Bijaipur, India

Castle: this one word inspires thoughts of history and romance, feudalism and pageantry. To visit marvelous historical architecture and stand in awe of the strength of the past enduring into the present, many travelers think they must visit the British Isles. Fortunately, you do not have to face the damp chilly climate and questionable fare to experience a castle: Castle Bijaipur, in India, which is no mere stony ruin but a residence and heritage hotel. Built in the 16th century, the castle has been home to 13 generations of the ruling family, who live there today and welcome guests to their home - which was converted to a hotel in 1991. There they offer traditional warm Rajput hospitality. Their wish is that visitors feel as welcome as friends and family.

The forests of Jacaranda surround the Bijaipur village, which spreads from the castle's ramparts. Castle Bijaipur stands in the Vindhyanchal ranges, on a high plateau - 600 meters or about 1,970 feet above sea level. Its 16 rooms are air conditioned and offer hot and cold running water. The castle reflects the lifestyle of Mewar and has cuisine to match, also offering both vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare. The kitchen takes some of its ingredients from its own garden, others from the village. A candlelit meal by a pool on a warm evening is a delight that can be made even hotter if you dare a sampling of the local spices.

A featured element of a Rajasthan Itinerary, a stay at the Castle Bijaipur promises a real glimpse of Indian life, with the rural village working to supply it. Other experiences it offers are horse safaris in Mawar, which is in South Rajasthan, and a wildlife sanctuary by the castle which holds leopards, crocodiles, wild boar, deer of several varieties, and many birds. A visit to Castle Bijaipur is an experience both exotic and welcoming, and not soon forgotten.

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