Words alone cannot describe how beautiful this place is. Leaving Delhi at 7.30am we approached the small town of Neemrana around 10.30am and started our ascent up a winding hill dotted with painted shops selling jewellery and local blue pottery. Aged stone walls rose up all around us as we pulled the car into a partially cobbled courtyard and made our way on foot to the tall, domed entrance.
Staff wearing fuscia pink tunics and impressive moustaches greeted us under a sign instructing all guests to,
"leave any bad feelings or stresses at the gate,"
this is exactly what we needed after the intense pollution and noise of Delhi. After check in we were guided up through wide corridors lined with antiques, up through winding stair cases past stained glass windows and old cane chairs, up through leafy squares blooming with flowers and ornamental cabbages, up through turrets and stone walkways until we finally reached our room.
Cool and light with jade green patterned curtains and carved beds featuring locally painted tiles set into their intricate headboards. We threw open the doors to the balcony and stood out on a small stone-carved platform overlooking the tangle of boganvillia, palms and sun filled squares below. Neemrana has two swimming pools one with cool water perfect for morning and midday sun, and another heated pool higher up reserved for adults only in the Summer seasons.
Watching the sun set over the valley below was a wonderful sight and as dusk drew in hundreds of lights flickered on illuminating the palace's multiple levels. Cocktails and sitar playing in the top courtyard was a wonderfully relaxing treat. Bring cash to tip the musicians and get up to dance with them during the final piece if you're feeling brave.
As we made our way down for dinner through a deserted room with swinging benches and painted tiger chairs a barrel of monkeys came clattering through, eyeing us curiously. Using fresh produce grown on the hotels organic farm in the valley below, the quality of the vegetarian dishes in the generous buffet was notable. My favourite dish - a Rajasthani special of thin green beans and sweet sultanas in a thick and delicately spiced paste. Expertly lit with small lamps perched over the blue and fuscia covered table tops we ate from white china stamped with the gold Neemrana crest.
Waking at 7am to take part in the morning yoga class before breakfast is essential, as is trying the homemade coconut chatni with your morning dosa. After exploring every inch of the palace we settled by the pool to swim, draw and write. If you're still peckish at lunchtime the paneer kathi rolls are delicious, as are the home made pizzas washed down with a creamy virgin-colada.
If you're the type that gets restless after too much relaxation the zip wire is great fun and a camel ride to the local step well is a must. Built in the 1400's it took 2,000 people seven years to construct India's second deepest well, descending 9 storeys. "During the monsoon season the well would fill up to the seventh floor, with guards housed on the eigth to protect it and the ninth floor used as a hotel and resting place for merchants traveling the Silk Road." our guide explained.
"During the building the King instructed holes to be left in the top levels of the plaster for birds to nest,"
and the site is now home to hundreds of bright green parrots and small grey owls.
Opened in the mid 1980's by a former french banker who purchased the site in ruin and spent almost a decade renovating the 15th century palace to it's former glory. A new central wing was built in the early 20th century and works are now underway to complete a third section of the palace all in the same style as the original building. To find out more or book a stay visit Neemrana Hotels here.