A former abode and battle encampment of numerous maharajahs, Alila Fort Bishangarh today is an upscale boutique resort situated near Jaipur. Home to 59 exquisite rooms that were cautiously restored and brought to life once again, it is a heritage property that may very well be an epitome of transformation for me.
Surrounded by the beauty of Rajasthan’s tranquil countryside, Alila Fort Bishangarh exudes a blissful atmosphere and royal charisma like no other. Sitting atop a granite hill in a small village that still has its anterior charm intact, one can expect to have an unobstructed 360 degree view from nearly every turret of the fort.
Having visited the property in October last year to celebrate my birthday with my family, I cannot emphasise enough what an ideal staycation destination it really is. With an infinity pool overlooking a magnificent mountain range, an in-house organic farm, a rejuvenating spa, and even a hot air balloon excursion available; I truly couldn’t have asked for a better getaway this close to Jaipur.
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How to reach Alila Fort Bishangarh?
A drivable distance from both the city of Jaipur (60 km from the airport) and New Delhi (200 km), this 18th century warrior fort is located in a small village of Bishangarh that is 6 km off the Jaipur-Delhi highway. Easily navigated through the help of Google maps and the team at Alila Fort that kindly sent directions a day prior to the visit; my family and I loved driving there from Jaipur.
If you are visiting from further away, you can book a flight to Jaipur or New Delhi and then drive from there. In case you prefer a more hassle-free transfer, the hotel also has its own pick up service for most nearby airports. There are quite a few signs in the Bishangarh village that help guide the arriving guests, but even if someone does miss them, it is nearly impossible to not notice this grand edifice from afar.
Arriving at Alila Fort Bishangarh
Wow! From the moment we entered the village, and I got my very first glimpse of Alila Fort Bishangarh’s tall turrets; a wide smile and excitement took over my face. As we drove closer and watched the fort become grander with every passing turn, I found myself wondering about what an incredible birthday this was going to be.
Inspired by the region it resides in, every nook of the fort speaks volumes of Mughal and Rajput influences. Located at the foot of the fort is a Haveli tent area that doubles as a beautiful reception and restaurant. Surrounded with fountains and utmost greenery, it is an enormous open space where guests are first greeted and presented with a traditional welcome drink.
Checking in and First Impressions
This unique concept of no formal front desks, but a lounge area where one can sit down to complete the formalities and take in the vastness of the property at the same time came as a total surprise. After driving to the fort from Jaipur, it really was nice to unwind there for a bit instead of having to rush to the room to get comfortable.
But being the curious soul that I am, I barely sat still for long and started ambling around the beautiful infinity pool and recreational rooms that call this area home. Soon after, we thrillingly hopped on a jeep. An encircling ride with the rural landscape rising behind us took us through the Pehla Darwaza and then to the main fort. The fort is where the rooms, the remaining restaurants and bar, a library, and a luxurious spa are housed.
Reflecting back on the experience of making my way in and uncovering the interiors, I am not entirely sure what captured my attention the most. From the original metres-thick walls and rugged granite pieces that are still present throughout the fort, to the newly added elements such as rustic utensils and keys that are brilliantly placed near the entrance; every façade of the fort felt like it belonged in a history book.
Once inside the main fort, we were greeted by the general manager, Mr. Ginny, who very kindly wished me a happy birthday and offered a warm welcome. Having celebrated my birthday in a few different places over the years, never before have I had such a personal experience where nearly every member of the staff knew that I was there for a special occasion and wished me for the same. Little things like this truly made staying there so much more memorable!
Our Room: The Royal Suite at Alila Fort Bishangarh
Guided along picturesque passageways beholding stories of yesteryear, we hopped in a lift and reached our suite on one of the higher floors of Alila Fort. As we took a moment before going in, the traditional wooden door fitted with two lion faced knockers caught my eye with its intricate details and I couldn’t wait any longer to see what extravagance awaited us behind it.
Adorned with muted interiors, natural teak furniture, neutral walls, and beautifully handcrafted ancient accents was our luxurious suite overlooking the village of Bishangarh. Consisting of numerous large windows, gorgeous curtains, hand block printed fabrics was our humongous sitting area perfect for relaxing.
Soaking it all in, I sat on one of the large daybeds and gazed at the rural landscape on one side and the dreamlike interior of our suite on the other. The antique water pots placed by the bed then caught my attention and I loved how they gave a befitting impression of living in a fort in India’s desert state, especially in ancient times.
Fitted with a huge marble bathtub, his and her sinks with fine-looking faucets, a toilet and a shower was our spacious bathroom. If you have read my hotel reviews before, then you might know how much I love big bathrooms and why this unquestionably checked all the right boxes for me.
The inclusion of eco-friendly products such as bamboo toothbrushes and other toiletries didn’t go unnoticed as well. Nonetheless, the soothing bath prepared with pleasant fragrances and candles after dinner is what remains my favourite thing about having stayed in this beautiful room with a marble tub.
Dining at Alila Fort Bishangarh
Lunch by the pool:
Ideal for food connoisseurs coming from all over the world, Alila Fort Bishangarh has five F&B outlets spread throughout the property. From the Madhuveni restaurant and bar offering cocktails with tapas, to the Kachhawa Lounge serving various refreshments from chai to champagne; there is a lot that captures the interest of visiting guests.
We started our staycation with a light lunch at the Haveli restaurant. Serving Mediterranean delights using produce from their own organic garden and seasonal, local ingredients only; it without a doubt was a palatable lunch spot that we enjoyed a lot. The delicious risotto made with local Rajasthani grains that we had there leaves me craving for more, even today.
Dinner under the stars:
My most anticipated restaurant, however, was Nazaara. Open only in the evening, Nazaara is where guests can have a multi-course, dining under the stars experience with Rajasthani food that has been slow cooked in traditional sandpits and fire grills. All of us got the vegetarian selection of the day and started our meal with a Samosa Chaat, Paneer Tikka and Hara Bara Kebab each.
Listening to live folk singers, we devoured our appetizers and asked for seconds of the Samosa Chaat in no time. Soon after, an extensive variety of Indian mains consisting of Bishnoi Kadhi, Dal Bishangarh, Khade Masala ka Paneer, Aloo Seasonal, Gatta Curry, Subz Biryani and more made our way and pleased each of us with our own gastronomical extravaganza.
Including breads of our choice, I particularly loved how everything in this set menu could be refilled multiple times. Watching the folk artists dance under the star ignited sky, we finished our unbelievable dinner with a plate of Beetroot Halwa, Gur aur Kajoor ki Kheer and a Homemade Ice-cream.
Breakfast in the former royal chambers:
Our last meal at the fort was a breakfast at their all-day dining restaurant, Amarsar. From organic fruits to freshly baked goods to made to order hot Indian and continental delicacies, this again was a meal fit for royalty. Offering a wide variety of traditional Rajasthani breakfast thali, South Indian platter consisting of a Masala Dosa and Uttapam, Delhi Poori Bhaji, Palak Methi Poori with Kala Chana and more; saying that we left here well fed would be an understatement.
Amenities and Experiences
Remaining true to the Alila brand, Alila Fort Bishangarh also curates various personalised experiences for visitors. Other than the five F&B restaurants mentioned above, I was surprised to learn that guests can also choose amongst 22 other private dining experiences when staying here.
From a fresh meal cooked at their in-house organic garden itself, to a sunrise hiking expedition followed by a breakfast on top of the mountain; one can easily have a unique dining experience for every meal during a week here. If you are a food aficionado like I am, you can even book a Rajasthani Rasoda Masterclass and learn to cook a traditional meal from scratch with one of the chefs in a beautiful kitchen dedicated to this art.
Situated in the fort’s old dungeon, Spa Alila is one of the most tranquil spas in Jaipur. Delightfully carved out between granite rocks, it provides an all-around soothing atmosphere that can be felt as soon as you step in. Due to shortage of time, I unfortunately did not get to experience any treatments on my visit. But if you can, then make sure to ask about their scenic, private hot bath experience (It looked so beautiful!).
I did, however, wake up at sunrise and go to the Haveli area for a swim in the beautiful infinity pool overlooking the organic garden and fruit orchards. Having such a serene sight to myself while other guests were most likely waking up or heading to breakfast, there couldn’t have been a better way to start a new year of my life.
Reasons why I loved staying here
I absolutely loved how involved and well connected the Alila team is with the local village. Strongly believing in the concept of sustainable tourism, the hotel organises private tours where guests can visit and support the nearby artisans. Whether it’s a lunch at a local inhabitant’s house or visiting the Krishna temple, the jewellery makers and the carpet weavers at the foot of the fort; there are plenty of opportunities to connect with the people of rural India.
Another thing that stood out to me was how raw the experience of staying here really was. Having visited many palaces and luxury hotels across the globe, I adored how Alila Fort Bishangarh didn’t feel one bit overwhelming. Despite it being a place that boasts luxury everywhere you look, I really valued how it managed to keep us ashore with thoughtful encounters every now and then.
Entrance to the main fort building
Doesn’t it look like I am in Morocco?
Last but not the least, I have to mention how the careful restoration blew my mind throughout my stay. Reinstating a 230-year-old warrior fort with no floor plans couldn’t have been easy, but I love how their passion and immense hard work managed to provide ordinary people like you and I an insight into the old-world era with present day comfort.
I hope that you liked reading about my experience of staying at Alila Fort Bishangarh as much as I did writing it. In case you have any questions for me or want to share your personal experience as well, then please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you!
Until the next staycation,
Want to keep reading? You might like “Staying at Samode Palace: A Luxury Hotel Near Jaipur” and “Staying at Kumarakom Lake Resort in Kerala” too.
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