Our hand-picked "Special Places to Stay" come in three different categories:
Smart - $
Good, basic amenities, well kept and often characterful. Hotels are often small, centrally located and offer a personal experience. Bathrooms are en-suite (unless specified). Most of our favourite small hotels, guesthouses, retreats, eco-lodges, heritage hotels fall in this category. No pretensions to grandeur but great value for money.
Comfortable - $$
A high standard of accommodation with a wide range of facilities. Comfortable en-suite guestrooms, good amenities and public areas. Most hotels in this category offer a restaurant on-site and many will have a swimming pool. For those who are willing to spend a bit more for that extra level of comfort.
Luxury - $$$
Excellent atmospheric hotels and palaces or resorts in exclusive locations. Facilities such as swimming pools and spas are the norm, and guest rooms are luxurious. These luxury hotels offer the highest standards of service and facilities and are acknowledged as the leading properties in the region.
Heritage Hotels in Rajasthan
Spread across the erstwhile princely state of Rajasthan are a large number of palaces and estates that were once home to families that ruled over India.
These bastions of history, bristling with memories, some pleasant others less so, seats of intrigue, of coronations, royal residences where durbars were once staged, were abandoned with the passage of time as modern, independent India surged ahead on the road to progress.
Since the government had withdrawn the privileges granted under the privy purse, maintaining these magnificent properties, each individually created over centuries, adorned with the best paintings and furniture, and representing different periods of architectural history, were in danger of falling to ruin, even though most continued to serve as residences for the former members of the royal families.
Of the 22 princely states and innumerable thikanas or seats of residence of the aristocracy, a small clutch of them have been converted into heritage hotels. These former royal residences, which members of the family have continued to inhabit for generations all together, are repositories of a gracious lifestyle, a way of living that has all but passed into the realms of fantasy.
With their recent conversion into hotels, though they have managed to keep their flavour as medieval homes intact, these once-forbidden deras have opened their doors to the world. And in doing so, they have ensured that the properties continue to be maintained in a befitting manner, and that a way of living that was losing ground to the 21st century, has been preserved for a little while longer.
In the process, the families, the family retainers whose ancestors once served within these royal portals, have continued to find employment. And a slice of history that would otherwise have been irretrievably lost, continues to survive. With one difference: You too can now be a part of it!
Heitage Hotels in the rest of India
The 'Heritage Hotel' concept may have originated in Rajasthan but it has since spread throughout India. All over India you will now find glorious little hotels that have been resurrected from ruins and converted into historic treasures.
Many property owners who still inhabit their ancestral homes could no longer afford their upkeep and rather than let them go to ruin, they decided to open their doors to the public by converting them into mostly small atmospheric hotels. These tend to be located in small rural villages and give you a chance to really get to the heart of the country and its people.
At Traveller's Palm, we have always believed that tourism, handled sensitively and responsibly, can be hugely beneficial to both the hosts and the guests of a country.
This conviction made us seek out historic homes, havelis, palaces and castles for our guests for the last 30 years. The flow of guests helped the owners of these properties to maintain their buildings and to provide employment to the local people.
With this philosophy, imagine our delight when many more Indian families started converting just a handful of rooms in their homes to visitors. Very often, the primary reason for this was not economic! Rather, we found that most home owners simply wanted some company after their offspring had left home. Rather than suffering the empty nest syndrome, they started inviting in guests. Others had palatial homes on sprawling but isolated plantations and they also found that there was no better way of having company than opening a few rooms to paying guests.
The guests, in turn, find that there is no better way of getting under the Indian skin than living with an Indian family. You are no longer simply reading about Indian culture and customs, but you actually get to live them! Add to that hosts who have known the area for generations and can open its mysteries to the guests like no one else can.
The homestays can vary from very simple rooms to luxurious suites. The surroundings also vary from villages or plantations to havelis in towns or cities. One thing they have in common though is the genuine interest the owners have in the guests and ensuring a great time for them.
In all places we have selected there will be attached private facilities to the guest rooms (unless stated differently). In addition to this, there are the shared spaces of the family, the front verandahs, the back gardens, a gazebo in the garden or simply a bench along a water-body. All these are delightful spots from where to watch the day roll by.
Read through our detailed and honest descriptions which tell you exactly what level of comfort you can expect from each home stay.
Privacy and Personal Space
As a guest you can mingle as much or as little as you like with the host family. Having said this, you should keep in mind that the charm of the homestays lies in activities which make the guests a part of the family. If this is not what you are looking for then it is best not to opt for a home stay but go in for a hotel and or resort.
By staying at a homestay, you'll be able to taste authentic Indian home cooked food. It's a lot lighter, and has more variation and flavor than restaurant food. The meals are cooked in the family kitchen and eaten with the family, often with the lady of the home serving you, as is the Indian tradition. Very often, the hostess is happy to give an impromptu or a formal cooking demonstration, a unique way of leaning about Indian cuisine.
You will also be able to do activities which would not have been possible without the guidance of a local host. This may just be a visit to a nearby village, the local bazaar, places of worship, a wedding or some local festival taking place.
One can safely say that there is no better way of getting to know India and Indians than by spending a few days with an Indian family in their own home. In more cases than can be recounted, the guests have parted as lifelong friends of the hosts.