Review: Alila Fort Bishangarh, Rajasthan, India

Alila Fort Bishangarh wasn’t on my radar, now it is. Though I’ve been to India many times, it’s been several years since I’ve made the trip. And while I’m familiar with Hyatt’s Alila brand, I haven’t yet visited one in the Mideast or India. So I was happy to hear from reader Doug Hess after his recent trip to India, and to have him share his experience at Alila Fort Bishangarh in Rajasthan.

I can count on one hand the number of contributors I’ve featured on this blog. I write every post myself, but over the course of 20 years have had three people share trip reports with experiences very different than my own that seemed really interesting. Doug is one of those, sharing his experience flying African low cost carrier Fly540, flying Air Mauritius business class and Flying Air Tanzania’s Airbus A220 from Lusaka to Dar es Salaam.



Alila Fort Bishangarh: Highlight Of An India-Nepal Trip

Alila is a Singapore based hotel brand with seventeen properties across six countries. In 2018 they became part of the Hyatt portfolio as part of their acquisition of Two Roads Hospitality. This makes them a unique and attractive option for World of Hyatt members. The portfolio is made up of diverse and unique luxury prope&rties; the Alila Fort Bishangarh is no exception. My family and I spent four days at the Alila as part of a multi-week trip through India and Nepal. It proved to be a highlight of the entire trip.

Alila Fort Bishangarh

About Alila Fort Bishangarh

The Alila Fort Bishangarh is housed in a 230-year-old fort atop a mountain in Rajasthan, about an hour north of Jaipur. The hotel opened in 2017 after a multi-year build out which was led by the royal family who still owns the property. The resort has only 59 rooms and suites. The resort has five restaurants, a full-service spa, and an event venue suitable for weddings or other large events.

Booking The Alila

We booked our stay using World of Hyatt points directly through the Hyatt website. We reserved our rooms for 15k points per night as these were off-peak dates. Peak dates priced out at 18k points/night. Cash rates during our stay started at $292, providing a reasonable redemption of 1.9 cents/point.

Check-in Experience

We arrived at the hotel well after dark after a five-hour drive from Agra. While the hotel itself sits atop the hill, entry to the hotel is via a complex at the bottom of the hill which also houses the pool, fitness center, and one of the restaurants.

Two days prior to our arrival, I had received a message on WhatsApp from the hotel, requesting that I send copies of our passports and visas in advance to speed the check-in process. As such, we arrived to find our check-in paperwork already printed and our keys ready to go.

The hotel has several vehicles available to carry guests up and down the hill 24/7, although we frequently just walked. Within three minutes, we had signed our paperwork, been served welcome drinks, and our luggage had been loaded into the hotel van. We were escorted to our room by Neha, who would continue to check on us regularly for the next three days.

Alila Fort Bishangarh van

Upgraded Rooms

Although we had booked two standard rooms on points, we were upgraded into two suites. My wife and I were given a Grand Suite, while our kids were given a Royal Suite. These rooms were next to one another on the third floor.

The room design did a fantastic job of keeping the character of the original building. Everything was tastefully decorated to fit the architecture without looking artificially antique. The fit and finishes were very high quality, and both suites were spacious and well appointed.

Alila Fort Bishangarh suite

Each room had a minifridge, coffee bar with a hot water kettle, tea selection, and a French press with pre-ground coffee.

The bathrooms were quite spacious with double sinks, separate shower and oversized bathtubs. Bath products were locally sourced for the hotel and provided in large bottles.

Although I generally dislike the multi-use bath product trend, I do appreciate the Alila commitment to reducing plastic waste across all of their properties. If I had to nit-pick anything about the room design, the spacious bathroom would have left plenty of room for a separate water closet.

Food and Beverage

Despite having fewer than sixty rooms, the Alila has five different restaurants. As a result, it consistently felt as if there were very few people on property despite being at almost 90% occupancy while we were there.

Breakfast is included for all guests. Each morning featured a modest sized buffet with fruits, bakery items, and a few hot dishes. Included with the buffet was a lengthy and diverse menu of made to order breakfast options from around the world. In addition to typical western orders of omelets and waffles, our family enjoyed an assortment of the local breakfast offerings. We particularly loved their take on the classic breakfast dosa.

While we did not eat any lunches on property, we did have dinner one night at the rooftop restaurant, ordered room service after arriving back late one evening, and had appetizers and drinks in the bar. In every case the food was very good and the prices were reasonable given the quality and location. For families traveling, the Alila offers a children’s menu. The staff also was willing to customize virtually any dish to make them more kid friendly. The hotel even makes their own baby food in house which is available at no cost to families with babies/toddlers.

Activities

We are generally not the type of travelers to book organized tours, and most of our time at the Alila was on our own. We did, however, book two activities through the hotel. The first was a local artisan tour which took us into the local town to visit two family businesses and do a bit of shopping. The first family made traditional pottery while the second made wool carpets. Both visits were educational and interesting, and they gave us a good snapshot of life in rural India.

Alila Fort Bishangarh tours

Bringing affluent tourists into developing world communities without the experience becoming exploitative or demeaning at the expense of the community is not an easy task. Thankfully the Alila did an excellent job of putting together an experience that supports the local economy while being very culturally respectful.

The second activity that we booked was a cooking class. Our family loves a wide variety of food from around the world, and Indian food is one of our favorites. The opportunity to learn about some dishes particular to Rajasthan sounded like fun. The class was given by the assistant head chef at the Alila, and it was just the five of us. The chef was very friendly and knowledgeable, and the dishes prepared were excellent.

We were hoping for a more interactive cooking class rather than what ended up being a cooking demonstration, but it was a good experience nonetheless. In addition to the activities that we participated in, the resort offers a wide variety of on and off-property activities and tours, including historical tours, hiking, biking, and even hot air balloon rides.

Hotel Facilities

No trip to India would be complete without a visit to the spa. The Alila Spa is located on the first floor of the hotel and offers a full menu of face, body and nail services. My wife and I visited for a couple’s massage while our girls enjoyed a manicure. The spa is beautiful, and the services were excellent. Prices were a bit high by Indian standards, but still quite low by global standards.

For those looking to get some exercise, at the bottom of the hill below the Fort sits the hotel’s pool complex. This building has a small fitness center, beautiful outdoor pool and hot tub, as well as a badminton court. There is also an event space that is available for weddings or other large gatherings. The walk between this complex and the main hotel is probably ¼ mile up a steep hill. We generally walked it, but staff was available 24/7 at the top and bottom with vehicles to carry guests up and down upon request.

Alila Service

High-end hotels in India generally have some of the best service worldwide, as hospitality in India is a competitive career field that attracts high caliber employees. In addition, Hyatt in India has an extensive and high-quality training program that recruits from the best hospitality schools in the country. This was evident from start to finish, as the Alila staff exceeded the already high bar set by many other great Indian hotels that I have visited over the years.

From arrival to departure, Neha took care of our family, checking in several times per day to ensure that our every need was met. In addition, at every turn the staff was proactive, clearly trained to anticipate and exceed expectations.

The food and beverage manager introduced himself at the bar the night that we arrived, and appeared at nearly every meal to make sure that we were being well taken care of. Beyond the great service, we appreciated that the staff members were all personable.

In the time we were there we had the chance to actually get to know several of them, hear their stories, and learn about their families and career. Being able to connect with the staff, rather than just being waited on, makes for a really great experience. The Alila management should be very proud of the work their staff is doing.

Alila Fort Bishangarh Conclusion

India is a vast country with a wide variety of things to see and do. It also boasts a significant number of excellent hotels and resorts across the country. Having been to many of them in more than 20 trips to India, and having stayed at countless great properties in more than 75 countries, I would put the Alila Fort Bishangarh in my top 5 hotel experiences overall.

The property is immaculate, the staff is excellent, the food was wonderful, and the options for activities are large and varied. If you are considering a trip to India, and particularly if you have Hyatt/Chase points, I would strongly recommend taking a look at the Alila Fort Bishangarh.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Comments

  1. @PhatMiles – The St Regis Mumbai is my favorite hotel in Mumbai. The Ritz Carlton in Pune is excellent as far as business hotels go. Oberoi has some great options in more rural spots throughout the country as well.

  2. The one thing India excels at is hospitality. The luxury properties in India are all super nice and for example, if you ask where the bathroom is, no less than 5 people will guide you there and open the door to the bathroom. Just a shame that the high level of service doesn’t extend to Air India haha.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.