5 Luxurious Camping Trips in Rajasthan
Luxury campsites are an emerging alternative to the Indian state’s palaces and havelis. BY TANVI CHHEDA
It’s a 20-minute drive through sand and scrub to arrive at The Serai, a desert camp and spa outside bustling Jaisalmer, in western Rajasthan. Set on 23 hectares in the meandering Thar Desert, the property’s remoteness—and subsequent serenity—is rare. The camp’s 21 tents, pitched on platforms of Jaisalmer stone, are enormous enough to feature cozy verandas that lead to spacious bedrooms with indigo-hued dhurries and rosewood writing desks. Cool off in the infinity pool, elevated to take in views of the desert, before departing for a camel ride, with the requisite sundowners waiting atop a sand dune. Dinner back at the camp is traditional fare: a thali (plate) of regional specialties such as sarson gobi, cauliflower marinated in mustard; khumbi ki subzi, a mushroom yogurt curry; and lapsi, a dessert made with broken wheat, clarified butter and sugar. sujanluxury.com.
Warriors on the move, the Rajputs were no strangers to tented camps—though at Chhatra Sagar you’ll see and hear kingfishers, pelicans and flamingos, not stampeding armies. Two hours east of Jodhpur, the camp is named for Chhatra Singh, who built a monsoon-fed reservoir for the community here in the 1890’s. Today, 13 tents, with campaign-style furniture and plush beds, are erected each winter and face this lake. Catch stunning sunrises and sunsets from your tent, with a cup of chai or a sundowner in hand. Singh’s descendants, who run Chhatra Sagar, are gracious hosts, sharing family stories over meals of smoked eggplant with tamarind sauce and lotus seed pudding. They will happily arrange visits to local villages and safari drives in search of the black buck antelope, too. chhatrasagar.com.
Just outside Ranthambhore National Park in southeastern Rajasthan, Sherbagh is equal parts The Jungle Book and luxury campground. Encircled by deciduous forest, the eco-minded property is comprised of 12 tents sitting around a central garden; a main lodge with a club-like saloon and bar; and separate tents for dinner, high tea and Ayurveda treatments. It’s not unusual to spot mongoose, monkeys, deer, peacocks, golden orioles and kingfishers on site, but the highlight is daily game drives within Ranthambhore’s (a wildlife sanctuary since 1957) steep hills, gentle slopes, perennial lakes and narrow valleys in search of the elusive Bengal tiger. Keeping conservation of this land and the animals that call it home in mind, Sherbagh boasts its own organic garden and dairy farm, engages in water conservation and anti-poaching efforts, and almost exclusively employs locals. sujanluxury.com.
A four-hour drive from Jaipur, this Rajput fort-palace commands the quiet countryside; its middle-of-nowhere location is one of its bigger draws. The fort was converted into a heritage property in 2007, with family owners Ravi Raj Pal and his wife, Gitanjali, tending to guests who arrive to soak up the bucolic atmosphere and enjoy the bird watching—osprey, kingfisher, herons—on Kalisil Lake nearby. Six tents, outfitted with teak furnishings and stone-built baths, sit within a courtyard of the fort, surrounded by ramparts; their high ceilings and screened windows lend a sense of openness and space. Come dusk, gather on the ramparts for cocktails and conversation, followed by private alfresco dining among dramatic views of farmland and wilderness. ramathrafort.com.
Adjacent to Amer Fort, some 10 kilometers beyond Jaipur, are 40 futuristic canvas cubes aligned in neat rows; they’re the latest venture from Devi Resorts’ Anupam Poddar and his mother, Lekha. Surrounding them, a Mondrian-like grid of gravel and green blends nature and design. The “rooms” feature latticed-glass bay windows that open onto triangular verandas; inside, golden brown-striped walls, minimalist, sleek furnishings and concrete floors reinforce the experience of textures and shapes. Should you tire of the precisely sculpted landscape, borrow mountain bikes, fly kites or bird-watch. At the restaurant, twisted canvas arches play with geometry and scale. But you’ll be too busy digging into fig-filled kebabs, murg dhanshak (chicken with spiced lentils) and rose-ginger ice cream to notice. rasaresorts.in.