My Stay at the Legendary Taj Umaid Bhavan Palace

My Stay at the Legendary Taj Umaid Bhavan Palace

During a recent trip to India, I got to stay at the awe inspiring Umaid Bhavan Palace in Jodhpur. The palace is one of the largest private residences in the world and was built between 1928 and 1943. It’s a magnificent blend of Eastern and Western architectural styles, showcasing the traditioal Indian craftmanship and Art Deco opulence. For most of you, I bet you know it better as the place where Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra got married. It’s also been ranked the top hotel in the world numerous times in recent years.

a large building with a domed roof and a group of birds flying over it

Just a quick note that this is part of a bigger trip. Contrary to my usual style, I’m posting probably the most interesting stay first rather than going in chronological order. Given how busy I’ve been, who knows when I’ll post the rest 🙂

How I booked my stay:

Availability during the holiday season (especially Christmas and New Year) is usually sparse or commands crazy prices, but somehow I was able to find two consecutive nights where the rate was under 800 USD. Getting a rate below $1000 is unheard of during the holiday season, so under 800 is a “steal of a deal” for this place.  I booked this stay using American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts and I paid a total of $1400 for two nights. I was able to get the cost down somewhat by having an AMEX Platinum card which gave me a $200 statement credit on top of which there were the AMEX FHR benefits. These benefits include daily breakfast for two, a complimentary lunch/dinner once during the stay, a complimentary room upgrade, and guaranteed 4 pm late checkout. And so the real cost to me for just the room was probably somewhere around $1000.

Yes, I know that’s still crazy expensive and I realize of course that I lead a privileged life to be able to throw that kind of money at a hotel stay. But for a once in a lifetime experience, it certainly seemed worth it and I certainly maximised the value I got out of it by using American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts.


We arrived at the hotel via Uber from the Radisson Blu hotel (review to come later). We actually hired the Uber driver to give us a tour of Jodhpur for the day, so we paid around 6000 INR (~72 USD) for that. As you pull up to the magnifcent gates of the palace, you are greeted by a man wearing a turban who checks the guest list and then opens the gate for you. He also radios in the main staff to let them know that there are some guests arriving.

The hotel part of the palace is not open to visitors of the musuem and there is a fence between the two. This can’t be crossed other than by hotel guests on their visits to the museum. I have to say the arrival is a bit embarassing when there are people on the other side of the fence, waiting to go into the museum, because as you pull up a loud trumpet plays and you are showered with flowers and garlands. Quite frankly everyone is watching you from the other side as you step inside.

We were escorted through the main foyer with impressive taxonomy on display next to a grand, winding staircase.

a spiral staircase in a buildingMind you, this first foyer was already jawdroppingly beautiful. However, stepping into the central hall of the Umaid Bhavan Palace feels like strolling into a real-life fairy tale. It’s truly a backdrop worthy of a Renaissance painting.

a circular building with columns and a circular floor with chairs and tables

We were seated on one of the couches in the lobby while welcome drinks (a fruit mocktail with guava and mango) were brought out and the band sititng there began playing a medley of Indian music for our arrival.

None of this sank in for us initially of course because our eyes were just glued to the ceiling. The dome of the Umaid Bhavan palace is supposedly the second largest in India at 44 mm, just behind the Taj Mahal.

a circular ceiling with blue and white design

Eventually we were able to snap out of the trance and applaud the wonderful band for the live music. More on this later, but it seems not many people were as appreciative as us because everytime the band spotted us from here on out, they would sit us down for a new piece of music 🙂


After the brief round of festivities, we were offered to be escorted to our rooms. Because we booked our accomodations through AMEX FHR, we were automatically upgraded to royal suites and guaranteed 4 PM late check out without asking. Our rooms were located on the first floor adjacent to one of the side courtyards of the hotel. The palace grounds completely reminded me of the Alcazar of Seville. This would certainly be a great location to shoot a Game of Thrones episode.

a courtyard with trees and a fountain in front of a building


The suites were quite large and featured a very large entry foyer with a mirror and table. At the far end of the corridor was a portrait of the current Maharaja.

a room with a mirror and a table

Walking farther in was the large living room with immaculately maintained and comfortable furniture. My one complaint would be that the decor was kind of meh. The color schemes didn’t really blend well and the furniture gave me the dated impression rather than the royal feel.

a room with a couch and a table

Sitting on the table closest to the main door were some welcome amenities which consisted of some nuts and fresh fruits. We asked that the nuts be removed immediately in both suites because my sister was allergic. They did so deligently and swiftly, but failed to note the allergy later as the nuts reappeared the next day. Normally I would say whatever, but you would expect a hotel of this stature to pay attention to the details.

a bowl of fruit on a table

On the far end of the living space was a desk with some stationary items.

a desk with a mirror and a chair

The bedroom was adjoined to the living space via two double doors. The bed was absolutely massive and the room looked out on the hotel courtyard. Though the view was limited since we were on the ground floor.

The restroom was accessible via both the bedroom and the bathroom. And featured a massive closet, a soaking tub, a walk-in shower, and double vanity. As you would expect, they were well stocked with all the amenities: dental kits, shaving kits, mouthwash etc. Toiletries were by Forest Essentials and “Bela & Kaffir Lime” scented. I absolutely loved them so I brought some back with me.

On one end of the bathroom was a massive closet where our suitcases were neatly placed before we even entered the room:

a suitcase in a closet

Sitting on the main desk was the on palace grounds activity list which clearly listed what was complimentary and what wasn’t.

a white paper with black text

Afternoon Tea at Umaid Bhavan Palace

a courtyard with tables and chairs

Afternoon tea is served in the palace courtyard everyday from 4:00pm to 5:00p and features live music, finger sandwiches, hot appetizers, light desserts, and of course tea.

The food is available via buffet, but the drinks are served by waiters dressed in traditional Rajasthani attire.

a group of people outside a building



Breakfast is served everyday from 7 am to 10:30 am at the Pillars restaurant which faces the rear courtyard. This was included for us based on our booking this room through AMEX FHR.

a large stone building with a large domed roof

There was a small continental buffet with pastries, fruit, cereal, salads, and freshy squeezed juices while the majority of the hot items were made to order from a menu. Everything in the buffet was of the highest quality.

The menu read as follows and it was pretty much all you can eat for guests with the free breakfast benefit. Unlike our Lake Palace visit back in 2016, the chefs weren’t in a rush to make us try everything on the menu since we were staying two nights.


Indian food was of excellent quality as you would expect and each morning the server brought out a tray of local delicacies for us to try. This included: mirchi vada, kachori, paratha, and aloo kofta. Yes it ended up being a lot of food!

a plate of food on a tray

The one constant both mornings was the masala dosa, which was outstanding. Having flown in from Hyderabad where this dish is pretty much a local delicacy, we were surprised to say that this was the best dosa of the trip so far. My parents tried the poori and paratha and thought both dishes were quite good.

a plate of food with a bowl of soup

On the second morning I ordered the avocado toast, which I have to say was very average. It had mainly to do with the quality of the sourdough bread they sourced so I’m not sure they are to blame entirely?

a bowl of salad and avocado on a plate

Palace Grounds

The palace grounds featured no shortage of things to do from the tennis courts to the fitness centre to the heated pool and underground spa. Since it was the winter, weather during the day was extremely pleasant in the Rajasthani desert.

a garden with bushes and trees

Racquets and balls were available for the tennis court and indoor squash courts in the fitness centre. Playing tennis in front of that structure was definitely a highlight of the stay.

The gym featured a good assortment of equipment and featured raquetball courts as well. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to take pictures because it just felt a slight bit awkward with the attendant asking if I wanted to do one thing or the other. There is also a room with a foosball table and supposedly a table tennis setup, the latter of which we could never get set up despite a couple of risks. The odd thing were the varied responses we got about the table tennis table including: we have to reserve ahead of time, it’s not there, or we’ll get it set up, come back in an hour.


Board Game Room:

Right next to the main hall of the palace was a board game/recreational room featuring a billiards table, chess, and some other board games. The walls were decorated with paintings of the various horses from the Maharajas’ stables over the years.

Library/Business Center

The hotel’s business center is located inside a nice lounge space with historical portraits. Quite frankly it’s not much of a business center with just one computer and printer, but it was a nice place to sit, read a book, and just soak in the old splendor of the place. The room features portraits of the royal family and beautiful wood paneling.

The Trophy Bar

Right across from the library was the cigar lounge and bar. It’s a beautiful room much like the business center, but I didn’t really care for it given the smell of smoke and alcohol. Oh yeah there was also no shortage of dead animal in the room. Back in the day, the royal family would take part in hunting regularly and these were their prized trophies from the hunts.

a room with a fireplace and couches




a sign on a wall

Included within the room rate is a tour of the Umaid Bhawan Palace Museum, which is usually the only part of the palace open to everyday visitors. The museum is full of family portraits and heirlooms.

a room with a gold ceiling and a gold ceiling

The old throne is also available on display along with all the china and clocks that they collected.

a table with plates and dishes on it

The current head of the erstwhile royal family is Maharaja Gaj Singh II. He is the son of Maharaja Hanwant Singh and the current titular Maharaja of Jodhpur. Maharaja Gaj Singh II is known for his notable passion for airplanes and aviation. He is an avid pilot himself and has a personal collection of aircraft, which includes vintage planes and helicopters. You won’t see any of those here, but there is still a bit of history about it on display.

Dinner at Pillars

We ate dinner everyday at the Pillars restaurant (also the venue for breakfast). The menu can be found here. As part of our package, dinner was included for all four of us, once for the entire stay. Dinner cost approximately $150 each night so there is certainly some decent value that you get from the AMEX benefit.

It was rather chilly both nights, but they had personal heaters which made it a nice dining experience. I apologize for the lack of images here, but food was top notch and everything was made as according to specifications. My sister is allergic to all nuts so she could finally have food devoid of allergens. If you or someone you are dining with has such allergies please be aware that Indian food in particular has cashew nut paste and other nuts in the various gravies and masalas. Just leaving a note to be very cautious.

On the first night we were sitting at the restaurant, we witnessed a proposal event where the entire courtyard was lit up with candles. It was interesting to see because the guards stood still for a good hour or so waiting for the couple. To me, it was particularly entertaining because it provided insight into what the “Proposal Experience” listed on the hotel menu truly entailed. If you’re curious, this is what 500,000 INR ($6000) gets you.

a group of people standing in front of a white structure with candles

The interesting part about the public restrooms in the hotel lobby and restaurants is that they are essentially almost like lounges. They lounge was designed well, but I can’t imagine just sitting on the couch here and relaxing while someone is using the restroom.

Palace Tour (Daily from 5 PM – 5:45 PM)

The hotel offers a curated palace tour, which starts at 5 pm everyday and lasts for 45 minutes. IMHO this tour is rather drab and doesn’t offer much more than what you yourself can explore on your own for the most part. So if you’ve done a musuem tour and walked around the grounds, it’s ok to miss this tour.

One of the employees, Chetan, however saw that I was very interested in taking pictures and gave us a personal tour of the second floor of the palace which included the Maharaja and Maharani suites where Nick and Priyanka supposedly stayed. For me the suite felt very tacky with its leopard skin and old furniture. Needless to say I greatly preferred the accomodations we were staying in. It had mostly to do with the absence of animal skin.

He even let us use the old world elevator with a couch in it. A huge shout out to Chetan for the impromptu tour.

a wooden room with a bench and a chandelier


Service throughout our stay was nothing short of spectacular anywhere from the Pillars restaurant to the museum tour to the fitness centre to the front desk. Service wasn’t intrusive at all and was there for you in a second in case you needed something. Hotel occupancy was rather low throughout our stay so the hotel staff were extra happy when we asked for something. Can’t say enough good things about the staff and overall experience. I apologize for not remembering the names of all the individuals.


Checkout was a fast process since our stay itself was prepaid using AMEX FHR. As we were leaving we were thanked for our stay and given a few going away souvenirs which included two leather bound diaries with the Umaid Bhavan Palace logo and

a hand holding a pair of red leather passport covers

Bottom Line:

Staying at the Umaid Bhavan Palace was truly one of the most luxurious indulgences I’ve treated myself to. It offers a taste of grand living that’s accessible to those outside the aristocracy, albeit at a considerable cost. The experience is undeniably worth it, providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The amenities, cuisine, and service were impeccable, exactly what you’d expect given the price of the rooms. If there’s any area for enhancement, it would be the furniture in the rooms. While comfortable, it appeared somewhat dated and failed to exude the opulence and luxury one might anticipate.

I stand by what I said last time, if I were spending a lot of money on a hotel stay, I would certainly not spend my money at a hotel in the US. If you don’t believe me, the Harvard Business Review even wrote case studies on Taj’s hospitality, which ended up being life saving. Western hospitality really can’t live up to what’s offered in the Asia-Pacific region, especially what’s available at a Taj, Oberoi, or Leela hotel.


  1. GUWonder

    Nice review. Did you care to try to credit the stay to the Taj hotels’ loyalty program?

    What I find interesting with some of these amazing palace hotels across India is that the guest rooms — even the larger, upgraded ones — aren’t really all that fancy inside; instead what you are paying for is the fancy public areas/grounds/facilities/views/location/history and a high level of service more than spectacular rooms.

    1. Good catch, I never checked my Taj account and low and behold it’s not there. I do agree that the palace hotel rooms are sometimes feel and look a bit dated but I never felt like the comfort was dated if you know what I mean. The furniture and beds were very comfortable and bathrooms were very nice. The Lake Palace was probably the only one where I felt the room was a bit crowded.

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