Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas’ maiden venture in India promises rustic charm and royal luxury close to Ranthambhore from October 15.
The restoration and rejuvenation of a 700-year-old fort into a world-class 48-suite resort is a tale of time, love, and tenderness. Yes, the much-anticipated fort property from the InterContinental Hotels Group’s (IHG) wellness and sustainability brand Six Senses has been a decade in the making. “We weren’t here to take down and rebuild, which we could have probably done in a fifth of the time. It was about going out and unearthing the local artisans and craftsmen who knew how to build with local techniques, of using the original structure and stonework, and creating something truly special and different,” says General Manager Sangjay Choegyal.
Panika, under the leadership of late Nimish Patel and Parul Zaveri, led the architectural redesign of the palaces and temples encased within the fort and its environs, with a team of conservation experts including landscape designer Savita Punde and horticulturist Pradeep Kishen. The 14th-century fort wall encompasses the whole five-and-a-half acres of the property. The northern half was a greenfield site 10 years ago. It now holds the 48 luxury suites that are built along the fort wall.
Sweet dreams are made of this
“While they are very contemporary in design, each suite has a part of that wall,” explains Choegyal, adding, “The suites all have bedrooms, living rooms, large bathrooms, and outdoor showers. Some have lovely private gardens, some have huge verandahs and jharokhas. But all of them have the technology and concepts that speak Six Senses – our handmade, natural fibre beds, state-of-the-art technology with the lights to ensure that we create the perfect environment for a long and restorative night’s sleep, etc.”
All that ties into the whole wellness offering within the fort as well. The 30,000 sq ft spa is really rather unique, located within the original women’s palace with a medieval temple as the reception and consulting area, apart from the treatment rooms, wet areas with the steam, sauna, hot room, fitness centre, and two swimming pools. Another temple, a Radhe Krishna temple with a beautiful history, is used for daily pujas and reconnection ceremonies. Qualified professionals guide you on a journey of physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual betterment.
The Alchemy Bar, a Six Senses staple that regulars will recognise, is where they make their own oils onsite using seeds from the ancient neem tree from the Mardana Mahal courtyard, and herbs that they grow in the Ayurvedic garden. Even waste products like used coffee beans go into scrubs or soaps, etc that make for sustainable wellness. Expect indigenous essential oils, muds, clays, gels, and vegetable oils blended to create an energy-boosting signature range of scrubs and spa potions, using fresh, seasonal, and organic ingredients from the garden. The concept behind this offering is to turn ordinary ingredients into something extraordinary as part of a highly personalised experience to address the guests’ needs.
At Six Senses Fort Barwara, the energy footprint of importing branded drinking water has been eliminated with the resort having its own reverse osmosis plant to produce top quality still and sparkling mineralised water, which is provided to guests in reusable glass bottles.
The meal deal
Six Senses also chooses a cleaner and simpler approach to food preparation, focusing on quality, balance, and fresh whole food made from scratch. The Eat With Six Senses pillar of the Six Senses Integrated Wellness philosophy is based on the guiding principles of natural ingredients, local and sustainable menus and less is more. It is essential to know what’s in food and where it’s from, and each Six Senses resort is reinforcing its relationships with local farmers, producers, and suppliers, who are committed to responsible sourcing and seasonality. By working closely with local producers, Six Senses is assuring that ethical practices in raising animals and avoiding at-risk species are adhered to.
Led by Matthew Cropp, the resort’s flagship dining destination, Roohani, showcases the power of local produce from the resort’s organic garden and farms in the nearby village in innovative ways. The overarching theme is Rajasthani-inspired fresh, sustainable cuisine highlighting Indian elements and flavours while embracing the Eat With Six Senses approach.
Designed for private and intimate dining spaces, the all-day dining destination, The Cortile, promises to cater to a wide range of palates, with seasonal menus from freshly picked produce using local techniques and methods that have been handed down as best-kept secrets for generations. The Viewing Gallery and The Rajawat Room are perfect options to enjoy signature cocktails after a safari or before dinner. You can savour flame-to-table cooking using seasonal ingredients by the poolside at Rani Bagh, which will serve innovative finger food and light menus.
Fort Barwara also allows your imagination to run wild when it comes to destination dining. So, you can climb to the highest terrace for a panoramic bird’s eye view or choose a spot to create your own recipe for romance under a blanket of stars. Suitable for any special occasion and mindful of the palace’s original beauty,
Making memorable moments
The Barwara State Room can be transformed to suit guests’ requirements for both formal and informal events. From weddings and family celebrations to cultural gatherings and product launches, the resort’s experienced chefs add a touch of showmanship to the service to make any big day a truly memorable one. Situated next to the fort’s original stepwell, the Zenana Bagh lawns offer spectacular views of the Zenana Mahal in the backdrop. This venue is perfect for larger gatherings to mark milestone celebrations.
Six Senses Fort Barwara offers activities to suit everyone, whether you’re the energetic sort or if you prefer to simply sit back and relax, taking in all that the dazzling destination has to offer. You can join heritage walks to discover Fort Barwara and nearby Rajasthan attractions and villages. You can learn about healthy cuisine by touring the resort’s organic garden, water bottling plant, and local markets. There are also daily fitness classes and group activities on offer. Choegyal recommends, “One of my favourite experiences, being a green thumb, is the horticultural walk. Unlike most hotel properties, true to our beliefs in sustainability, we have purposely chosen really endemic plant species. Don’t expect the large, manicured lawns and endless rose gardens. We’re all about showing the traditional endemic Rajasthani desert flora. In an area where the water is naturally scarce, if we use endemic plants, we don’t have to use artificial forms of irrigation.”
Giving back to nature
The thrust on sustainability is quite serious. Right from the transfers to and from the Sawai Madhopur Train Station that are in zero-emission electric SUVs, to their Earth Lab, located in the old stables of the fort, which showcases the best-back-of-the-house practices. “We measure our energy usage, how much solar power we generate, weigh all our waste so we are continuously improving. We also bring in artisans, historians, and conservationists to showcase things like local pottery, traditional block printing, etc. and things like rewilding the Aravalli Hills to our east,” Choegyal lists. The landscaping team is also working on Barwara Lake’s restoration project, which will remove invasive species of plants that lower the water table and re-introduce endemic plant species to bring back balance. This, alongside working hand-in-hand with the community on water management, will allow the water table to rise again and the village will have easy access to fresh water.
Address: Chauth Ka Barwara, Rajasthan, 322702, India
Getting there: It’s an easy 2.5-hour drive from Jaipur, which is the nearest airport. By train, come to Sawai Madhopur before switching to the hotel transfers or a local taxi.
Tariffs: Their website has an introductory offer for doubles at Rs 65,000 a night in a Fort Suite, including three meals and a specially curated activity.