Once the private home of the state’s erstwhile rulers, the intimate boutique hotel promises a decadent stay surrounded by lush orchards, rich antiques and royal service.
Acres of private peach and almond orchards that stretch as far as the eye can go set the scene for the lavish experience that awaits you at Karan Mahal. The former residence of Kashmir’s erstwhile ruler has played host to several historical figures such as Edwina Mountbatten, Pandit Nehru, Nikita Khrushchev, Rajendra Prasad, Indira Gandhi and Joseph Campbell. The colonial-style 20th-century home is now a 7-key, luxury boutique hotel that pays homage to the city’s heritage and natural beauty.
The lush gardens laden with daffodils and irises and large pool were made for lazy days spent watching the clouds drift by. Indoors, the decor is rich and sumptuous with polished wooden staircases, ornate hand-knotted woolen carpets, and chandeliers, all lovingly restored by the property’s current owners, Vikramaditya and Chitrangada Singh. The rooms and suites are filled with antiques imported from Europe by Maharaja Hari Singh, the last ruler of Kashmir, and traditional Katamband ceilings, making each worth lingering over. If you have trouble picking a favourite, here’s a tip: two have private entrances and another couple open up right into the gardens. Either way, each comes with a private balcony and gorgeous views of the Zabarwan and Pir Panjal ranges, orchards and the Dal Lake.
The decadence continues in the main dining room where liveried staff will make sure you’re well-fed. The menu features Kashmiri, Nepalese and continental cuisine with dishes such as lamb yakhni, gucchi pulao, bhunwa meat, leek soup and strawberry tart. You can choose to get to know fellow guests at the communal table or opt for a private one.
Located close to Dal Lake, Karan Mahal serves as an excellent base from which to explore the city. The staff will organise heritage excursions into the old city, visits to the Dachigam National Park, shikara (houseboat) rides on the Dal Lake, and visits to temples and craft centres for pashmina and papier-mâché on request.
The best time to pay a visit is in spring, when you’ll be greeted with almost impossibly blue skies and miles of tulips which bloom across the foothills of the Zabarwan by the banks of the Dal Lake. Autumn is equally colourful thanks to the surrounding chinar and ginkgo trees and saffron which flowers at this time.
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