On the surprisingly uncrowded Jodhpur–Jaisalmer highway that runs parallel to a vast, empty landscape, slowly the sand dunes become visible and one spots an occasional camel foraging on the indigenous Khejari tree, and goats standing on their rear legs to reach the green leaves of the Vilayati babul. In the middle of this stretch, almost equidistant from the historic desert cities of Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Barmer, lies the boutique resort Manvar, which means hospitality.
Devi Lal, a sturdy Rajasthani man in a red bandhani (tie and dye) turban and stately moustache, greets us with the traditional khamaghani and ushers us into the medieval retreat. The main courtyard and restaurant area is a green oasis resounding with birdsong and buzzing with tourists. Built with indigenous material – stone, earth and thatch – Manvar exudes a desert ethos while providing the modern comforts needed for a quick bite or a stay. I have stopped by many times and found their food consistently good and the service quick and warm. One can choose from toasted gourmet sandwiches and aloo paranthas to Rajasthani delicacies like kairsangari, gutte ki sabji or laalmaans cooked by local chefs.
Earthy and rugged
Designed in a dhani or village style by award-winning architect Rajiv Narain, the resort stands out from the other heritage hotels mushrooming across the state. A narrow pathway lined with shops selling Rajasthani curios, trinkets and arts and crafts leads to the second courtyard, which serves as a more intimate space. Called Anandgram, it overlooks a forest and the distant dunes. The resort has 21 en suite rooms set amid the trees, each with a patio, patterned mosaic floors, and customised furniture and rugs. The earthy and rugged exteriors are in sharp contrast to the warm and modern interiors.
For those with time for adventure, Manvar also has 60 tents with modern amenities at two different locations not far from the main resort. Visitors can take camel or jeep rides, and witness the magnificent sunrise and sunset across the vast expanse of the Thar. They can hope for a glimpse of the shy chinkara or Indian gazelle leaping across the dunes, or get an insight of village life and crafts while visiting the homes of the Bishnois, the Rajputs and the Meghwals. The internationally renowned village of Khichan, home to thousands of migratory Demoiselle cranes during winter, is only 45 km from the resort. As dusk falls and stars carpet the night sky, the resort and camps come alive with folk music and campfires. The sand shimmering in the glow of a full moon is mesmerising.
Manvar has not only become a delightful tourist destination, but is also an economic hub providing employment for the neighbouring villages. As manager Durgveer Singh Solanki says, “We have 120 employees. And this year we had 1,000 national and 4,650 foreign tourists staying at the resort and camps.”
Getting there Manvar is 110 km from Jodhpur, well connected by air, train and road transport. From Jaisalmer, it is 180 km, from Bikaner 225 km, from Jaipur 450 km and from Udaipur 390 km
Facilities Swimming pool, massage rooms, book and craft shop, conference facilities, excursions to nearby villages