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Royal Retreat: Kingly Comfort
Mukesh Khosla
 
Rajasthan offers the glimpse of a bygone era of princes, palaces and medieval fortresses, together with the resplendent sight of richly carved temples and Rajput architectural marvels.

A land of vibrant colours, undulating deserts dotted with dark green hills that have flourished in hot and sandy conditions… But there is a silver lining to the sizzling sunshine. Rajasthan offers some exclusive getaways to beat the unrelenting heat and put the spring back in your life. One such retreat is Jodhpur's Umaid Bhawan, the last of the great palaces of India made of yellow sandstone and set amidst 26 acres of lush gardens. The imposing palace stands atop a hill above the city.

Designed by Edwardian architect Henry Lanchester, the palace is a blend of eastern and western architectural influences. Its majestic 105-foot high cupola is influenced by the Renaissance, while the tower draws inspiration from Rajput tradition. The lavish interiors with gilt furniture and elegant artwork follow the Art Deco style, complemented by the exotic murals of the self-exiled Polish artist Stefan Norblin.

Marwar Heat
The approach to the palace itself is an experience. Though the fierce Marwar heat gets you, yet driving through the populated villages of Ossian and Mandore in a jeep at 20 kilometres an hour is both exhilarating and exotic. The desert sucks you in its scenic beauty and surprises you at every bend. And this is just a curtain raiser to what follows as the ultimate destination will take your breath away.

As you enter the ramparts of the imposing Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur, the burly mustachioed guard wishes you Ghani Khamma (local salutation). And you know instantly that you are in an oasis in the desert capital of Rajasthan. You wouldn't need anyone to point out that the Umaid Bhawan Palace is one of the largest super luxury residences in the world. After checking into the tastefully decorated room you can saunter into the open and take in the ambience of the palace hotel. The property run by the Taj group of hotels creates the grandeur synonymous with royal India, reminiscent of beautiful Rajput palaces, water gardens and fabled regal lifestyle.

World's No. 1
Occupying the former private bathing areas of the royal family, the Jiva Spa at the Umaid Bhawan comprises the palace's indoor swimming pool with its perfectly preserved zodiac mosaics. It is a retreat for jaded nerves. Without doubt this has to be the World's No.1 destination spa.

Muted lighting and soft music welcomes guests into the spa. There are several special treatments on offer; each room has its own purpose. The spa has separate male and female 'wet experience' areas, single and double therapy rooms, an ayurveda treatment room, a pedicure/manicure station and an exclusive hair care area. There are also dedicated steam rooms and soak tubs. The spa offers guests the chance to be regally pampered.

Pehlwan Malish
The most popular amongst all massages is the traditional Indian signature Pehlwan Malish known to reflect the efficacy of the powerful massage traditionally enjoyed by Indian wrestlers. While massage remains the focal point of the spa, a great deal has gone to the ambience. Here the spa experience incorporates an array of classic and modern treatments, scrubs, wraps, facials, baths, foot and hand care, slimming, toning and firming techniques, as well as pure pampering and de-stressing.

TYPES OF SPAS

Destination Spa:
These are spas like at the Umaid Bhawan Palace with overnight accommodations and usually offering multi-day, all inclusive programmes including a gym, body treatments, mind-enrichment, stress-reduction activities and special cuisine.

Club Spa:
A facility whose primary purpose is fitness. It offers a variety of professionally administered services like beauty, wellness and relaxation programmes. But it has no overnight accommodation.

Holistic Spa:
Spas focussing on alternative healing methods and nutrition, mainly vegetarian or macrobiotic holistic healing. Such spas claim that they aim for a "high level of wellness" integrating body and mind in a higher consciousness.

To tone and beautify the face and body, this spa offers exclusive treatments, seaweed wraps and hydrotherapy baths, a wide range of facials using fruit acids, pure plant oils, marine nutrients and collagen. The soothing ambience enriched by the fragrance of aromatic oils, soft music, dim lighting and warm towels makes one feel completely at ease. The spa serves to drive away stresses with restorative and rejuvenating therapies.

WORLD'S 10 BEST SPAS 2009

  1. Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa, Marqués de Riscal, Rioja, Spain
  2. The Spa at the Chedi, Muscat, Oman
  3. Mii Amo, Enchantment Resort, Sedona, Arizona, USA
  4. Earth Spa at Six Senses Hideaway Hua Hin, Thailand
  5. One&Only Spa by ESPA at One & Only Reethi Rah, Maldives
  6. The Standard Spa at The Standard, Miami Beach, USA
  7. Six Senses Spa at Porto Elounda, Crete, Greece
  8. The Spa at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London
  9. The BodyHoliday at LeSPORT, St Lucia, Caribbean
  10. Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Source : Conde Nast

The state-of-the-art fitness centre is complemented by a yoga and meditation facility which is isolated and dimly lit with the intent of drawing oneself inwards. In contrast, the gymnasium overlooks a well manicured landscape, offering stunning views. All the spa programmes are designed to luxuriously pamper and indulge, heal and nourish, restore and rejuvenate the mind and body. According to the management, all products used here are natural and uniquely developed from Indian herbs and essential oils.

This is a place that demands no deadlines but just promises complete relaxation where you can listen to the sound of your heartbeats and enjoy your inner peace.

10 BEST PALACE HOTELS OF INDIA

  1. Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, is a crown in the jewel of all palace hotels
  2. Jai Mahal Palace, Jaipur built in 1745 is India's first palace hotel
  3. Lake Palace, Udaipur is considered the world's most romantic palace hotel
  4. Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai built in 1903 to accommodate royalty & state guests
  5. Devi Garh Palace an hour's drive from Udaipur is a restored 18th century fort-palace
  6. Udaivilas Palace, Udaipur is constructed on the former royal hunting grounds.
  7. Gajner Palace, Bikaner is the former hunting resort of the Maharajas
  8. Fernhills Palace, Ooty is the former summer palace of Mysore's Wadiyar family
  9. Chandramahal Haveli, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is an ornithologists paradise
  10. Amarvilas, Agra enjoy the best view of the Taj Mahal from this palace hotel
 

    
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