Drive through Rajasthan at any time of the year and one is always mesmerised by the numerous forts and palaces that speak of a bygone era of the former royal seat of the Rajputs.

The Rajputs like the Mughals were creative builders and have patronized some of the most illustrious and impressive forts and palaces in Rajasthan. Almost every city of the spectacular desert land in Rajasthan is lined with fabulous forts and palaces built by various rulers and architects. These forts and palaces were generally built outside the walled city over the highest hills to protect the city.

Their glory is well conserved in the people of Rajasthan and in the majestic forts and palaces. Enduring the unmerciful desert winds and oppressing heat of the scorching sun, they have stood unshakable against many-a-sieges and have provided protection to the rulers in their time of conflict. Now, over time, they have been opened to the tourists who come here to see a wonderful presentation of their rich heritage and splendid artistic architecture.

Many of these forts and palaces retain their old allure and customary rituals. Some of the royal residences have been now turned into heritage hotels, where the visitors can still experience the magic of India's imperial past.

One such location is the Hill Fort Kesroli which is a very popular heritage hotel run by the Neemrana Groups of Hotels. This fort is one of the oldest heritage sites in India, converted into a heritage hotel. It is believed to have been built by the Yaduvanshi Rajputs, who claim descent from Lord Krishna, but converted, to Islam in the mid-14th century to be called Khanzadas. In 1998 this huge fort was opened to guests from different part of the world, to offer an experience of royal and traditional hospitality that Rajasthan is known for. Kesroli is now famous for its hill fort which is located just about 165 kms from the hustle bustle of the NCR, thus making it the most popular destination for weekend getaways as well as picnics. Locals can be spotted lounging around during the day and enjoying the buffet spread.

The fort has been converted into a Heritage resort but it gives a grand experience to all those who visit the same and takes you back into history. It has impressive interiors and a serene ambience. This massive fort is a treasure of history with unending farms and fields spread all around the boundary wall which makes an imposing sight from the palace. The hotel has a huge swimming pool and a beautiful garden and other luxurious facilities. The rooms have been elegantly furnished in typical Rajasthani style which gives the feel of royalty. The plush and beautiful lawn is a relaxing place and is one of the most important attractions of this hill fort. The inner garden offers ample opportunities for outdoor activities.

Located in the heart of the ‘golden triangle’ Kesroli is almost equidistant from the tourist cities of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. It makes an ideal base to visit the Sariska tiger sanctuary, Kankwadi fort, Neelkanth Temples, Pandupol , the Fort–Palace and monuments of Tijara, Siliserh Lake, Jaisamand Lake, Bhangarh-Ajabgarh, the hot springs in Talvriksh, Rajgarh, Machari, Viratnagar, Deeg, the sanctuary in Bharatpur, the Jat mud fort of Govindgarh, the ancient city of Mathura and its renowned museum.

The 14th century fort is located atop the rare, dark Hornstone Breccia rocks and it commands splendid agrarian views from its ramparts which rise to 50-65 metres/150-200 feet. The charming villages encircling it make it all the more colourful with their green, yellow and brown hues.

Kesroli makes a perfect base to visit the neighbouring palaces, museums, natural sites and sanctuaries of Alwar and Sariska. It subsequently changed hands, being conquered first by the Mughals and then the Jats, before reverting to the Rajputs in 1775 when the princely state of Alwar was founded. It saw its golden period under Ranawat Thakur Bhawani Singh (1882-1934) who was renowned for his equestrian skills.

The restoration process of the fort started in 1995 and the Hill Fort was opened to guests in 1998. Its interior gardens- both in the Mardana and the Zenana quarters are refreshing and intimate against that little tent of blue called the sky! The Neemrana restoration philosophy of not overdoing the re-vamping exercise for use as a ‘non-hotel’ keeps its architecture as original and authentic as it could possibly be. Between the exteriors and interiors, a host of patinas, furnishes and backdrops can be found. While most heritage hotels in Sariska are born with the beauty and treasures of history, only a few have the luxury of a vast swimming pool and monastic spaces to detox you from the world.

The Hill Fort Kesroli has around 32 rooms and suites with a variety of furniture both indigenous and colonial with authentic period props. In the winter months, the fort sits among fog and smoke from the village hearths, lifting its dark ramparts on a white cloud. A must visit if you need to get away from the humdrum life of the big city.

(All Photographs RASHMI OBEROI)