Day trip to Neemrana Fort Palace
Many of the old palaces in Rajasthan and other states have been converted to hotels. Neemrana, now on Delhi-Jaipur highway, is one such 15th century fort-palace. While it is only a 100 kms from Delhi Airport, it is half way to Jaipur and can take 3-4 hours from Delhi depending on where in Delhi you start from.
Staying here can cost upwards of USD $600 per night. They also have outdoor tents in the summer that can cost $150 per night. Alternately, one can do a day trip – drive west from Delhi, enjoy a buffet lunch at their dining terrace, walk through the palace and drive back. Something we decided to do in lieu of a longer trip to Agra.
Although the drive is via a four lane tollway, the traffic will be congested until one can escape the confines of the ever expanding NCR (National Capital Region) area – almost all the way to Dharuhera. From the highway you will see large billboards advertising luxurious apartment homes. The truck stops present a collection of desi booze and music shacks. In between the billboards and truck stops you will glimpse the farms growing mustard.
Situated in Alwar district, Neemrana palace is on a hill on top of Neemrana town. Visit to the palace involves a short drive through the dirty town with mounds of garbage and open sewers. Sometimes you will see bold white faces sitting out with the villagers sipping tea and watching life go by.
We reached Neemrana relatively late in the day and started the visit with the buffet lunch. The lunch is served in the courtyard with a fog covered view of the surrounding hills and forests. The white cloth covered tables were laid out with silver and tableware with fort insignia. Buffet was not terribly exciting but at least it didn’t harm the stomach – rice, lentil, chicken, mutton, salad, naan, lasagna, tomato soup, traditional and western sweets and cakes. While the lunch was being served, the neighborhood mud courtyard was being covered with cow dung in preparation for an evening performance for the hotel guests – a traditional mechanism for keeping flies and other insects away. Cow dung has a pleasant grassy smell and is not at all intrusive on the senses – even when one is in the middle of a lunch. They also served tea, coffee, wine and beer. You can stand by the parapet and drink your tea like the Maharajas of these palaces. Part of the lunch cost was included in the entrance fee.
The stroll through the palace after the lunch is pleasant and I will let the photographs tell that story.The palace holds cultural performances periodically at their torch lit open air amphitheater – if one can plan the trip to coincide with such a performance, one can stay back for dinner as well. Otherwise on your way back to the city, you can stop by the large Haldiram restaurant by the highway near Gurgaon and eat some popular north Indian snacks.
Khan market of Delhi has a Neemrana outpost from where you can get maps, and details of cultural events and hotel room rates. You can also combine the trip with a longer trip to Jaipur via the ghost town of Bhangarh, the tiger sanctuary Sariska and Abhaneri – site of a 8th century stepwell.