Alila Fort Bishangarh
Alila Fort Bishangarh

A ‘warrior fort’ turned luxury hotel near Jaipur, Rajasthan

A turn off the Delhi-Jaipur highway, about an hour-and-a-half before the Pink City, will take you down dusty roads to a fort that looks like it has been carved out of the Aravallis itself and into a whole different world!

The Alila Fort Bishangarh is straight out of a mythological story of fierce battles, brave warriors and beautiful princesses. Just a decade ago this was a dilapidated fort lost in the mists of time. The present day head of the Shekhawati Dynasty joined hands with Alila Group to restore the Fort and convert it into a luxury hotel. 

Sustainability was at the heart of the restoration process. The original fort, with its 360-degree views of rural Rajasthan and the Aravalli ranges, has been left intact. A new structure, architecturally and design-wise completely in sync with the 230-year-old Fort, was built above and outside the old fort to house the guest suites and the public areas. Local materials were used and local building practices were followed for the reconstruction. 

The end result is a grand structure with large courtyards, massive columns, intricate arches, chequered floors, delicate jaali screen windows and sweeping staircases.

The property is quite spread out. Down the hill is the ‘Haveli’, which comprises of the arrival courtyard, banquet lawns, pool, a Mediterranean inspired farm-to-table restaurant, gym and a play zone for children. The 59 luxurious rooms and suites are spread across eight floors of the fort and surround the stunning central courtyard. The rooms come with large bay windows, day-beds and large bathrooms with footed bathtubs.

Within the Fort walls are four more dining options. What used to be the royal living quarters once upon a time is today the Silk Road inspired specialty restaurant, Amarsar, serving such interesting dishes like Samarkand quail curry, Afghan Mantu, Activated Charcoal risotto and even a Kale Papdi chaat! Then there’s the open air dinner-only terrace restaurant, Nazaara, which offers Rajput ‘shikaar’ cuisine. This is a must-do experience as the the restaurant showcases live sandpit and fire pit cooking. Madhuveni, the cigar-and-cognac lounge, and Kachchawa, the chai-coffee-cakes-Champagne Lounge round off the dining offerings here.

There is much to do here besides eating, though. You can accompany a chef to the Fort’s in-house organic farm and pick the vegetables that will be transformed into your meal later. The hotel also offers curated tours that will give guests an immersive experience into rural Rajasthani life with visits to local families, farmers and artisans. You can also enjoy horse back riding, picnic lunches or high teas and go hiking or cycling. Spending time with a family in the village of Bishangarh and having a meal with them or mastering Rajasthani cooking in a masterclass conducted by the hotel’s chefs are other great experiences.

Price: Rs 29,184

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<h3>Slow Travel</h3>

Slow Travel

The Alila Fort Bishangarh used local materials and followed local architectural and design practices while restoring the Fort and adding new structures. The walls have been finished with modern adaptations of the traditional surkhi (stone dust) and araish, the dying Rajasthani plastering art that results in glistening surfaces. The hotel has an organic farm, a fruit orchard and a greenhouse set up amidst the ravines and grows many of the ingredients that are used in the cooking. It recycles waste, uses indigenous low-water-use plants to reduce water usage, has a wastewater management system and uses solar energy for water heating. The open design of the rooms is intended to allow maximum cross ventilation and daylight penetration, reducing the use of lights. Inside the Fort, rocks are integrated into the walls and roof to improve the insulation system and reduce the use of air conditioning. A majority of the employees are from the local area.