When to go: Winter is best, when you can soak up the sun. During the monsoon, the countryside becomes a picturesque lush green. Summers are very hot
STD code: 01494
Road: NH8 from Delhi is a smooth drive via Gurgaon and Dharuhera. Turn right approx 3 km after the Shahjahanpur Toll Plaza. The 2-km way to the resort is well sign-posted
’Grand dame’ is the phrase that comes closest to capturing the spirit of Neemrana Fort-Palace. It is extremely old, and is still delightfully charming, yet stately. Built by the descendants of the famous Rajput warrior-king Prithviraj Chauhan in 1464, it was occupied till 1947, when the royal family moved out, after which the edifice deteriorated rapidly. Restoration began in 1986, and in 1991 it got a new lease of life as an exemplary heritage hotel that has since grown both in size and reputation.
Things to see and do
Neemrana Fort-Palace is divided into two parts, each part complementing the other. The older, restored portion has walls made of stone covered with plaster, with most of the rooms arranged around enclosed courtyards. The newly built portion, which is more open, houses the pool, the gym and the spa, the conference hall and, presiding above them all, some new suites.
The fort-palace-hotel is a labyrinthine structure; an ensemble of differently configured and variously named spaces. The terraces are the most enchanting of these spaces, and there are loads of them, for this palace is located on a hillside and has as many as 11 levels. Making sense of the geography of the entire space, which is an elegant mix of history and architecture, might take up a good part of your first day. Stairs, path-ways and corridors connect the rooms, terraces, courtyards and lawns. Neemrana’s brochure, extending a fair warning, requests guests to bear with the minor inconveniences associated with a medieval building including not finding their room! A universal favorite is the Shatranj Bagh, the terrace right above the fort’s main entrance and ramparts, where the complimentary evening tea, is laid out with cookies and cakes. Raj Kund is the pool, many levels up the hill, surrounded by deckchairs to while away tiredness. There’s a pleasant open-air amphitheatre where concerts and plays are often held. Climb to the rooftops to soak in the starlight and marvel at the exquisite views of the surrounding countryside.
Whether you are admiring the pea-cocks in the village below, photographing the frescoes painted by Anjolie Ela Menon or digesting your 2-hour-long multicourse meal on the grass, people zipping by on steel wires will never leave your sight. Zipping, conducted by Flying Fox (Cell: 09810999390) is another way of coming to terms with the fort, its intricate design and vastness. People zip along strong steel cables suspended between hilltops that form the back-drop to the fort. The 2-hr Zip line involves a steep 20-min walk up from the fort, a fair bit of training and safety instructions, and the actual zipping, while being securely attached to the steel cables for a distance of up to 400 m.
Other activities at Neemrana include a one-kilometer walk out of the fort to an 18th-century stepwell that descends nine storeys below the ground. You can also do the trip on a camel cart.
Where to stay and eat
Neemrana Fort-Palace (Tel: 01494-246007-08, Delhi Tel: 011-46661666; Cell: 09414050068; Tariff: INR 4,000-28,000, with breakfast and evening tea;neemranahotels.com) exudes an old-world charm. Jharokhas abound and the windows bring in soothing winds. Since they are part of a medieval fort, the older rooms may not be very spacious but the available space is used interestingly. There are minibars and tea/ coffee facilities in all rooms. The common room has a TV.
The meals served in the fort-palace are buffet-style and is a mix of Continental, North Indian and Rajasthani cuisines. Along with excellent food, they also offer an extensive variety of liquors, which, in the evenings, you can enjoy with local music performances.