With stunning views of Mehrangarh Fort, this boutique hotel is a surprising haven in Jodhpur’s busy old town.
One of the most picturesque cities in the state of Rajasthan, Jodhpur is known as the “Blue City” because of the countless doors, roofs, and homes painted a distinct azure. (Yes, I looked at a paint chart for just the perfect shade!) It’s a photographer’s dream. Honestly, I could have spent the whole day walking the streets snapping shoots of patches of blue. My kids? No so much. They much preferred the blue pool at the RAAS Jodhpur.
The RAAS is Jodhpur’s first boutique hotel. As your driver circles old town trying to find this hidden gem, you can’t imagine that you’re in the right spot. But you turn down a small alleyway and then through an even smaller, arched gate in a red sandstone wall of an 18th century haveli, or mansion. You’ve arrived, but you’re still a bit uncertain until you move pass reception, pass the contemporary structure that houses your room, and walk into the leafy tree-filled courtyard with a seductive pool and cabana area. But the oasis is somewhat overshadowed by the breathtaking view of Mehrangarh Fort, perched on the hill above. Just when you think this hotel can’t get more stunning, evening comes and your surroundings are accented with light as the fort itself is illuminated. I’ll be honest; it’s kinda magical.
Photo courtesy: RAAS Jodhpur
Where to stay?
While the haveli is an example of traditional Rajput architecture, the rooms themselves are surprisingly modern with a monochromatic color scheme and polished black floors. We stayed in two garden rooms with small courtyards connected via a stained glass door. My teenage boys were in one room; my husband and I were in the other. Because these garden rooms are on the first floor with a red sandstone courtyard wall, they don't have full fort views. However, the 28 luxury rooms on higher floors do. There are also four Duplex Suites in the modern block of the hotel, three Heritage Suites in the original residence, and one Stepwell Suite with an extra kids’ bedroom and stocked kitchenette.
I have to say, the beds at RAAS may be the most comfortable in all of India! Rooms start at $149/night online with a 60-day advance reservation; breakfast is included.
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 highly recommend the RAAS Devigarh outside of Udaipur. Read our review here.
Photo courtesy: RAAS Jodhpur
What to do at the hotel?
If your kids are like mine, they’ll make a beeline to the oh-so-inviting pool at the center of the courtyard. It features a shaded cabana area and plenty of loungers. In the afternoon, the pool attendant serves complimentary, mango popsicles while you lean back on the edge of the pool gazing up at the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort. Yep, just another day in India!
Donning chef hats and aprons, my family also spent an afternoon in RAAS Jodhpur’s kitchen with Chef Vishal Gautum. More of a cooking demonstration than a cooking class, Chef Gautum whipped up samples of several local Rajasthani delicacies - dishes that we'd later be served for dinner at the hotel’s signature restaurant, Darikhana. But honestly, we were so stuffed from our tasting, we weren’t sure how we’d eat dinner just a few hours later! My favorite? Dahi ki kebabs, which are fried yogurt patties crusted in onion, green chilis, coriander, and sesame seeds. Diners come from all around Jodhpur just for these appetizers, and I understand why! Chef Gautum was happy to share his secrets and even provided us with printed recipes for all the dishes. The cooking class and dinner costs about $55 per person.
KidTripster Tip: Dress lightly for the cooking course. The kitchen is very warm; so warm in fact, my younger son was overcome by the heat and had to return to the room partway through the lesson.
If you’ve really got a family of foodies, you can extend the 1-1/2 cooking demo by preceding it with a culinary tour led by the very friendly food and beverage service manager, Dilip Kumar. He’ll take you to the local markets where RAAS sources its fresh ingredients.
KidTripster Tip: Schedule your cooking course for as early in the afternoon as possible (in place of lunch) and your dinner for late in the evening. Otherwise, you’ll simply be too full to enjoy all its pleasures.
After your lesson and before dinner, pop into the original stables that have been converted into comfy alcoves for reading, relaxing or playing board games. It’s a great spot for admiring the garden, as well. Or you may decide to slip away to the hotel spa, run by British brand ilā.
Photo courtesy: RAAS Jodhpur
What to do outside of the hotel?
Of course, the main attraction in Jodhpur sits 400 feet above its blue roofs - Mehrangarh Fort, an imposing fortress of red sandstone. Author Rudyard Kipling called it, “the work of giants.” As one of the best preserved forts in India, you could walk its ramparts with a guide or audio guide; both are available. But if you’re traveling with kids, I’ve got another idea.
If you have read any of my other articles on India, you know that my teenaged sons have what I’ve called a “culture limit.” I’m careful not to exceed the limit. So I’m always looking for ways to explore history differently. Flying Fox Jodhpur operates a 6-line zip course at Mehrangarh Fort. That may surprise you, but this fort is privately-owned by the descendent of the royal family of Jodhpur. Flying Fox’s office is inside the fort, though the ziplines actually run between the fortress and the fort’s wall over a small lake. The entire tour, including a safety training, takes about 1-1/2 hours, keeping in mind that you’ll likely be in a group of around ten people and have to patiently wait as everyone takes his turn on the line. Perhaps surprisingly, you don’t wear helmets while zipping, but we felt perfectly safe.
Our family of four zipped with another family of five from London. The longest line is about 1000 feet with spectacular views of the Blue City. Is it the most death-defying thing that you’ll ever do? No, but it's fun, and both my teenagers agreed that it was a better way of seeing the fort than walking. Take a look here. However, I do wish the guides would have imparted a bit more history on the tour. That being said, after you finish zipping, you certainly can stay longer and visit the fort in a more traditional way. Cost: Youth about $16; Adult about $21; there’s no minimum age; participants need to be at least 4-feet, 7-inches tall and not more than 254 pounds. Kids under 16 must be supervised by an adult on the tour.
KidTripster Tip: Book one of the first two tours of the day; they're discounted.
KidTripster Tip: Bring your camera or cell phone to take shots of the city’s blueness; Flying Fox provides a sling bag. You also can bring a GoPro to strap onto your head. No selfie sticks are allowed.
KidTripster Tip: There’s no need to take a cab or rickshaw from RAAS Jodhpur. It’s a simple, 15-minute walk (albeit uphill) to the fort.
Flying Fox also operates three other ziplines in India (Neemrana, Kikar, and Rishikesh) and one in Kenya.
Where to eat?
Whether you took the chef’s cooking course (described earlier) or not, dinner at Darikhana is not to be missed. Located on the second floor of the haveli’s 18th-century guest house, the view at this al fresco restaurant is nothing sort stunning: the candlelit courtyard below and the illuminated fort above. It was enough to even impress my not-easily-impressed teenaged boys. The food is, of course, expertly prepared by Chef Gautum from fresh, seasonal herbs and vegetable from his garden and spices sourced from a 200-year-old shop in Old Delhi. Plan to linger in this once-in-a-lifetime setting.
RAAS Jodhpur’s other dining option is Baradari in the open pavilion at the center of the property overlooking the pool. Here you can opt to dine on the deck outside or inside under cover but with the breeze still blowing through the stone-carved archways. We had our complimentary breakfast here - part cold buffet and part made-to-order entrées.
Finally, if you’re looking for a quick lunch or coffee, walk just outside the hotel to the Step Well Cafe which overlooks the city’s actual stepwell. Stepwells are ancient water sources reached by descending sets of steps. These days, you’ll find local boys cannonballing into the three-story Toorji Ka Jhalra. Look for the placard that explains the history of the well.
KidTripster Tip: Ask at the desk for the location of the secret door that leads to the stepwell without entering the street.
Photo courtesy: RAAS Jodhpur
Should you visit Jaisalmer?
Jaisalmer is a walled city located in the western reaches of Rajasthan about 50 miles from India’s border with Pakistan. It’s a 6-hour drive from Jodhpur; there is no commercial air service. It’s a long detour, especially if you’re driving a Delhi-Agra-Jaipur-Jodhpur-Udaipur route.
Having done it with my own family, I honestly wouldn’t recommend it. Yes, we had a very unique stay at a lovely haveli built right into the fort walls, Hotel Garh Jaisal Haveli. But the fort itself is actually quite small and held very little interest for my kids. We also spent a half day on a camel desert safari. It, too, was a long haul with little payoff. Riding a bobbing camel gets old after about 20 minutes into a 1-1/2 hour ride. The scenery was lacking and the wind-swept dunes that you picture in your mind are minimal. And by all means, I wouldn’t recommend the overnight stay in the desert, especially with kids.
Take it from one who’s traveled this road: your family time would be better spent with an extra night at RAAS Devigarh outside of Udaipur.
Jodhpur does has air service. Or you can hire a car service; it’s a 5-hour drive from Udaipur or a 6-hour drive from Jaipur. Uber also operates in Jodhpur.