This 232-year-old fort is part of Hyatt’s luxury Alila brand: Here’s why I loved my stay
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Hyatt’s Alila Fort Bishangarh in India is a truly special property. Built in, around and above a 232-year-old Rajasthani fort, this Alila is simultaneously spartan, luxurious and beautiful.
The fort is said to have been home to several kings before being abandoned for many years. But, after almost 10 years of renovations, the property opened as an Alila in February 2017.
If you plan to visit Jaipur, India, I recommend heading north of the city for a few days to stay at this unique, heritage property. Although it isn’t an ideal base for exploring Jaipur itself, it’s a wonderful escape from the bustling city. Here’s why I loved my stay at the Alila Fort Bishangarh.
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World of Hyatt acquired Two Roads Hospitality, including its Alila brand, in 2018. Then, Alila Fort Bishangarh joined World of Hyatt on July 16, 2019. So, now you can book this Alila directly through Hyatt.
The hotel is a Category 4 property. So, if you redeem Hyatt points for your stay, you can expect to use between 12,000 and 18,000 points per night, while paid rates tend to run between $200-$300 per night.
I could have redeemed 30,000 points or paid $532.19 for a two-night stay on my dates. But, as I had two Category 1 through 4 reward night certificates set to expire soon, I redeemed these certificates for my stay instead.
You could also book through Amex’s Fine Hotels + Resorts Collection if you have The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. By doing so, you would receive daily breakfast for two, a $100 property credit, 4 p.m. guaranteed late checkout, 12 p.m. early check-in (when available) and a room upgrade at check-in (when available).
However, you might not earn World of Hyatt elite nights and benefits when booking through Amex’s Fine Hotels + Resorts. So, if you want to book a paid rate, get elite perks and earnings and get extra benefits, consider booking your stay through a travel agent that has access to Hyatt Privé rates.
I charged $356.24 in food, beverage and spa services to my suite during my stay. Then, I used my World of Hyatt Credit Card to pay for these extras at check-out. These charges coded as Hyatt hotel purchases, so I earned 1,425 Hyatt points using my card.
Alila Fort Bishangarh is located about two hours north of Jaipur by car.
To get from Jaipur to the Alila, my husband and I struggled to get an Uber for about an hour. After all, it’s theoretically possible to get long-distance rides in India through Uber Intercity. We eventually got an Uber driver, paying 2,500 Indian Rupees (about $34) for the one-way trip. The same driver agreed to come back at the end of our stay, charging us 3,000 Rupees (about $39) for the ride back to Jaipur.
You may want to arrange a transfer ahead of time to avoid the Uber issues we faced. However, you may find doing so expensive or impossible. The hotel we were staying at quoted more than double what we paid for Uber. And we were unable to book a prepaid taxi online because each site we tried required prepayment but was unable to accept our U.S.-issued credit cards.
Once you’re at the Alila, you’ll likely want to remain at the hotel or within the surrounding countryside. I don’t recommend trying to sightsee in Jaipur from the hotel, as the drive to Jaipur is long and on some rough roads. Luckily, the Alila offers some compelling countryside activities, including a hike up a nearby mountain and a visit to a milk factory.
A day before my check-in date, I received the following email from the reservation team leader at the hotel.
I filled out the online self-declaration form and sent over a photo of our passport information pages and India visa stamps.
When we arrived at the hotel, a security guard checked my name against a printed list before opening the gate for our Uber. The security guard indicated for the Uber to turn right after entering the gate, dropping us at a large, open-air tent to begin check-in.
A lively five-person band and an assortment of Alila staff greeted us. Staff members collected our bags from the Uber and we were encouraged to take a seat. A staff member brought us two drinks: a cup of refreshing cold tea and a cup of buttermilk. I just had to sign two sheets and then was invited to join my Alila host in a vehicle up to the actual fort where we’d be staying.
After the short two-minute drive, we drove through the fort’s only entrance and exited the vehicle at the fort’s door. Our host offered to give us a tour of the fort, which we happily accepted. So after dropping our day packs in our suite, she led us on a 10- to 15-minute tour.
I recommend taking a similar tour when offered, as it allows you to quickly learn where everything is. Your host will also give you their WhatsApp number, so don’t be afraid to follow up with additional questions if needed.
Related: A guide to family travel in India
Alila Fort Bishangarh has just 59 rooms and suites, broken down into 18 base-level Heritage rooms, 11 Royal suites, 20 Grand suites, eight Regal suites and two Presidential suites.
I booked a Heritage room, but the hotel upgraded me to a Regal suite due to my World of Hyatt Globalist elite status. The hotel processed the upgrade automatically before my arrival, but my host noted I would have gotten one of the Presidential suites as a Globalist if it had been available.
The hotel assigned me a Regal suite on the third floor for my stay. The third floor may not sound impressive, but as the fort is already elevated above the countryside, we had mesmerizing views in three directions from our suite.
I found our 912-square foot Regal suite extremely well-designed and organized. When you open the door, you’ll see most of the suite laid out in front of you.
To the left of the entrance are two large closets. Our two closets only contained eight hangers, including the two hangers holding robes. There aren’t any drawers in the suite to store clothing, so I put my packing cubes on the large shelf at the top of the closet. A pair of slippers are available in each closet, while an iron and ironing board are in one closet and a laundry price list is in the other.
To the right of the entrance is a cabinet with a tea and coffee station hidden behind a fold-down door. In addition to a water kettle there is a French press, which made excellent coffee. The tea is Twinings brand while the coffee has Alila branding but notes it is from Cohoma coffee company. Below the beverage station and behind a door is a fridge with water. And in a drawer, there’s a large safe.
Next to the beverage station is a daybed wedged into an outcropping. I loved this part of our suite, as it was a great place to work on my computer, read a book and look out the window. I saw peacocks the first morning from this window.
Across from the sitting nook is the bathroom area. The circular tub is the highlight of this area. Although the tub is huge, ours would fill in about 15 minutes. Next to the tub is a tray of bath gel, shampoo and conditioner bottles and another tray of two fluffy bath towels. The bathtub also has a handheld shower head with good pressure.
Behind the tub are two sink areas. A bottle of lotion and a bar of luxury sugar soap are at each sink. A JVD Ionic Care hairdryer is available in a drawer under one sink. Toiletries, including a dental kit, shower cap, shaving kit and disposal bag, are available in trays at both sinks.
In two rooms next to the sinks are a toilet and a shower. I appreciated that the shower stall offered a bench and a window. Bath towels are in a tray on a bench outside the shower and I liked that there were two hooks for hanging used towels on the back of the door to the shower room.
Past the circular bathtub is another daybed by a window. You can open this window, but pigeons like to sit on the sill, so you’ll likely want to keep the screen closed. On either side of the day bed are platforms with outlets above them, so we used these platforms for charging our electronics. But, there are ample universal outlets throughout the suite.
Across from the daybed is a table with two chairs. A box with a TV remote inside and a wooden stand with a QR code on it is on the table. The QR code takes you to this folder of information about the resort. The 48-inch TV is on the wall behind the table — nicely located for guests who want to watch TV but out of the way for other guests.
Finally, a large king bed is between the day bed and the table. There are lamps and power outlets on either side of the bed. On one side of the bed there’s a thermostat and light switches. Behind the bed is a large window.
All of the windows in the suite provided sweeping views and had Alila-branded blackout curtains. I found the bed comfortable and slept well — but you will hear peacocks, pigeons and car horns in the distance each morning.
One final note: It’s not unusual for the power to go out at this Alila. I didn’t find the power outages problematic since the power always came back in less than 10 seconds. But, it is a small annoyance to be aware of.
Alila Fort Bishangarh may not be enjoyable for travelers who cannot climb stairs or who struggle with stairs. Although there are elevators, some stairs on the property are unavoidable.
In my suite, the bed height was 17 inches. There was no clearance under the bed as the bed is on a block frame.
The flooring in the suite can be slippery, especially when wet. Likewise, the flooring of the pool is slippery. And I found that getting into and out of the round tub in our Regal suite required some coordination, although a grab bar is available to make the process easier.
If you have concerns about whether a stay at the Alila Fort Bishangarh is suitable for you, I recommend contacting the property. The staff was helpful during our stay, so I expect they’d do what they could to assist travelers who need special accommodations.
Food and beverage
There are five primary food and beverage options at Alila Fort Bishangarh:
- Amarsar: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (menu).
- Nazaara: 7 p.m. to midnight, on the rooftop terrace (menu).
- Haveli: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., by the pool (menu).
- Madhuveni: 11 a.m. to midnight (menu).
- Room service: Available at any time (menu).
I tried most of these venues during my stay. Here’s my take on each.
We ate breakfast at Amarsar both mornings, as it is the only restaurant open for breakfast and is where World of Hyatt Globalist elites get complimentary breakfast. There’s a small buffet with juice, bread, cereals and hot foods for breakfast.
But, servers will also encourage you to order one or more things from the menu, which contains a vast selection of made-to-order immunity juices, regional dishes and international offerings. The first morning, I tried the Mexican dish and my husband tried the Tunisian dish. Both were relatively small, so you’ll likely also want to get something from the buffet.
We also ate dinner at Amarsar our first night, as Nazaara was fully booked (seemingly due to a special event that played music we could hear in our room until 1 a.m.). We each ordered drinks, which were both well prepared. However, my fresh and fruity drink was perhaps better suited for a day by the pool than dinner.
We started with the Lahori chicken tikka, which is honestly the best chicken I’ve ever had. The chicken was perfectly cooked and the marinade was delicious.
Our server recommended that we order non-Indian dishes after our Indian starter, so I tried the noodles with chicken and eggs and my husband ordered the Turkish lamb baklava. My noodle dish was filling but otherwise unremarkable. And while my husband’s lamb baklava was unique and different, he was a bit disappointed by the small serving size.
We probably should have stuck with our gut instinct to order Indian food instead of going for international food as our server recommended. At this meal, our food cost 4,172 Indian Rupees (about $55) and our two drinks cost 1,953 Rupees (about $26).
On Sunday night, we ate dinner at Nazaara. This venue only serves dinner, and it’s a special dinner featuring local cuisine and Rajput hunter cuisine (complete with live sand pit and fire pit cooking).
It was unclear exactly what time the dinner would start, as we saw conflicting times. A message from our host said 7:30 p.m. and I wanted to get some photos before the sun was completely down, so we arrived around 7:15 p.m. to find staff still setting up.
We came back around 7:45 p.m. and found the restaurant mostly ready to go. One couple had seated themselves, so we did the same. But service seemed strange most of the night. Most other meals featured far more staff than was needed, with one primary server helping us. But we seemed to get a rotating set of servers for this meal, which caused some confusion.
We made our way through the multi-course meal while enjoying a six-person group of traditional musicians. You’ll be given a choice of vegetarian or non-vegetarian at the start of the meal, with the non-vegetarian option costing 500 Indian Rupees (about $6) less.
Servers will provide several courses at your table before leading you to the buffet. A staff member will explain sand pot cooking at the buffet and discuss each dish and its spice level. The staff member noted that, unlike other hotels that have toned down spice levels for international tourists, Alila kept the spice levels as they’d typically be. So, he warned us to be careful with certain dishes.
Finally, after the main course, you’ll get served a variety of desserts. The hotel gave us a cake to celebrate my husband’s birthday and the musicians played “Happy Birthday” for him.
All in all, Nazaara is a dinner to experience and remember. Grab a seat further from the buffet and closer to the stage, as you’ll want to watch and enjoy the live music. However, our two non-vegetarian meals and two mocktails came out to 10,372 Indian Rupees (about $136) — so you’ll probably only want to try Nazaara once during your stay if you’re sticking to a budget.
I tried the open-air poolside restaurant, Haveli, on our last day at the fort. I ordered the “healthy bowl of chicken and avocados” and a salted lassi for 1,444 Indian Rupees (about $19). Service was quick, but the avocados that came with the bowl were so unripe they were bitter.
I could see ordering a flatbread if you were relaxing by the pool instead. You’ll hear occasional music from the reception area as the musicians greet arriving guests.
I ordered room service for lunch around 3 p.m. on Sunday. After confirming my order, the staff member on the other end of the phone said it would take 30 to 50 minutes to deliver my lunch. 23 minutes later, it arrived. The delivery person discouraged me from leaving a tip but strangely insisted on returning with ice cream.
I ordered paneer makhani, garlic naan and sweet lassi, but also got raita, Bishangarh kachumber salad and the aforementioned rose ice cream. Everything was still hot when it arrived, and I enjoyed the fresh paneer. But I was glad I’d asked to make the dish mild, as it still had some kick. My room service bill was 2,106 Indian Rupees (about $28).
Madhuveni bar is on the fourth floor near Amarsar restaurant. We didn’t get a chance to stop by for drinks, but the bar was always quiet when we walked by. It’s a beautiful place to drink or curl up with a book.
There’s a lot on offer at Alila Fort Bishangarh. You can see the experiences you can book, including times and prices, here. But, as our Alila host told us during our property tour, there are also some activities you can do free of charge, including camel cart rides on the weekends and an organic garden tour.
As you must book most activities at least 24 hours in advance and we mostly wanted to relax during this stay, we skipped most of the activities. However, we did check out the fifth-floor area with chess, table tennis, a movie screening area and more. There aren’t any windows in this area, but it was still a nice place to spend time playing the game of your choice.
On top of the activities, there are also the typical resort offerings. For example, there’s a spa on the first floor where the fort’s dungeon was historically housed. We decided to do a 30-minute couples’ foot massage for 7,195 Indian Rupees (about $94). We found the treatment relaxing and peaceful. The spa has three treatment rooms, including one room for couples’ treatments.
Near the arrival tent and Haveli restaurant is an infinity pool overlooking the countryside. There are four daybeds and plenty of lounge chairs surrounding the pool, all available on a first-come, first-served basis. A small, shallow pool is also located just off the main pool. Both pools were calm and not crowded during my stay. Towels are available in a basket near the pool.
Also near the arrival tent is Gym Alila. During my stay, I didn’t see any guests using the gym. However, this may be because guests needed to make a reservation for gym visits due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. There’s a bathroom near the gym and pool with toilets as well as showers with towels and toiletries.
Play Alila, the kids center, is also near the arrival tent. Our Alila host said the kids center is open each evening.
There’s a library with a historic map on the wall and plenty of English-language books in the fort. This area is open-air but shaded, so it wasn’t too warm even in the middle of the day. Most guests I saw in the library and the surrounding seating areas were taking photos on the daybeds and beneath the arches.
Wi-Fi is available throughout the property. When I did a speed test in my suite, I got 8 ms ping, 21.14 Mbps download and 20.71 Mbps upload.
Finally, a fruit garden, greenhouse, organic garden and orchid garden are near the infinity pool. You can wander through these areas on your own or ask for a tour.
Even when the property was at nearly full occupancy on Saturday night, I suspect more staff were on-site than guests. The reception area and restaurants usually had plenty of staff on hand. And although we scheduled a spa appointment, the spa also seemed to have enough staff to provide treatments on a walk-in basis as long as a massage room was available.
When I sent in photos of our passports before our stay, I mentioned it was my husband’s birthday and asked if they could leave a note mentioning his birthday in our room. The property offered a complimentary cake, as well as a special bath with candles in response. After giving us a tour of our suite, our host pulled me aside to ask when I’d like the cake to be delivered and the bath set up.
Admittedly, I struggled to understand some of the staff during our stay. Luckily, it was easy to get information when texting with our Alila host, although it seemed like multiple staff members responded to our messages instead of just our host.
Finally, I was surprised how most of the staff seemed to recognize and remember us in less than 24 hours. I believe this is due to the property’s small size and my Globalist status, but I still found it impressive.
From the moment I realized the Alila Fort Bishangarh was a Category 4 Hyatt, I loved the idea of using two Category 1-4 certificates for a stay, and the experience certainly did not disappoint.
You can tell a truly exceptional hotel based on the small things. On Monday morning, the musician playing in the fort’s courtyard was peaceful and a pleasant surprise. The staff remembered us quickly. I got a generous upgrade as a Globalist. I loved the cord bags on most cables throughout the hotel. I could go on, but I hope you get the point.
The stay wasn’t perfect, though. We could hear loud dance music from a private party in our suite on Saturday night from about 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Service at our last dinner seemed off, as did service around our room service order. And the pigeons were a bit of a nuisance, especially when they pooped on our dinner table at Nazaara.
But, I enjoyed staying at the fort and would recommend it if you have Hyatt points or certificates and will be in Jaipur. I recommend staying at least two nights, if not longer, to enjoy the activities. After all, if I’d only stayed on Saturday night, I wouldn’t have been able to try Nazaara since a private group booked the space for an event that first evening. And if we’d stayed longer (and not been so jet-lagged), some of the activities such as the morning hike, village tour, cycling tour and milk factory tour would have been fun to try.
Featured photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.
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