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Talabgaon Castle, Rajasthan

Glimmering white in the afternoon sun, the breathtakingly beautiful Talabgaon Castle is not an edifice you would expect to find in the picturesque and largely untouched rural countryside of Rajasthan in Western India. But then "seeing is believing" as you make your way through winding country roads right into the lap of luxury, 76 km from Jaipur, the capital of the desert state. Away from the hustle and bustle of city life, everything about this heritage resort is just perfect.No expense has been spared to ensure guests' comfort and it shows - great beds, beddings, furnishings and exceptionally clean rooms.

The warm welcome comprising teekas (vermillion) on the forehead, a sprinkle of rosewater and flowers besides refreshing cool drinks removes the last vestiges of travel tiredness as you soak in the beauty of this tastefully restored 200-year-old heritage palace showcasing Rajput and Mughal architecture.Modern elements of luxury living have been seamlessly blended and juxtaposed with restored heritage to offer guests the best of both the worlds.

The white marble expanses with intricate carvings and wall paintings done in the traditional Rajasthani style add to the old world charm. The well-maintained and landscaped greens stretching out as far as the eye can see complement the architectural splendour of the property. The personal jharokha (intricately carved ornamental overhanging balcony that served as a projected window in the Rajput era for aristocratic women to view the happenings outside without being seen themselves.)in the rooms just adds to the entire "feel like a princess/prince" theme.

In the finest tradition of Rajput hospitality, the Talabgaon Castle, set on 150 acres of rustic countryside,offers its guests a taste of luxurious, extravagantroyal living that was once the sole preserve of Rajput kings. The boutique hotel offers six spacious and elegantly appointed suites, 11 Heritage Rooms and four Deluxe Rooms. Each room differs from the other and has been sensitively restored using woodworks, marble,rich fabricsand silk drapes drawn from the colorful artistry and warm hues of Rajasthan. Four restaurants and several bars at the castle ensure a gastronomic treat for guests.

Recreational avenues within the hotel include a swimming pool and a sprawling polo ground. Guests can recharge themselves with a massage before taking a dip in the azure swimming pool. They can learn culinary secrets during a cooking lesson or learn to play the traditional Indian board game called 'Chaupad', a favourite of erstwhile royal families. Horse polo and elephant polo matches are held in the polo grounds. Special exhibition matches are also organized from time to time for groups of guests staying at the castle.

Camel safari, jeep safari and local village tour are the best options for those keen to explore the stunning countryside and gain a first-hand insight into the simple village life. The castle has its own stable of horses and organizes short horse safaris throughoutTalabgaon and the nearby countryside.

This tranquil, luxurious retreat with its perfect service and exquisite foodcan also serve as a base for day tours to the pink city, Jaipur (76 km) and Ranthambore National Tiger Park (80 km).Travellers who want to stay at some place special need look no further. No wonder, guests savour the royal experience and yearn to prolong their stay.