anisha shah / Destination / globetrotter / journalist / North India / review / Travel / travel writer / Uncategorized / world



View from the glorious gardens; marble Baradari of Liz Hurley‘s fantasy wedding at Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel & Jodhpur Royal family residence

Fairtytale castle lit up at night, Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel & home to Jodhpur Royal family, Rajasthan

Standing proud like an exclamation mark, Umaid Bhawan Palace rises majestically above the hazy desert capital of Jodhpur; a gargantuan castle borne of whimsical fantasy, splendid in its isolation. At its footsteps, fantasy and reality merge.

A hazy fantasy castle; misty Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel & home of Jodhpur’s Royals, Rajasthan


Cue the world’s most distinctly noble greeting. Sprawled across 26 acres of lustrous landscaped gardens, the icon doubles up as one of the world’s largest private Royal residences. But when it comes to Indian palaces, not only does size matter, it’s what theTaj has done with it.

India’s über-luxury is simply unparalleled. I’m eager to sample the old-school glamour of a Princess.

Royal welcome to Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel home to Jodhpur’s Royal family

Exceptionally elegant entrance to Taj Umaid Bhawan Royal Palace hotel

Ushering me in is a team of staff. Before me, a luxurious velour cover’s raised; above me, a showering of fresh rose petals; by my feet, a red carpet lining marble steps. Inside, a ravishing Indian beauty blesses me in the traditional Aarti ritual and I’m ensconced in a fresh flower garland. It’s a lavish greeting befitting any ‘Princess.’

Marble central hallway lined by orange sashes, classic ornate elegance at Jodhpur Royal Palace


But my gaze is fixed in awe. Inside the tall circular vestibule, gleaming gold & sparkling marble bedazzles.Wherever I lay my eyes; lavish crystal chandeliers, glistening mirrored furniture & marble accenting mahogany. Draped in lavish silks & crushed velvets, no expense is spared.

Extravagant interiors of the fairytale Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel, home to Jodhpur’s Royal family

Dome shaped ceiling fills the grand hallway in dusk shades

We, British, have no shortage of castles & Royal palaces. But Umaid Bhawan Palace bears closest resemblance to, perhaps, our most infamous, Buckingham Palace. The prospect of residing there is incredulous. So, ironically, coming afar I feel closer to home.


The true grandeur awaits in the finest Grand Royal Suite. Upon entry, it fast levies a hardball of an impression– ultra-decadence. Ornate furnishings & opulent materials are accented by elaborate murals and paintings. With a marble bathroom larger than separate living room, and a walk-in wardrobe, it’s a royal feast for all senses; the pinnacle of luxury.

Elegant marble bathroom fit for a Princess in Grand Royal suite at Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel

Offering escape and privacy with a team of discrete dedicated butlers, at the push of a button, many a celebrity has been known to remain within its plush confines. Prospective ‘Princesses’ can role-play royalty to their heart’s delight (as do I)!

The spectacular view of Palace grounds from my expansive Grand Royal Suite balcony, Mehrangarh Fort in distance

Spectacular dusk colours cast glow on renowned marble Baradari, where Liz Hurley had a private fairytale wedding

It’s not until I cast open my balcony doors that I claim the jackpot. This is the million dollar view. I step out onto an expansive overhanging balcony that’s elegantly dressed & takes centre-stage above vast glamorous gardens; Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh fort completes the picture-postcard backdrop.

World’s most delicious Mango Lassi, on my balcony, Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel

This languid afternoon calls for High Tea, to the suite, savouring the best view in town. Within minutes, I’m sipping extravagant Mango Lassi loaded with saffron and cardamom whilst being serenaded from yonder. Local musicians play age-old classical Indian instruments that resound through the grounds from the striking centre-piece marble Baradari on the lawn; the eponymous star in Liz Hurley’s fairytale wedding.

View from suite, Picture-perfect manicured gardens of fairytale Royal Palace in Jodhpur

Classical Indian musicians serenade the suites from the palace gardens

Amidst grounds of chilli & turmeric-coloured rose bushes, striking indigo peacocks roam liberally, often approaching breakfasting guests upon the pristinely manicured lawns. It’s a majestic way to ease into the day, surrounded by myriad exotic colours in perfumed floral parade.

Majestic peacocks add to the romance in the gardens of Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel, Jodhpur

Peacocks roam the floral palace grounds freely & curiously approach breakfasting guests

Breakfast / lunch amidst acres of pristine perfumed grounds and wandering peacocks


And with breakfast for a King, I struggle to pick. Sensing my dilemma, the chefs whip up a bespoke storm in an elaborate platter encompassing all. More crucially, each is an impressive gourmet flavour, worthy of Michelin star. Food is worship for the temple of my body so abdominal nirvana is blissful. The high-calibre chefs work tirelessly to let you buy deep into the Royal lifestyle. The menu is bespoke to the hilt. Rules don’t exist for Royalty so your any wish truly is their command.

Fairytale setting to savour a feast for breakfast overlooking acres of gardens at Royal palace & Taj Umaid Bhawan palace hotel

Breakfast like a King in a classic Royal setting, Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel, also Jodhpur’s Royal Palace

The best way to spend mid-morning after an indulgent and lavish breakfast, is to go for a walk. One needn’t leave the Palace, as the manicured grounds span tens of acres.

Fairytale view of Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel from the glorious gardens


Within the palace, secret rooms lie in wait. Roaming the statuesque site is as carefree as it comes. I putter through paradise under my own steam, straying into ballrooms, discovering a whispering gallery, wandering turrets and terraces and ending up at the cosy ‘Trophy Bar’ seemingly lost in a Olde English Polo club.

An unused room, behind closed doors, lying in wait for the explorer. Taj Umaid Bhawan Royal Palace hotel, Jodhpur

Umaid Bhawan attracts an intriguing mix of clientele from film stars & global artists, politicians & Heads of State to global Royalty. The Taj ‘Palace within a Palace’ ethos is well-deserved, when visiting royalty feel right at home. The mix is enhanced by a decidedly international flavour of the who’s who in the upper echelons of society. By sunset, the scenes from the Suite transform drastically into dramatic dusky shades..

Spectacular sunset shades thrown over the glorious palace grounds& distant magical Mehrangarh Fort

Dining under a canopy of moonlit stars on rooftop of Jodhpur Royal family’s palace


My intrigue lies within the Palace’s turrets, where I stumble upon a skyline ‘Sunset Pavilion’ rooftop restaurant. But I want Indian haute cuisine from ground floor ‘Risala’ restaurant. ‘No demand too unreasonable’, the Chef freshly prepares my selection in the upstairs kitchen, just for me. Under a blanket of stars, with not a soul in sight, even the moon blesses my night pouring a pearlescent glow upon a candlelight-filled terrace.

Luxurious rooftop dining at dusk overlooking a hazy Mehrangarh Fort, Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace

Culinary and aesthetic delights flow as freely as the cocktails & champagne.Marvelling across a radiant city and illuminated fort, basking in gentle breeze, I feel as though I’m the only girl in the world.

Magnificent night-time views of Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh Fort, from al fresco palace rooftop restaurant

Candle-studded marble Baradari in centre of Royal Palace grounds at Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel

Staff here understand the essence of hospitality yet instinctively achieve somewhere beyond. Remarkably, I sense a genuine care in my happiness, as the waiters speak straight to my soul, encouraging me, in that beautiful Indian tradition, to ‘have a little more.’

Savouring cocktails &canapes on the luxuriant rooftop; private dining at Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel in Jodhpur

Firework display over the lit up nightscape of Jodhpur, view from rooftop restaurant at Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel

Palace restaurants sail the tightrope between inventive and authentic. Whilst unabashedly Indian in influence, ‘Risala’ deftly embraces global vision whilst retaining the bragging rights for most authentic in the region. The artisanal creations want for nothing, not shying away from costly ingredients such as saffron and vanilla, giving food the Royal cutting edge. Ingredients are scrupulously sourced.

Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel, home to Jodhpur Royal family

Private dining in candlelit marble baradari on the lawn takes centre-stage, Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel,

At breakfast I request fresh lemongrass and ginger tea, which sees the Chef personally visit the organic garden, to return with a handful of freshly picked lemongrass. The resulting tea is strong & flavoursome with a spicy sweet aroma, allowing the purity of ingredients to delightfully dance with the taste buds. Umaid Bhawan Palace itself is indulgent & makes no apology for it, requiring no justification other than to celebrate all things fabulous.

Striking views of Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel & Jodhpur royal family home, from gardens


Pampering awaits. The signature Jiva Spa’s a winding walk down a ‘blink-and-you’ve-missed-it’ hidden tunnel. The oddity lulls me into a false sense of disappointment. One glimpse soon abolishes that. The stalwart spa encompasses an entire basement. Dimly lit, air infused with heady incense aromas & contemporary yet intimately-styled, stepping into the tropical freeform pool feels an occasion. It’s a fabled oasis in the depths of the Palace.

As a culture-vulture, I’m delighted to have Jodhpur’s most renowned museum on my doorstep, literally. TheRoyal Palace museum is home to the city’s royal train, collection of vintage cars and royal objets d’art. Palace residents can stroll over, after-hours, glass of bubbles in hand, to peruse as antiquities vie for attention.

Enough ground to cover; uncovering this palace takes days, Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel& Jodhpur Royal family palace


Very rarely does one feel privileged to stay somewhere, especially when there’s a high price tag attached, but at Taj Umaid Bhawan, every penny spent is worth the while and yet I still feel honoured to gain a sneak preview into the elite lifestyle of Royals.

Sunset fantasy suite view; balcony of Grand Royal Suite at Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace, Rajasthan

In the world of hoteliers, the Taj Palaces have endless fans but few peers. Revered with both affection and envy, the Taj ethos replies only with grace & humility, adding to it’s heroic reputation. With such innate elegance, it will long remain legendary host to the world’s elite. The biggest problem is stepping out of this luxurious bubble to re-enter the real world!


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