Exploring the province of Rajasthan in northwest India is one big adventure. But part of the joy of travel is mixing the raw, dusty desert experience with a touch of luxury. Which is why I was heading for Jodhpur's newest boutique hotel, Raas. The manner of the approach was unusual: in the back of one of the hotel's two customised sky-blue tuk-tuks, threading through the cobweb of tiny streets that form the city's rosy pink-tinged sandstone old quarter. The tuk-tuk's colour was a nod to Jodhpur's other title: the Blue City (so called due to the proliferation of houses painted this hue, which historically denoted the residences of its high-caste Brahmin population).
Once I'd passed the imposing carved wooden doors of this 150-year-old former noble residence, the turmoil melted away; I was enveloped in the tranquillity created by the thick, boundary walls.
Inside, a minimalist reception sits in the outer courtyard, and beyond lies a narrow corridor leading to a Mughal-style garden. Around the perimeter rises the restored mansion: two new wings house the guest rooms, a library, a restaurant and an inviting swimming pool fringed by sun loungers.
Equally impressive is the sight rising beyond. Sitting on a hilltop above the city is the 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort, the former home of the Maharajahs of Jodhpur and one of India's most astonishing forts.
Raas opened in December and is the brainchild of a Jodhpur local called Nikhilendra Singh, whose events-organising company had a hand in Elizabeth Hurley's wedding ceremony in the city in 2007. Singh has worked with architects from Mumbai and Bangalore to arrange the marriage of this historic mansion with some cutting-edge modern architecture.
The result is a harmonious mingling of old and the new. The historic buildings are complemented by the new extension, with the exteriors of the guest rooms clad in foldaway shutters hewn from the same pink sandstone as the original mansion. These are adorned with the traditional perforated stone decoration known as jali.
Tucked away in the north-eastern quarter of Jodhpur's old walled city, the hotel is very tranquil considering the maelstrom that surrounds it. The airport is a 20-minute drive away and has regular flights connecting it with Delhi's international airport. Most visitors will usually get here from neighbouring cities such as Jaipur or Jaisalmer.
There are 32 rooms spread across the contemporary wings and seven suites scattered between the modern and older part of the compound. All have balconies and 28 of the 32 rooms have views of the Mehrangarh Fort (the remaining four have their own gardens). The rooms are smooth, slick and unapologetically 21st-century. There are shiny black marble terrazzo floors on show, with creamy monochrome stone bathrooms and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the garden. Furniture is tastefully dark and minimalist, and fabrics are kept light and neutral.
Raas, Tunvarji ka Jhalra, Makrana Mohalla, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India (00 91 291 263 6455; raasjodhpur.com )
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