Floating like a dream on Lake Udai Sagar, Raffles Udaipur—the brand’s maiden outpost in India—opened its doors last month. Travel + Leisure India & South Asia took off with Bollywood’s very own royalty, Aditi Rao Hydari, for an exclusive cover shoot. Text by Priyanka Chakrabarti
Produced by Aindrila Mitra
Photographed by Tarun Khiwal
Assistant Photographers Nithin Joseph & Abhishek Verma
Hair & Makeup by Elton Fernandez
Assistant Hair & Makeup Artist Ruby Gustad Irani
Styled by Malini Banerji
Assistant Stylist Rupangi Grover
Location Raffles Udaipur
Raffles Udaipur – Read about our cover shoot
This is no ordinary boat ride. This calm voyage on the still water of Lake Udai Sagar is taking us to Raffles Udaipur, a luxury hotel that’s been 10 years in the making. Upon reaching the property, its English country estate demeanour coupled with the Mughal style of architecture leaves us enthralled.
Perched like royalty on a 21-acre private island, Raffles Udaipur’s beauty is accentuated by an endless expanse of manicured gardens, fountains, and the Aravallis that stand sentinel at a distance. “Whether you’re looking for a rare place of extraordinary discovery or a romantic getaway with captivating sunsets, Raffles Udaipur is the perfect choice. With breathtaking views of the lake from every room, the chance for long, leisurely walks around our magnificent gardens, and experiences like stargazing and full-moon rituals, we are a sanctuary for travellers [who are] on a quest for peace and rejuvenation,” says Abhishek Sharma, general manager of the hotel.
After a warm welcome and quick checking-in formalities, I find my way to the Raffles Oasis Suite with Pool, my home for the next few days. Every space in the hotel holds a piece of art that evokes Rajasthani heritage: from classic bone inlay furniture to Mughal paintings, old-world wooden floors to jali work on the ceiling. Traditional Rajasthani decor elements blend effortlessly with the modern colour palette of grey and white, reminiscent of European sensibilities. The room’s pièce de résistance, however, lies outdoors—the balcony opens to a private patio that houses a plunge pool and a cute cabana adorned with drapes of royal blue silk. With no time to dip my toes into the tempting cool water, I make a mental note of having my morning tea in the cabana.
At lunch, we get a chance to shoot the breeze with our cover star, Aditi Rao Hydari. As we dig into our quinoa salads with a slice of juicy orange, we ask Hydari about her first impressions of the hotel. “It’s so grand. I love the abundance of greenery. And the fact that we arrived at Raffles Udaipur on its opening day adds to the thrill,” she says.
It quickly becomes clear to us that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill five-star hotel. Raffles Udaipur is an architectural marvel. In its 101 rooms, suites, and signature suites, the design marries traditional Rajasthani aesthetic with chic western influences, while a subtle undertone of Mughal architectural flair adds to the story of East-meets-West.
Take the Raffles Spa, for instance. The sanctuary of wellness has a delightful play with natural light. The spa rooms are all white, but when you lie down for a massage, you’ll notice crushed brocade silk in hues of bronze and gold bejewelling the ceiling. Their wellness offerings carry a holistic approach, where they also elevate the guests’ emotional well-being with thoughtfully curated experiences and rituals. From bespoke facials to tailored massages, and relaxing Ayurvedic therapies to luxe body wraps, every treatment promises to nurture your mind, body, and soul. When you’re done with your treatment, you are led to an unwinding room where soft Jaipuri cotton curtains dance to the tunes of the evening breeze against a canvas of pastel pink. You sip a cup of herbal tea, and watch the sky turn lavender and the indoor lanterns light up in shades of gold.
The philosophy of storytelling permeates Raffles Udaipur’s gastronomical offerings as well. When I meet the hotel’s culinary director, Chef Prasad Metrani, he tells me, “At Sawai Kitchen, our Indian speciality restaurant, we want to recreate a host of lost recipes from the region. We are collaborating with a lot of homegrown brands and vendors to keep the sustainability factor intact in our kitchens.”
In October, the hotel will launch ‘Harvest’, an initiative that will offer interactive farm-to-table dining experiences. From foraging for ingredients at the estate farm to cooking under the supervision of experienced chefs, this programme’s activities are bound to attract conscious gourmands from all over the country.
Raffles Patisserie is the one-stop-shop for desserts. Pick your freshly baked bread here, or indulge in delectable French desserts, pastries, and more. However, my favourite corner in the hotel is The Writers Bar, a space that celebrates literary stalwarts. If you like your coffee hot and conversations stimulating, find a cosy corner here. Bottle-green walls house around 1,000 books shelved in neat rows. A spiral wooden staircase takes you to another repository of books on the first floor. Grab a book and savour bespoke coffees and cocktails, or indulge yourself with their champagne and caviar menu!
The ultimate crowd-puller of Raffles Udaipur is the iconic Long Bar, a hallmark of the hotel chain that now whips up Udaipur Sling—an artisanal, signature cocktail that is a peer of the famous Singapore Sling. Long Bar also offers Indian spirits, single malts, and local brews from across Rajasthan. Designed with European wood and leather, with engravings by local artisans, this is the perfect spot in the hotel to throw a cocktail party.
Whether you’re embarking on an overdue family holiday or honeymoon, or planning a dreamy destination wedding, Raffles Udaipur can craft unforgettable experiences. Think cruising under the moonlit sky, guided farm tours, yoga under a green canopy, and sessions on astronomy!
After three days, I bid farewell to the Venice of the East, but the feelings of warmth, royalty, and nostalgia that I experienced at Raffles Udaipur linger on.
All major cities in India serve regular flights to Udaipur. From Maharana Pratap Airport Udaipur, it’s a 20-minute drive to a jetty, and then a 10-minute boat ride takes you to Raffles Udaipur.
There are 101 luxurious rooms, suites, and signature suites on offer at Raffles Udaipur. Each accommodation opens up to uninterrupted lake views, plunge pools, private gardens, and other gorgeous vistas.
The Royal Escape plan features Raffles high tea, morning yoga sessions, sunset cocktail hour, and more. This inaugural package is priced at INR 45,000 plus taxes per night and is valid for stays until September 30, 2021.
Related: #WhyWeLoveIndia: Nancy Lova, A UK-Based Travel Photographer, Talks About Finding Herself In Udaipur