly delivered by a butler in a pink turban I took in the grandeur. Intricate chandeliers, 18th century paintings, gold accents, silk cushions and marble staircases evoke modern regal splendor.
Photos of the royal family with notable guests such as Queen Elizabeth, Lord and Lady Mountbatten and Jackie Kennedy (who visited for three months) are displayed in frames in the main salon and in the suites where they stayed – now named in their honor. Rajamahal Palace with its resplendent ambiance and impeccable service creates the ideal setting for guests to live out the fantasy life of being royalty.
Originally built in 1729 by Jaipur founder Maharaja Jai Singh II as a garden retreat for his wife, the palace became the British Residency during the Raj and then in 1958 the private home of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II and his gorgeous wife, Maharani Gayatri Devi, called one of the most beautiful women in the world by Vogue.
Designer Adil Ahmad, a friend of the Royal Family, oversaw the recent refurbishment that exemplifies both Jaipuir’s glorious heritage and glittering future. The re-imagined palace is a celebration of color, wit and style in keeping with its dignity and estimable history. Each of the suites and public spaces is unique: the 51 shades of Pink breakfast room, blue and scarlet Chinoiserie, fuchsia bedspread and black deco headboard in the Maharani Suite, the turquoise and violet print of the Kennedy Suite, eye popping purple and crimson Maharaja suite, the stately aqua Mountbatten Suite. The décor is bold with jewel-bright velvets, gilded mirrors and contemporary flourishes. And an amalgam of whimsical designs and vibrant hues that interpret traditional motifs in fanciful new ways – elevates the bespoke wallpaper to high art. I certainly felt like a royal in this ravishing palace
Dining is another regal experience whether in the privacy of your own suite, the turquoise Colonnade, formal Orient Occident or perhaps you prefer the pink restaurant’s electric pink walls. Outdoors, guests enjoy superb regional specialties or International classics amid nature’s splendor. I savored an outstanding Jaipur Thali lunch under a shading marquee in the floral garden and later feasted on tastiest traditional Indian cuisine in a candle lit tent on the lawn.
To see the pink city and its treasures I turned to India expert Cox & Kings, specialists in creating the finest, authentic customized experiences – they even made Gandhi’s travel arrangements. It’s key to have a good organizer in this exotic country and they did an extraordinary job. This prestigious travel company provided top guides, impressive food experiences, shopping recommendations, excellent drivers, transfers, VIP no waiting at the crowded airports and a seamless itinerary.
Some of the many standout experiences they arranged: exploring the city’s culinary legacy and fascinating history on a food walk with a local food expert where I sampled spicy, sweet and savory delights from street foods to royal delicacies such as luscious laddoos (local sweets) and dal bati churma while viewing preparation of the traditional recipes passed down through generations; a stop at famed Hawa Mahal also known as the Palace of Winds, a five story marvel with latticed screens, stones and spires, originally built so the women of the royal court could watch the city life unseen; a tour of opulent City Palace with its elaborate gardens, courtyards and notable museum; retail therapy at Gem Paradise renowned for exquisite jewelry, both precious and semi-precious stones; and Channi Textiles for hand made carpets and beautifully embellished textiles.
Cox & Kings also organized an outdoor lunch with a polo player and his TV personality wife at their heritage style farm retreat, followed by a visit to the legendary Amber Fort, an impressive hybrid of Hindu and Mughal architecture with spectacularly designed palace that includes Sheesh Mahal, the open air hall of mirrors that looks like it’s right out of a fairy tale.
Returning to my regal refuge I indulged in a pampering treatment at the Sujan Spa. I was perfectly content to stay put in the palace, dine on the lovely lawn under the stars and be cosseted by the staff – just like a Royal!