Rajasthan Budget Palaces
Staying in a hotel that was once a Maharaja’s palace is a great way to get a feel for Rajasthan’s history and culture. Udaipur, the “Venice of the East,” built in 1568 by Maharaja Udai Singh on the banks of the beautiful Lake Pichola, has a number of palatial options, including the Shiv Niwas Palace Hotel, where a real-life Maharaja still resides ($55 double).
Jaipur, the Pink City, named for the pink paint that covers the buildings within the walls of the old city, features exquisite examples of Raput architecture. I stayed at the Narain Niwas Palace Hotel, another former royal residence, furnished with antiques and surrounded by perfectly manicured lawns for $30 a night.
Jaisalmeer is called the “The Golden City” because of the color that emanates from the yellow sandstone ramparts in the setting sun. Jaisalmeer is the most romantic city in Rajasthan, and once the most important stop on the camel route between India and central Asia. Tucked away within the fort, which has incredible views over the old city and desert, are the havelis—centuries old mansions of rich merchants, carved from wood and sandstone and adorned with whimsical carvings of elephants and peacocks. I stayed at Hotel Jaisal Castle, in the southwest corner of the fort, for $20 per night. Its guestrooms are filled with carved wooden furniture, beautiful murals, and woven bedspreads, but no mod cons.
The Rajasthani people’s reputation for good humor and hospitality is well deserved. Even in the “budget” palace hotels I was treated like a queen.