Travel Weekly / July 2013

“The smallest luxury hotel in the world”

Beth Adler

I didn’t choose to stay in Anopura, about 45 minutes outside Jaipur, India because it billed itself as “The smallest luxury hotel in the world,” though that did intrigue me. Its website promised just two guest rooms, but more importantly, the photos suggested I would be staying in what looked like a rural paradise.

Philippe deVillegas, a former Belgian diplomat, Virginia horse farmer, Moroccan developer, and current owner of Anopura, met me at the airport. In 2011, he opened this oasis of luxury in the rocky hills as the jewel-in-the-crown of his varied career, developing a love affair for the land and the people along the way.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Ishwar, the majordomo of Anopura. He led us through the stone entryway past a cooling swimming pool surrounded by green lawn and fragrant frangipani trees to a canopied, living/dinning room, which perfectly bridged indoors from the outdoors allowing views of the hills from every angle. Parrots and bubuls swooped overhead as we proceeded to an inner courtyard, scented with bowls of rose petals sitting on stone benches.

If God is in the detail, then Anopura is a very spiritual place.  Every nook and cranny is filled with tableau that reflects the mood of peace and tranquility. Opening louvered screen doors off the courtyard, Ishwar, took me to one of the guest rooms, a spacious country style accommodation with a ceiling fan for cooling the days and quilts made with local block-printed fabric for warmth on chilly nights. I found more rose petals on the pillow and strewn about the well-appointed marble bathroom. Furniture crafted locally and intricate Persian miniatures adorned the room.

After settling in, I was served lunch by the pool--a delicious chicken picatta, accompanied by green salad grown in Anopura’s garden, with a local crisp white wine. Philippe joined me for the meal and shared his vision for this special place. “The two bedroom villa is in the style of a traditional Rajasthani home. It is designed to be a retreat from the often busy and harsh life in India—a home away from home for our guests.”  The limited accommodations keep Anopura private and exclusive. Many visitors will take over the entire property with family or friends. “Everything here is about ease and relaxation—the pool, the gardens, the quiet rooms and most important, the service.”

Two other guests were in residence, and Ishwar and his staff of three, all relatives of his, attended to our every need almost invisibly.  Fresh fruit, chocolate, and an ample supply of bottled water were deposited in the rooms each evening. During my stay I was served south Indian and local Rajasthani delicacies as well as an authentic Thai coconut chicken curry and the most perfect cheese souffle I have ever eaten. deVillegas has trained the chef in the European manner with recipes collected from his world culinary adventures. All fresh food is thoroughly washed and carefully prepared to ensure safety.

On my second day, I took a tour of the gardens and an early morning bird-watching walk through the hills. Ishwar and I then paid a visit to the local village that he and the others that work at Anopura called home. We observed residents farming, tending livestock, going to school, visiting temples, crafting pottery, and generally going about the business of living. Anopura has brought valued plumbing and employment to this enclave and as guests of “Mr. Philippe,” we were welcomed with friendliness. After a week of viewing India through the window of a car, this provided a welcome opportunity to see India up close.

The hotel arranged a driver and guide so I could take in the sights of Jaipur during my stay, which include the Amber Palace and Fort. These wonders offer an impressive view of India during the Mughal reign. Shopping for textiles and jewelry in the old city, I found ample treasure to bring back to the States.  

And after busy days of sightseeing and shopping, Anopura was a relief to return to. Each evening, settling into the ample cushioned outdoor living/dinning room, snuggled in the warmth of soft shawls provided, drinking wine with the other guests, and anticipating the next tasty meal, I found the promised ease and relaxation.

The biggest limitation to this paradise can be found in its “smallest luxury hotel” slogan. With only two guest rooms, even one large family couldn’t be easily accommodated.  For a limited group though, Anopura is a fine small vacation.

Accommodations at Anopura are $340-$370 per night and include all meals. The entire facility is available for $1050 per night.  In addition to the two guest rooms, there is also a tent with a full luxury-style bathroom. All rooms are heated and air-conditioned. Travel agent commissions are offered at 20%. More information is available through their website at www.anopura.com