Rising above the landscape in an extraordinary mix of architectural styles, the Umaid Bhawan Palace near the Indian city of Jodhpur is a hotel like few others.
Operated by Taj Hotels, it was built in the first half of the twentieth century as a royal palace and, with 347 rooms, is among the 10 largest private residences in the world.
The design by the Edwardian architect Henry Lanchester blends east and west, with the 105-foot cupola influenced by the Renaissance, while the towers are inspired by Rajput tradition.
Art Deco influences can be seen in the gilt furniture and artwork of the lavish interior.
The palace has much for guests to enjoy, including the chance to play on marbled squash courts, have a game of billiards in the panelled recreation room and even drive through Jodhpur in a vintage car – accompanied by a royal butler.
Out-of-the-ordinary experiences are also available at another Taj Hotels property, the Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad, which boasts Venetian chandeliers, grand marble staircases and Rajasthani and Japanese gardens.
Visitors can join the palace historian for a tour that includes viewings of handmade tapestries, royal portraits, inlaid furniture from Kashmir and even crockery from the Nizam’s personal collection.
After the tour, guests are taken to the Jade Room to enjoy afternoon tea.
Relaxation of a different kind is available at the Royal Jive Spa, which offers what is described as holistic rejuvenation inspired by Indian approaches to wellness.
As well as massages and beauty routines, the spa has a menu employing principles of Ayurvedic cooking, with no additives or preservatives.
Photo: Guests at the Umaid Bhawan Palace can ride in a vintage car accompanied by a Royal butler.