Away from its brightly-coloured cites, impressive forts, and imposing palaces, Rajasthan is a dusty, rust-hued sandscape that stretches as far as the eye can see. The region is underpinned by a centuries-old culture, arguably best experienced by a sojourn at one of its many homestays and havelis (हवेली; courtyard mansion hotels). The following shortlist of four is perfect for getting off the beaten track in this corner of India—meet forgotten tribes, revered maharajas, and discover a land the twenty-first century forgot.
This delightful family-run estate, surrounded by picturesque lakes and lying right between Jaipur and Udaipur, is the perfect way to break up an otherwise long car journey. However, this is so much more than simply a stopover point and more of a destination in itself. Owned and run by a former royal family who is still very much revered locally, they are always present to meet guests and exchange fascinating stories. The property keeps to its early twentieth-century heritage with decorations and maintains a “homestay” vibe, and the real highlight is a visit to the family’s private fort. Enjoy a glass a wine with the sunset and the sounds of the village below echoing around the ancient walls.
Shahpura Bagh, Shahpura Bagh Road, Bhilwara, Rajasthan 311404, India | +(91) 95870 04999
An exquisite hotel of mirrored antechambers, murals, and courtyards, Devigarhis located in the Aravalli Hills just outside Udaipur, so it’s perfect for those who want to experience rural life but still enjoy access to the lively city. Guests stay in an imposing converted fort, set in a peaceful Delwara village with incredible views of the mountains. Enjoy an evening walk with a local guide through the village to witness vibrant authentic daily life. The property also has an amazing pool, making it a great place for some tranquil recharging.
Raas Devigarh, NH8, near Eklingji Temple, Delwara, Udaipur, Rajasthan 313202, India | (+91) 291 263 6455
Suján Jawai is a super-luxurious tented camp which gives guests the chance to combine viewing wildlife with experiencing traditional Rajasthani village life. The tents are amazing and as a Relais & Chateaux property, you know the food and service is going to be outstanding. Most people do visit Suján Jawai to spot the elusive leopards in nearby hills, but visiting villages along the way and learning about the deep-rooted caste system becomes just as much of a highlight. It’s easy to spend a couple of days here between Udaipur and Jaipur.
Suján Jawai Leopard Camp, Jawai Bandh, Rajasthan 306126, India | (+91) 11 4617 2700
Tucked away just outside the city of Jodhpur, en route from Udaipur, Mihir Garh is a delightful boutique property offering superior comfort and luxury. Rooms have private pools or hot tubs, and the most stunning views over the Rajasthan desert. It’s a great place to discover the desert landscape and the wildlife that inhabits this seemingly desolate region. A tour of the local village, where locals are known to still engage in opium ceremonies, is certainly worth doing, and keen horse riders can test their skills on one of the local Marwari horses. For a truly special experience, guests can enjoy an exclusive Shikaar dinner feast with music and dance in the desert from a bygone era, complete with a Rajasthani sunset.
Mihir Garh, C/O Rohet House, P.W.D. Road, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India | (+91) 124 465 4330