Though Bujera Fort, located west of Lake Pichola, has only been open since autumn of last year, it looks like it’s been around for centuries. Designed to resemble a historic Rajasthani fort, the hotel is brimming with vintage accessories and traditional architectural flourishes. It’s a veritable oasis of luxury and comfort in a quiet stretch of the Aravalli Hills.To learn more about this standout venue – and why it’s a must-stay for travellers to Rajasthan – we spoke with owner Richard Hanlon.
Though Bujera Fort, located west of Lake Pichola, has
only been open since autumn of last year, it looks like it's been
around for centuries. Designed to resemble a historic Rajasthani
fort, the hotel is brimming with vintage accessories and
traditional architectural flourishes. It's a veritable oasis of
luxury and comfort in a quiet stretch of the Aravalli Hills.
Opened by English owners Richard Hanlon and Trish McFarlane, the
gorgeous new venue has the distinction of being Udaipur's very
first boutique hotel, and is already being celebrated by the likes
of Condé Nast Traveller. To learn more about this
standout venue - and why it's a must-stay for travellers to
Rajasthan - we went straight to the source.
Bujera Fort was designed to look
like a historic Rajasthani landmark © Bujera Fort
Greaves: Bujera Fort has the distinction of being
Udaipur's first boutique hotel. Can you tell us what inspired you
to open it?
Richard Hanlon: 'Firstly, Trish and I didn't want to grow old in
the UK, and we needed something to do. So, why not a holiday home
in India? I got the idea after reading These Foolish
Things by Deborah Moggach, which was the source and
inspiration for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films.
Funnily enough, the films were actually made in Udaipur, and had we
managed to open in time, the cast of the second film might have
While we first imagined owning a haveli on the lake, in the end,
we found a large plot of land west of Lake Pichola in the Aravalli
Hills, which overlooks the palaces and surrounding fields.'
Bujera Fort was constructed
using salvaged, locally sourced materials © Bujera Fort
You built Bujera Fort from scratch. What was the
construction process like? What features makes the property
'It was a long process, between finding the location for the
hotel and opening it - there followed two years of bureaucracy and
almost six years of construction. We wanted Bujera Fort to feel
like a traditional haveli, but with all the modern comforts, and
with no steps (except the staircases). The idea was that it should
look as if it had always been here - and most people now think it
We used salvaged materials wherever possible, and only made six
doors and five windows - the rest were sourced from all over
Gujarat and Rajasthan. The building also features cloister columns
that were hand-carved on site, light fittings made to our designs
in Firozabad, and copies of lanterns made in Belgium in the
19th century for the Royal Palaces in Bhuj. Local marble
was used everywhere, and we sourced vintage Indian ikat fabrics and
quilts, as well as modern British textiles.
Then there are a few special details: the sofas in the library,
for example, were reupholstered with linen that began life as my
grandmother's dining room curtains! We commissioned silver
four-poster beds, found a baby grand piano which we covered in
silver, and sourced furniture and antiques from Rajasthan and
beyond. It is very much home to us now, and most importantly, we
want our guests to feel that it is their home, too. And I think
we've been successful - we've had guests who stayed for three days
in December returning for three more weeks in February!'
Each room is full of beautiful,
colourful touches © Bujera Fort
What are some of the special amenities available to
Bujera Fort's guests?
'The fort is built around a huge courtyard with a central
swimming pool. Surrounding it are wide cloisters with two large
pavilions for dining and relaxing. For those looking to soak up
sun, we have a Moghul garden with a fountain and private seating
areas, a vintage swing, and extensive gardens with many terraces
and areas for quiet contemplation.
We also have a well-stocked library, a drawing room with a
piano, and six working fireplaces for chilly December nights. The
kitchen is open to guests at all times, and the chefs are very
happy to do cookery demonstrations and make anything
special. And for those missing home, we offer afternoon tea,
with a special selection of teas and cakes - even homemade hob
Outside of the hotel, there are many places to potter and sit
and enjoy the exuberant wildlife and the views of the City Palace,
Monsoon Palace, and the Aravalli Hills. We have bicycles for guest
use, and also offer village walks and more serious walking trips in
the surrounding hills.
This year, we also have some exciting updates; our spa will open
this season, and will offer yoga sessions, a world-class in-house
physiotherapist, and three treatment rooms (one for couples). We'll
also be opening our shop in September, which will stock textiles,
vintage architectural artefacts, drawings, and all sorts of other
unique local souvenirs.'
A beautiful view of the central
courtyard © Bujera Fort
Tell us more about your Aravalli Hills location. Do
you offer excursions or opportunities for guests to explore the
'As mentioned, we offer village and hill walks. We're also in
partnership with a company that offers serious cycling tours around
the region every day.
We're also close to a number of incredible local sights. Within
a two-hour drive, guests can encounter the Jain Temples at
Ranakpur, the Kumbhalgarh Fort, the Eklingji Temple, and the Fort
and Palace at Dungarpur. And for those who don't mind going a
little farther, we're about four hours from Ahmedabad in Gujarat,
which has one of the finest textile museums in the country. The
area is so rich in sights that really, the list is endless.'
Guests can relax in Bujera
Fort's open-air pavilions © Bujera Fort
How is Bujera Fort a green resort? What eco-friendly
policies do you have in place?
'Bujera Fort has virtually zero emissions. We collect almost
every drop of water that falls on our roof, which is stored in
large underground tanks. Water heating is largely solar,
the lighting is 100% LED, and virtually all the windows and
doors are salvaged. And one of the most unique touches: our roof is
insulated by over 70,000 handmade clay pots!'
Bujera Fort's organic garden
supplies much of its produce © Bujera Fort
What are some of Udaipur's unmissable attractions
that you would recommend to guests?
'Udaipur has so many unmissable sights. There's the City Palace Museum, which was built in the
16th century and is home to the finest collection of
miniature paintings in the world, as well as the stunning Crystal
Gallery. Lake Pichola is beautiful all year, and visitors can take
sunset cruises with a stop on Jag Mandir Island, where they can see
its magnificent gardens and 16th-century buildings.
Then there's the Vintage and Classic Car Collection Museum, the
historic Bagore-Ki-Haveli in the Old City, and the Gardens of the
Maids of Honour. Visitors should encounter the wonders of the Old
City and its vegetable, spice, and flower markets. Then there's the
Jagdish Temple, and the Ganesh Emporium: one of the most handsome
buildings in town, and home to a treasure trove of textiles old and
new, within a series of courtyards and endless rooms full of
magical things to buy. Not to be missed.'
When is the best time of year to visit
'The official season is September to March; however, April is a
glorious time to visit, when it's just getting warmer. May and June
are hot, but the flowers are out and the trees are in full bloom,
with jacaranda, flame of the forest, and hedgerows ablaze with
colour. It's quiet and peaceful. Even during the monsoon in July
and August, it can be beautiful. At that time of year, Udaipur is
wonderfully green, the rivers are flowing, and it's a marvelous
time to enjoy India in relative peace.'
The hotel is a perfect base for
exploring Udaipur and Rajasthan © Bujera Fort
Wellness is an important part of your dining
programme. Do you have other wellness
'Wellness is at the very heart of Bujera Fort. We are totally
produce-driven, have a policy of cooking fresh food every day, and
have a large organic vegetable garden, which provides much of our
food. We source much of our meat locally and have plans to make our
own goat cheese in the future. Otherwise, we cater to all kinds of
special diets, and use as little salt and sugar as possible.
From 16th - 22nd October this year, we are
also offering a special Mindfulness Week package. During the
six-night stay, guests will enjoy wellness meals, daily yoga, hill
walks and other activities, and consultations with Terrence the Teacher, a London-based