“Feel like Romeo and Juliet in this romantic 450-year-old haveli, deep inside Jaisalmer's magical and unique fort”
There are 5 bedrooms in total. Three are spacious, pillared and balconied, and adorned with beautiful old carvings, jewel-coloured silks and velvets. The 2 smaller, more modest Rajasthani Rooms at the top of the haveli are simpler and due for renovation, so for now we'd recommend one of the bigger ones.
The hotel is run by handsome, well-educated ex-soldier Raj, his semi-retired father Omji and his brother Rakesh. They've put a lot of effort into upgrading the building to appeal to a 'boutique' clientele, but it still feels more like a luxurious homestay than a formal operation and is very popular with the grown-up backpacker set. The family and their staff are charming, very keen to please and happy to receive suggestions, as well as to provide extensive advice on local sights and restaurants.
- Jaisalmer Fort itself - a trek from Jodhpur (6 hours) but unmissable in our book. We were blown away by its beautiful golden light, and the astonishingly intricate sandstone havelis and Jain temples within
- The fort's buzzy village atmosphere. Wake early to wander the narrow lanes and watch cows being fed from residents' doorways at dawn
- The hotel's old grandeur. During our 2012 revisit we stayed in the regal Mughal Room and loved its carved ceiling inlaid with ivory
- The solicitous charm of Raj and his father - you're definitely made to feel part of the family, and little embroidery-framed reception signs welcome you by name
- Day trips to visit mud-hut desert villages and their smiling inhabitants, and being taken to Kuldhara village (suddenly abandoned 300 years ago) on the back of Raj's motorbike
- This hotel is currently closed due to ongoing rennovations and are not taking bookings
- Surrounding rooftops are messy as neighbours routinely use them to dump stuff
- Beds are a little on the hard side, bathrooms are a bit basic (with temperamental hot water) and there's little storage space
- No lounge, in-house dining room or restaurant, but breakfast is available and there are plenty of places to eat nearby
- The WiFi signal barely reaches up through the thick walls to the bedrooms, although it works well in the reception area
- No swimming pool, but that's the case throughout the fort
Best time to go
Our top tips
- If you're a single woman, don't fall in love with Raj (something that, apparently, happens quite a lot!). Despite his charisma and lithe intensity, he's happily married with a small son, and is a strict Brahmin to boot
- If you're a yogi, the roof terrace is a wonderful spot to practice at dawn; bring your own mat. Go carefully, though - there's no raised edge on one side and, although the views are spectacular, the stone stairs leading up to it are a little precarious
- Haveli Homestay
- Breakfast only (restaurants nearby)
- Best for older kids
- Open all year
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Concierge Service
- Bicycles Available
Maharaja, Maharani and Mughal are the most romantic and spacious of the 5 colourful bedrooms. They feature free-standing carved stone pillars, scalloped archways, antique hardwood double beds, bright silk drapes and shuttered openings into the central courtyard well - down which you can halloo for room service. The Maharaja room has its own courtyard, and Mughal is the most elaborate of all, with an intricate 15th-century carved ceiling inlaid with ivory; we stayed here on our last visit and loved it.
Historic treasures include brass teapots and bowls for hand-washing, clunky old chests, carved wooden doors, ancestral photographs and little glass lanterns. Covers and cushions are scarlet, turquoise or blue velour, sheets are Indian cotton, and light floods in through coloured-glass windows in front of dainty balconies. There's air con throughout, and you can relax on bolstered floor mattresses (which can be made up as additional single beds if needed) and sip tea. Ensuite sandstone and marble bathrooms have showers and stone basins with brass and ceramic fixtures; it's worth noting that hot water comes from a temperamental and rather ancient furnace.
The 2 Rajasthani Rooms are more modest, though there are plans to expand both into the central well area. They sit at the very top of the haveli, so are great for exercising your gluteus maximus! They're seconds from the roof terrace, from where you can gawp out over the fort, and make a good option for families as you can book both and get a whole floor to yourself. That said, for comfort and space we far preferred the lower rooms.
All bedrooms are cleaned and tidied daily by the ever-smiling staff, and laundry is sent out to be returned a day later, crisply ironed and spotless. Some may find the mattresses a little hard, but we slept beautifully throughout our stay.
- Air conditioning
- Extra beds
Breakfast is included in the rates and can be an Indian spread made in-house, or a Continental brought in from outside. We had freshly squeezed fruit juice, a plate of fruit, a masala omelette, toast, and coffee kept warm with an embroidered cosy. There's no dining room so we ate in our bedroom, but a table and chairs can be set up on the roof terrace if you want to enjoy fort views as you munch (plans are afoot to turn this into a more formal canopied dining area for guests).
For other meals, there are several lovely rooftop restaurants within an easy walk of the hotel. Jaisal Italy offers great views of the old fort gate and serves excellent pizzas, pasta dishes and light meals. And just outside the fort (next to the Mandir Palace) is Trio, where you can tuck into fabulous Tandoori and Mughali meat dishes in elegant, sophisticated surroundings. Raj and his staff can provide further recommendations, and can also order meals from local eateries as room service if you don't feel like venturing out.
- Restaurants nearby
- Room service
- Explore the narrow golden lanes of the fort and chat to friendly locals
- Shop for rugs, mirrored fabrics and leather bags and shoes - and buy a camel-leather holster which will keep your water bottle miraculously cool
- Explore the 7-storey City Palace and Museum and learn about Jaisalmer's history on its fascinating audio tour
- Visit the ancient Jain temples and havelis to marvel at their intricate sandstone carvings and ceilings hung with bats
- Stroll down to the rainwater reservoir of Gadi Sagar Lake to see swirls of catfish, watch the sun set over temples and tombs, and take a swan-pedalo across the water
- Go on a half-, full- or 2-day jeep safari into the Khuri Sand Dunes to ride camels, climb dunes and experience life in an Iron Age mud-hut village (Raj can arrange this for you)
- See the ruins of Kuldhara, one of 84 villages suddenly abandoned several hundred years ago - now a national park and being restored
- Sit on the hotel's rooftop terrace and drink in that 360-degree view of the fort - particularly beautiful at night
- If staying in February, don't miss the Desert Festival with its dancing, camel races, folk music and turban-tying contests
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Boat trips
- Camel rides
- Historical sites
- Museums / galleries
- Private guided tours
- Shopping / markets
- Traditional cultures
- Well being
Children of all ages are welcome, but it's not suitable for toddlers thanks to the steep, winding steps, roof terrace and potentially hazardous balconies. Older children will probably feel they've landed in a fairytale and will love it. Note there are no baby cots or babysitting/childminding services.
Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Family friendly accommodation:
Families are encouraged to take both Rajasthani Rooms at the top so they get a whole floor to themselves. The floor mattresses in all rooms can be made up as extra beds.
Kids Activities nearby:
Children will love the camel and village safaris and bouncy jeep rides.
Families Should Know:
The rooftop is unfenced, although there are great views from here.