“Ageing gracefully” is the phrase that comes closest to capturing the spirit of Neemrana Fort- Palace. It is seriously old, and it is delightfully beautiful. It began its life in 1464, built by the descendants of the famous Rajput warrior-king Prithviraj Chauhan and was lived in till 1947, when the royal family moved out. Devoid of life, the edifice deteriorated. Restoration began in 1986, and in 1991 it began life in its new incarnation of a heritage hotel and has since grown in size and reputation.
Things to do in Neemrana
The fort-palace-hotel is a nearly labyrinthine structure, an ensemble of differently configured and variously named spaces. Terraces are the most enchanting of these spaces, and there are loads of them, for this palace climbs up a hillside and has as many as 11 levels. We spent a good part of the day making sense of the geography of the entire space, which is an elegant mix of history and architecture. Stairs, pathways and corridors connect the rooms, terraces, courtyards and lawns. Tonguein- cheek, Neemrana’s brochure requests guests to “bear with the minor inconveniences associated with a medieval building — including not finding their room!”
A universal favourite is the Shatranj Bagh, the terrace right above the fort’s main entrance and ramparts, where the complimentary evening tea is laid out with cookies, cakes and an orange ball of setting sun. And, importantly for us, a choice of Darjeeling, Assam, Earl Grey teas. Raj Kund is the delicious pool, many levels up the hill, surrounded by deck chairs to while away tiredness. There’s a pleasant open-air amphitheatre where concerts or plays are often held. There are rooftops you can climb to soak in the starlight and marvel at the horizon-chasing views of the surrounding countryside.
Neemrana Fort-Palace is divided into two parts, which blend and harmonise quite beautifully. The older restored portion has walls made of stone covered with plaster, with most of the rooms arranged around enclosed courtyards. The newly built portion, which is more open, houses the pool, the gym and the spa, the conference hall and, presiding above them all, some new suites.
Whether we were admiring the peacocks in the village below or photographing the frescoes painted by Anjolie Ela Menon or gently digesting our twohour- long many-course meal on the grass, above us, up above the hill, were people ‘zipping’ by on steel wires. Zipping, conducted by Flying Fox (Mob: 09810999390) is another way of coming to terms with the fort, its intricate design and vastness. People zip along super strong steel cables suspended between hilltops that form the backdrop to the fort.
The 2-hr Zipline Package (Rs 1,800 per head) involves a steep 20-min walk up from the fort, a bit of training and safety instructions, and the actual zipping, while attached to the steel cables for a distance of up to 400m. Other activities at Neemrana include a 1-km walk out of the fort to an 18th-century stepwell that descends nine storeys below the ground. You can also do the trip on a camel cart. Interestingly, travellers once used this famine-relief project as a caravanserai. A ‘non-activity’ indulged in by the sundeprived tourists is to lounge by the swimming pool. Below the pool is a gym (free of cost) and a spa that offers Ayurvedic massages and therapies like reflexology. And, when your children tire of playing hide-and-seek in this fort — god’s gift to the game — you can all retreat to the common room for some carrom and chess.
NH8 from Delhi is a smooth drive via Gurgaon and Dharuhera. Turn right approx 3 km after the Shahjahanpur Toll Plaza. The 2-km way ahead to the resort is well sign-posted