Indian fort named ‘most extraordinary hotel’
New building in Rajasthan desert heads lonely planet list while Liwa resort in UAE is voted fourth best in the world
There are dozens of converted historic forts and palaces offering luxury accommodation in India, but a fort, built from scratch in the Rajasthan desert just ﬁve years ago, has been named the most extraordinary hotel in the world by Lonely Planet.
Perched on a sand dune, overlooking the parched earth and shrubs of the Thar desert, Mihir Garh or the fort of the sun was a labour of love for owner Sidharth Singh, who says he was driven by intuition rather than reason; hiring more than 100 local craftsmen and carpenters who worked for two years to create nine 1,700 square foot suites, each with its own plunge pool, ﬁreplace (made in the local style, from cow dung) and decorated in furnishings from Jodhpur. “Few hotels are created without compromise, Mihir Garh is a rare example,” says Lonely Planet writer James Kay. “This is not just a unique place to stay, it’s a shrine to the artistic and architectural traditions of Rajasthan in general and Jodhpur in particular.”
The top 10 most extraordinary hotels is one of three inaugural lists naming the guidebook publisher’s favourite places to stay in the world. The other two are best-value hotels in the world and the 10 most outstanding eco-hotels.
In second place on the most extraordinary list was Planet Baobab, a collection of grass and huts with an onsite ‘shebeen’ (bar) in the Makgadikgadi salt pans of Botswana, where the lunar-like landscape is dotted with 4,000 year old baobab trees. No UK hotels, and only a few hotels in Europe, made it on to the three lists. One exception was Prendiparte BB in Bologna, a single suite in a 900—year old tower, one of the few left in the city, with a rooftop terrace “offering breathtaking views over Bologna’s historic skyline”. Other extraordinary places to stay include a collection of spherical treehouses suspended in the forest on Vancouver Island, an 1869 lighthouse on the Hudson River in New York State and a cave hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey, famed for its troglodyte architecture. Two of the top three best- value hotels in the world are in South Africa. The No 1 best- value place to stay is The Backpack in Cape Town, a hostel with a pool, which supports local community projects, is accredited by Fair Trade Tourism and was recently voted Best Hostel in Africa 2014 by hostelworld.com. lnkosana Lodge, which offers dorms, camping and private rooms in the Drakensberg mountains, is in third place, while Sydney harbour YHA, famed for its harbour views, came in second.
South Africa also made an appearance on the eco-list, with Bulungula Backpackers coming second. A collection of huts overlooking a remote beach on the Wild coast, jointly owned by the local Xhosa community, it warns potential guests it is “not an old—style, white South African beach resort”.
lt also promises night skies so clear it guarantees “your money back if you don’t see a shooting star for half an hour at night”. In first place was Lapa Rios in the Costa Rica rainforest, where guests staying at its 16 bungalows fall asleep to the sound of the Paciﬁc Ocean and are woken by the calls of howler monkeys.
List of winners
- Mihir Gahr, Rajashtan, India
- Planet Baobab, Gweta, Botswana
- Prendiparte BB, Italy
- Qasr Al Sarab, UAE
- Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, TAS, Australia
- Free Spirit Sphere, British Columbia, Canada
- Taskonak Hotel, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey
- Thonga Beach Lodge, Isimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa
- Saugerties Lighthouse, New York State, USA
- The Gibbon Experience Treehouse, Bokeo Reserve, Laos