It all comes together here - the architecture, the design, the hospitality, the food, the surroundings and the vibe. You live the past and present at the same time here. You don’t go there to check boxes, you go there to be in a different world altogether.
Every year, Tripadvisor releases a list of Top Hotels in the World chosen by travellers. Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur is a grand hotel ranked the No. 1 best hotel in the world on Tripadvisor’s list in 2016. Expedia sent Indian travel blogger Ajay Jain to stay at Umaid Bhawan and share his experience of the Best Hotel in the World.
Staying in the Best Hotel in the World
As a travel writer, I cannot allow excitement to cloud my opinion. But I could barely suppress the emotion at the prospect of checking into what is rated as the number one hotel in the world on TripAdvisor. Umaid Bhawan Palace, managed by Taj Hotels, is a famous icon of this area in Rajasthan and its grandeur is regularly ranked among the best hotels in the world.
I also started off with the assumption that it’s going to be a great stay – again, I should not presume something without experiencing it.
It did make me think though, that with expectations set so high, it must be challenging for the hotel to ensure it does not disappoint guests on any count.
So how did the Umaid Bhawan Palace, managed by Taj Hotels, fare for me?
Welcome to the Palace in Rajasthan
Set on a small hill overlooking the city of Jodhpur in the Indian state of Rajasthan, few buildings in the world can match the grandeur and architecture of this hotel. I have yet to check into one that can beat Umaid Bhawan Palace.
The only notable structure that I could see on a higher plane than Umaid Bhawan in the city is the majestic Mehrangarh Fort, clearly visible from many rooms, restaurants and the lawns. Despite being a desert state, the ‘blue city’ of Jodhpur has managed to paint itself a natural green.
The Blue City
My stay also coincided with good tidings: it rained after nearly a year, making the blues, the greens and the browns even richer than they were, bringing smiles to locals and tourists alike.
Pretty promising start to what’s gearing toward a perfect stay!
The fort Umaid Bhawan hotel lobby from the top
The Rooms in the Best Hotel in the World
The hotel is run by the erstwhile royalty of Jodhpur. In fact, part of the building still serves as their residence. Ooo~ When you are being hosted by a ‘Maharaja’ and his family, nothing less than a suite would do. So it is in fact an all-suites hotel.
One of the available suites in Umaid Bhawan
Welcome to my Suite in Umaid Bhawan Palace
Split into two parts, my suite opened into a sitting area with comfortable sofas and a bar, with the bedroom beyond. The bedroom itself overlooked the Baradari lawns and the Mehrangarh Fort – I just stood and stared at the landscape till a knock on the door broke me out of my reverie.“The open spaces before me brought a sense of calm within me. Give me a hotel – and a home – like this anytime”
There would have been a time when most people lived in houses overlooking open spaces before urbanization took its toll on our entitlements; the open spaces before me brought a sense of calm within me. Give me a hotel – and a home – like this anytime.
View from my room in Umaid Bhawan Palace
Welcome snacks in my room at Umaid Bhawan Palace
In My Suite
I put a Do-Not-Disturb sign so I could allow the suite to pamper me.
It was a hard choice between the luxurious bath tub and the showers. In the interest of the environment, I allowed myself a quick and warm shower.
The walk-in closet ticked the next box for what makes for a good suite design.
The walls are literally works of art – including the furniture and decorations. If the room was a Facebook post, I would click on Super Like!
Just when I was getting settled in, the general manager generously upgraded me to a presidential suite. If I was a head of state, this is what I would have needed for my entourage.
Few suites in the world can match the size and opulence of this one. The dining table was set with fine crockery and crystal, and the living room had two ample sitting areas with sofas you could sink in. The oversized bedroom itself made me feel royal stretched out in bed.
“Few suites in the world can match the size and opulence of this one.”
This further opened into a private massage room, a walk-in closet with two safety boxes (one big enough to hold the queen’s jewels!!) and a bath with a romantic jacuzzi.
The walls themselves were adorned with specially commissioned works of art. I personally liked the images that stretched the full height of the wall.]
Behold the jacuzzis! (second pic from another suite)
Massage tables in the royal suite
Rooms in Umaid Bhawan – My Review
Overall impressions of the rooms?
The beds were so comfortable I didn’t want to get up; The décor is a study in itself; The showers and tubs are the place to dim the lights, bring on the candles, open the bubbly and compose poetry for your beloved; The cleanliness in the room was a full ten out of ten.
If you’re considering Umaid Bhawan for a family vacation… unless they are small children who can sleep on couches, even the bigger suites have just one king bed. But then again, Umaid Bhawan is best suited for couples in love – if children tag along, they should be given a room to themselves.
You can check out the different rooms and room rates here on Expedia.co.in.
Dining at Umaid Bhawan
I had to practice saying a firm no to the chefs as they love to indulge their guests. I wanted to try as many dishes as possible!
Breakfast and lunch were at the Risala – with its indoor and balcony seating. The menu offered a selection of continental and Indian fusion – I personally liked the home style vegetable and lentils with chappatis for lunch. Breakfast was a generous spread with live counters to prepare your choice while you waited – I took it all in over multiple rounds of milkshakes served in old-style milk bottles.
Breakfast at RisalaMy starter before dinner
“A delight watching the sun set in the horizon over evening tea – followed by a dinner of rich Rajasthani delicacies”
I booked my dinner at the Pillars – set in the verandahs overlooking the Baradari lawns and the Mehrangarh Fort. It was a delight watching the sun set in the horizon over evening tea – followed by a dinner of rich Rajasthani delicacies.
Do have the Mimosa – crafted by the bartender, it is a cocktail of champagne and orange juice. The waiters strongly recommend it over breakfast – to set the mood for the day to follow.
Flutist entertaining diners at Risala restaurant
An Underground Spa
Go a few steps below ground level and you will see what must rank as one of the most romantic pools ever designed. Adjoining to it is Jiva, the signature spa of Taj Hotels. The next time I want to feel pampered, I know where I’d want to be.
As I walked around…
A walk through Umaid Bhawan Palace is like turning pages of a history book. Generations of family photographs, a museum within the premises, art on the walls, paintings and images of important people who engaged with the powers-that-be – I was surrounded by countless stories, and then some more. Even before I visited, I had heard a lot about the Maharaja’s vintage car collection; I was not disappointed.
Displayed in glass cases, each was a piece to be treasured and desired. Many still purr and run, a tempting prospect for the roadie in me. Would have loved to take one out for a spin. Maybe I should become best friends with His Highness?
Vintage cars on display in Umaid Bhawan Palace Portraits of generations of the royal family Old clocks on display in museum of Umaid Bhawan Palace
Spectacular Rooftop Views over Jodhpur
Just when I thought the views from the ground could not get better, I got access to the rooftop; it is normally locked but you should request it to be opened when you visit. The views are spectacular from up there. Not only do you get a 360 degrees perspective of the compound, but you can see much beyond. Including an artificial lake that may have served as a reservoir in the past, the city itself, the fort and more.
Things to do Around Umaid Bhawan
Jodhpur is a charming city to be in. Around the hotel, you don’t have to go far before something or someone catches your eye.
The Jodphur bazaars are overflowing with bangles, bright clothes, footwear, handicrafts, pottery, spices and more. You also have historical locations like the Jaswant Thada and the Mehrangarh Fort to visit. Don’t forget to book a dinner on the rooftop of Mehrangarh Fort! It’s unlike anything other.
And then you have local food – mirchi vadas, kachoris, samosas, lassi, sweets – I certainly couldn’t stop myself once I got started on those.
Street vendor selling traditional locks in Jodhpur bazaarMusician performing in Mehrangarh Fort, blue city in the background Juttis – traditional footwear of Jodphur Clock Tower in old market of Jodhpur. Mehrangarh Fort in the background. Jaswant Thada – Cremation ground and memorial for the royal family of Jodphur
Famous local delights, Mirchi Vadas
Pictures from my visit to Mehrangarh Fort
Mehrangarh Fort is one of the top places to visit in Jodhpur. It’s definitely worth visiting while you are staying at Umaid Bhawan. Walk in the footsteps of celebrated maharajas and discover fascinating stories of the royal Rathore rulers. Today the fort’s buildings serve as the galleries of a fascinating heritage museum, transporting you back into India’s past with a vivid collection of intricate weaponry, pallaquins, mahaja chambers and more.
The Phool Mahal with interiors made using 80kg of gold
An elephant ‘howdah’ – seats used in the past for riding elephants An exquisite palaquin used to transport ladies in earlier times Intricate hand-crafted pallaquin covered in gold paint Wooden jewellery box inlaid with ivory, used by royal ladies Display in the armoury
Umaid Bhawan Hotel Review: To sum it all up….
There are many hotels that offer you a delightful stay but the memories from Umaid Bhawan would linger for a long long time to come.
At Umaid Bhawan Palace, it all comes together – the architecture, the design, the hospitality, the food, the surroundings and the vibe. You live the past and present at the same time here. You don’t go there to check boxes, you go there to be in a different world altogether.
Did I mention that they make a rose petal ice-cream in their kitchen? The dessert would be an apt metaphor for all that Umaid Bhawan stands for.
Jodhpur is the city you fall in love with. Umaid Bhawan Palace is where you check in with those you love. Again and again.
You can find more information or book your stay at Umaid Bhawan here.
My stay was arranged courtesy of Expedia and Umaid Bhawan, but all opinions are my own.
About the Author
Ajay Jain is India’s earliest and leading travel blogger, writer and photographer. He blogs http://kunzum.com.
Ajay has travelled extensively in India and globally; road-tripping on four wheels is what he loves best. Along the way, he has written eight printed books and over 50 e-books. He can be contacted at email@example.com. He holds degrees in Mechanical Engineering MBA and Journalism.