There’s luxury holiday, and then there is luxury holiday. The boutique Amanbagh hotel and resort in Rajasthan, India is the epitome of luxury vacationing. This jewel of a hotel, once a camp for the hunting parties of the Maharajah of Alwar is now an oasis, located in the rural village of Ajabgarh, just 90km from Jaipur.
Our family likes adventure, and as the parents of two teenagers, we usually organize our holidays around our desire to explore a wide variety of local experiences. Each of us thoroughly enjoyed our four-day stay at the Amanbagh, not only because it is easy to enjoy luxury, but just as much due to the warm reception, caring staff and tailor-made experiences that opened our minds in so many ways. We have traveled extensively as a family, but we’ve never been as impressed as we were with the service and standard we found at the luxury accommodations in Amanbagh.
As a proponent of increasing a person’s healthy lifestyle, I was particularly looking forward to experiencing some of the youth preserving treatments the Amanbagh had to offer – all based upon the ancient teachings of one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems – Ayurvedic medicine.
JOURNEY TO PARADISE
Driving from Jaipur took us through the Rajasthani countryside and to the village of Ajabgarh, where our van crawled at a snail’s pace as our driver skillfully dodged potholes and unpaved patches of the road. We didn’t put our cameras down for an instant, trying to capture the colorful sarees of the local women, the goat herders with their white turbans and the monkey tribes that mingled with camels, boars and cows – I wasn’t sure if we were in India or on an African safari!
The royal reception we received upon arrival at the Amanbagh luxury resort was absolutely fit for a king and queen. The check-in was like no other, as hotel manager Karin and her staff welcomed us with a immune-boosting warm ginger honey drink, lucky red thread bracelets and a prayerlike serenade. It was the attention our whole family received that really impressed me – the staff knew our names and where we were from. We are a well-connected family on social media, but nonetheless, clearly the hotel staff had done their homework!
The walk to our suite was a pure delight as we marveled at the Mughal style architecture that drowns in pink marble and sandstone cupolas, multiple tall and intricate arches and bending palm trees that appear to strike a yoga pose against the still water of the sea-green marble pool. There is a perfect balance between the understated yet classy furnishings and the reminders of Indian handicraft in the carved wood panels, lanterns and staff uniforms. It truly is one of the most beautiful hotels in India. Simply roaming the gardens lowers your cortisol and stress levels.
Passing through the poolside and the magnificently manicured gardens, tenderly cared for by hand, breath and tool, I began to understand why the hotel was named Amanbagh, after the Sanskrit word for “peace” and the Hindi word for “garden.”
As the doors to our room opened, I could hear the slight ‘ting’ of Indian cymbals and folk music in my head. The luxurious and spacious rooms feature the largest bathrooms I have ever seen, including his and hers sink areas, high ceilings and an incredibly large bathtub made from a single slab of Udaipur green marble. It is a scene from 1001 Arabian Nights.
I have stayed at some of the best hotels in the world, featuring superbly trained staff; however, the staff at the Amanbagh are like no other. Their warm reception and attitude give the impression of truly caring about your comfort. It’s this genuine hospitality that resonated with all of us.
Your activity level at the Amanbagh hotel can be as simple as relaxing with your favorite novel or jam-packed with excursions, experiences and adventures. We are the kind of family that goes for the latter and took full advantage of all the activities the Amanbagh had to offer. It isn’t just one of the most luxurious hotels in India, but also among the best resorts in India for families.
Of course, the first thing I set my eyes on was the spa, featuring wonderful ayurvedic treatments. The youth preservation powers of Ayurvedic medicine and treatments was something I wanted to learn more about, so I immediately booked a consultation with Dr. Sunil. Watch my interview with the doctor below.
I will go into more depth about the Ayurvedic spa treatments I received in a future post but based on your body and mind type, Dr. Sunil prescribes a number of massages, treatments and facials that will absolutely blow both your mind and body!
The youth preserving principles of Ayurvedic treatments focus on the use of natural scrubs and oils to help soothe and enrich the skin. Your entire nervous system benefits from body massages, with Shirodhara and Abhyanga treatments helping to remove toxins, increase circulation and relax muscles.
I have never had a two person massage or a warm oil drip on my forehead before, but I am always open to new experiences! Go to the Amanbagh hotel website to learn more about their wonderful Ayurvedic treatments.
We also took advantage of the opportunity to take care of ourselves from top to bottom and inside out, with the addition of manicures, pedicures and facials from the lovely beautician, Ebanie. She shared a plethora of Indian beauty secrets with me, and you can find them in our short interview here.
YOGA & MEDITATION
What a perfect environment for learning yoga or improving your practice. We had all tried yoga as a family before and had already booked a private sunrise yoga session in front of the temples at the haunted village of Bhangarh, so we jumped at the chance to learn how to meditate. Expert yogi Reeta is a native of India who patiently guided us through the basics of meditation. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, meditation is a potent stress-buster and an important factor in making your brain and body more resilient. It is an extremely useful youth preservation practice. Learn more about meditation in my Facebook interview with Reeta.
The two organized tours we took from the Amanbagh gave us a real peek into local lives, more so than I have ever experienced before. One was an afternoon ‘Cow Dust’ jeep ride, the other a sunrise bike tour and both excursions ended with an invitation to step into local properties for a warm reception of antioxidant rich Masala chai tea. This friendly and encouraging welcome was an absolute reflection of the people who shared their time with us. My children could not understand why the local kids were up at 7:30 am if they were on holiday until they realized that the village has a limited supply of electricity, so everyone goes to bed after the sun falls and wakes up with the sunrise. What a natural way to live!
I love the opportunity to take cooking classes and learn about new superfoods, and I wasn’t about to pass the chance to learn from the land that uses turmeric, cinnamon and plenty of other superfood spices! This was not your typical cooking class either, and I am so glad that my kids, who usually have no interest in helping me in the kitchen, joined us too!
The cooking class included a stroll through the hotel’s organic garden with our chef, who patiently explained each plant with passion and delight. We were once again received with ceremonial lime and mint water, which we sipped while being serenaded by the twanging of the sitar. We thoroughly enjoyed learning creative, new recipes, including a combination of spinach, corn and fennel called Makai palak, Meen moilee fish curry and Dal moth salad, made from sprouted lentils – talk about superfoods!
When the cooking was complete, we were invited inside a mud hut behind the organic garden, where we could enjoy our creations under the shade of a thatched roof as the sitar played. What an end to an already perfect day!
Even we couldn’t do all of the activities offered by the hotel, so it is up to you to choose which ones you prefer. One popular excursion we missed was a visit to the Bengal tiger sanctuary of Sariska National Park, which is only a short drive away. Another reason to come back!
The Amanbagh hotel is located in such a rural part of town that all of our dining took place within the walls of the hotel, but I am not complaining! Three-quarters of the food on the menu is taken from the organic hotel gardens and is prepared by a five-star chef who I can only assume has a few Michelins under their belt. There is absolutely no risk of tummy bugs here, and your body will thank you for all the exceptionally clean ingredients that go into it.
The menu never got dull for us, with a wide variety of both western and traditional Indian dishes. You also have a choice of comfortable seating arrangements, either inside with the impressive vaulted ceilings or outdoors by a personal fireplace, and the opportunity to watch a traditional dance.
We were sent home with just the same splendor as when we were received. While a ritual of yogurt and sugar was spoon fed to us, a ceremonial serenade by the lovely staff echoed in the perfect acoustics of the vaulted reception ceilings. After a good luck farewell by the main staff members, a hug and a photo, we set off in the sunset with warm memories and dreams of returning to the Amanbagh’s arms again.