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  • Visit some of the finest havelis, the traditional townhouses and mansions of Rajasthan, renowned for their graceful architecture and fascinating interiors, and meet some of the people behind their restoration

  • Stay in a selection of characterful heritage properties

  • Celebrate Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Light, during our stay in the desert city of Jaisalmer

“In many ways, the biggest asset was the presence and leadership of Cosmo Brockway. Personable, unflappable, kind, thoughtful… just some of his many qualities that, added to his knowledge of the history, culture and people of India, enhanced the whole experience”

- Traveller on a previous tour with Cosmo Brockway

With archaeological evidence of multi-storey and courtyarded structures dating back more than 5000 years in Rajasthan, grand townhouses and mansions have long been status symbols and showcases for the artistic taste of the region’s wealthy elite. The form reached its aesthetic zenith from the 17th to the 19th centuries, as, through centuries of Mughal and colonial rule, rich merchants, nobles and minor royals, even temple elders creating ‘homes’ for their deities, outdid one another in the scale, form and artistic exquisiteness of their havelis. 


The classic havelis of the period are built from local red sandstone, three or four storeys tall, with an outer and inner courtyard. The façades teem with bays and balconies, sunshades and screen windows, fluted pillars and intricately patterned carvings. Within, the bustle of the city is forgotten, recalling the Persian origin of the word ‘haveli’, meaning ‘enclosed place’. Cool and peaceful, set around fountains and sacred tulsi plants, the outer courtyards were originally for men, the inner courtyards for women. Vibrantly colourful frescoes adorned the walls, depicting folk tales, the daily life and travels of the owners, even erotic scenes. Guest rooms were lavish showcases for the work of the most skilled local craftspeople, in wood, stone and precious metals. 


Following independence in 1947, when the Princely States were merged and the jagirs (fiefdoms) abolished, special privileges and the Privy Purse were withdrawn from the erstwhile ruling families, the lesser nobility found their extravagant homes a huge financial liability. Thousands were abandoned, left to become derelict over decades, even centuries, until enterprising pioneers saw the opportunity to restore them to their former beauty and repurpose many as heritage hotels, ranging in size from the intimate to the palatial. The artistic riches that were once reserved for the private guests of the wealthy are now available for those intrepid enough to explore to enjoy.


Today, these beautiful buildings comprise one of the most important aspects of India’s cultural heritage, and form the focus of this memorable tour. We will stay in several characterful heritage properties, including The Claridges in New Delhi; the meticulously restored, 33-room Vivaana Culture Haveli near Mandawa; RANVAS, part of Nagaur’s historic fort; and the 1920s Daspan House in Jodhpur. These lovely properties make a great base for exploring the finest havelis in the region, and there will be the chance to speak to some of the people who directed and undertook the restoration work.   


Rajasthan is the classic destination for an introductory tour of India, and first-time visitors need not worry about missing any of the iconic highlights of the area, which feature alongside a superb selection of havelis in this unique itinerary. We will have the opportunity to experience the colonial grandeur of Lutyens’ New Delhi; the capital’s spectacular 17th century Jama Mosque; and Humayun’s Tomb, architectural inspiration for the Taj Mahal. Furthermore, it will be possible to marvel at Jodhpur’s sea of blue houses; the intricately beautiful Jain temple complex of Ranakpur; and the majestic Jaisalmer Fort, rising dramatically from the sands of the Thar Desert. We will also be privileged to join Diwali celebrations during our stay in Jaisalmer, which is famous for its Festival of Light lanterns, colourful costumes and evening parade.     


Our Tour Director is Cosmo Samuel Brockway, an author and journalist who has written for many leading publications on culture and design. An expert on India, Cosmo authored the recent book Glorious Hotels of India, a lavishly illustrated introduction to 40 unforgettable places to stay across the subcontinent. An experienced tour leader, Cosmo knows several of the haveli owners of the region we are visiting, and is therefore able to share uniquely privileged insight and access with ACE guests.

Tour Code

Included: return airfare, accommodation based on sharing a superior twin or double bedded room, twelve breakfasts, one lunch with water & tea/coffee, seven dinners with water & tea/coffee, excursions & admissions, gratuities & all taxes.

Not Included: visa, travel insurance, superior double room for single use supplement £1675.

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