Family Hotel Review: Ratan Vilas, Jodhpur, India
One of Jodhpur’s best kept secrets is this gem of a heritage hotel offering style, service and a sublime swimming pool on a budget.
Best For: Heritage-aficionados and bargain hunters; kids of all ages
Reviewed by: Katja Gaskell
Why You’ll Love It
Ratan Vilas first opened eleven years ago and the hotel has grown in size and reputation ever since. It’s a charming place, run by the equally delightful Singh family, and is a popular choice with families.
The red sandstone mansion dates back to the 1920s and was the original family home. Newer, two-storey additions built in a similar style have been annexed at the back with sun-filled courtyards in the middle. There are 22 cheerful rooms, a very good restaurant and plenty of communal space for lounging. The latest addition, a sparkling turquoise swimming pool, seals the deal.
But the biggest selling point here is the service. From the moment that you arrive nothing is too much trouble and Mr Singh goes out of his way to ensure all guests are happy. It’s homely, friendly and exceptionally good value for money
Why The Kids Will Love It
This family-friendly hotel on the outskirts of the old city has oodles of space and enough to keep children of all ages occupied for a day or two. There might not be any dedicated children’s activities but it’s a family-run place where kids are warmly welcomed.
The large gardens are ideal for younger children to indulge in a game of hide-and-seek and the swimming pool offers plenty of water-based fun. For older children and teens Ratan Vilas offers time alone without your parents wondering where you’ve got to. The sunny central courtyard has free WiFi and there is plenty of space to read books, play board games or just be.
Ratan Vilas can organise activities either exploring Jodhpur or the surrounding countryside and these can be tailored for families. The Mehrangarh Fort is a hit with all kids and children aged 10 and above can whizz along the zip lines suspended between the fort and ridge tops with Flying Fox.
The 22 rooms are divided into two categories, Standard and Superior. A further five rooms overlooking the pool were in planning when we visited and may well be open by the time you visit. Great care has gone into the design and decor of the rooms. They all feature period furniture, hand block printed bedspreads and black-and-white photographs of the family. Some rooms boast intricate floor tiles, others rich carpets and all are bright and cheery.
Rooms that we particularly like include Number 102, a Superior on the second floor. A pretty, standard twin-bedded room (110) painted in pinks and green was another favourite. However, Mr Singh has a tendency to change the furniture (and the numbers of the rooms) at the end of every season so make sure to state your requirements when making a booking enquiry rather than ask for a particular room number.
Best Rooms For Families: Most of the bedrooms are roomy; particularly the nine Superior rooms and many of them can accommodate one extra bed. The larger rooms can fit two extra beds and Mr Singh is very flexible when it comes to the extra bed ‘rule’. All the rooms have ensuite bathrooms, some with bathtubs. Rooms on the ground floor are well suited to families with little kids, particularly if you have one off the main courtyard (which also functions as a dining space) as you can have your dinner and listen out for the kids.
The central courtyard has traditionally been the main dining area, however a new space has been constructed near the front lawn where breakfast will be served. This open air dining area will have a live kitchen where you can order your eggs cooked how you like.
Breakfast is a continental buffet with fruit, porridge, cereals, eggs cooked to order and toast. Or you can order à la carte and enjoy traditional Indian staples including paratha (a type of Indian flatbread) with pickles and yoghurt instead.
Ratan Vilas has a proper industrial kitchen so they are extremely well equipped to deliver whatever you may choose from their four menus, which include Continental, Indian, Tandoori and Chinese. Popular dishes include grilled chicken with rice and vegetables, macaroni cheese, vegetable mousaka, kebabs, chilli chicken, Hakka noodles, spring rolls, and Singapore noodles. The Indian menu is extensive with plenty of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes and they also have a Tandoor oven for making delicious breads. An Indian buffet dinner is available, however you must give two hours notice.
For Kids: There is no dedicated children’s menu but there are plenty of kid-friendly options on the main menus. Plus the kitchen is flexible with timings and catering to specific dietary requirement. There are no highchairs. Food is available throughout the day (7am – 10pm) and the snack menu includes vegetable pakoras, French fries, toasted sandwiches, chicken burgers and more.
Activities for Parents:
Explore one of India’s finest forts, the mighty Mehrangarh that towers 120m above Jodhpur’s skyline; make sure you get the fantastic audio tour.
Wander the winding, narrow lanes of the old city and then bargain hard in colourful Sadar Market that spreads out below the century-old clock tower.
Pay a visit to the Maharaja, or at least his beautiful home with a trip to Umaid Bhawan Palace. Set on a hilltop the palace is now a luxury hotel (although the royal family still lives in part of the building) and also home to a very good museum.
Jump in a jeep and head into the countryside on a tour of the Bishnoi villages that lie southeast of Jodhpur.
Time your visit for October and groove to musicians from all over India and the world during the Rajasthan International Folk Festival.
Activities for Kids:
Play Batman for the day and whizz along the zip wires suspended between the fort and ridge tops, and over lakes with Flying Fox (www.flyingfox.asia). Children must be aged 10 or over to participate.
Discover the legends of the Mehrangarh Fort, the cannon-ball marks on the walls, the handprints on the portals and the story of the man who was buried alive here.
Try your hand at the tabla and other instruments during the interactive sessions at the Rajasthan International Folk Festival held annually in October.
Delve into the labyrinth streets of the old city and discover why the blue city is blue.
Swim, splash and play in Ratan Vilas’ fabulous swimming pool or simply lounge under a multi-coloured Rajasthani sun parasol.
A/C, babysitting, common rooms, doctor on call, nearest hospital is 5km away, extra beds available, number permitted depends on the size of the room, laundry, pets allowed with prior notice, pushchair-friendly, swimming pool, travel desk, wheelchair access, WiFi.
At the time of writing the rates were as follows:
Standard Room: INR 3,900
Superior Room: INR 5,000
Rates vary according to season. Please contact the hotel directly for an exact quote based on your family’s requirements.
When to go:
The best time to visit Jodhpur is between October and March when the maximum temperature is around 27C and the minimum around 15C. During the summer months temperatures can soar above 45C making sightseeing an unpleasant pastime. The monsoon happens from roughly mid-July to mid-August when things get hot and sticky. Make sure you don’t miss the Rajasthan International Folk Festival held annually in October, the exact dates coincide with the full moon and change each year.
Location & Travel:
Ratan Vilas is located in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.
Jodhpur Airport is 5km south of the city centre. Jet Airways and Indian Airlines fly daily to Delhi and Mumbai. The Indian Airlines’ Mumbai flight stops at Udaipur on the way. Jodhpur Railway Station is very central near the Clock Tower. There are daily sleeper trains between Delhi and Jodhpur as well as daily trains to Jaisalmer.