Bhainsrorgarh fort is a luxury boutique hotel and one of the best kept secrets of Rajasthan. Overlooking the mighty Chambal river and the much smaller Brahmini river, the views are pretty much unbeatable especially during and after the monsoon when the rivers are at full strength. That it is a living fort with an entire village of about 5,000 people still flourishing within its walls just adds to the experience.
An erstwhile fiefdom it is still managed by the royal family who have converted part of the fort into a luxury boutique hotel. The rooms retain their charm of their glorious years and though part of it the hotel looks dated, it is quite in tune with its theme. The royal family lives in another part of the fort but are readily accessible should you be in need of anything including a conversation. The feeling of staying at one of their palatial suites with a view of the river, is incomparable and frankly breath-taking.
The fort is not as grand and large as its counterpart in Chittorgarh nearby but still manages to provide a safe sanctuary for the people who call it home – all 5000 of them. The streets are narrow but the people we managed to see on the road were all with wide grins on their face, happily working at their chores. The fort was restored and converted into the luxury hotel as recently as 2006 and the Royal family still live in an adjoining wing, easily accessible and always welcoming.
The countryside around the Fort at first glance reminded us of Scotland. The region is hilly, the weather misty and cool and the erstwhile forests have given way to vast meadows and farmlands giving it a very similar feel. The river is infested with crocodiles which can be often seen sunning themselves on the banks or mistaken as floating logs of wood until you see a snout breaking the water and finally realize your folly. It is quite impossible to believe you are in the desert state of Rajasthan while you’re staying there and is easily one of the best hotels we’ve managed to stay in till date. It was love at first sight and we will be coming back for more.
Rooms & the View:
We were booked into the Mewar suite which is the biggest suite available at this hotel. Big is actually an understatement while describing the room which has a bed room with two balconies overlooking two rivers, has a small dining room with a fantastic view leading to a living room and a bathroom which had a wet and dry area with a chair in the middle of it. We couldn’t fathom the reason why a chair was placed there but we assume it might be for guests like us who might get tired moving about in the room.
Given that we were the only guests at the time of check-in the entire floor was ours for the duration of the stay. Which meant sole access to the common lounging area complete with sofas and sitting areas which might have been made for the princesses to relax. All the windows had tiny patterns of coloured glass and with the sunlight streaming in created a magical effect. The bed room had a huge four poster bed underneath a giant dome with some kind of paintings on it but was rather bare boned except for that. However the alcoves within the walls and the side tables offered enough space to place the water and our belongings for easy access. The main hero of the room was not the bed (although it was among the comfortable one we’ve slept in) but the balcony and its view. We’ve talked about the fabulous view from the room at some other places we’ve stayed at but this view was out of the world. It is too much of a task ever for writers like us to describe a scene which has us standing in a restored fort looking out of jharokha in a balcony of a luxurious room, staring at a wide expanse of water which is the Chambal river surrounded by a green meadow with the far horizon shrouded in mist. That we were welcomed by gusts of wet wind promising of rain as soon as we opened the balcony door just made it seem all the more dreamy.
The room has no TV or gigantic tubs to soak in or probably the frills you would associate with a luxury hotel (except for a state of the art Lavazza coffee make which frankly felt out of place in the room) but still felt luxurious. The sofas could’ve been a bit more comfortable and there could’ve been more strategically placed plug points to cater to the technology toting smart travellers but frankly those are inconsequential and manufactured whining’s to dispel the hypnosis of this place. To say it as it was, we were charmed out of our wits.
There is no polished hospitality management graduates to welcome you in. No hierarchical blue/red/green tape to go through when you need something done. Because, wait for it, there are no managers. That ridiculous (or was it incredulous) face you might be making reflects ours when we heard about it. The property, small as it is, is run by two brothers from the lineage of the Royal family of Bhainsrorgarh. To give each guest the personal attention they deserve and to give this place a feel of a homestay (albeit a royal one) rather than a hotel, they’ve done away with the concept of managers and employ mostly local staff from the region (we found that most of the resident staff was from villages in Madhya Pradesh hardly a few hours away). In an interesting mix of technology and practicality, each room is provided with a remote buzzer connected directly to the kitchens where the staff congregates. This ensures prompt response and does away with the needless concept of an intercom system which would serve no incremental purpose. Our personal experience with the system was faultless but we can see it running into issues when the hotel is fully booked, given the limited staff at hand. The staff are warm, eager and aim to please, disappearing into the shadows when not needed and magically appearing at the softest call. However, the two brothers, either of whom might be your host during your stay, are a notch above. They are wonderful company, will take special attention to your needs and ask for feedback and opinion with open frankness as if you were a family friend and not a guest. We felt it odd that a luxury hotel was positioning itself as a homestay experience while looking at their website, but a stay there will convince you there’s merit to their thoughts and leave wishing your other stays were like this.
The food served here is totally Indian with a bent towards local Rajasthani cuisine. We had an assortment of dishes throughout our stay with no curry repeated and every meal a unique spread in itself. That in itself was a remarkable experience. The food was yummy, less oily than we expected and frankly had us waiting eagerly for the next meal. The only thing we feel could be improved is a little pro-activeness from the chef/staff in checking if the menu agrees with the guest. Although we did not face any major issues, a fixed menu cannot cater to everyone and a prior discussion can ensure that the chef has enough time to prepare the changes and the guests are satisfied with their meal. That said, the food was the best we had during our trip and can understand why so many of the reviews complement the food so much. A bit of advice, the local food can be a bit heavy on the stomach for guests not used to it and a measure of modicum in stuffing yourself with it, can ensure a smooth and fulfilling trip with the ability to enjoy the other meals. The meals are served on the roof which has one of the best views we’ve enjoyed during a meal and the candle light dinners can be incredibly romantic.
The owners have created a range of activities to enjoy during your stay but unfortunately we weren’t able to experience most of them given the bad weather. However time passes by in a jiffy and we feel we could’ve easily extended a day. A boat ride to a small island on the river for a picnic is one of their best activities and should not be missed. Done in a small rowing boat early in the morning, the experience can be incredibly romantic. A small hike round the periphery of the fort leading through the Chhatri’s (cremating grounds of the Royal family) and onwards to a hanging bridge which leads you to the farmlands on the other side of the river is another small activity which is again highly recommended. The views from the hanging bridge of the fort walls and the birdlife around is quite marvellous. A short ride or a hike to the Baroli/Badoli temple complex should be done. The best part about the excursion being that there are hardly any visitors there. The only people to give you company would be the temple priest and a couple of guards from the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India). The temples, most of them now in a semi ruined state, are eight in number, dedicated to Lord Shiva, Goddess Durga, Lord Vishnu & Lord Ganesha. The temples said to be built during the 9th-10th century are one of the earliest temple complexes in Rajasthan.
End Notes & Tips:
Bhainsrorgarh is now officially our favourite recommendation for non-mainstream Rajasthan and for anyone in the mood for R&R.
The road leading from the main highway to the fort is single lane and can be a bit bumpy, however the destination is well worth the journey. The road coming in from Kota is supposedly in a better condition than the one coming from Chittorgarh.
Ask for top floor suites for the best rooms and views. The deluxe rooms do not share the great views and if budget is not a constraint, the suites are highly recommended.
- Bhainsrorgarh Fort is 50 Km (Roughly 1 Hr) from Kota and about 250 Km (Roughly 4 Hours) from Udaipur & Sawi Madhopur (Ranthambore).
- The best time to visit would ideally be just during the monsoons when it is green beyond imagination and the river is full. However from our personal experience the roads are in a bad shape in the season and the trip can be avoided. Given that the summers are hot and the lack of a swimming pool makes it quite uninhabitable, Oct to March remains the best season to experience the property.
- Bhainsrorgarh is great for couples looking for romance or even solo travelers wanting some peace and quiet. You can book a room at their website for the best prices
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