The minute you drive through the gateway of Gajner Palace you’re immersed in the atmosphere of a bygone era. This former hunting lodge, situated on the shores of a tranquil lake behind a wall of spectacular trees, was where the Maharaja of Bikaner used to entertain visiting big wigs in Edwardian times: the Christmas sand grouse shoot here was the absolute highlight of the region’s social calendar.
A typically Rajput mansion of ornately carved, dark-red sandstone, the palace itself holds four separate wings, whose best suites boast their own patios opening on to the water. Lords Elgin and Mountbatten, along with several members of the British royal family, enjoyed the same views of the lakeshore, where wild peacocks and spotted deer still graze in abundance.
The evening entertainment by a local folk troupe, who dance and sing by the light of flaming firebrands against a quintessentially Rajasthani backdrop of filigreed domes, can have changed little since.
A welcome lakeside retreat on any Rajasthan tour Gajner Palace also offers the chance for a game drive in its adjoining wildlife sanctuary.