Cover all the bases with a double stay at Aman’s sister properties in Rajasthan. From Ayurvedic healing center at Amanbagh to tiger safaris at Aman-i-Khas tented camp, you will have a unique experience. Here’s what to expect…
Two hours from Jaipur or four hours from the spellbinding chaos of New Delhi. Along the way, you’ll pass goats, camels, and hundreds upon hundreds of the country’s most sacred animal, the cow. Gaze, transfixed, out the window as you zoom past rural villages, marble mines and ancient Mughal forts atop steep, limestone mountains. Then you arrive at Amanbagh. A pink marble palace hidden in a jungle path: a thing of beauty. Tranquility is instantaneous.
A pink palace – actually a former royal hunting lodge – with extremely pleasing symmetry surrounded by the Aravalli Hills, where leopards are often spotted sunning themselves. The green marble Olympic size swimming pool takes center stage and the 40 domed cupolas (also pink) line the fragrant gardens. Frangipani trees are blooming, birds are raging, and monkeys roam the park (Amanbagh employs “monkey men” to chase them away, but it can be a losing battle).
Amanbagh has the magic touch of the late Aman architect, Ed Tuttle. Tubs carved from a single slab of green Udaiphur marble, beds crafted from the famous pink Jaipur marble, and dozens of large sandstone colonnades frame the pool. There are local touches everywhere: the candles are made on site and the ashtrays are hewn from the rock of the local river. Somehow, the splendor seems both fulfilled and uncluttered.
Followers of Aman make the pilgrimage to Amanbagh for languid lengths in the pool – after which a refreshing, icy mango granita will be waiting for you next to your deckchair – and the spa. Amanbagh – under the guidance of Dr Anoop – has set up an Ayurvedic clinic and is in the process of finalizing his herb garden to create bespoke tinctures and essential oils. After an individual consultation with the internal doctor (my session was quite confrontational and more like a therapy session) to determine your dosha, a tailor-made treatment program is organized. Immerse yourself in the bizarre spa treatment or opt for the immersive itinerary complete with meals, supplements and dosha-specific treatments.
Opt for the abhyanga massage, which involves two therapists working in unison to knead, caress, and drift you into blissful oblivion. There’s yoga every day and the chance to practice your tree pose atop a 17th-century fort overlooking the deserted ghost town of Bhangarh – a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There is also a high-tech gym but you haven’t come all the way to Rajasthan for that, have you?
You can never get bored at Amanbagh and the team have put together a unique, local menu of activities for guests to choose from. Ranging from sunrise walks with a local guide explaining the flora and fauna (and always keeping an eye out for those beautiful but rare leopards) to cooking classes, astrology readings and camel rides.
The cow dust tour is a must and although it is tempting never to leave the pristine confines of Amanbagh, the late afternoon open-top jeep ride through the villages of the area is both beautiful and invigorating. You’ll see farmers herding their goats, cows and buffaloes along the road, kicking up dust as they go, followed by a cold lemonade with a family as you watch the golden sun set behind the fields of mustard.
The hotel can also arrange visits to the local temple, where you can join in the evening chanting, as well as unbeatable stargazing and hypnotic fire mediation sessions.
Amanbagh launches into dinner theater. There are nine different places to eat, ranging from the terrace restaurant or pool pavilion to the rooftop candlelit dinner. The standout options for those who really have something to celebrate are the private Jhilmil Forest Dinner amongst the tall elephant grass hidden in the lush jungle surrounding the hotel. Here, the chefs prepare delicious South Indian tandoori and coconut curries.
But, the one dining experience that it would be a crime not to try is the Chhatri dinner in an old abandoned fort with just the stars and your own personal sitar player for company. Lit by hundreds of diya lamps, you’ll sit cross-legged on hand-embroidered cushions eating an exquisite thali (a selection of assorted dishes served on a platter) wondering how you got so lucky. A real pinch moment for me.
The signature cocktails are inventive and dangerously more indulgent – the Basil Peppini (a punchy, basil-infused vodka martini) was our group’s favorite.
Hotel rooms? Not to Aman, thank you very much. There are suites and pavilions on offer at Amanbagh – with suites overlooking the pool or the tropical gardens below. Meanwhile, the stand-alone pavilions are completely secluded at the far end of the hotel – with a private 30-foot pool.
The bedroom with sitting area, king-size bed and access to the terrace is connected to the oversized bathroom (via a sumptuous corridor in pink marble). The flip-up surface is a nighttime delight with handmade goodies every night. We found hand-painted coasters (now a pride of place on my coffee table), bookmarks woven by local women, and a jar of the hotel’s special chai blend.
It must be said that the service throughout Amanbagh is exceptional and the attention to detail is astounding. One day at lunch I bent down to scratch my leg for a while and within seconds someone slipped in with some organic mosquito repellent and started spraying my legs for me. It’s the kind of place you come home from your day to find that a frangipani-strewn hot tub has been drawn. Laundry is free – and I’ve never met housekeeping…they magically move.
The ‘camp’ (although, really, calling this opulent oasis a ‘camp’ does it a disservice) is so close to the edge of Ranthambore National Park that it’s not uncommon for a tiger to wander through the tents at night (there are night security guards, so no need to worry about an unwanted encounter with a tiger). It is a three hour drive from Amanbagh and Jaipur.
It’s a real luxury. Ten six-meter-tall Mughal-style “tents” (these are larger than most London houses and come with sunken marble baths, hot showers and plenty of tan leather and teak furniture) are dotted around the camp. It feels like your own exclusive campsite, in fact Bollywood and Hollywood royalty regularly buy the property for private parties – it’s where Katy Perry married Russell Brand.
Your personal valet or ‘Batman’ is there to make your stay enjoyable – from room service to safari advice, reassurance is just a button press away. We were greeted with a refreshing rose lemonade and a foot massage upon arrival.
There’s a highly Instagrammable tiered pool for cooling off after a bumpy day of safari and a peaceful spa tent offering Aman’s much-loved signature treatments.
But really, you are only here for one thing: to see the rare but magnificent Bengal tiger. Your success depends on the season, but even we – who were traveling just after the monsoon when the landscape is dense and lush, making it harder to see the tigers – managed to spot them. Aman-i-Khas runs safaris twice a day at peak times for tiger watching – sunrise and late afternoon.
Riding in the sleek, open-top jeeps is an experience in itself, as the guide points out sloth bears, crocodiles, deer, some of the 300 species of birds, and the most beautiful views. For cold mornings they provide hot water bottles and blankets, ice water and baseball caps for sunny days.
A visit to Ranthambore Fort is worth it. Take one of Aman-i-Khas’ personal guides to explain the heritage of this Unesco World Heritage Site – as with all Aman tours, the guide will go the extra mile and there’s always luxury surprises in store.
It’s unlike any camp food you’ve had before. But first, start the evening with a cocktail by the fire to the sound of live music, before retiring to the tent or the antique-filled terrace.
All vegetables and herbs are picked that day from the on-site garden (ask for a tour) and the curries are rich, tender and full of flavor. Western dishes are available as well as room service.
With air conditioning/heating, Toto toilets, sunken marble baths, showers, two wardrobes, her sinks, king-size beds and two terraces, it’s hard to imagine how a tent could be more decadent. All tents are identical, but tent number one is furthest from the main facilities.
Stay three nights in Amanbagh in a Garden Haveli Suite full board and three nights in Aman-i-Khas in a luxury tent full board from £4,901 pp with Elegant Resorts. Price includes a complimentary upgrade from a Garden Suite to a Haveli Suite with Terrace at Amanbagh at time of booking and a choice of one activity at each resort. It also includes return flights from Heathrow to Delhi and domestic flights to Jaipur, as well as private transfers including hospitality vouchers and UK lounge vouchers. Valid for stays February 1-28, 2023 – based on two people sharing. For further information please contact Elegant Resorts Reservations on 01244 897294 or visit the website at elegantresorts.co.uk.