Micato’s Executive Director, Joy Phelan-Pinto knows her luxury hotels inside and out. So we’ll let her have the first words: “Umaid Bhawan isn’t like staying in a palace hotel, it’s like staying in a real palace as the guest of the royal family, surrounded by their paintings on the walls, silver in the cabinets, incredible chandeliers overhead, and stunning original furniture. You play pool on the maharaja’s ornate carved billiard table, peruse antique books in his priceless library, and peek across the courtyard to the private wing where the royal family lives. It’s much more than a palace hotel… it’s a real palace.”
Built by—and named for—the Marwar maharajah Umaid Hanwant Singh in the waning days of the British Raj, the great palace was the last, and in many ways, the grandest of India’s regal palaces. Today it’s the residence of the erstwhile royal family, who have contracted with the Taj Group to operate a hotel in the opulent heart of their palace. Of all the great Indian hotel groups, Taj has, arguably, the deepest sense of Indian history, and the Umaid Bhawan is stellar evidence of Taj’s characteristic melding of tradition with the best of the modern world.
Set amidst 26 garden acres overlooking the Desert City of Jodhpur and ultra-imposing Mehrangarh Fort, the palace hotel features 64 classic Art Deco-themed rooms, with maharajhal standards of amenities and service. For dining and imbibing, we choose between the stately Risla Restaurant; Pillars, on a colonnaded verandah overlooking Jodphur; or the wood-paneled Trophy Bar, bedecked with pictures of the royals at play and in pursuit of big game.
We’ll pry ourselves away from the splendours of Umaid Bhawan and be rewarded with some spectacular sightseeing in historic Jodhpur and environs. Our Micato Travel Director will lead us up into the colossal Mehrangarh Fort, where we’ll wander in a series of interior palaces, rich with intricate carvings and serene courtyards. The Fort’s museum is one of the finest testimonies to Rajrhastan’s marital, artistic, and chivalric traditions. And we’ll most likely make an excursion for a Thar Desert picnic and a visit to some of the region’s Bishnoi villages, homes of a religious group with a deep practical and philosophic relationship with nature.