The best new design hotels in Rajasthan are radical reinterpretations of the area’s rich architectural heritage.
A60-suite, three-villa hotel opening in April just outside Jaipur, Devi Ratn is the latest creation from Lekha Poddar and her son Anupam, the pair who made their mark with Devi Garh, a former hilltop fort–palace near Udaipur. When Devi Garh opened 11 years ago, even entrenched traditionalists were surprised and delighted by the marble-minimalist aesthetic concealed within its traditional lemon-yellow walls. With Devi Ratn, the Poddars have again created something completely modern (newly constructed buildings designed by Ahmedabad-based architect Aniket Bhagwat) while taking inspiration from another of the area’s historic sites (Jantar Mantar, the Royal Observatory of Jaipur, built in 1728). At Devi Ratn, the relationship between past and present reveals itself though a series of extraordinary shapes and structures: The raw red stone of the first great arched building appears fiery in the evening sun, and the large, circular Chakra Bar has fountains of mist swirling outside its slit windows. The suites themselves are all about the jeweled colors for which Jaipur is known—fuchsia, emerald green and blue sapphire—set off against black-and-white zigzag terrazzo floors. Suites start at $650; 91-141/305-0211; deviresorts.in.
Another Poddar venture opening in April, Rasa is comprised of 40 bright-white cubic canvas tents lined up in shining precision just beyond the snaking walls of the 16th-century Amber Fort, a 20-minute drive from Jaipur. Each has a dazzlingly simple 500-square-foot interior, with huge latticed-glass bay windows opening onto triangular verandas. Miniature bushes and squares of gravel separate the tents, which are arranged along avenues of red Jodhpur stones. At the far end stands the restaurant, almost cathedral-like with arches of soaring canvas sails. Offering modern takes on traditional Indian dishes like ajwaini jhinga (grilled tiger prawns seasoned with carom seeds), the restaurant sources many of its ingredients from Rasa’s organic gardens. Set against the acacia trees is a black-stone pool for hot Indian summers; on cool winter nights, guests can keep warm around a bonfire. The essence of stripped-down elegance, Rasa also provides every modern convenience, including WiFi and air-conditioning. Rooms start at $340; 91-124/488-8011; rasaresorts.in.
Located deep in the old city of Jodhpur, Raas is a bold mix of the old and the new. For the hotel’s November 2009 opening, three uncompromisingly modern buildings were added to the large internal courtyard of a beautifully restored 18th-century haveli, or townhouse. The result is a study in contrasts that works surprisingly well. The new buildings, hidden behind walls of jallis (traditional screens of finely pierced pink sandstone), house the hotel’s 32 rooms and four of its seven suites, while the original haveli is home to an elegant spa and the remaining three suites. The rooms are contemporary classics, beautifully done with all-natural fabrics and pink sandstone walls. Authentic Rajasthani recipes, like a mustard-flavored fish curry, are prepared at the hotel’s recently opened restaurant, Darikhana, and guests can also take their meals in the shade of the old baradari, a pillared pavilion in the center of the courtyard, or outside on a deck overlooking the pink sandstone pool. Two stylish blue motor rickshaws are available for tours around the old city’s maze of streets. Rooms start at $280; 91-291/263-6455; raasjodhpur.com.