I used to think that for a property to be eco-friendly, it must also be a bit on the rustic side, that ecotourism was a fancy word for camping and that sustainable living meant suffering through nights on jute beds and earthen floors. Then I spent two luxurious nights at Fateh Garh — A Heritage Renaissance Resort-Sanctuary,in Udaipur, where I learned that luxury living and environmental friendliness can, and indeed should, go hand-in-hand.
The original structure of Fateh Garh dates back to the 1880s. It formerly stood near Bhilwara, where, due to unmanageable upkeep costs, it faced certain destruction. That’s when the enterprising Jitendra Singh Rathore came to the rescue. Rathore, who has over three decades of hoteliering experience, moved the original structure’s bricks, concaves and pillars to its new home, reassembling the building based on his own design concepts, all the while adhering strictly to the principles of vaastu shastra. Although much of the hotel was erected using the materials from the original Fateh Garh, a few finishing touches, such as the shimmering marble floors and tabletops, were created using locally sourced materials.
A conservationist approach permeates every facet of Fateh Garh’s design, from the pastel-hued mineral-dye frescoes that adorn the walls to the resurrected Rajput antiques placed throughout the property’s courtyards and sitting areas. Much of Fateh Garh’s resources are also sustainable: a portion of their electricity is sourced from an in-house windmill and solar panels, and they have their own rainwater harvesting system and water-recycling plant. Even the elevator here operates using air hydraulics. They also plan to plant around 1,000 trees a year on their 51-acre property, so Fateh Garh will likely take on a jungle-like atmosphere in years to come.
I arrived at the hilltop palace on a windy afternoon, where I was greeted by the serenades of a group of women employed from the local village, who dropped rose petals at my feet as I approached the palace’s marble stairs. After freshening up in my room, a sleek mélange of modern off-white marble and elegant dark-wood furniture, it was time to explore Fateh Garh’s classically designed grounds. My first stop was the romantic Honeymoon Suite, tucked at the furthest corner of the hotel’s upper level, providing newlywed guests all the privacy they could ask for. Although all of the property’s 48 rooms are equipped with sparkling bathtubs, this one has its own jacuzzi, not to mention a two-headed shower, a massage table and a frescoed dome extending above the bed. While the Honeymoon Suite was undoubtedly very special, my personal favourite were the pair of lower-level suites that share a private plunge pool, perfect for families who want to swim in privacy.
I had planned to spend much of the next day wandering about Udaipur’s old city, a mere 7km away. However, after an hour or so of shopping, I missed the calm beauty of Fateh Garh, and decided to return early, vowing not to leave again until it was time to check out. After a quick nap, I headed to the spa for one of the many delights that would come to define my stay. I opted for the Sugandha Lepam treatment, a full-body oil massage and a natural scrub, culminating with a detoxifying mud wrap followed by a herbal steam bath. The two-hour experience left my skin feeling soft and my eyelids heavy, but I had another surprise in store for me before I was to call it a night. My next treat came in the form of a delectable meal of local cuisine, complete with Rajasthan’s favourite missi roti. The dinner was served to me at Fateh Garh’s Baradari restaurant, where floor-to-ceiling windows afford patrons spectacular views of Udaipur’s cityscape. Everything from the palak khada masala to the Mewari-style bhindi sabzi was cooked so that the spices perfectly complemented the original flavour of the vegetables, making it difficult to save room for a dessert of rich gaajar halwa. The meal was served by a crew of hospitable restaurant staff, and Fateh Garh’s clearly talented chef even came by to confirm my satisfaction with his skilfully prepared dishes.
After dinner, I enjoyed a soothing cup of tea next to the uppermost of Fateh Garh’s two infinity pools, while gazing at the twinkling lights of Lake Pichola’s many palaces and havelis in the distance. In the spirit of conserving electricity and retaining a discreet ambience, the property’s grounds remain dimly candlelit after the sun goes down, making it an ideal spot to gaze at the stars without the din of artificial lighting — they even have a telescope for guests who want a closer view of the city below or the stars above.
The next morning, I enjoyed a breakfast of fresh fruit, toast and preserves, accompanied by strong filter coffee on my en suite balcony as I peered out at the stark Aravali mountains. I savoured these last moments, trying to ignore the fact that it would soon be time to descend Fateh Garh’s hilltop perch and leave this little piece of luxurious eco-paradise behind.
Where: Sisarma in Udaipur, 7km from the city centre
Contact: 08696945101/ 02/ 03/ 04; +91 8696945109; www.fatehgarh.in