Location: Ranvas, Ahhichatragarh Fort, Nagaur, Rajasthan 341001, India
Let me whisk you to stay in your own World Heritage Monument. First, take the straight road north out of Jodhpur across the flat Thar Desert. Drive for an hour and a quarter passing not much. Then, arrive. Through the gateway of Nagaur’s sturdy stone town walls, find the noisy market square busy with cows, sheep, carts, people, piles of garlic and ginger, fruits, vegetables and sacks of grains, lentils and big red chilies. In the middle of it, turn left and stop.
The next bit is best done on foot for the full experience. Go slowly through the majestic triple gateway of Ahhichatragarh Fort. Inside, a door cut into another wall ahead leads into a re-created desert garden with pomegranate trees and other delights. If the door is closed, turn right and stroll past the resident cows milked each day, the painted temple with its priest who performs morning pujas, and the stone stairways up to the wall walkway with its tiny temples visited by devout locals – ideal for sunset walks when muezzins are calling from the town mosques, pet pigeons are flown in formation from rooftops.
You should now be relaxed and ready for Ranvas. Find it through a modest entrance beside a shade tree. Intimate corridors lead to a huge central courtyard surrounded by suites of rooms. Once summer havelis (courtyard homes) for the Jodhpur queens, today this 18th century complex built by Maharaja Bakhat Singh as his pleasure refuge from war and politics is your own refuge. Here you can stop, relax entirely, find your own pleasure, your own wellbeing.
And that’s not all. In addition to Ranvas’s elegant no-fuss rooms and the courtyard’s pool, two eating spots (indoor and outdoor), and deep sofas for anytime tea/lime sodas/coffee/cocktails, you have the entire fort at your disposal.
The complex of palaces, gardens, courtyards and loggias have been added gradually since the 12th century when mud walls were thrown up as one of India’s first Muslim strongholds. More than two decades of careful stabilization and rehabilitation pooled the energy, skills and support of Ahmedabad architects, the Agha Khan Foundation, the Courtauld Institute, the Leon Levy Foundation, and teams of remarkable craftsmen. Such international collaboration has reawakened the palaces and gardens. And - desert Nagaur’s greatest surprise - water tinkles and sparkles in the fountains, chutes and channels both inside the palaces and out in the gardens just as it did for Bakhat Singh and his queens. Wander at will, sip your lime soda wherever you wish, read, draw or just daydream. Wellbeing by osmosis.
Must-do wellness experience: Walking the walls at sunrise or sunset
Ranvas buzz phrases: Have you bought your Nagaur chilies yet?
Ideas for unpacking your kind of slow-down wellness at Ranvas
Before you roam the palaces, seek out the ground floor orientation room where the story of the fort's rehabilitation is told - removing later accretions, making 90 new water spouts for the garden fountains, revealing hidden wall-paintings, and more. You can ask for the well-informed young guide to show you around, which also means you don't get lost.
On waking, take deep delicious breaths of fresh cool desert morning air without leaving your room's private terrace. Sip your 'bed tea' and perhaps spot a peacock taking his morning walk.
Watch conservation in action: students completing their conservation training at the Courtauld Institute in London spend six weeks at Nagaur each winter, putting into practice what they have learnt as they stabilize and save the hundreds of wall-paintings that have suffered from water, salts and deteriorating walls.
If you visit during the three-day annual Sacred Music Festival, inspired by Nagaur's own history as a centre for Sufi learning, you experience spiritual music, song and dance from around the world in the courtyards and gardens. Here, a group from Ajmer performs in front of a film shot in their dargah.
Don't leave town without buying your chilies! Nagaur's big red chilies are considered India's best. During the annual harvest farmers sell piles of them on the roadside to chili merchants and cooks who drive hundred of kilometers to buy truckloads.
Episode 14 - Amet Haveli, Udaipur
Is it now time to start planning your Unpacking Wellness experience?
We shall emerge into a more cautious world. In preparation, I have designed some slow-travel Unpacking Wellness experiences. They are suffused in wellness, interaction is controlled, crowds are avoided. You pick and mix your selection from four week-long, in-depth visits to South Indian spots I especially love - on plateau, coast, forest and delta. Do one, two, three or all four.
If you have not traveled with me before ....
Please know that we experience great sights in the best possible way, with lots of add-on encounters and visits to off-beat places. We meet conservationists, curators, craftsmen and musicians, we walk with naturalists, we cook with local chefs. In sum, we imbibe the essence of each area thanks to my four decades of studying and visiting India - and making great friends who I share with you.
For private travel ....
I work with you to create your tailor-made trip to any corner of India, to any budget, for all interests and special needs, for families and parties of friends, for business groups and for honeymoon couples - India is ideal for everyone!