Surajgarh Fort

Your Night in a Maharaja's Palacevividly-painted Haveli in Surajgarh

An overnight stop where mere tourists seldom go! Surajgarh is carefully hidden between Delhi and Agra. It may be the most memorable part of your adventure of a lifetime in India. Spend the night in a Maharaja's palace and see a remarkable, historic town.

The Kingdom of Marwar was established in the 6th century on the edge of Rajasthan's Thar Desert. The Marwari accumulated enormous wealth from their trade of rice, opium, cotton, spices and textiles. Affluent Marwari families tried to outdo each other by building lavish mansions, giving birth to fine and colorful architecture inan otherwise bleak region where it was least expected. Many of these mansions, or "havelis," remain today, and most are completely unrestored. All are decorated with unbelievable frescos on walls and ceilings. Artists spread a thin layer of lime plaster, then painted scenes of Marwari life. Although fragile, you can still enjoy many of these painted surfaces as you wander through the havelis you visit. Towering above the village is Surajgarh Fort, one of the few places where you can spend a night in a luxury palace in Rajasthan.

camel ride Stay in an 18th century fortified palace in Rajasthan, way off the tourist radar and surrounded by an unspoiled village filled with unbelievable architectural treasures. Surajgarh is positively astonishing! "Havelis," the mansions of wealthy merchants were decorated with murals hundreds of years ago. Most are intact, thanks to the climate of the nerby Thar Desert. The havelis are today home to multiple families, who are not shy about inviting visitors in to view astonishing, colorful depictions of 18th century life that decorate their walls. You will also stop at Nawalgarh, a busy nearby city that still survives on trade to enjoy some of their equally impressive architectural treasures.

Day One: An 18th Century Palace and a Camel Ride

Deli or Agra to Surajgarh. After breakfast you journey through the vastness of the Rajasthan desert to Surajgarh, a fascinating Rajasthani village practically untouched by time. On arrival check in at Surajgarh Fort for your overnight stay. The Fort is an 18th century fortified palace owned by the son of the Princess of Jodhpur. In itself, the Fort is an amazing experience. The comfortable and attractive accommodations, the magnificent food and the enchanting local entertainment of this luxury palace in Rajasthan will make you feel like a maharaja (or perhaps a maharani).

The Shekhawati region of Rajasthan is popularly known as an open air museum. Surajgarh is at the heart of it and boasts of many havelis. Walking and camel cart tours are organized to the havelis. In the evening, visit the old mansions around the fort and walk the quaint bazaar of this hamlet. Your "guide" is not really a guide at all, but more like a local person with moderate English-language skills and an endearing personality who will show you around once-grand mansions that have become home to many families.

Day Two: The Mansions of Nawalgarh

Surajgarh to Delhi, Agra or Jaipur. After Breakfast your driver will take you to some of the interesting Mansions of the region famous for its wall paintings. Founded in 1737, Nawalgarh boasts of some of the finest frescoes in the region. The town exudes an Old World charm and the colorful bazaar has the largest number of painted havelis in Rajasthan. The fort, now a little disfigured, is still worthy of your attention.

There are numerous havelis to see here. Prominent among them are the Aath (eight) Haveli Complex, Anandi Lal Poddar Haveli, Jodhraj Patodia Haveli, Ansidhar Bhagat Haveli, Chokhani Haveli, and Hotel Roop Niwas Palace. These havelis still bear witness to the rich and prosperous Marwari era of the 19th century. The stone walls, split by four gateways, were erected to encircle the town.

Later, continue onward according to the itinerary we have planned for you.

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Photos: Douglas Thompson