In a gorgeous setting on the banks of Gaib Sagar lake, 120km south of Udaipur, Udai Bilas Palace is a truly authentic heritage hotel. From the original one pillared palace it has been added to over the years by generations of the royal family and dominated by three wings built in the 1940s. It is still the residence of the Maharawal of Dungarpur and his family and is wonderfully eccentric, completely fascinating and utterly romantic.
The whole place is held in time warp with beautiful but well-worn Art Deco furniture, threadbare rugs and the original 1940’s wallpapers and fabrics. It perhaps goes without saying that there is no phone, television, mini-bar or other modern trappings in any of the 20 guest rooms but all have splendid views of the lake or mountains. The bathrooms too are vintage works of art (including the plumbing).
Aware that guests don’t always find it easy to eat while surrounded by the dozens of hunting trophies in the Africa Room, the latest addition is the Zenana Chowk an elaborate banquet hall with a huge marble table with an illuminated water pool running through its centre.
One of the best things about staying here is the access it gives you to one of Rajasthan’s best kept secrets, the family’s 13th-century Juna Mahal. It doesn’t look much from the outside but this old palace houses room after room of the most stunning wall paintings. Keep heading up to the top floor to see a collection of miniature paintings depicting scenes from the Kama Sutra hidden behind cupboard doors in the maharaja’s suite. There are also the family collection of vintage cars at Dungarpur Mews to visit, temple ruins, reserve forest and Dungapur itself that you can explore by bicycle. A sunset boat ride on lake is a leisurely way to enjoy more than 120 species of birds.
Art Deco palace hotel owned and run by the Maharawal of Dungapur with 20 rooms infinity pool flanked by stone elephants
Rajasthan is probably the best known state in India and for some it is the very essence of the country. With its royal palaces and impregnable forts, vast deserts and magical festivals, and everyday life bursting with colour it is a natural place for many first-time visitors to begin their discovery of India. Read more?
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