Escape the chaos of India at this beautifully-restored palace outside of popular Udaipur.
It’s not often that you have the opportunity to stay in a bona fide palace, and certainly not one as beautifully-restored as Devigarh. Nestled in the Aravalli Hills just above the village of Delwara, this 18th-century palace is now a RAAS heritage hotel. Even though it’s a 45-minute drive for the popular sites of Udaipur, I think that it’s a perfect family choice and frankly, a destination in its own right. If you and your family are traveling through India, you’ll likely visit Udaipur after a stay in chaotic Mumbai or after a long road trip through Rajasthan. Trust me, you’ve earned at least two nights at this peaceful and calming retreat.
Completed in 1760 under the reign of Rajrana Sajja Singh II, the palace was built using locally-mined marble but later fell into complete ruin. The restoration took a team of 750 people nearly 15 years to complete. Throughout the property, you’ll find artifacts that were saved like the elephant howdah, the ancient swing used by the ladies of the court (which you, too, can use), and amazingly preserved frescos on the outside walls of the resort’s restaurant. You can even dine next to the king’s original throne. This palace is a history lesson that your kids can actually sleep in.
KidTripster Tip: Look for the before and after pictures of the restoration hanging on the wall in the bar.
And be assured, while staying here, you’ll receive the royal treatment. It starts the moment that you walk through the original wood doors and feel rose pedals fall on your face. It’s a sign of lovely things to come.
Where to stay?
For all the history and preservation at RAAS Devigarh, the rooms are strikingly contemporary with a full slate of modern amenities - and some ancient ones, like private mediation rooms in your suite.
The smaller Garden Suites feature a semi-covered outdoor seating area overlooking a garden on the entrance level of the palace. These rooms lack the serene views of the valley that the higher rooms boast. This is one instance in which I’d actually advocate for upgrading and staying in a higher-priced suite. Trust me, it'll be money well spent.
I’d recommend one of the 11 Palace Suites. No two suites are alike; they’re all uniquely designed around a particular theme and feature related artwork and accents. My husband and I stayed in Suite 36 whose focal wall featured 36 colorful portraits of the Hindu god Krishna. It was a stunning effect, but not as stunning at the view from the balcony (and every window in the suite) of the village below - women hanging bright yellow saris on the clothesline and local boys herding sheep through the streets. And the bathroom and dressing area! With the two closets, glassed-in shower, sunken marble tub, and double vanities, it was honestly larger than most New York City apartments.
I can’t imagine needing more space, but RAAS Devigarh also has 10 larger Aravalli Suites and the Devigarh Complex which is the presidential suite, plus an additional Palace Suite and private, black marble pool for larger groups.
And by the way, the beds at RAAS properties are more comfortable than my bed at home. Online rates in low season start at $173/night.
KidTripster Tip: The “RAAS-hopper” special offers a discount for stays at multiple RAAS properties. If you book four nights across two hotels, you receive a fifth night free. We also recommend the RAAS Jodhpur. Read our review here.
What to do at the hotel?
No palace would be complete for my kids without a palatial pool. The one at Devigarh is oversized with a bonus hot tub. But there’s plenty of other activities to keep the kids entertained here. Just across the hall from my son’s room was a billiards room with a red-topped pool table. On the floor below, the boys challenged each other to table tennis. That room also has a movie screen; during the evenings, you can take your pick from the hotel’s DVD collection and watch a movie here, complete with popcorn.
Fun fact: Several scenes from the James Bond movie Octopussey were shot in nearby Udaipur. And yes, you can watch that DVD.
There are also game tables - chess, backgammon, and the Indian game, carrom - where you can sit and play while enjoying the breathtaking views. You’ll find more games in the comfy bar area.
And make sure to take a historical tour of the palace with your kids. It'll provide some great context to your stay. Simply ask for a guided tour at the concierge desk.
What to do outside the hotel?
There’s several ways that you and your family can experience the village of Delwara. You can borrow bikes from the hotel to explore on your own. Unlike other Indian towns that you’re likely to visit, there’s very little vehicular traffic in Delwara, so it’s far less stressful that say, biking in Old Delhi (which we did, and I don’t recommend!). You can arrange for a catered picnic at a lake that’s within walking distance of the hotel. You also can hike up to the royal hunting tower for spectacular views of the palace; it’s about an hour walk, round trip. It’s a nice spot for a picnic.
Or you can take a tour of Delwara that’s guided by specially-trained boys from the village. You’ll see the stepwell that the hotel now maintains (and lights for guests at night), Hindu and Jain temples, the hunting tower, and Sadnha workshop, an NGO that employees local women. Tour cost: about $5; all proceeds go to the guides and a local youth center.
KidTripster Tip: If you start at 5 p.m., you'll get to see the village in daylight, monkeys emerge at dusk, and the sky at sunset.
There are also a number of sightseeing opportunities within a short drive of RAAS Devigarh, including Eklingji and Nagda Temples (15-minute drive) and the City Palace, Jagadish Temple, Sahelion-ki-Bari Gardens, and Lakes Nichola and Fateh Sagar in Udaipur (45-minute drive). The hotel can arrange tours and transportation. These excursions didn’t appeal to my two teenaged boys, so we elected to stay in Delwara.
Where to eat?
RAAS Devigarh was the site of the most memorable meal that we had in two weeks of traveling through India. We enjoyed a tasty and filling (too filling!) Thali dinner, which is a selection of various small dishes served on a platter with naan. But it’s the setting that was absolutely stunning! We dined in the restored Sheesh Mahal, or mirror room, where Devigarh’s kings entertained their queens and special guests. Filled with candlelight and flowers, the room just glowed. We sat on cushions with small, individual tables - two on each side of the room - and again, adorned with a candle and fresh flower pedals. We were all wowed, including my not-easily-impressed teenaged sons. I can’t recommend this experience enough. Cost: about $55/person.
KidTripster Tip: Make a dinner reservation for the Sheesh Mahal when you make your lodging reservation. If it’s already booked, my second choice would be the rooftop veranda.
We had a very pleasant breakfast on the patio of the hotel restaurant overlooking the valley with the sound of chirping birds. Below you can see the chef’s garden, where much of the food is grown. Lunch and dinner are served here, as well.
KidTripster Tip: Indian choices are always going to be the best options on the menu; I’d avoid the pizza.
RAAS Devigarh is a 45-minute drive from Udaipur and a 4-hour drive from Jodhpur. Udaipur is connected to most Indian cities by air, including Mumbai, which is a 1-hour flight.
KidTripster Tip: If you drive from Jodhpur, stretch your legs at one of India’s strangest sites, Om Banna, a temple that houses an mythical Royal Enfield motorbike, affectionately known as “Bullet Baba.”