An 'absolutely definitely' must see...The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel currently out in the cinema is a heart warming story of a group of Brits from all different walks of life, heading out to India for retirement. Arriving at the hotel, it is not quite as it has been described in the brochure, Dev Patel plays the brilliantly overly enthusiastic, charming, but totally useless owner...The film portrays Rajasthan as it really is, the friend I was with kept on turning to me and asking 'does that really happen?', it really does, and it is brilliant. I walked out of the cinema and almost headed straight home to pack my bags and rush to Heathrow to hop on the next flight out to India. Rajasthan really is one of the most magical places, here are some of my favourite hotels in Rajasthan....

Rawla Narlai

Hidden away in a small, but busy village in the heart of the Aravali Hills, Rawla Narlai is where you can experience the real character of India. Stepwell dinners are our favourite, the hotel takes you down a dusty track on the back of a bullock cart to the candle lit stepwell, and serves an authentic dinner under the moonlight.

Rambagh Palace

This former residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur is now run as a luxury hotel by the Taj group. Oozing a regal opulence, Rambagh Palace is considered by many as one of the best hotels in the world.

Ramathra Fort

Lying in a completely unspoilt area of eastern Rajasthan, south east of Jaipur, this 350 year old fort is definitely worth the bumpy roads to get to. In the evenings sit out on the ramparts with a gin and tonic in hand and enjoy not seeing another light as far as the eye can see.The fort sits atop a mound surrounded by farmland, wilderness, lakes, gorges, plateaus and hillocks.Take an evening game drive out to visit some of the villages and you will hear all sorts of incredible stories from the villagers who live on the edge of the national park who are not used to seeing tourists, but welcome you with open arms into their houses and offer you a cup of chai whilst watching the sun go down.

Shahpura Bagh

This is one of my most favourite places in Rajasthan, tucked off the beaten track between Udaipur and Jaipur in the heart of rural Rajasthan. After the rains Shahpura Bagh is surrounded by lakes teeming with birds, it is a wonderful place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, guests are looked after by the family. If you show any interest in the past Sat will dig out the family albums and show you how life was in the past when they kept a crocodile as a pet and enjoyed going out on Shikar's. This is a hotel full of charm.

Samode Palace

Situated in the heart of the village of Samode this hotel is in a way similar to the 'Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' with all the amazing courtyards, turrets and porticos. Unlike the palace in the film, these rooms do have doors, the telephones do work and you absolutely get running water. The service is outstanding and you will have no complaints about your room. Lying in the Aravali Hills, north of Jaipur, this again is well worth the drive out from Jaipur if you want a respite from the city. Samode Palace is certainly one of Rajasthan's finest boutique palace hotels. Make sure that you do explore the palace as you will find the most beautiful frescoed rooms.

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