At six p.m. sharp we set-off up the hill from Mountbatten Lodge, about an hour and a half outside of Udaipur on the road to Jodhpur, to watch the sunset. After a short drive we turn onto a village road and park a short way along, where our host from the lodge waits beside his motorbike dressed in a khaki safari suit and beret. Walking through the young corn and urad dhal crops that are growing, we are greeted at the top of the rise by the lodge staff – waiting with a bottle of gin and chilled tonic, and peanuts served on a silver tray. We spend the next hour sipping G&Ts and watching the sunset over Rajasthan’s Aravalli Mountains, a light breeze blowing as the sun slips behind the hills, turning the sky soft yellow and red. Other than a few local villagers that pass by, taking their cattle home, we are alone to watch the sunset and hear the birds and crickets sing.
Mountbatten Lodge is located about 10 kilometres from Ranakpur – a small village that’s famous for its Jain temple – and is a small property with just 4 (enormous) rooms which are nestled into the forest at the foot of the Aravalli Mountains. It’s set among magnificent banyan trees and has a small stream that runs through the grounds. Local history goes that in the 1920’s a tall Englishman came with a hunting party and camped in tents in the very spot where the lodge now sits — spurring assumption it was Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy to India. Given the folklore, the lodge’s owners decided to name it Mountbatten Lodge.
The property is understated and elegantly designed, constructed of deep grey brick with heavy wooden doors and windows, large verandas, manicured gardens with impressive trees and hunting and polo memorabilia that creates a subtle colonial ambience to match its name. The four rooms each have private plunge pools, while the larger family room is more like a free standing lodge with two separate, spacious rooms that share a sitting room, wide veranda and swimming pool – a perfect place for a large family or 2 families or couples. The rooms and pool area of the family room offer lots of great day beds for relaxing, bathrooms that step right out into the pool and beautiful interiors with wooden furniture and textiles in warm tones.
As well as drinks at sunset, lunch is served under an imposing 300-year-old banyan tree, one of about five on the property, and drinks can be had at the bar – perched on one of the bar stools, or relaxing in the deep leather couch – while enjoying the homage to hunting lodges of earlier days of India’s history. The lodge offers activities including horse safaris, trekking, leopard safaris and elephant rides into the forest to look for leopards. Mountbatten Lodge is a great place to break up the drive between two of Rajasthan’s most popular tourist cities – Udaipur and Jodhpur – while stopping to take in the famous Jain temple complex of Ranakpur. It’s also a welcome break from the Rajput themed hotels and havelis that dominate Rajasthan.