If you’re visiting India during winter, there’s no place quite as spectacular as Rajasthan. Alila Fort Bishangarh, on a hilltop surrounded by lush fields displaying all hues of green, offers just the perfect retreat. The serene surroundings and impeccable service made our stay here a very memorable experience.
After experiencing the serenity at Alila Fort Bishangarh, it is hard to imagine that it just took a very comfortable three and a half hour drive from Delhi to get us here. One of the most luxurious properties of the Hyatt group in India, this one is unique.
It is a 230-year-old warrior fort that took almost 10 years to get converted into a high-end resort. Located at Bishangarh Village in the Jaipur District, just off the Delhi-Jaipur National Highway, the fort is easily accessible from both Delhi and Jaipur.
One can view the fort atop a granite hill while meandering through the adjoining village. However, seeing it at close quarters from the charming arrival courtyard, amidst the soft melody of the ektara (a local instrument), it is truly gorgeous.
General manager Binny Sebastian is there to personally greet us. “This is perhaps the only warrior fort in India that has been converted into a resort,” he informs us and sets the tone of what we can expect to experience over the next few days.
“Alila” is Sanskrit for ‘surprise’ and here it translates into personalised hospitality that allows guests to craft a bespoke experience for themselves. While the property is replete with beautiful nooks to simply sit back and unwind, the leisure concierge offers enough activities to keep you busy, if you so wish.
Style and character
After a smooth check-in we get a tour of the property. Our guide gives us a peek into the rich history of the fort that was completed over the life span of four generations. Its construction started in the 14th century, when Rao Shekha, the founder of the Shekhawati clan was born, and got completed only by the 18th century.
The grandeur of the fort lies in its stark and inherent simplicity. The two-metre thick ancient walls around the fort still have openings for firearms and turrets (known as burjs) as battlements. Additionally, a new structure is created above and outside the old fort to house five different styles of royal suites and the lavish public areas.
Since the original layout of the fort has been restored painstakingly, the 59 stately rooms and suites come in varying shapes and sizes. This is to say that no two rooms are alike! But all of them (including the base category) are large and airy and feature lavish bay windows and day beds that evoke the rich heritage of princely Rajasthan albeit in a minimalist style.
All the accommodation and three of the four F&B outlets are housed in the Fort that stands on the hilltop, the Haveli at the base of the hill comprises the arrival courtyard, the pool, pool terrace with the Mediterranean inspired farm-to-table restaurant, luxurious banquet lawns, and a club area for kids.
One of my favourite parts of Alila Fort Bishangarh was the beautiful turreted ramp connecting the Haveli and the Fort. Although jeeps are promptly available to go up and down, we enjoyed walking languorously, taking in the calm of the surrounding expanse, sighting many peacocks and parrots en route.
One of the most magical views is that of the beautifully lit fort in the evening.Another gorgeous sight is in the evening – that of the beautifully lit up Fort from the Haveli. It is breathtaking, and one that’ll stay etched in my memory. Evenings in Rajasthan have an inimitable magic about them. And dinner at the rooftop restaurant, Nazaara, becomes even more special with its slow dining experience.
Food is cooked in earthen pots in an adaptation of the traditional “khadh” style, served under a star lit sky, accompanied by a live folk music performance. The delicious barbecue and an array of Rajasthani curries and rotis is what this meal is all about.
What makes the food at Alila Fort Bishangarh truly delicious is the beautiful produce from which it is prepared. We have been to many hotels that claim to have organic gardens but usually they are so small that one wonders if the produce is sufficient for even one restaurant, leave alone the requirement of the entire hotel.
But here, not only is the organic garden thriving enough to supply the entire quantity of the many vegetables and herbs required in the restaurants, often there is enough surplus that is served at the staff cafeteria.
A walk through the farmland within the hotel exposes us to some of the most refreshing fragrances of the beautiful produce, bright colours and fresh taste of herbs like mint and curry leaves, asparagus and so much more that is grown here.
Chef Rajat Chandna is also doing a fantastic job of utilising these beautiful ingredients to make as much as can be made in-house including jams, chutneys and freshly ground masalas, besides using the fresh vegetables in salads, Indian and international dishes.
Given the current demand for fresh, sustainable food, they even have a specially curated Zero Mile Menu for those who are interested in reducing carbon footprint and eating food prepared with ingredients sourced from the immediate surroundings.
Events and occasions
The Fort provides a majestic locale for grand weddings and celebratory events including MICE facilities with 23 creative spaces. So, from organizing a romantic dinner for two under a star-lit sky to catering to 450 people in the beautiful lawns, the service team ensures that special occasions become truly memorable for their guests.
Last, but not the least, is the authentic rural experience for guests to get a taste of local life. While you can hire cycles to traverse the neighbouring villages, the leisure concierge also arrange for up, close and personal encounters with various village artisans and craftspeople – silversmith, potter, carpet weaver and so on.
In a nutshell
We recommend a holiday at Alila Fort Bishangarh because it offers a wealth of relaxation, discovery and adventure. Oh, and did we mention that there is a lovely spa with well-trained therapists?! It made our holiday here truly refreshing and rejuvenating.
Address: Off NH-8 at Manoharpur Bishangarh Village, Jaipur Bishangarh, Manoharpur, Rajasthan 303104.
Phone: +91 72300 58058