Set on a one hundred acre private estate of indigenous desert scrub, The Serai draws inspiration from the royal caravan sites of Rajputana; blending the dash and vivacity of this Land of Kings. There is no better place from which to venture into the mystical environs of Jaisalmer to discover its fabled golden fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Evenings are spent under the vast expanse of the desert sky, punctuated by the stars and ancient melodies of Manganiyar folk musicians whose songs have haunted these dunes for centuries.
The SUJÁN connection to Jaisalmer is one of friendship, of personal connections, of a family being drawn to a destination decades ago, that is favoured by many today. Our luxurious desert camp and spa that was established in 2008 is a spectacular getaway. In its first year, The Serai was an early Indian property to become a member of Relais & Châteaux. Many of the experiences shared at The Serai would not have been possible without the collaboration of local communities. The ancient folk musicians, who sang for our family when we first came here in 1971, are the same family of musicians who share their music around the campfire today at The Serai.
Our guide on that first journey many decades ago, continues to walk our guests through the history and legacies of Jaisalmer.
The Serai is an oasis, a place for rest and rejuvenation in the desert, mapped out with precision and detail. Built on a linear grid rising up from the desert, it stands proud with some walls carved in sandstone; with tents built on a majestic scale. Local craftsman worked the stone, built grand plunge pools, and a towering inverted step well upon which lies the placid pool. From the ‘grand’ in scale, to the smallest precious object and artifact, the camp captures and enhances the spirit of Jaisalmer. The Serai is simple, contemporary and elegant. In white and gold, it shines in the heart of the Thar. Subtle interventions of the crafts and textiles are woven into the property through carpets and turbans, throws and cushions, contrasting the vivid colours of Rajasthan with the stark terrain of the Thar desert, to create a tranquil space.
"it is the epitome of the desert luxury, exuding style and sophistication, with every comfort."
Our 21 tents are a delightful symphony of styles. Fourteen tented suites offer spacious accommodation and cover an area of over one thousand square feet. Six luxury tented suites have their own private walled–in garden and sunken, heated dip pool with Jacuzzi jets. The exclusive royal tented suite has its own spa, outdoor pool, dining and lounge tents, all walled into a private enclosure. Each canvas tent is raised on a honey coloured sandstone plinth and comes with its own terrace lounge, saturated with natural light and stylish interiors, all carefully selected and arranged by Anjali Singh.
The Royal Tented Suite set in a private ‘encampment’ has its own spa, a heated outdoor pool and separate tents to dine and lounge in. A personal butler will ensure you have everything you need during your stay. Privacy, peace and comfort define this spacious and luxurious paradise.
Six Luxury Tented Suites are on offer, each with their own private, open to the sky, plunge pool. Your blue ceramic tiled pool will be heated on request, and is gently lit by candlelight at night, perfect for a special romantic interlude.
The Tented Suites, of which there are fourteen, are pitched on a base of soothing local Jaisalmer stone. Each has an outdoor veranda, a covered living room, and a large and spacious bedroom with an en suite bathroom, covering a floor area of over one thousand square feet.
"The Serai is a minimalist wonder, restrained and refined..."
Condé Nast Traveller
All Relais & Châteaux properties across the world are unique and outstanding, reflecting the place, its people and their cultures. The Serai serves sumptuous local delicacies as well as delicious western repasts drawn from inherited recipes that pattern the daily changing menus, meticulously planned, to give you eclectic fare using fresh homegrown organic ingredients. You may choose to dine at the dining tent or anywhere on site, and we are always on hand to create an experience tailor–made to suit your particular desire, or mood. The Bar oozes comfort and beckons travellers to slip into the ample, deep set club–chairs, placed around plush accoutrements. The wonderful interiors are best enjoyed with cocktails or other refreshing concoctions..
"One of those out–of–this–world experiences that are very rare."
The Camp is perfectly located for excursions to the fabled, twelfth–century desert kingdom of Jaisalmer. Jaisalmer is of course famous for its ‘Golden Fortress’ which you can explore on your walk through the ancient fortress city, marvelling at the intricately carved Jain temples and private havelis or mansions. Camel safaris, desert drives and sundowners on the sand dunes are just some of the other memorable and sought after escapades we offer. Each of our tailor–made excursions is led by an experienced guide and can be booked in advance, which is preferable, or else on arrival at the camp, which will be subject to availability.
Jaisalmer Fort in the Indian state of Rajasthan, a living medieval city within the fortifications, is one of the largest in the world. The city spills down the hillside below the ramparts. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in 1156 AD by the Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal, from whom it derives its name, Jaisalmer was an important caravan sarai, an oasis, on the trade route that connected India with Central Asia, Persia and beyond.
Excursions from The Serai to the 10th century desert kingdom of Jaisalmer give you valuable insights into this rich and enchanted land. Every pore of this region is soaked with history and the symbols of civilizations and exchanges between travellers and merchants in search of the unknown. Witness to history, this fabled fort is a jewel embedded in the Thar.
The Thar Desert extends between the Aravalli Hills in the northeast, the Great Rann of Kutch along the coastline, and the alluvial plains of the Indus River in the west and northwest. Most of the desert is covered by huge shifting sand dunes that receive sediments from the alluvial plains and the coast. The sand is highly mobile because of strong winds that sweep across the open expanse at the onset of the monsoon. The Luni is the only river integrated into the desert. Rainfall is limited, only 100–500 mm per year, quenching the thirst of the sand between July and September.
The dunes at Jaisalmer are soft, golden hued and warm. The most sublime experience is to sit at the dunes, feel the softness of the sand, and breathe in the best of nature, interspersed with sublime sundowners. We invite you to experience the mystery of the great Thar Desert.
The Serai is known for its family recipes and menus, its outdoor kitchen and its team of chefs. Freshly produced salads and ingredients from The Serai’s Organic Herb and Vegetable Garden are used to create delicious, sumptuous meals. As always, guests are welcome to participate in cooking sessions with the team if they like, either to learn new recipes or to share their own favourites or even to just view the preparations that go into making The Serai’s legendary dining experience. Bush cooking involves the most rustic form of cuisine, showcased by our team using traditional Indian methods of cooking, be it on the fire or under the ground on hot coals.
Three hundred years ago, Kuldhara was a prosperous Paliwal Brahmin village, part of the state of Jaisalmer. According to legend, the evil eyes of Salim Singh, who had a fabulous, intricately carved haveli in the city of Jaisalmer, and was powerful and cruel ruler of the area, fell upon on a girl in the village who he wanted to marry by sheer force. He threatened the villagers proclaiming that if they did not adhere to his wishes, he would plunder the village and destroy their homes. The village council decided to defend the girl and abandon the village. When they fled, they cursed the ruler and the area around the village. Till today, the village remains barren. It is believed that people who stay there overnight are chased away by strange ghost-like creatures.
Explore this once abandoned, deserted village.
Twitching first. ‘Twitching’ is trying to see as many different species of birds as possible. Those involved in this activity are known as ‘twitchers’ and each individual sighting is a ‘twitch’ or ‘tick’. Our guides help you sight over 200 species of birds in Jaisalmer. There are unique birds in Jaisalmer like the endangered Great Indian Bustard, the painted sandgrouse, spotted eagle, and more. A leisurely walk through the sand and scrub is a peaceful and informative experience.
The old city of Jaisalmer is a famous living fortress. Within this heritage site is an old bazaar. For centuries, the local communities of Jaisalmer and its environs, have conducted their trade in this bazaar. It is fascinating to wander through this market taking in the sights and sounds of Rajasthan’s legacy and tradition. A shopper’s treat.
Farming in India is a primary occupation. Different regions of the country grow their own produce and have their own methods of agriculture and dairy farming. Most of these are simple and rustic. At The Serai, we grow our own produce and also have an in-house dairy farm. We invite you to join our team in working towards producing the freshest and most organic form of raw farm produce.
‘India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most artistic materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only!’ – Mark Twain.
The Serai Temple Trail takes you through varied glimpses of village life, exposing you to Indian superstition, as well as community and regional beliefs. Each place of worship in the Jaisalmer region has its own little story. The Temple Trail is an intellectual and spiritual experience that would include a visit to a range of historical temples in the area to understand their architecture, history and soul. The calm atmosphere of these temples exudes positive energy, and each of them has a distinct character.
"India lives in her villages", so said Mahatma Gandhi at the turn of the last century. Little has changed in a sense, since then as a man still identifies himself through his village. India›s villages have their own sense of time, space, social norms, and ways of life. Each village is different to the other and some are homes to particular communities. This is where the chakra of life revolves for most Indians. Step out and step into a different world to observe how life conducts itself in this part of the world. Engage with artisans and local artistes or simply watch life go by at a village well. Wherever you choose to go, this trip is a brief voyage into another way of life.
The Manganiars are the traditional bards of the western desert, with a history that goes back 13 centuries. Their music has influenced musical forms as far away as Spain where it travelled to with gypsies. These troubadours mesmerise you with their melodies, singing about love, war, passion and devotion, anything encapsulated in a life and its rhythm is potentially a note for them to string a song with. Their heritage has been passed down from father to son, generation after generation and many of them are regular performers in the greatest and grandest musical halls of the world. But at The Serai, they are at home, at ease and sing for you at leisure, their ancestral village barely thirty minutes away. For a private concert with these unique musicians, please give us prior notice of 48 hours.
"The overall effect is something out of a dream: romantic and completely magical..."
Condé Nast Traveller
Our highly acclaimed SUJÁN Spa at The Serai, Jaisalmer, has been created by Rosamund Freeman-Atwood, of the globally renowned Raison d’Etre. The SUJÁN Spa comprises four tents with interiors that induce soporific charm and a sense of well–being set within a walled garden. A diverse menu of therapies ensures you experience the mood and essence that your mind and body demands. From rousing reflexology to cleansing scrubs and relaxing massages, the organic and ayurvedic products we use are made with ingredients from the Thar, blended with an array of healing herbs that leave you feeling relaxed and heavenly.
"When the dunes call, soak in the splendour of Jaisalmer at The Serai, an exquisite desert retreat"
Jaisalmer sits on an expanse of history that has been carefully recorded by the bards of Rajasthan from the 12th century, when Rawal Jaisal of the Bhati Rajput clan built this ‘golden’ citadel in 1156 AD. It straddled the once prosperous trade routes of the Great Thar Desert, hosting caravans into India, some of them plying the subsidiary routes of the great Silk Road, connecting China and Asia to the capitals of Europe. A ‘living’ fort, it has within its walls beautiful palaces and havelis, or town houses. The city is known for its vibrant culture, kept alive by the utterly hospitable desert people. The Government of Rajasthan recently initiated a clean–up drive and restoration of the historic Jaisalmer Fort, which in 2013 was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site, a great tribute to this surviving medieval fortified city carved in yellow sandstone, where the sun reflects the colours of the rainbow against the golden hues of the great Thar Desert.
Cultural excursions from The Serai to the 10th century desert kingdom of Jaisalmer give you unparalleled insights into this historically rich and enchanted land. Every pore of this region is soaked with history and the remnants of societies and civilizations gone by still stand witness to the vicissitudes of centuries. Tour the fabled ‘Golden Fortress’ of Jaisalmer itself, which rises up and above the city and surrounding desert.
For those looking to soak in the solitudes, The Serai organises camel safari’s to select areas close to the camp.
Enjoy a private foray to the Jain temples and abandoned settlements of a once prosperous community in the village of Kuldhara accompanied by our expert guides.
The vast, unending swathes of sand and dune that is the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, has been home to some of the finest music of India. It was from here, between Jaisalmer and Barmer and beyond, that the Mangniyars, a community of musicians and singers, would move from hamlet to village, narrating the myths and fables, history and legends, of Kings and Conquerors, sages and saints from the region. Visit the homes of generations of these singers.
Take a guided walk through the kitchen gardens and farm. Our chef will accompany you to hand pick your preferred produce. This can be followed by a private breakfast in the gardens.
Guests are welcome to indulge themselves in thrilling desert drives in our specially modified jeeps to the dunes.
Take your pick of transport- camel, jeep or foot! Watch the colours of the golden sands change as you enjoy a private sundowner experience.