Rajasthan’s capital, Jaipur is the third corner of India’s fabled Golden Triangle. A city of extravagant architecture and a vibrant, frenetic street life at its heart you will find the old walled quarter where, in the shadow of the beautiful 18th century buildings, life takes on a more relaxed pace. A visit from the Prince of Wales in 1876 earned Jaipur its moniker ‘the Pink City’ – all the buildings were painted pink, the colour of hospitality, to welcome him.
Jaipur’s most recognisable pink sandstone edifice the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds, was built in 1799 so that women of the royal family could watch processions and life on the streets below whilst observing purdah. The building is in fact little more than a five storey façade of screened windows and balconies – you are able to enter the narrow corridors and pop into the niches to look down over the city, the view from the fifth storey is excellent.
Right at the centre of the city, the City Palace is a complex of courtyards, buildings and gardens, a part of it still occupied by the city’s royal family today. Begun in the 1720s by Jai Singh and added to over the centuries, the City Palace displays architecture from a range of eras, and Rajasthani and Mughal influences. Immediately opposite the palace you’ll find Jai Singh’s obsession with astrology realised at the Jantar Mantar. An observatory filled with weird and wonderful instruments built to measure the heavens, Jantar Mantar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A colossal building draped over the hillside above the town of Amer, the Amer Fort is 11 kilometres from Jaipur. UNESCO-listed as one of the five great hill forts of Rajasthan Amer Fort was built in the late 16th century from yellow and pink sandstones and white marble. A wander through the opulent courtyards, halls and apartments admiring the intricate carvings and stained glass as you go gives a real taste of life as maharaja.
A royal guesthouse, a maharaja’s residence and now a luxury heritage hotel the Rambagh Palace oozes opulence. Elegant rooms are draped in rich fabrics and decorated with wall motifs whilst the perfectly symmetrical ornamental gardens are perfect for a post dinner stroll. There is no better place to enjoy the hospitality of the Rajput.
A nobleman’s urban abode restored to perfection, the Haveli is an oasis of serenity in the depths of the lively city. Few hotels can match the historic ambience of this 175-year-old residence with its ornate architecture and intricate decoration. The Haveli may not have every modern convenience but it has a charm that is hard to beat.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.