Khem Villas

Ranthambhore National Park, Ranthambhore N.P., India Book from Book from £169 per night

Eco-chic cottages, tents and rooms in 20 wildlife-rich acres, all right beside Ranthambhore Park
This place is a treat. Lush gardens wrap around a colonial-style white house, and the air is fragrant with frangipani, lavender and roses. Daybeds scattered here and there allow you to sit back and take in the views, the silence only punctuated by birds, of which there are many. It’s incredibly serene, bordering Ranthambhore Park - the closest you can get to actually staying in the park itself.

An admirable hotel in many respects, owners Goverdhan and Usha are pillars of the rural community. Their whole ethos is ethical sustainable tourism: food is vegetarian and the lodge’s 20 acres of grassland, lakes and forest were hand-planted years ago, cultivating a flourishing natural habitat for myriad wildlife – they even have resident crocodiles. People come here for the national park’s tigers, but with sightings never guaranteed, a place as special as this will ensure you don’t leave Ranthambhore disappointed.

Highs

  • An ecological oasis teeming with bird and animal life - make time for a walk with the resident naturalist
  • A warm welcome: big smiles, chilled face towels and sweet lime juice instantly revive you
  • Gorgeous accommodation including chic thatched cottages and luxury tents, plus some cheaper rooms in the main building
  • Little indulgences: a cooling plunge pool, a small spa offering relaxing massages and fun evening drinks around the campfire
  • An ethical lodge: the owners have set up a local hospital and school, introduced animal husbandry and only employ local staff

Lows

  • The food is good, but a little repetitive
  • There's not a lot of light in the bedrooms at night and tents lack air-conditioning
  • A bit off the beaten track - although you can arrive by train and get collected from the station, the journey is a bit stressful
  • Tiger safaris need to be booked at least 6-8 weeks in advance

Best time to go

Weatherwise, the best time to visit is from October to March, although you're more likely to see tigers in May and June if you can take the heat (temperatures can rise above 40C). November, December and January can bring cold mornings and evenings, with crisp, sunny days. The park is closed during the monsoon season (July to September), although Khem Villas remains open.

Our top tips

Bring sturdy shoes for doing jungle walks, binoculars for wildlife-spotting, an extra memory card for your camera (if you see a tiger, you won't stop snapping) and some ear plugs to avoid getting woken up by early birds!

Great for...

Eco
Great Outdoors
Spa
  • Safari Lodge
  • 22
  • All meals included
  • Not ideal for children
  • Open all year
  • Plunge Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

All rooms are lovely, but the Luxury Cottages are knock-out. Staggered down a slope near the house, they face onto vistas of pampas grass and a small lake (complete with a resident crocodile!). Each has a private porch where you can watch birdlife by day and stargaze by night.

Inside, décor is simple but stylish: colourful block-printed bedspreads, white linen curtains, recycled paper bedside lamps, and waffle robes neatly folded into squares. There’s not a great deal of space, but everything is beautiful and the beds are very comfortable. Huge sandstone bathrooms have twin basins, walk-in drench showers and bespoke vetiver and sandalwood bio-organic toiletries. Better still, beyond the bathroom lies a totally private courtyard with twin loungers, a big stone tub and an overhead shower. A gorgeous place to read in the sun.

Perched on wooden platforms, the Luxury Tents are tucked in lush gardens or overlook open grassland. Less sumptuous than the cottages, they are nonetheless very attractive with white linen exteriors, comfortable double beds and quirky bamboo shower cubicles. Fans help to keep things cool, although we had to retreat to the plunge pool to escape the midday summer heat.

The Standard Rooms in the main building provide a cheaper - and less luxurious - option, although unlike the tents, they do have air-conditioning. Those on the upper floor have large cushioned bay windows for gazing out over the park.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Internet access
  • Plunge pool
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries

Eating

In keeping with the lodge’s organic ethos, food is ultra-fresh, 100% vegetarian and, whenever possible, home-grown. There’s an enormous vegetable garden, and the surrounding wheat fields supply grain for the home-baked bread. Even the cows are fed organic to make their milk tasty!

Set-menu meals are served by friendly waiters in the airy dining room, a pristine white space with open arches peeking out to the gardens.

Our tasty international lunch began with an excellent chilled pumpkin soup and garlic bread. This was followed by pesto spaghetti, tomato and balsamic salad and a sweet potato Thai red curry with rice. Bursting at the seams, we managed a fresh fruit salad for dessert.

Evenings kick off with drinks around the campfire - a lovely opportunity to meet fellow guests. There’s the usual range of beers, spirits and soft drinks (wine is only available by the bottle, but staff can chill leftovers for the following evening). Guests then wander into the dining room and help themselves to a Thali buffet. We had paneer with tomatoes, potato with cumin and coriander, pomegranate raita, and a lentil daal. Fresh naan breads and chapatis were baked in an outdoor tandoor oven - both very good - and dessert was rice pudding. Private tables can also be set up by the lake.

Breakfast was also good - a buffet of cereals, sliced pomegranate and fresh breads, along with some hot options. We enjoyed masala and cheese omelettes, as well as perfectly poached eggs and yummy pancakes.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Organic produce
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Most come here to see Ranthambhore Park’s wild tigers (sadly not guaranteed although, promisingly, the population has doubled in recent years). Daily morning and evening safaris can be arranged - we'd recommend booking at least 2 well in advance. Choose between a 6-seater Gypsy or 20-seater Canter vehicle. Neither is better, sightings are just down to luck
  • Even if you don’t see tigers, you’re pack your binoculars for fabulous wildlife. We came across heaps of deer, peacocks, snakes, crocodiles, eagles, owls and monkeys
  • Built in 900AD by the Rajput rulers, hilltop Ranthambhore Fort was later invaded by Akbar's army and today offers wonderful views from its ramparts - reception can organise visits
  • Camel rides to nearby villages and trips to see black buck in the desert can also be arranged
  • Fantastic on-site birdwatching - a telescope and night-vision monocular can be provided, as well as naturalists to guide you - and expeditions can be arranged to view the waders, ducks and migratory species of Soorwal Lake and the Chambal river
  • Back at the lodge, take a walk of the grounds with knowledgeable resident naturalist, Mittal. She has an extraordinary ability to spot critters you would have otherwise walked straight past
  • Cool off in the plunge pool, or treat yourself to an Ayurvedic a massage in the spa

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Camel rides
  • Historical sites
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Safaris
  • Shopping / markets
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being
  • Wildlife

Kids

Although children are allowed, they cannot be left unattended (especially after dark) due to the wildlife in and around the camp. Extra beds and baby cots are available.

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 5 independent reviews from i-escape guests

10/10
Rooms
9/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

I thought Khem Villas was a truly exceptional place. The setting is idyllic and every care has been taken to ensure one's stay is a total delight. The staff are always helpful and a fund of information about the locality and the wildlife. The morning wake-up call accompanied by tea or coffee and delicious vegetarian food served by attentive staff add to the pleasures. The ethos of Khem Villas in that all profits go to support the local hospital and school and the fact that all staff are local people is a bonus. I would urge guests to spend time with their resident naturalist, Mittal, who has a wealth of knowledge about flora and fauna. A trip to the local wetlands was a highlight of my trip. <br>I would especially recommend Khem villas to those with an interest in ethical issues relating to the natural world and making a contribution to the Indian environment.

10/10, , January 2017

Khem Villas is a very special place and going on safari and seeing tigers up close a dream come true. The tents are fantastic as is the service at Khem Villas. It's simply a very friendly place, where you get to meet fellow travelers by the campfire and share stories. Mittal and DV are wonderful naturalists and hosts. They went out of their way to make sure we were comfortable. It felt like summer camp for adults. The food is served family style and is quite good. The only disappointment are the common areas, which seem cramped and plain. Also, the tents are quite close to each other and some are without a view. We moved to tent 6 which has a great view of the field and mountains.

10/10, , January 2017

Peace and tranquility in the middle of the jungle. Outstanding service and attention to detail, the team cannot do enough for you here and the little extras go a long way (blankets and hot water bottles for the cold morning safaris, cold/hot flannels and drinks to meet you when you return, hot water bottles in your bed at night). The food is delicious and endless. The spa is excellent and really good value for money. Shop onsite selling gorgeous locally made scarfs, jewellery, blankets, clothing and many other items. Loved our 3 nights here, a place to recharge and relax in the most natural surroundings.

10/10, , December 2016

The Spa was divine.

9/10, , October 2015

The place is really lovely and the staff are super friendly. You really feel at home in this place.

9/10, , October 2014

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Rates for Khem Villas