Ahilya Fort is one of Ampersand's Top 10 Romantic Retreats
The unparalleled Ahilya Fort is possibly one of the most romantic spots in India, and a firm Ampersand favourite. An impressive fortress perched high above the sacred River Narmada, Ahilya is an enchanting, comforting and beautiful place to stay. The atmosphere here is more of a cosy and quirky home rather than a grand palace! Ahilya Fort belongs to Richard Holkar whose father was the Maharaja of Indore, and Richard is the driving force behind Ahilya and its underrated success. He has perfectly restored the fort to reveal pale old stone floors, ancient shuttered doors, carved arches and unusual bathrooms, and he is passionate about the region's crafts and traditions, effortlessly weaving these key elements through the interiors and design of the hotel.
Arriving in the sleepy riverside town of Maheshwar, slowly winding through the town and up the hill to the fort, there is an intrinsic sense of spirituality and an insight into untouched rural life. In the small cobbled courtyard, protected by the Nandi bull, guests are welcomed and lead through a small tucked away door which leads into the fort. The views over the Narmarda River are a sight to behold, and what magic awaits… From the garden and terrace the views are spectacular at any time of day; sunrise to the east casts a calm mistiness across the river, sunset in the west sets the fortress and the ghats below ablaze in a bright copper light, and all the while chanting floats up from the neighbouring Hindu temple, which just celebrated its 200th birthday.
Dining at Ahilya Fort is incredibly special, with a new menu and dining location organised for each meal; a candlelit dinner by the tropical pool, a private dinner on one of the turrets, communal dining and sharing stories with other guests on the terrace with the spectacular river views. All the ingredients are organic and either grown in their kitchen garden or locally sourced.
This heritage hotel is the perfect spot to end a tailor-made tour to India, where guests can relax and take stock with a book by the pool, float smoothly down the river on a long boat or sip a G&T from the balcony as the sun dips below the horizon in the evening. For those who are looking to explore the local area a bit further, there are plenty of activities which the hotel can organise: visits to ancient forts and temples and explore the archaeological site of Mandu, visit local handcraft centres where beautiful saris are produced or watch while villagers carve lingas out of clay on the ghats.
For something a little different and away from the masses, Ahilya Fort is perfect - it is completely non-commercial and truly captures the “essence of India”. Spend a few nights at Ahilya Fort including one night on a boat sailing on the stunning Narmada river.
James Jayasundera, MD of Ampersand Travel
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Leslie Siben, India
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
- Jaime Benitez, South India
- Mr David Wallace, North India