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Since India declared independence from Britain in 1947, many of Rajasthan’s ruling families have turned their palaces into hotels. But for the first time ever, Jaipur’s royal family will make its 300-year-old City Palace available for guests to book on Airbnb to raise money for charity and draw tourism to the area.
Your host will be His Highness Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh, the 21-year-old polo player who succeeded his grandfather in 2011. In addition to playing polo for the Indian national team, Singh has studied at NYU and walked in Dolce and Gabbana’s fashion shows in the past. But Singh wants to do more with his privilege.
“We are in a democracy now, and I cannot let my background go to my head,” Singh told the Week in 2018. “I want to create Jaipur as a destination, host a lot of people and popularize Rajasthan’s art and culture.”
The profile of India’s “Pink City” has certainly risen of late, after UNESCO added the entire walled city to its World Heritage List in 2019 in hopes of drawing more travelers to seek out the rosy 18th-century architecture that gives the city its nickname.
Visitors will soon get to see another side of the city’s history by booking the Gudliya Suite at the City Palace—available for Airbnb stays as of November 23, 2019—within a private section of the royal palace. It has been reserved for the royal family and special guests like Princess Diana and Oprah Winfrey over the years. This is rare access: Only certain sections of the City Palace, such as the galleries and the garden, are open to the public as part of a museum tour.
Guests who book the Gudliya Suite will enjoy a large lounge, kitchen, and a private, indoor swimming pool. The stay also includes a chauffeur-driven car that will whisk you from the airport to the palace, as well as a private butler who will arrange curated experiences within the city like shopping tours, restaurant reservations, and guided walks through museums.
Of course, living like royalty doesn’t come cheap. The Gudliya Suite is priced at $8,000 per night, but if you can make it to Jaipur before the end of 2019, you can book it for a special price of $1,000 per night. Starting on January 1, 2020, the rate will go up to the full $8,000 rate.
Before you let the sticker shock get you, keep in mind that the proceeds from each stay will be donated to the Princess Diya Kumari Foundation, the eponymous nonprofit founded by Singh’s mother that supports rural women and artisans in Rajasthan. Even if you land one of those discounted rates this year, Airbnb will pay the balance for the remaining amount as a contribution to the nonprofit foundation.