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Under the Enigmatic Thar Desert’s Starry Canopy at Suryagarh Jaisalmer

Transport yourself to a bygone era of royalty in the midst of the mystical Thar desert, promising an experience that will forever linger in your heart and mind.

LF Says: ★★★★.5

Suryagarh Jaisalmer

As the car whizzed its way from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer, the landscape turned quite different in contrast to the cities of Udaipur and Jaipur. It is akin to traversing a passage through time, where the modern world gradually gives way to the ancient charm of Rajasthan’s desert landscape. Soon, vast expanses of arid land dotted with acacia trees and scrub vegetation come into view.

I entered the city of Jaisalmer after a long drive of four hours and was greeted by an immediate sense of timelessness. The roads, often lined with sandstone structures, evoke a feeling of stepping into a storybook world. And there I saw, looming on the horizon from the highway, a fort-like majestic escape completely merging with its surroundings. A magnificent structure in stark nothingness, alluring you to an exclusive paradise.

Suryagarh Jaisalmer

Imagine a place where time slows down, where every moment is infused with serenity, and where luxury seamlessly merges with the rugged charm of the desert. That’s what Suryagarh Jaisalmer is.

A wholesome khamagani

As you approach the colossal gates of Suryagarh, the awe-inspiring architecture opens into a world of opulence. The grand cannon-flanked gateway and the fort façade give way to ornate domes and grand arches. The warm welcome from the staff, adorned in traditional attire, immerses you in the wholesome Rajasthani welcome and the grandeur of princely India.

Suryagarh Jaisalmer

As the car draws up to the portico, orange-turbaned men greet me and herald my arrival on a huge nagada drum. A colourful turbaned Manganiyar sings a song of welcome while folk dancers danced to the rich tunes. Truly, a warm khamagani.

As I was led inside the palatial retreat, a thousand rose petals shower over me from the latticed balcony above. And I will not deny that I felt like a princess at that very instant. The shower of rose petals continued as a priest sang auspicious chants as I walked down the red carpet. As the hotel staff welcomes me, so does Nandu, Suryagarh’s elegant peacock, making its presence a fitting representation of the property’s ethos.

Suryagarh Jaisalmer

By now, I was having an otherworldly experience, feeling like a royal. Despite having had the most swoon-worthy welcomes from hotels, this one was unmatched.

Suite splendour

From the moment you set eyes on Suryagarh’s imposing façade, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary hotel – it’s a tribute to the region’s storied past. Every corner is imbued with the spirit of Rajasthan’s royal heritage. More than a resort, it’s a medieval sandstone fort palace.

Suryagarh Jaisalmer suite

As I stepped through the entrance, a sweeping courtyard greeted me with a sense of serenity. The central courtyard, framed by ornate columns and graceful arches, is a testament to majestic architectural finesse. Look closely at the courtyard pillars; they have big stones stacked vertically to look like logs, and when you stand behind one, the other cannot be seen.

As you move around the courtyard, elaborate gardens, a tulsi aangan, intricately carved jharokhas, and water channels inside the courtyard are a reminder of the region’s royal courts. As I was led into the entrance for my suite, I saw how the corridors were like miniature photo galleries. They were laden with images of local people and surroundings while some displayed ancient fossils and antiques that were procured from villages and old havelis.

Suryagarh Jaisalmer

My Signature Suite was an opulent sanctuary, ready to wrap you in its cocoon to provide respite from the world. Again, the intricately designed wooden furniture, vintage artworks, and rich textiles inside the suite echo the theme of grandeur. The fusion of warm colors, plush furnishings, and traditional Rajasthani motifs creates an ambiance that speaks of both comfort and cultural richness. Large windows offered panoramic views of the desert expanse. Completing the experience, my suite was well stocked with signature sweets from the in-house halwai (traditional Rajasthani chef). You’ll end up feasting on the mithais, snacks and papads.

As the shifting colours of the desert sky, from shades of orange and pink to deep indigo, create a breathtaking spectacle, your experience at Suryagarh is enhanced by traditional Rajasthani music and dance performances against the backdrop of the dunes, making it an enchanting cultural immersion.

Feast like a royal! 

Suryagarh Jaisalmer food

At Suryagarh, the rich culinary heritage of Rajasthan is celebrated at each of their dining settings and through most dishes. Breakfasts here are best had at the open central courtyard. It’s a treat to your senses, taking in views of the majestic fountain while sparrows keep dancing on your table. There is a man playing the flute, prancing swans and pigeons run around the courtyard.

Dig into their immersive Halwai Breakfast. Traditional Rajasthani mithais, chaats, samosas, puri bhaji, mirchi vadas, and several different varieties of halwas await you. Take in the mesmerising views while enjoying a hot cup of chai and pyaaz ki kachori. With each bite, you unravel the mysteries of Rajasthan’s halwai tradition that linger long after the last course has been served.

Suryagarh Jaisalmer Legends of Marwar
The Legends of Marwar restaurant at Suryagarh Jaisalmer.  

Suryagarh has three opulent dining places, The Legend of Marwar, Draksh and Nosh. While Draksh indulges you with drinks and cuisines from all over the world, The Legend of Marwar brings you food from the kitchens of the Bhattiara community.

My first lunch was at the Draksh. The restaurant’s design is a harmonious blend of traditional Rajasthani architecture and modern aesthetics with a menu that showcases the best of Rajasthani cuisine, combined with elements of contemporary fine dining.

Suryagarh Jaisalmer Draksh Bar
The bar at Draksh at Suryagarh Jaisalmer.  

But it was The Legend of Marwar that really captivated. There’s opulent decor all around, inspired by the grandeur of Rajput palaces that immediately envelops diners in an ambiance of regal luxury. The hues, balancing between red and pink, with several mirrors and chandeliers, is striking. A visit to The Legend of Marwar is incomplete without indulging in the Royal Rajasthani Thali, a lavish spread that captures the essence of Rajasthani cuisine, especially that of the Bhattiara community. This community arrived in the state along with the Mughals. What they brought along was a diverse burst of bold and aromatic flavours in their slow-cooked food. The use of spices like cumin, coriander is prevalent, infusing dishes with warmth and complexity.

From paneer tikka, the staple dal batti churma, Mohan maas (a rich, succulent meat dish prepared with tender pieces of mutton) to badaam ka halwa (a sweet pudding like dessert made of almonds) – the  six-course meal carefully represented the pinnacle of Rajasthani culinary artistry. It takes you through the state’s royal tapestry of flavours, where every bite tells a story of regal splendor and culinary artistry.

Suryagarh Jaisalmer thali

When you dine at Suryagarh, you’re treated like a legit royal queen! On my last day, the team hosted a celebratory Thar Dinner that pays tribute to the culinary traditions of the ancient communities that crossed The Thar and entered Jaisalmer. This celebratory feast was one of my life’s best and most mesmerising dining setups.

Dining under the starry desert sky, I wouldn’t call it merely a meal, but a multi-sensory experience of wonder and enchantment. The atmosphere was set for an unforgettable evening with a local musician performing folk songs as I walked the red carpet into the courtyard. The candles, rose petals and wonderful heady aromas made me feel like a princess!

Suryagarh Jaisalmer food

However, at the end of this dining experience, I was in food coma. There is a range of dishes that are irresistible to relish, including pitor curry, paneer khatta pyaaz, chicken curry, ker sangri, gatta curry, and many, many more.

Thank goodness for the comfortable cushions and rugs. After all the food, I lay on those colourful furnishings, gazing up at the stars. You can feel a deep connection with the desert and its mysteries.

Suryagarh Jaisalmer food

Journey into Rajasthan’s enigmatic sands

There’s a reason why Suryagarh Jaisalmer calls itself the ‘gateway to the Thar Desert’. It was time for me to set on their enthralling Thar Trail through golden dunes and undulating expanses. For centuries, this desert has captured the imaginations of travellers.

On a hot early evening, we set off to Kuldhara, an abandoned village shrouded in mystery and folklore. As the golden rays of sunlight pierce through the evocative ruins, we listened to the stories of the Paliwal Brahmins who once inhabited this place and vanished mysteriously from the Khaba Fort. It’s a small, ruined fort which was once the check-gate for traders who entered Rajasthan via the Silk Route. It was only after they paid taxes that they were given the permission to go ahead for trade. The serenity of the desert dawn, the eerie atmosphere of Kuldhara, and the tales of a lost civilisation create an unforgettable experience.

Suryagarh Jaisalmer Haveli
Suryagarh Jaisalmer offers standalone havelis (villas).

One of the poignant highlights of the desert exploration are the various tombs of the Sati women around the desert. These tombs, scattered across the desert landscape, take various forms, from simple stone markers to more elaborate structures with inscriptions and carvings.

Despite the harsh climate, the challenging conditions of the desert, and the seemingly inhospitable terrain, the Paliwal Brahmins established thriving trade settlements centuries ago. Their innovative water management, strategic location for trade routes, and development of sustainable communities can still be seen in use today.

Suryagarh Jaisalmer haveli
A Haveli at Suryagarh Jaisalmer.  

The rest of the trail went traversing the undulating sands, witnessing the unique desert flora and fauna, and the silence of the desert only punctuated only by the gentle sway of the wind.

It’s impossible to imagine a better way to unwind after a day of desert exploration than their Rait Spa, a real oasis of rejuvenation. Literally meaning ‘sand’, Rait gave me a profound sense of relaxation that lingers long after the treatment ends. Along with offering usual therapies from around the world, they offer specialty Suryagarh Thermal Therapies, where they use salts from the region’s Luni River or sand from Jaisalmer’s deserts. A completely unique experience.

Suryagarh Jaisalmer
Inside the Haveli at Suryagarh Jaisalmer.  

There is an incredible natural high that comes from being surrounded by the great spirit of the palace. You don’t want to bid goodbye to it; the warm Rajasthani hospitality engulfs you just too well. This culturally beautiful experience lingers long after the night has turned into day. The quiet allure of Suryagarh Jaisalmer is such that even the loud Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahaani movie turns sublime during the last wedding sequence which was shot at this hotel. Even after all these years, Suryagarh Jaisalmer remains a captivating voyage into the heart of enigmatic sands.

As my car drove amidst the vastness of the Thar Desert, I realise how much magic is left to be discovered, stories to be told, and flavours to be savoured, all under the watchful gaze of the desert’s starry canopy.

Suryagarh Jaisalmer haveli
The plunge pool of Thar Haveli at Suryagarh Jaisalmer.  

Coordinates: Kahala Phata, Jaisalmer – Sam – Dhanana Rd, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

LF Says: ★★★★.5