India-bound lovers of the exotic, the luxurious and the indulgent will find their own palace awaits at Fairmont Jaipur.
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As the gateway to the desert state of Rajasthan in India, Jaipur has a history as rich and wondrous as its awe-inspiring palaces, forts and architecture. Home to many regal forms of accommodation, from old havelis (traditional residences) to grand palace hotels, Fairmont Jaipur stands apart from the Pink City offerings with its unique combination of sophistication and refined glamour – an ode to a bygone Mughal dynasty and the royal Rajputs, with all the style and comfort of the modern era.
Guests are treated like royalty from the moment they arrive at Fairmont Jaipur. Stepping out from our private car we are greeted by a regally attired gatekeeper, his palms pressed together and decadently styled Rajput moustache in perfect form, as colourfully dressed men beat huge drums and a shower of rose petals fall from the rooftops above us.
Ushered into a tranquil courtyard, we’re led past a tabla player, the deep and high-pitched knock-knock of his drums announcing our arrival. It’s all very special, but these touches of traditional hospitality, we discover, are a signature of Fairmont Jaipur – the hotel’s many beautiful nooks provide the stage for Rajasthani folk dancers, puppeteers and musicians throughout the day and night.
Room with a view
Built in the tradition of the region’s grand Mughal palaces, Fairmont Jaipur showcases the artistic heritage of Rajasthan – from the 300-year-old carved doors salvaged from Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur, to the 500-odd pillars and architectural details throughout the property, all finished by some of India’s finest artisans.
Naturally, all 245 rooms and suites are elegantly appointed with a perfect blend of traditional Rajasthani decor and modern amenities, and many (including ours) boast floor-to-ceiling windows with stunning views out over the rugged Aravalli Range. Our room is artfully decorated and expansive, featuring heavy timber doors, a private foyer, vaulted ceiling, and the most divine four-poster bed topped with plush bed linens, as well as a jaw-droppingly beautiful bathroom complete with a hammam-style bathtub (the biggest we’ve seen at any hotel in Jaipur). It’s comfortably opulent, and total bliss.
I’m starting to feel a little like a maharani (queen) myself, so I book into the hotel’s spa for one of their unique Zodiac experiences. My therapist tailors the massage to nurture and renew my star sign’s primary chakra points. She explains that each of the star signs has a corresponding energy centre, and as a cancerian, mine is Ajna, the third-eye chakra.
Allowing the therapist to work, I relax into a few hours of pampering, emerging lighter and more clear in mind and body, refreshed from the sensory fatigue that can come from travelling through the beautiful chaos of India.
A royal feast
Unsurprisingly, dining is a decadent experience at Fairmont Jaipur, and a meal at Zarin, one of the hotel’s restaurants where the focus is on Indo-Persian fusion cuisine, is not to be missed.
We soak our hands in scented water strewn with rose petals, ahead of what turns out to be one of the most memorable meals of our entire India trip – a traditional Rajasthani thali(sampling plate) of no less than 16 dishes, served in tiny brass bowls on a giant round platter, as well as an array of Indian breads and desserts. It’s mouthwatering, and impossible to finish – but therein lies the indulgence.
Still full when we wake for breakfast the next morning, the feast nevertheless continues at Zoya, the hotel’s fabulous all-day dining restaurant, where we enjoy an array of Western classics and Indian delights such as masala dosa (a little like a spicy crepe), all cooked fresh at live chef stations, washed down with delicious masala chai (Indian spiced tea).
The restaurant has a court-style dining area with a luxe blue-and-white tented ceiling and rich silver seating, but we prefer to dine outside on the terrace next to the lily pond, soaking up the peace and tranquillity of a crisp winter’s morning ahead of a busy day of sightseeing in and around Jaipur.
We have arranged our own private chauffeured car through Fairmont Jaipur, and our driver, Sudhir, is a wealth of knowledge and tips for our itinerary as we make our way to the incredible 16th-century Amer (Amber) Fort.
The largest of Jaipur’s three forts overlooking the city, Amer makes for a charming few hours of exploring, wandering the halls, hidden passageways and ornate interior chambers, before descending back down to the Old City to see architectural marvels like the Hawa Mahal(Palace of the Winds) and the City Palace with its collection of grand buildings, courtyards and a museum.
There are photo opportunities aplenty at the City Palace, and we delight in seeing the often Instagrammed inner courtyard called Pritam Niwas Chowk, with its four incredibly intricate doorways – the Peacock Gate, Lotus Gate, Rose Gate and Leheriya (Waves) Gate – each unique in its design and decoration.
The swanky Baradari restaurant, found through a doorway in the palace’s main courtyard, provides a perfect retreat for a relaxed lunch and a refreshing cocktail to end the afternoon in style – a reminder of Jaipur’s unique allure as a city where old and new, traditional and modern, chaotic and charming combine in spectacular fashion.
A romantic haven
Nothing short of stunning inside and out, Fairmont Jaipur is all about grand gestures and old-fashioned romance. A convenient short drive out of the city centre, it provides a peaceful escape from the bustling streets of Jaipur – close enough to offer easy access to all the Pink City’s pleasures, yet just far enough away to really rest and recharge after a busy day of sightseeing and shopping.
Fairmont Jaipur is also one of Rajasthan’s premier wedding destinations, with an array of luxurious settings including the lush central ‘charbagh’, with its Persian-style garden layout, and the majestic Grand Ballroom, where newlyweds will feel like a king and queen.
Image credit: Fairmont Jaipur and Natalie Bannister