Review of Aman-i-Khas, Ranthambore National Park (India)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

I recently traveled to India & Bhutan. You can read my trip reports here


Today (September 11, 2019): Review of Aman-i-Khas, Ranthambore NP (India).

A wilderness location and a sensitive connection to Rajasthan’s history and culture await guests at Aman-i-Khás, an outpost on the threshold of Ranthambore National Park inspired by lavish Mughal hunting parties of old. Each of the ten soaring guest tents is beautifully furnished and assigned a personal butler. In-between daily jeep safaris to catch a glimpse of tigers and other wildlife, guests can enjoy rejuvenating spa treatments or a dip in the traditional step-well pool, before drinks around a communal firepit and dinners lit by flickering candles under a canopy of stars. Aman-i-Khas is managed by Aman, the world’s most exclusive hotel brand.

Aman-i-Khas features in my top 10 lists of India’s best luxury hotels and the world’s best glamping sites.

Have you ever stayed at Aman-i-Khas? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.

In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):


PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • Aman-i-Khás lies in the Aravalli Hills on the fringes of Ranthambore National Park, in rural Rajasthan in Northern India. The resort is a 15 minutes drive from the entrance to the national park, which is famous for its healthy tiger population. Ranthambore is one of the best locations in India to see these majestic predators in their natural habitat, but is also home to other wildlife, such as leopards, jungle cats, hyenas, sloth bears, chital deer, antelope, gazelle, crocodile and more than 350 species of bird. Ranthambore – a former hunting ground of the Maharajas of Jaipur – is also counted as a famous heritage site because of the pictorial ruins that dot the wildlife park.
  • Derived from the Sanskrit ‘aman’ (meaning peace) and the Hindi/Urdu word of ‘khas’ (meaning special or privileged), Aman-i-Khas is an intimate tented enclave that sits on a sun-dappled landscape of dhok trees and brushwood. A small entrance courtyard gives way to an elevated terrace where you find the dining, library-lounge, and spa tents. These tents are furnished with banquettes, tables and chairs, and overlook a sunken stone-enclosed patio with fire pit, where guests socialize at night under a magical starlit sky. From here, two pathways leads to accommodations, embracing a grassland that evokes the feeling of an authentic bush experience.
  • Aman-i-Khas features ten fabulous guest tents, each rising to six m (20 ft) in height. Positioned to ensure utmost privacy and decorated with classic furnishings, each tent has three sections: a front area with a table and a few chairs, a middle section with a lounge type day bed with double vanity on one side and a free-standing bathtub with shower and toilet on the other side, and a rear section with the master bed and a handsome leather chest that doubles as a minibar. These airy living, sleeping and bathing spaces are divided Mughalstyle by white cotton drapes that descend from the tent’s canopy. The floor, matted in some areas, and the sunken bath are made from stone sourced locally. Each tent also has an outdoor deck with two sun loungers.
  • Located next to the library/lobby tent, the simple but elegant Aman-i-Khas spa is also located within a stand-alone tented pavilion. Centered around a bubbling fountain, the tent houses two intimate treatment rooms, styled in a safari-like decor. Multi-sensory treatments include massages, scrubs and traditional henna art using local herbs and spices. The wellness offering also includes daily yoga sessions, to purify and rebalance the mind and body with a resident yoga specialist. Private yoga sessions are also offered in a range of styles at isolated spots within the Rajasthani wilderness to encourage peace and unity.
  • The property features a small swimming pool which is modeled after a ‘baori’ or ancient step-wells that are found throughout Rajasthan. The pool is surrounded by a terrace with loungers, and pool service is offered throughout the day. Located below the spa tent, the pool area is sheltered by a grove of trees, offering some welcome shade during the heat of the day in the warmer months, although there are enough sunny spots available to keep the sunseekers happy.
  • Aman-i-Khas is the only Aman property that operates on an all-inclusive formula, with rates including all meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and non-alcoholic drinks, plus laundry service. All meals are offers in the softly lit dining tent (or on its terrace, weather permitting), which is furnished with one large central table and several smaller tables, offering an ambiance that harks back to the regal tent cities of Mughal emperors. Indian cuisine and a range of Western dishes are served, with most of the vegetables and herbs grown in the camp’s organic garden. Meals can be tailored to suit individual tastes, and the dinner menu changes daily.
  • Aman-i-Khas is a self-contained world of elegant luxury, representing everything that its mother brand Aman tries to achieve: tranquility, exclusivity, and a sense of place. Aman is the world’s most exclusive hotel brand and the company manages a fabulous collection of intimate properties across the globe. The brand is known for the understated elegance of its resorts, exquisite attention to detail, minimalist design, heartfelt service, and otherworldly locations.
  • Among Aman’s habitués is a group of passionate repeat customers who call themselves ‘Aman junkies’ (count me in) and whose travel plans are determined by Aman locations. It’s a misconception that Aman junkies are always incredibly wealthy people: I prefer to spend my money on two nights at an Aman resort than two weeks at any other resort, as you pay for a unique and life-long memory. In all honesty and without exaggeration, an Aman resort makes some Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton resorts look like a mediocre Holiday Inn hotel.
  • Service at Aman-i-Khas is terrific, as you would expect from an Aman resort. Each tent is assigned a butler – or batman as they are called – who helps with all travel logistics and who assists guests throughout their stay to makes sure the travel experience exceeds all expectations. The batmen are available 24 hours a day, and seemingly pop up out of nowhere the minute guests leave their tents.
  • The main reason why guests stay at Aman-i-Khas is a chance to spot one of the 70 elusive Royal Bengal tigers which roam the beautiful wilderness of the nearby Ranthambore National Park. Led by National Park-approved guides, 3.5-hour tiger safaris take place twice daily (not included in the room rate), early in the morning or late afternoon, in open-top jeeps which seat a maximum of 6 guests. The park is divided in ten zones, and each safari drive is limited to one zone. Full-day (12-hour) and half-day (6-hour) safaris can also be arranged in advance, offering hours of game viewing across all zones of the National Park.
  • A stay at Aman-i-Khas can be easily combined with a stay at its sister property, Amanbagh, which lies around 140 km or 87 miles north (or a 3 hour car drive) from Aman-i-Khas. Both properties offer a totally different experience. While Aman-i-Khas offers a wilderness experience, Amanbagh provides a romantic palace ambience of a bygone Mughal era in a remote Rajastan valley.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

Aman’s wildlife tented camp near Ranthambore National Park is a peaceful retreat and a great addition to any Rajasthani travel itinerary. However, there are several things you need to know though before considering a stay here (as my visit was far from perfect):

  • Getting to Aman-i-Khas requires some efforts. From New Delhi, where most guests will depart from, it is around four to six hours by train to Sawai Madhopur, then 20 minutes by car to Aman-i-Khás. Aman takes the stress out of traveling by train through India by booking the train tickets and having a butler accompany guests throughout the journey. The comfort onboard the train is variable and in the best case scenario guests will travel in a four-berth cabin (that they may share with other travelers). Alternatively guests can take a one hour flight from Delhi to to Jaipur, followed by a three-hour drive to the property.
  • Although the resort grounds are pretty and natural, Aman-i-Khas is not set in a remote location. In fact, the property is surrounded by civilization, located close to a village, and just one of the many hotels along this part of the National Park boundary (there are no lodges within the National Park itself). During my stay, a wedding at the nearby village kept me (and other guests) awake till 2 am on two consecutive nights. which is not acceptable when you pay $1200 USD per night. Fyi, Aman-i-Khas’ management did not address this issue.
  • Sad to say so, especially for an Aman resort (a brand which I adore), but food at Aman-i-Khas is major disappointment (both the taste and food presentation) and well below the standards you would expect for a five star hotel of this caliber. It is all inclusive at this Aman, but this should not give anyone the excuse to sacrifice food quality, especially for the price you pay here. And it was not just one dish, but almost every dish that I ordered. For example, a mozzarella salad that I ordered as a starter was absolutely inedible and so though that I actually needed to chew on the cheese (a first for me). Another example is that when I ordered a glass of wine, the staff brought a glass filled with wine to the table instead of filling my glass at the table, which is unheard of in an upscale dining venue. The contrast with Aman-i-Khas’ sister property Amanbagh – where food is terrific – couldn’t be more painful. On a positive note, the à la carte breakfast was great, but the property really need to rethink its food offering.
  • Ranthambore is famous as the best park India to spot tigers, but it’s still a numbers game, and the more safari excursions you book, the higher your chances of seeing a tiger. There are numerous reviews of travelers on the internet who didn’t spot a tiger during multiple safaris while others encountered tigers within their first minutes in the National Park. To give you an idea, I booked three safari trips in the park, and only spotted one tiger (far away and hidden in the bush) on my last safari trip, which I experienced as a mix of a disappointment (the tiger could barely be seen) and relief (since I did manage to catch a glimpse). If you want to be sure to spot tigers, then it is said that you need to book at least five safari excursions in Ranthambore National Park. The hot months of April and May offer the best chance of spotting tigers, since the vegetation is dry and tigers often linger around creeks.
  • Aman-i-Khas is a seasonal property, and closes from 1 June to 30 September each year during India’s monsoon season.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 7/10
  • Design: 8/10
  • Pool: 7/10
  • Rooms: 9/10
  • Food: 5/10
  • Breakfast: 8/10
  • Spa: 8/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Value for money: 8/10
  • Overall experience: good 8/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: get complimentary VIP perks at Aman-i-Khas when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, WiFi, and a complimentary 60-minute massage for two).
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at an Aman hotel (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The summer season is Ranthambore is from the months of April to June. It’s extremely hot during this time although it’s the best season for spotting tigers (vegetation is sparse and tigers are often found in the river beds in search of water). The monsoon season starts from July and extends till September and Aman-i-Khas is closed at this time. Winter season is from the months of October to March and visiting the park is best done during this time, as the weather is cool and sunny, and wildlife can be easily spotted.


HOW TO GET THERE

International flights arrive at Delhi airport. From here, guests can travel 4 or 6 hours by train with Aman butler service to Sawai Madhopur, then 20 minutes by car to Aman-i-Khás (train tickets are booked by Aman). Alternatively guests can take a one hour flight from Delhi to to Jaipur, followed by a three-hour drive to the property


PHOTOS
TRANSFER TO AMAN-I-KHAS BY TRAIN FROM DELHI
TRANSFER TO AMAN-I-KHAS BY TRAIN FROM DELHI
TRANSFER TO AMAN-I-KHAS BY TRAIN FROM DELHI
TRANSFER TO AMAN-I-KHAS BY TRAIN FROM DELHI
TRANSFER TO AMAN-I-KHAS BY TRAIN FROM DELHI
TRANSFER TO AMAN-I-KHAS BY TRAIN FROM DELHI
TRANSFER TO AMAN-I-KHAS BY TRAIN FROM DELHI
TRANSFER TO AMAN-I-KHAS BY TRAIN FROM DELHI
TRANSFER TO AMAN-I-KHAS BY TRAIN FROM DELHI
TRANSFER TO AMAN-I-KHAS BY TRAIN FROM DELHI
TRANSFER TO AMAN-I-KHAS BY CAR FROM TRAIN STATION
TRANSFER TO AMAN-I-KHAS BY CAR FROM TRAIN STATION
TRANSFER TO AMAN-I-KHAS BY CAR FROM TRAIN STATION
TRANSFER TO AMAN-I-KHAS BY CAR FROM TRAIN STATION
AMAN-I-KHAS: ARRIVAL COURTYARD
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AMAN-I-KHAS: RESORT GROUNDS
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AMAN-I-KHAS: LIBRARY & LOUNGE TENT
LIBRARY & LOUNGE TENT
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AMAN-I-KHAS: ACCOMMODATION
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AMAN-I-KHAS AT NIGHT
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AMAN-I-KHAS: DINNER
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AMAN-I-KHAS: BREAKFAST
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SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK

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