Chandan, India

Photo: SUJÁN

Ah, a refreshing gin and tonic. Right now, it feels like the best cocktail you’ve ever tasted. Maybe it’s the distance you traveled for it. A 45-minute Jeep drive followed by a bumpy camel ride. Maybe it’s the heat. Water is scarce in the desert, so the dry landscape made you thirsty. Maybe it’s the setting. Leather safari chairs have been set up on a carpet on the sand; a portable wooden bar stands off to the side. Or maybe it’s the view. The sun looks like a fireball, and the sand is changing colors as the ball drops toward it.

This unique sundowner is happening in the Thar Desert. The Great Indian Desert forms the boundary between India and Pakistan. Most of the sandy land lies in Western India. The state of Rajasthan, to be exact. India’s largest state, the Land of Kings, is home to historic ruins, ancient temples, and three tiger reserves. Jaisalmer, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of its most popular destinations. The Golden City lures people to its massive sandstone fort. You came to explore Jaisalmer Fort’s huge gateways, intricate carvings, and living community. Yes, people still live here. You then stayed to camp in the surrounding desert.

The Serai sits 45 minutes east of Jaisalmer on 100 remote acres. The camp looks like a traditional Rājputāna royal caravan site. Low-lying scrub surrounds sandstone walls and 21 white tents. The property has its own dairy and vegetable farm. There’s a dining room whose menu changes daily, a bar with board games, and a spa hidden in the tents. There’s even a not-so-traditional pool in the middle of a garden.

Photo: SUJÁN

It’s your tented suite that really made you fall in love with the Serai, though. More sandstone, this time steps, leads to an open-air living space with white-cushioned couches. The tent extends over it to provide some shade. A bed sits in the center of the tent. There’s a small writing desk, woven carpets, and antiques, as well. The tent’s bathroom—you are glamping, after all—even has a towel warmer. Plus hot water bottles are delivered every evening. It may be hot right now, but the temperature drops quickly once the sun sets.

The heat is actually unbearable in the middle of the day. So you visited Kuldhara (an abandoned city) and followed the Twitchers Trail (to see as many different species of birds as possible) early in the morning. You enjoyed a long lunch of chicken kori gassi, peas pulao, and crêpe-like neer dosa in the large dining tent. You found a shady spot by the pool to wait for your afternoon appointment at the SUJÁN Spa. Then you headed deeper into the desert with the promise of cocktails in a magical setting. Mission accomplished.

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