Home is where the heart is - whoever said that knows me all too well. And for a person like me who travels a lot, home is multiple places. Right from the ones that inspire my craft to the ones that make me feel comfortable and warm every single time I step in there. And among the many places I visited, Suryagarh stands tall, which is why you will have to forgive me for my utter devotion to this beautiful space.
Over the past two years, I must have been to Suryagarh over a dozen times, but it’s the first impression of the hotel that still stands strong in my mind. First, it’s a long, arduous drive from Jodhpur (the closest airport is roughly four hours from Jaisalmer- with two daily flights by Jet and Air India).
And after driving through the desert, you can’t see anything for miles other than sand dunes and camels. The drive itself is languid and breath-taking. You can slowly see your body and mind stripping itself of all the fast-paced city life. Armed with a playlist fit for a laid back life, the drive on the jeep is anything but ordinary.
Small towns crop up in regular intervals and you get a glimpse into the rustic world - maybe a few camels and a few women clad in colour-blocked saris talking in whispers. It is cathartic. And just as you’re sinking into the whole theatre of it, all of a sudden, you see the magnificent Suryagarh looming in the horizon.
The Grand Welcome
As you approach the hotel, lancers in an open jeep guide you into the palace where you are greeted by local kalbeliya dancers. Add to that, a few regal horses and the hotel’s adorable dogs Nala and Simba (More on them later!) and you’re mesmerised already.
By Indian standards, it is a “small” hotel. But, it’s heart is bigger and it’s beauty incomparable. That’s why it will be etched on your mind long after you have left the place. Because, truth be told, no other hotel in Jaisalmer, is quite like Suryagarh.
Designed for Kings!
The lobby designed by Raghavendra Rathore is a visual treat. However, it’s the stunning courtyard in the centre of the hotel that defines the character of this hotel to me. The perfect chilling place where you sit with friends and family, have a few drinks and settle into the beauty. In a way, this courtyard is the living room of the hotel. In no other hotel in the world have I spent such little time in the room, and forgive me, the rooms are stunning but it’s the courtyard that takes your breath away.The rooms are beautiful and luxurious. I personally love the bathrooms that are as large as the room complete with a large tub and all the fancy trimmings. Each room comes with a comfortable sitting area and a powder room, such a wonderful detail. The suites and havelis are something else altogether, with a sit-out overlooking the desert. And let’s not forget the private pool that comes with them.
If Suryagarh is home, then I’d like to say that the team behind the hotel are like family and treat you like one. The only way you’ll know if you have made the right choice of a hotel is when you interact with the staff - the warmth and the dedication shine through. It’s always the smallest things. I loved Chukka dahi with papad the first time I was there and the minute I enter the place, they bring it to me. It’s not just the fact that they remember these tiny details about a person, it’s also a fact that they act on it. That’s why there is that comfort I experience every time I walk in there. Someone asks if you want to have some chai and always with a smile, just like at home.
The Outdoors and the Indoors
For a hotel with 77 rooms and multiple havelis, Suryagarh has event spaces that can accommodate much more, making it an ideal place for tasteful weddings. The lawns come with a waterbody to lounge around. With the hotel façade in the backdrop, this waterbody, makes for a stunning sight especially at night. It’s perfect for a Sangeet or a welcome dinner - a laidback evening. What defines it from the other venues is the fact that you can actually see barren land on one side and the entire hotel’s façade on the other. Quite a picture!
Concrete meets grass with a beautiful baradari set against the lake in the celebration lawns. Set on multiple tiers, it is beautiful for a an outdoor dinner. My personal favourite is the step-well which is perfect for a mandap. It seats about 250 guests and has a small garden attached to it. The hotel also has multiple courtyards which are perfect for smaller functions and dinners - so it’s a complete destination in itself. Languid and laid-back but packed with ideas and energy.
The Culinary Experience
The palace comes with it’s share of renowned masterchefs, each of them known for their grand menus - which is a mix of locally grown produce created with international flavours in mind. They offer fabulous old-school dishes and desert favourites which are unique and compelling. And their three restaurants: The Draksh bar, Nosh the coffee shop and The Legend of Marwar (a beautiful pink room) serve some amazing cocktails, great appetizers and mouth-watering desserts fit for royalty.
The Little Things
It’s the little things that make Suryagarh what it is ☺ They offer unique, yet fun experiences like a picnic by the oasis or a midnight drive to the haunted chudail trail. Every morning, you wake up to this beautiful folk singer singing in the courtyard, breakfast is available in bed though I recommend making it to the restaurant (don’t be surprised to find the hotel’s pet pigeons and turtles roaming around the pond. The fabulous spa comes with traditional therapies that can cure any kind of pain. They have an indoor pool and salon which takes luxury to the next level.
If you have dreamt of a beautiful intimate heritage wedding, I’d say Suryagarh is your best bet. The logistics are slightly painful (with all that’s on offer, this one’s do-able), you may need to charter flights or have your guests drive down. But once there, it is well worth all your time, money and love. For me, Suryagarh is the perfect “boutique”palace to have a larger- than-life wedding.