Prince Richard Holkar runs the best heritage hotel in India. Built by his ancestor, the warrior queen Ahilya Bai, it is a wonderful place to unwind. There’s a warm welcome too beyond the fort walls in this delightful small town of silk weavers.
A two-hour drive south of Indore (frequent flights from Delhi and Mumbai), the hotel sits atop the massive sandstone walls of Maheshwar Fort. From the terrace you can look down on Indian life as played out on the banks of the holy Narmada River, a miniature Varanasi where pilgrims come to immerse themselves and pray to the Hindu god Shiva.
Address: Ahilya Fort, Ahilya Wada, Maheshwar, Khargone, 451224, MP, India.
Style & character
Rooms are scattered among the 18th-century, half-timbered buildings set around shady courtyards. There are plenty of nooks to hide away with a book, a lovely large pool and a vegetable garden that is a work of art. Sitting areas contain carefully curated family heirlooms and artefacts and are patrolled by the owner’s beloved pugs. The whole effect is of staying in the home of an aristrocratic relative, one with unusually good taste.
Service & facilities
The long-standing staff are a delight to engage with and make every guest feel cossetted. They organise complimentary boat rides on the river and tours of the Rehwa Society’s textile workshop and school. At sunset, a fully stocked cocktail bar appears on the terrace (drinks are complimentary). There’s also a tailoring studio, a traditional masseur, a well-stocked library and bicycles to explore the countryside.
There are 13 rooms and suites (one in a tent on the ramparts with its own plunge pool and river view) all spacious and delightfully furnished with well-chosen antique and artisanal pieces. Beds are very comfortable with top-quality linen. The spacious bathrooms have powerful walk-in rainshowers and homemade soaps. All rooms are air-conditioned and have fridges and tea and coffee makers. Housekeeping is top notch.
Food & drink
Globetrotting Holkar is a reputed chef and runs a good kitchen; nothing fancy, just tasty, freshly prepared dishes. Lunches are generally European with cold soups, salads, grilled vegetables and pasta. Dinners are Indian and candlelit; the venue moving each night to another magical location in the gardens. Guests are encouraged to dine with others at tables for six, but you can elect to eat alone. House specialities include Kashmiri Dogra court duck in pomegranate, beef with green chilli, and aubergine in a tamarind yoghurt. Unlimited cocktails, wine and beer (Indian brands) are included in the room cost.
Breakfast breads and pastries are excellent (all baked on site) and the prince makes the jams himself. Maheshwari scrambled eggs and traditional poha (rice lightly fried with nuts and fruits) are highly recommended.
Access for guests with disabilities?
One accessible ground-floor room but steps to reach terrace and some dining areas. These can be accessed by sedan chair carried by staff.
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