The Serai

Jaisalmer, India Book from IRs40,000

Serene colonial-safari heaven of tented suites, an excellent spa and 6-star luxuries, an hour east of Jaisalmer
Created by high-class couple Anjali and Jaisal Singh in 2009, who are no slouches at creating superb tented camps, The Serai is an ode to peace, to open space, to old-fashioned comforts and elegant design. A luxury camp of 21 tented suites, set deep in the tranquil Thar desert but just an hour from Jaisalmer, it's an impossibly romantic set-up, and perfect for honeymooners. The white canvas tents are raised on honeyed sandstone, each with a terrace lounge, sitting room with writing desk, air-con bedroom and a stylish, double-sink bathroom. Six have private candlelit plunge pools, and there's also a Royal Tented Suite with its own pool, spa, lounge and dining tents, set in an exclusive, walled-off compound.

Loving care has been taken over every detail, most harking back to the Victorian days of the Raj. There are brass-plated service buttons beside your bed, glass-stoppered bottles, monogrammed notepaper, even modern novels rebound in classic vellum. Raised above the tents and silver scrub is an infinity swimming pool, circled by pagoda-shaded loungers. Behind, a huge pavilion holds a leather-and-tartan lounge, breezy reception and elegant dining room. To the left, within a walled garden, sits a 4-tent Sujan spa created by Raison d'Etre (whose products are blended from Indian plants and spices), and beyond, an organic garden for the herbs, salad and vegetables in the delicious cordon bleu menu. And the only sounds are trickling water, calls of kookaburra and wild peacocks and the whispering wind.

Highs

  • Being transported back to the glory days of the Raj and fully-serviced colonial safaris
  • Memorable excursions: camel safaris, guided tours of Jaisalmer Fort and soulful concerts by world-class local folk musicians
  • Fine dining, under canvas or stars, and spontaneously-appearing shot glasses of homemade sorbet, or jugs of minted lemonade, while lazing by the pool
  • Sundowners in the desert dunes: languish in a leather chair and drink cocktails as the sky turns pink

Lows

  • Lizards, birds and insects can colonise your tent if you inadvertently leave your flaps open and lights on - though press a button and staff will 'return them to the wild'
  • The tall, freestanding air con units in your tent bedroom must guzzle a ton of electricity
  • Massages in the Sujan spa can be a little fierce and boney-fingered - though they'll do you good
  • Very pricey, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience

Best time to go

The Serai is open between 1 September and 31 March as during the rest of the year the Rajasthan desert is just TOO hot. The general manager's recommendation is late November, before the crowds arrive and when the weather is starting to cool down, which makes it the perfect time to savour all the magic of Jaisalmer Fort at your leisure.

Our top tips

Make sure you book a few nights here, if not a week, as it's so blissfully serene and comfortable you won't want to leave. Look out for your surprise gift you get at turndown for booking through i-escape. Also, don't miss the opportunity to hear the Manganiyar musicians play for you in their own village - they're literally world class and play with such passion that the experience is spellbinding.

Great for...

Foodie
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Spa
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Luxury Tents
  • 21
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 1 Apr 2016 - 19 Sep 2016
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room:

Rooms

The Serai has 14 Tented Suites, 6 Luxury Suites and 1 Royal Tented Suite - all are the same size. Each is pitched on a base of honey-coloured 'Jaisalmer' sandstone, with Victorian-safari-style furnishings worthy of a period film set. The tented and luxury suites run left and right, in two lines of 10, down to the walled-off Royal Suite at the bottom.

The cream canvas tents are filled with honeyed light and dressed with woven jute or tartan-weave mats, brass lanterns, leather bins, picnic hampers, decorative wooden bowls and little stone camels - all carefully selected and arranged by Anjali herself.

Superkingsize beds sit on stone platforms, with deliciously soft linen, tartan throws, plump pillows and sand-coloured cushions. Effective air-con is provided by tall, freestanding units and a screened-off sitting and writing area at the front opens onto your bolstered and mattressed veranda. Shower bathrooms are earthy ochre-stone with fluffy white towels, natural toiletries in antique bottles and clay pots for laundry. If we were being picky, our waffle-weave dressing gowns were over-starched and thus scratchy, though they're due to be replaced with softer ones

The Luxury Suites, where we stayed, have a walled courtyard with a blue-tiled plunge pool (heated by request and candlelit at night), so if you're on honeymoon or a special romantic break, we'd say it's well worth upgrading. The Royal Tented Suite has a small swimming pool, and private spa, dining and lounge tents, all enclosed in a sandy courtyard.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

The indoor dining room shares the main pavilion tent with the entrance/reception, sitting room and bar. Light and roomy, its has chunky, honey-stone walls with inset candle alcoves for romantic lighting. Little teak tables sport graceful white crockery and tablecloths beside wicker-work chairs.

Food is beautifully presented and simply delicious. Breakfast can be a fresh, healthy continental, full English fry-up, traditional Indian which changes daily (I had the Masala omelette, an 'Indian omelette with tomato, chili, onion and coriander', which was lovely), or anything else you'd like.

Lunch is either traditional vegetarian thali (ours had pumpkin with tomatoes and caraway seeds, paneer butter masala, raita and lentils with garlic and tomato) or a light European selection of cold soups, homegrown Serai salads, pastas, filo tarts, exotic sandwiches and homemade sorbets and ice creams.

The dinner menu is not extensive but perfectly delightful: we dined on mango gazpacho, roast chicken with beetroot puree, then rum and raisin ice cream, and loved every mouthful. A comprehensive drinks menu offers all the cocktails, mixers and liqueurs, wines and champagne, and there are even custom blended tea and post-prandial Cuban cigars!

Alfresco dining is also available, on your own veranda or anywhere else on the estate, just ask. The main pavilion's open-air stone terrace is a big dinner favourite as you're bathed in lamplight under the stars and entertained nightly by the soulful playing of (world-renowned) local musicians. A campfire is lit nightly during the winter season, a bar can be set up under the stars.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Take a camel safari, and spot deer, gazelle and birds, such as the rare Indian bustard

  • The Sundowner on the Dunes expedition is highly recommended: a jeep then camel ride right into the desert, where cocktails and tiffin await you. Sit on a leather safari chair, and watch the dunes change colour as the sun goes down

  • Take a guided tour of magical Jaisalmer Fort, often called the 'Golden City' due to the gilding of the sandcastle-like fort and havelis by the setting sun. We love the elaborately carved Jain temples, with their Dilwara style paintings, and the 7-storey City Palace is super impressive. Barter for textiles, jewellery and Rajasthani mirrored wall-hangings in the market

  • Have a spa treatment or several to 'align your body clock with the mystical rhythms of Rajasthan'. There's 'the full Serai' (back, neck and shoulders, foot scrub and massage, scrub and wrap), or great sun-wraps to choose from; products used are chemical free, blended from Indian herbs and spices

  • Laze and read on a pagoda-shaded lounger, and swim in the stunning infinity pool

  • Chill out, play chess or read in a leather club chair and smoke a Cuban cigar

  • Or practice yoga at the pool, on the deck, or beside the water channel which runs between the main tent and main pool

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Camel safaris
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Traditional music
  • Wildlife
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are welcome but they must be well-behaved/not too noisy so as not to disturb the sacred peace of other guests. Extra beds for those between 8 and 12, and baby cots for infants and toddlers (other kids are expected to share their parents' bed or sleep in a separate tent) can be arranged. However, there are no facilities or activities which specifically cater to small people, though they're likely to enjoy the pool, wide open space and plentiful opportunities to watch desert wildlife. Children up to the age of 7 are free if sharing their parents' bed.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Families may prefer to opt for a Luxury Tented Suite as this category has a private walled courtyard plus plunge pool.

Children's meals:

Particular choices of dishes (if not found on the a la carte menu) and mealtimes can be catered for with advance notice.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Camel rides
  • Informal cooking sessions with the chef

    Families Should Know:

    As The Serai is in a wilderness area, parents are advised to be aware of the surroundings and to keep an eye on their children who should not wander around at dusk.

  • Distances:

    • Airport: 60 minutes
    • Shops: 30 minutes
    • Doctor/Hospital: 30 minutes
    Kid Friendly:

    Our guests' ratings...

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

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