Is the Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace, on a hill overlooking Jodhpur in Rajasthan, northern India, really the Best Hotel in the World as declared by Trip Advisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards 2016? Having stayed earlier this year, Chopstix can confirm it’s definitely up there. Here’s why:
1.The sheer scale and grandeur – Yes it’s a palace and it’s staggeringly vast (our first sight of the place was from the plane coming into Jodhpur airport, it’s so big and majestic you can’t miss it). The sight of it is overwhelming when you draw up outside and that feeling never really leaves you throughout your stay.
2.The Royal Welcome – we don’t want to spoil the surprise but it really is special.
3.The Maharaja lives here – Maharaja Gaj Sing and his family still occupy one of the wings. In fact his Highness doesn’t want you to think of it as a hotel but a home.
4.The lobby – you’ll be lead here for a welcoming drink of bubbly when you arrive and take a moment to sit down and marvel at this marble wonder with domed ceiling. International designers flock here for inspiration – Rolex modelled a watch face on the design.
5.The elevator – just off the lobby, manned by a uniformed butler and including a cushioned banquette.
6.The indoor pool -subterranean, circular, art deco and flanked by steamer chairs. Need we say more.
7.The outdoor pool – with a view of the impressive Mehrangarh Fort in the distance.
8.The gardens – vast and ornamental. And home to several strutting peacocks.
9.The restaurants – choose between the outdoor terrace of Pillars with a stunning view of the gardens and Fort, both flood lit at night or lavish Risala (which also has a pretty terrace). Or don’t – you can opt for either menu (European or Indian) at both restaurants.
10.The service – attentive without being obtrusive. And the only hotel we’ve stayed at where we were asked what they could improve – the answer is nothing.