A Boutique Art Hotel
Sawantwadi is a town in the Sindhudurg district of the Konkan region of Maharashtra. Originally known as "Sunderwadi," it included villages from modern-day North Goa. The town, which was the seat of the Sawant Bhonsle dynasty, was founded by Khem Sawant I in 1627, and Khem Sawant II established his capital here. Over time, Sunderwadi was renamed after the Sawant Bhonsles, rulers to Sawantwadi. Known for its lush landscapes, it lies amidst the Western Ghats and a few barely visited beaches. A mere 45-minute drive from North Goa’s, Mopa Airport, it is also easily accessible by rail and road from Mumbai and serves as a gateway to Goa and the Konkan Coast. An intimate town with diverse cultural influences, it is known for its wooden toys, the art form ganjifa, and the city’s pride, The Sawantwadi Palace.
A boutique art and chef-owned hotel, Sawantwadi Palace is a glimpse into a royal experience that is different from elsewhere in India and in a destination not really explored and often ignored due to its proximity to Goa. The royal family is in residence; they are the hosts and provide an all-rounded...
A boutique art and chef-owned hotel, Sawantwadi Palace is a glimpse into a royal experience that is different from elsewhere in India and in a destination not really explored and often ignored due to its proximity to Goa. The royal family is in residence; they are the hosts and provide an all-rounded experience that covers history, art, and cuisine.
Know Your Host
Descendants of the Sawant Bhonsles, the royal family, and a trained team are the hosts here. While Rajasaheb Khem Sawant VI and Shubhadadevi Bhonsle remain in the background, it is Lakham and Shraddha Bhonsle who are the driving forces behind running the hotel. Lakham is a trained Pastry Chef from...
Descendants of the Sawant Bhonsles, the royal family, and a trained team are the hosts here. While Rajasaheb Khem Sawant VI and Shubhadadevi Bhonsle remain in the background, it is Lakham and Shraddha Bhonsle who are the driving forces behind running the hotel. Lakham is a trained Pastry Chef from the Culinary Institute of America and brings his scientific and artistic prowess to the plated desserts served at meals here. Shraddha is a trained Culinary Arts Chef and a Certified Sommelier with expertise in Korean and Japanese cuisine.
The Sawantwadi Palace was built by Khem Sawant III during his reign between 1755–1803. Unlike the palaces found in Rajasthan, the architecture is simpler and combines local and European styles. Made with red laterite stones, English-style arches decorate its façade, and is surrounded by landscaped gardens and coconut groves. The royal family resides in one wing of the Palace. The Durbar Hall houses royal portraits, weaponry, animal trophies, and the royal throne. The museum displays ganjifa cards, paintings, furniture, sculptures, and photographs.
The rooms are located in the Taisaheb Wada, the wing dedicated to the five influential queens of Sawantwadi, and are built around a courtyard with easy access to the pool, an upcoming spa, and the common dining and lounge areas.
There are six rooms at The Sawantwadi Palace on different levels of the two-storey complex. All rooms are spacious with large bathrooms, have a sitting area, gorgeous furniture and some come with a balcony. Each room is named after the Dashavatar (Ten Personas) of the Hindu God Vishnu, keeping in tradition with the ganjifa art form that are based on the many stories about Lord Vishnu. The art form subtly makes its appearance in spots within the room: on the tables, outlining the mirrors, and even on the door and drawer knobs.
Two rooms, Matsya and Kurma, are located on the ground level and accessed through the atrium. The Varaha and Narasimha rooms are on the higher level and accessed by old-world steps. Vamana and Parshuram are situated on a middle level and are L-shaped. An additional bed can be placed in the rooms.
While Sawantwadi is known for its traditional art, at the palace, it also reflects in the cuisine, with Lakham leading the bakery and pastry sections and Shraddha leading the main courses. All meals are plated, and they are an art form by themselves. Breakfast entails freshly baked croissants (plain or chocolate), beautiful butter boards that include a spiced version, and a choice of local delicacies such as misal or their Sawantwadi twist on benedict eggs. Lunch is usually local cuisine – a Rajwada-style thali that pays homage to the ingredients and spices of the region. Dinner is where the chefs bring out their culinary skills with either a five or seven course Asian Tasting menu or a Ramen Tasting menu. The flavours are typically Asian, with their subtle and fresh ingredients. Did we mention that the ramen is made in-house? Discover their take on cold peanut soba noodles, kimchi ramen and gyoza. Add stunning plated desserts that again use local and seasonal ingredients such as jamun (Java plum) as the main ingredient for a sorbet, and one is in culinary heaven.
This is the only place in the country where the art of ganjifa is still practised. The art form was brought by the Persians and was practised by many states in India. Today, thanks to the patronage of the royal family, the art has seen a revival and is thriving. Artists come in every day and create art pieces, and guests can learn to create a card as well.
The museum is within the Palace complex, and one can see the family’s collection of paintings, artefacts, furniture, musical instruments, and photographs.
Visit a local home for a simple village meal, and they will gladly show you around their fields and accompany you on visits to nearby temples.
A picnic lunch can be organised on request to the family’s private estate a short distance away at Amboli Ghat. Set on a hill, there is no one else one can come across (except the staff accompanying you), and it is a beautiful place to unwind, relax, and soak in the landscape that makes up the Western Ghats, particularly in the monsoon season.
Visits to nearby beaches – Vengurla and Shiroda, towns and temples can be organised as well. Some of the popular spots in North Goa can be accessed easily from here.
9. Bird Watching:
Experience Nature unfold at this haven for wildlife enthusiasts, especially birdwatchers. From November to February, diverse migratory species grace the area, while April brings enchanting songs of the Indian Pitta. In July, thrilling encounters with Ceylon frogmouths await, providing year-round opportunities for birdwatching and photography.
With a focus on preserving artistic tradition, Sawantwadi Palace is working toward making it accessible for all.
No Single-Use Plastic: Safe, filtered water is served in glass bottles that are sterilised and refilled. Bathroom amenities come in refillable dispensers. While shopping, plastic bags are not used or taken when offered. For picnics, reusable in-house containers are used.
Water Conservation: Water is sourced from the local municipality, a borewell, and a well. Waste water is recycled, and waste RO water is used for gardening purposes.
Energy Efficiency: The construction allows for cross ventilation in the common areas, and there are plenty of open spaces to use within the property. Large windows allow natural light to stream in, reducing the need for artificial lighting during the day. The one-key system ensures no waste of electricity when the rooms are not in use. Energy efficient lighting and appliances are in place.
Nature and Biological Diversity Conservation: Although the Palace is in the city, the family is active in restoring the natural biodiversity around it. Birding is possible nearby, and the family works closely with government authorities and the community to ensure conservation.
Local Community Engagement: Being rooted in the region for generations, the staff is local. The family is very active within the city and manages a kindergarten, school and college. The toymakers, ganjifa, and lacquerware artists are supported through the efforts of the family.
Light Footprint Tourism: Local artisans and materials were used during the restoration of the Palace. Only a small portion of the Palace is used for guest accommodations. Many of the experiences offered are in-house or within a short distance.
Sensitive Destination Discovery: There is much to see in this region, and the family is ensuring that narrators trained from the local community are involved in showcasing it. This ensures the community is educated on the importance of preservation through tourism.
Heritage Preservation: The art revival story is the strongest here. This is the only region in India that continues to make ganjifa art. The family continues to look for interesting ways to make it more accessible and adapt it to different products. The Palace is well looked after, and heritage preservation moves further into the intangible through cuisine and its modern adaptations.
Human Touch: The staff is well looked after, with some of them staying with them since they joined during the construction phase. There is gender equality, and fair wages are offered to all. The staff and community are looked after, especially in times of need.
The RARE Sustainability Quotient is a self-audit tool that is used by our hotel partners to measure, document, and assess their planet and people friendly practises and is based on the RARE Touchstones.
by Umadevi J on 11/26/2023
Sawantwadi a little town tucked away in the Sindhudurg with a rich history, exquisite flora and fauna has now a boutique hotel housed in a part of the ancient palace - an unusual building made of red...
by ArvindKeith on 11/08/2023
The Palace hotel has well appointed rooms and generous space with lawns and a pool ,ganjifa art workshops, all backed by great service but our vacation turned on its head when the food arrived, this...
by Sarita247 on 10/31/2023
I would label this property as 'the jewel of Sawantwadi'. The charm and vibe of the rooms and surroundings takes your breath away and has a 'wow' factor. Amazing hospitality and even more amazing...