Samode Palace sits in the hushed Aravalli hills of Rajasthan, an hour’s drive from Jaipur. It’s a very special place. If the truth be known I’d prefer to keep Samode Palace and it’s 480 years of secrets to myself but this is a place that really should be shared…
An Indian Street Party
Hot and tired we pulled off the main road and bumped up a dusty, rutted track where we had an unexpected encounter – a colourful, laughing crowd partying their way towards us – Indian-style. On the way to a festival or special event, the celebrations had started en-route; flags, tinsel and ribbons decorated a truck from which music blasted – bhangra, raga – don’t ask me what it was but the beat was infectious. The crowd sang along and danced along. Beaming faces peered into our car, excited, giggling children waved and women in vibrant saris stole shy glances from behind their veils. Everyone was smiling big time – including us.
We left the loud, lively throng behind and continued up into the hills, through the steep, busy main street of Samode village and through a final huge gateway. We’d reached Samode Palace itself and our first proper view was as we stood at the foot of its red-carpeted steps. We gazed upwards at the pale ochre fascia with its latticed windows, and wedding cake pillars unaware of the treasures that lay beyond. We were welcomed; Namaste, a gajra (flower garland) placed over our shoulders and a tilaka pressed onto our foreheads for luck.
Entering Samode Palace
We entered Samod’es courtyard, the walls tumbling with riotous Bougainvillea; petal carpets of orange, purple and cream lined the walkways, frangipani wafted on the air; we were enveloped into the world of Samode. En-route to our room we passed through scalloped archways, miniature gardens, fountains, antiques and walls adorned with lavish hand-painted frescoes and mosaics. Up twisting, narrow, stone stairways catching glimpses of the hillsides through small windows, through a maze of outdoor walkways and corridors not knowing what we’d find around the next corner – how on earth would we find our way back to reception – sat-nav maybe?
Bedroom at Samode Palace
We eventually arrived at our room and so lovely it was that we decided we probably wouldn’t mind if we couldn’t find our way back anyway! A tranquil haven from the heat decorated in cool, calm lilac and white with ornate pillars, curtained arches, and wooden shutters. Gorgeous. The bathroom was light and airy with frescoed walls, cool marble floors and high ceilings. What you can’t see in this photo, and how I regret not taking the shot, is the shower. Set behind where I’m standing when I took this is the most glorious shower ever. Both the door and opposite shower wall are glass and look over the balcony and out onto the stunning view of the hills beyond.
A Tour of Samode Palace
This was all a bit of a tease – should I relax in this amazing room or should I explore the palace? My curiosity got the better of me, as always, and I explored. As I wandered through the courtyard taking photos a member of the hotel staff, a tall man, in a starched white jacket, beckoned to me to follow as he turned towards an archway. I followed…
The sash of his scarlet turban flowed in his wake as he led me through beautifully decorated hallways; one a warm rose-pink, one of soft powder blue another bright with splashes of daffodil yellow and the sparkling reflections of mosaic mirrors – The Sheesh Mahal or Palace of Mirrors.
The Durbar Hall
Without uttering a single word my guide pointed out galleries, secret shuttered windows disguised into murals that I’d never have noticed otherwise. Taking my camera he directed where I should stand, and took photos of me sitting in elaborate alcoves or near opulent frescoes. We ended at the magnificent Durbar Hall, its exquisite designs an explosion of colour adorning every inch of wall and ceiling and telling tales of the past. The hall is overlooked by the galleries which make up the Hall of Mirrors, each side having a different mood and ‘feel’ about it.
My private mini-tour lasted all of ten minutes and was very surreal given that my silent guide vanished as soon as we arrived back at the main courtyard.
Samode Palace is a delight; set on many levels the Palace has several terraces looking out onto panoramic views. There are two pools – one a rooftop infinity pool with the hills providing a beautiful backdrop. There are so many enchanting features just waiting to be discovered and we often turned a corner to be met by an incredible burst of colourful artwork or a tranquil view. We also got lost more than once.
It’s worth a trip down to the village to check out the work of the local artisans. Textiles, block-prints, glass, bangles and metalwork are all worth buying and also help the local economy. Many of the villagers are trained and employed by Samode hotels who also buy local produce from them for use in the kitchens and is an integral part of the local community.
If you should ever visit Jaipur try to spend a night at Samode Palace, it’s well worth stretching the budget and I guarantee you’ll remember its magic always.
Visiting Samode Palace
Samode Palace is located about 42kms north-west of Jaipur and is close to Shekhawait on the tourist circuit of Rajasthan. Bus and taxi services are available from Jaipur and Delhi and the nearest railway station, Chomu is 5kms away. The train from Delhi takes around 4 hours. Jaipur is the nearest airport at 53km away. Best time to visit is October to March whilst the temperature is in the 20s-30s, go in the summer and it’ll get up to the 40s. Monsoon season is generally June-September. See more hotels in Jaipur.