Family Hotel Review: Raas Haveli, Jodphur, Rajasthan, India
This beautiful boutique hotel sits almost directly below the 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort in the heart of the Brahmin-blue city.
Best For: Design junkies; Big Kids and Teens (but all ages welcome)
Reviewed by: Katja Gaskell
Why You’ll Love It
The first boutique hotel to open its grand wooden doors in Jodhpur’s walled city is the elegantly styled RAAS Haveli. This slick hotel sits almost directly below the 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort in the heart of the Brahmin-blue city and commands regal views from every corner, including nearly all the bedrooms.
The hotel itself is a clever blend of old and new combining an 18th century haveli with traditional techniques and modern-day amenities. A 19th-century pleasure pavilion is today a poolside restaurant and café, the old stables are cosy, cushion-lined sitting areas, and the 300-year-old women’s purdah quarter now hides the spa. Three new accommodation blocks have been created using dusty rose sandstone jaali screens and Jodhpur’s signature blue hue.
Mughal-inspired gardens decorate the central courtyard alongside a sparkling swimming pool. There are also two excellent restaurants, a hotel boutique selling a range of covetable items, and sublime service.
Why The Kids Will Love It
This stylish boutique hotel might not appear child-friendly but really it’s a wonderful destination for families. That said, RAAS has been designed as a peaceful retreat so rambunctious toddlers and rowdy youngsters might find it too tame.
There is a lot for children to do here. Kids of all ages will love the mosaic-tiled infinity pool with shallow steps where novice swimmers can play, and little kids will squeal with delight at the dozens of small frogs that live in the gardens’ lotus pond. For big kids and teens there is the location itself, in the shadow of the mighty Mehrangarh Fort where scenes for the latest Batman film, The Dark Night Rises, were shot. Then there’s the hotel’s very own blue autorickshaw for zooming along the narrow lanes of the old city.
RAAS also offers a range of kid-friendly activities including treasure hunts and rangoli making (decorative flower art), and cooking and music lessons. Games consoles are available, badminton is on offer and yoga (and even gardening!) can be arranged. Let’s just say they won’t be bored.
The 39 rooms are divided between the original haveli blocks and three newly built accommodation wings. The rooms are divided into Garden Rooms, Luxury Rooms and Suites.
The bedrooms are contemporary and minimalist but with subtle traditional flourishes; black terrazzo floors, rose sandstone jaali shutters and custom-made rosewood furniture. A delicately hand-carved swirl pattern repeats itself throughout the hotel, on the walls, on the bed’s dusty pink sandstone headboard, and even on the subtly embroidered cream covers of the sofa. Artwork, either photographs of Jodhpur or panoramic paintings of the Blue City, hang in all the bedrooms.
All rooms have kingsize beds placed upon bases of solid marble, dressing alcoves, a flat-screen TV and spacious bathrooms crafted from cream stone. There are no rooms with twin beds but a ‘Hollywood Twin bed’ set up can be arranged with two separate duvets on the king size bed.
Most bathrooms have deep tubs and rain showers. The white cotton dressing gowns, Karma Ayurveda products and hessian slippers finish them off superbly.
One word of warning, you are in the heart of the old city here and so you may hear the call to prayer from the local mosque. RAAS provides earplugs and the rooms have laminated glass windows, but light sleepers (or their offspring) may wake earlier than planned in the morning.
Garden Rooms: The four Garden Rooms are set on the ground floor and are the only bedrooms that do not have fort views. They have a private walled garden instead.
Luxury Rooms: Fort-facing, the 28 stylish Luxury Rooms have private verandas shaded by modern day jaali screens that roll back like modern day shutters. The views, over the infinity pool, gardens and up to the mighty Mehrangarh, are absolutely stunning. And when you’re tired of ogling from the veranda, have a soak in the tub and enjoy the fort views from there.
Suites: The four Duplex Suites are housed on the top floor of one of the newly constructed, fort-facing blue cubes. These loft-style bedrooms have Brahmin blue walls, panoramic paintings and swirl-patterned stone stairs leading from the bedroom to the living room upstairs. A kingsize bed stands on the ground floor, facing towards the fort. A sofa plus tables and chairs sit upstairs, as well as a fort-facing bathtub, which is something of a quirky feature.
Within the old haveli are two Heritage Suites that have a small courtyard with a mirrored back wall reflecting views of Mehrangarh. These two suites are inter-connecting.
Up a steep flight of stone steps, the RAAS Suite sits above the hotel shop in a corner of the original haveli. Thick wooden doors lead off a small courtyard into an intimate bedroom with thick stone walls and cornflower blue window shutters. A separate door leads into the large bathroom and a cosy living room. There is also a private roof terrace with sensational views.
Best Rooms For Families: RAAS allow a maximum of one extra bed per room. If you are travelling with young children then a Luxury Room or Garden Room can fit one extra bed and a baby cot. For those with older children, a Suite is your best option. The two Heritage Suites are inter-connecting or RAAS can organise rooms next door to one another. All the rooms have bathtubs. None of the rooms are in monitor reach of the restaurants but babysitting is available (for limited hours during meal times).
Food: There are two restaurants to choose from, The Darikhana and The Baradari. The Indian restaurant Darikhana, located above the lounge alcoves, is a contemporary dining room with a splendid terrace. The menu here is pan-Indian and fantastic. By the pool The Baradari, offers Global Cuisine, served either in the breezy pavilion or on the open-air terrace. In keeping with the secular traditions of the Muslim old town, no beef or pork is served in either restaurant. The Darikhana is open to outside guests.
Breakfast is served in The Darikhana and the menu ranges from pancakes and fresh fruit platters to aloo parantha. The freshly baked bread basket is delicious with croissants, muffins and pastries to choose from. Tea, coffee and fresh juices are plentiful.
Both The Darikhana and The Baradari are open for lunch and dinner and the food is excellent. During the peak season the menu is more extensive but when we visited the All Day dining menu had been trimmed down. That said there is still plenty to choose from. Salads, sandwiches, pasta and pizzas are all available, as is the best Pad Thai we’ve tasted in India.
The Indian menu covers several pages and makes use of the herbs grown in the hotel’s garden. Laal mans, a fiery Rajasthani lamb curry, is well worth ordering, as is the Butter Chicken. The yellow dal tadka was superb, fresh and light, as was the bhindi do pyaza (onion and okra cooked with cumin seeds). The deserts are also very good and we overheard more than one guest pleading for the recipe to the flourless chocolate cake.
The terrace of the Darikhana restaurant, facing the fort, is the ideal place for an evening drink.
For Kids: Although there is no dedicated kids’ menu there is enough on the menu that will satisfy even the most particular of children, no matter what time of year you visit. And on the off chance that there’s nothing that appeals, the chef can whip something up. The spice levels of all the Indian dishes can be varied accordingly and special requests (for dietary reasons or otherwise) can be accommodated. Microwaves can be used to heat up baby food and it’s possible to sterilise bottles. There are no highchairs. Food is available throughout the day.
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 that was scripted in part by Dhananjay Singh, a historian and one of the Managing Directors of RAAS.
Sign up for one of the hotel’s complimentary tours of the old city, wander the winding, narrow lanes and pay a visit to 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.
Laze on a sun lounger by the pool, shaded by floaty white curtains and gaze up at the fort.
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 RIFF, the Rajasthan International Folk Festival held annually in October.
Go on a treasure hunt, learn the decorative art of rangoli (flower) making, take part in a yoga class or learn how to play traditional Indian musical instruments.
Hop into one of the hotel’s customised blue autorickshaw and bump along the winding streets of the blue city.
Swim in the pool, play board games in the old stables, and then choose from one of 300 movies to watch on your in-room DVD player.
Go shopping in the colourful Sadar Market and bargain for puppets, leather shoes, silverware and handicrafts.
A/C, babysitting, central heating, common rooms, baby cots, doctor on call, nearest hospital is 7km away, maximum 1 extra bed per room, children 12 and above are required to have their own room, two Heritage Suites are inter-connecting, kids’ activities, laundry, pets allowed with prior notice, pushchair friendly, shop, spa, swimming pool, travel desk, WiFi.
At the time of writing the rates were as follows:
Garden Room: USD $166 – 344
Luxury Room: USD $181 – 420
Duplex Suite: USD $244 – 521
Heritage Suite: USD $269 – 588
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:
RAAS Haveli is located within the old city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan. Jodhpur Airport is approximately 30 minutes away. Jet Airways and Indian Airlines fly daily to Delhi and Mumbai. The Indian Airlines’ Mumbai flight stops at Udaipur on the way. RAAS Haveli can organise transfer services to and from the airport for an additional charge. 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. RAAS Haveli can organise transfer services to and from the station an additional charge.