As I was driving through the arid terrains of Gujarat and Rajasthan to a city I had known to be the ‘Golden City’, I was dreaming of bright sun shining over the golden sands of the desert that was the city of Jaisalmer. An 8 hour drive from Ahmedabad, I entered the city that is often compared to Venice. Both these cities were built by savvy tradesmen in geographically excruciating conditions. It amazed me how there could be such incredible architecture in a city that’s drought-prone with virtually no water. The Jaisalmer fort will be your first sight as you enter the city. Nestled atop a hill in beautiful golden sandstone but my destination was a special hotel on the outskirts of the city, Suryagarh. In their own words, it’s the gateway to the Thar desert. A majestic palace hotel that spelled luxury right from the gates.
We were welcomed by their Royal Guards, camels, drum beats, Indian folk music and a shower of rose petals. The 8-hour road travel seemed from a different dimension. I had now entered a world of myths and legends. As I stepped into the widely photographed courtyard of Suryagarh, I knew why this is the golden city. It had little to do with the colour of the sand and the sandstone and everything to do with the sheer intricacy of the craftsmanship.
The entire hotel is a built and carved like a delicate piece of jewellery. Named after the sun worshippers, the sun is central to the artistry of the place. The jaalis create shadows on the floor and even when the sun shines bright at noon, the heat doesn’t bother you as the sandstone envelops you.
The hospitality at Suryagarh was unlike anything I’ve experienced. Their staff is not just courteous and willing to help but they are a brilliantly trained group of ordinary people with an extraordinary skillset. Their head chef, Megh Singh Rathore is a magician. Every morsel of his meals was a trick he played on our taste buds. Our top picks? The quail, Banana Chaat, Keema Baati and every mutton preparation.
The food was unbelievable good and we’ve come back a few pounds heavier. The sheer attention to detail that they put in on the presentation and accommodating every request is commendable. The gluten-free blueberry cheesecake they made for me is still something I think about. Their cheese boards with in-house baked breads and dips (must try the Romesco) are the best I’ve had globally. And their drinks. Oh, their drinks. Their bar has a mixologist that will whip you cocktails of your dreams. Their wine selection is wide and how, all you connoisseurs will be impressed with the knowledge the serving staff possesses about their wines.
Over the days, we heard legends of the villages nearby, the Jain influence over Jaisalmer and how the city is inhabited by the descendants of Shree Krishna. A story that stuck with me was one of an incomplete love between Mumal, a Rajput princess and Mahendru, the prince of Umar Kot (now in Pakistan). All that’s left of their romance are the ruins of Mumal’s palace which is now an archaeological site. Suryagarh is like the palace from fairy tales, with long corridors, pigeons and sparrows constantly chirping, sometimes they’ll even join you for breakfast.
Just strolling around the property transports you back in time. What I live for are experiences, and Suryagarh made every day memorable. Imagine sitting under the desert sky with a blanket of stars, a crescent moon, live folk music by Mehboob Khan while the cool night breeze caresses you and in the distant ground is the golden palace. And now being served cocktails and a Rajasthani Thaali. Every experience was curated and executed to tap into the deepest emotions one could feel.
One morning, we were taken to a remote location amidst the desert. It turned out to be an oasis where we had a breakfast picnic with Mimosas. If there is anyone who could blend royal luxury with a cosmopolitan vibe, it would be Suryagarh. You’re transported to a time gone by and made to live like the royals would but you’ll never be so far out of your comfort zone that you couldn’t enjoy it. It is meant for modern-day royalty. Their spa has been regarded as the Best Luxury Desert Spa and has some of the best treatments for the hair & face. They also have a gym, an indoor swimming pool (yes, its operational) and endless experiences to choose from. Try doing a breakfast with the peacocks.
With everything that’s happening around the world and within our country, it is necessary to sometimes step into an oasis of your own, one that’s made for you and curated around your preferences. If you’re looking for that safe space, head to Suryagarh. They will make it special for you. If you’re going in a group, you might want to check out their havelis. They are these private residences with a master bedroom, plunge pool, lounge, patio, a kid’s room + an extra room. It is right next to their organic garden where they grow their own veggies and make fresh meals from the through the day. Our pick was the Spinach & Feta salad with Candied walnuts. Best had with a glass of bubbly.
Easily accessible via road from Delhi, Jaipur & Ahmedabad, there are also 2 direct flights from Ahmedabad to Jaisalmer. To have your special experience curated, you can get I touch with the hotel by calling +91-7827151151, 02992269269 or visiting www.suryagarh.com. The experiences like Oasis Picnic, Dinner in the Dunes and other curated explorations can be pre-booked beforehand or on arrival.