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The Sarai at Toria

The Sarai at Toria, Khajuraho - Panna Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh India

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No Single Use Plastic Low Impact Tourism Local Community Engagement Living Heritage The Human Touch Safe Garbage Disposal Wildlife, Nature & Habitat Conservation Water Conservation Sensitive Destination Discovery

About The Sarai at Toria

Sarai at Toria on the river Ken is an ideal getaway for Khajuraho, Panna, Ajaygarh and Kalinjar. Beautifully designed mud cottages are fashioned on local village houses with the aim to inspire villagers to see the advantages of local architecture. Set in 11 acres of stunning land features, Sarai offers many dining choices like breakfast by the river, lunch under the spreading Ficus tree and dinner by candle light under a star-lit sky. The open pavilion overlooking the river doubles as a lounge and dining. Popular now as a three-night destination Sarai at Toria’s river safaris, village walks and excursions to Ajaygarh fort offer great insights into the region.  

As with most of the RARE hotels, is important to introduce tthe inspired couple behind Sarai at Toria.  Dr. Raghu Chundawat, one of the world’s leading tiger biologists and his wife Joanna Van Gruisen , wildlife photographer, writer and conservationist run this beautiful retreat with just eight cottages, that is perched on the western bank of the river Ken close to the Panna national park just over 20 minutes drive from Khajuraho. 

The Sarai is a simple lodge built with a great balance of detail, design and ecological perspective. The cottages seem to merge naturally with the forest cover behind and the high grass infront. Traditional mud cottage
constructions are inspired by local architecture with thick mud walls and roof made of tin and grass. Inside, the rooms are large, high, well lit and cool while the attached bathrooms almost as large as the room itself have smooth
mineral oxide-finished floors. Solid, uncomplicated furniture with extra-comfortable mattress and warm-as- a-glove duvets, furnishings of Indian fabrics, all requisite amenities in place, make inviting living spaces. While the sit
out that allows you to bask in the late winter sun or watch the fire flies at night will be your favourite place to curl up with a book or just snooze. Four independet cottages stand to one side while the rest of the four cottages have upstairs mezzanine spaces connected in pairs with a machan, of which two overlook the flowering grass and river in front while the other two overlook the forest behind.

An open stone, wood and tile- canopied pavilion overlooks the river affording different views; hammocks, strategically placed day beds and benches are perches for nature lovers. All meals and drinks are served in the pavilion, home recipes that are Dr. Chundawat’ s favourites, breads, croissants and pastries freshly baked in the well equipped kitchen . Reliance on solar power, minimal landscaping and simple decor that neither compromises on the aesthetics nor comfort are what works for Sarai. And charming details that one can never forget – the fish paddocks for the doors, star shaped stone-ware decorated with flaming lantana, soaps and amenities from a local NGO, citronella oil containers to keep away the insects, a gracefully arched bridge that brings you into the Sarai ! 

Besides safaris into the Panna National park and a visit to the world heritage site of the temples of Khajuraho, there is a carefully explored list of excursions that ensure interesting visits. A walk from Rajgarh, an imposing castle a short drive from Sarai to Taparian village through lovely farms and plantation of Ber (Zizyphus mauritiana ) a fruit indigenous to India and Malaysia nicknamed as the ‘poor man’s apple’ ; trips to the Ajaygarh fort, a river safari on the ken to watch birds or a walk along the banks of the Ken. There is much to explore in this region while on a 2-3 nights visit, excursions may be accompanied by naturalist guides trained by Raghu and Joanna.

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If travelling as a family book the rooms adjacent to each other with a mezzanine floor. Stay atleast for 3 nights to explore the forts of Ajaygarh and Kalinjar. Panna National park is just a ten minute drive from the park and is wonderful for birding and drives are quiet and uninterrupted.



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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating

Small lovely boutique lodge
by Jayensh on 11/22/2020

Lovely lodge run by Joanna n Raghu, most rejuvenated short vacation,artistically designed cottages. Delicious local food followed by lovely desserts. Must go to experience incredible India...

Must visit place
by 502nsr on 11/20/2020

Apart from seeing the seeing the tigers we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Sarai@Torai. Raghu and Joanna were great hosts and regaled us with anecdotes of the jungle tigers when they were actively...

A Lovely Stay
by Jennifer H on 04/24/2020

We enjoyed our stay at Sarai immensely. The lodge and cottages are well done and meticulously designed to be as eco-friendly as possible. It is apparent Raghu and Joanna put a lot of time and...


The Sarai at Toria serves a mix of continental and Indian dishes. Many of the latter are Raghu’s family home recipes. These are Malwa cuisine from the western part of Madhya Pradesh. Many of our guests enjoy the food so much, they ask for the recipes and how to make them. In response to this we now offer cooking demonstrations on request. Depending on the season these can happen in the kitchen or outside.
Village Walk The Sarai at Toria offers a number of lovely walks through the surrounding countryside and to visit some of the nearby villages. Guests can walk direct from the Sarai to the village of Toria (complimentary) or from slightly further afield through an agricultural landscape along the edge of the park (Vehicle pick up and drop, costed)
A paradise for birdwatchers, over 150 species may be seen in and round the Sarai at Toria itself. The forest, grassland and riverine habitat make for a good variety. Next door is Panna National Park which also has a mosaic of different habitats providing great bird watching. It is especially known for its raptors and vultures.
Panna Tiger Reserve – this is one of India’s most dramatically scenic parks and is an excellent place to see a variety of central India’s wildlife. However visitors should not expect to see tiger as sightings are by no means guaranteed. The positive side of this is that the park attracts far fewer visitors which makes for more pleasurable trips for those who do go; also it means that for the moment guests can make last minute decisions and still get tickets at short notice. Leopards are more frequently seen and it is a park much appreciated by bird watchers. The Forest Department also provides a short motorboat ride within the park that is a good way to see the large crocodiles up close. There is an extra fee for this over and above the safari cost. We only recommend the boat ride for those visiting the park several times, as it restricts the drive too much for first timers.
The Sarai at Toria grounds provide some wonderful, peaceful and natural areas to enjoy yoga sessions. Each room has a yoga mat and we have an excellent yoga master living locally who comes on request.
Ajaygarh is a small rural town reached by a pleasant forest and rural countryside drive that takes a little over an hour from the Sarai at Toria. The fort is atop a steep outcrop and at present the only way up is on foot so a visitor needs to be reasonably fit as the climb includes 4-500 steps. On the plateau top, midst thinning teak forest, lie exciting Jain temples and other ruins, as old and as well-carved as those at Khajuraho. These incredible archaeological remains are little visited and are all the more thrilling for this. This is a full day excursion that we organise with an al fresco lunch served on the plateau. Kalinjar Fort – this fortress city is believed to be the oldest in India. It rises 1200 feet above the plains of Bundhelkhand but is accessible by road, which makes it a good alternative to Ajaygarh for those put off by climbing. Also very under visited. Exploration, once on top, is best by foot but the visitor may do as much or as little as is comfortable for them. This is a fairly long excursion since it can take two hours to reach (100+ kms) from the Sarai at Toria, so like Ajaygarh we offer it as a day trip with al fresco lunch.
The Sarai at Toria lies on the banks of one of India’s cleanest rivers, the River Ken. The dawn or sunset floats on its waters is one of the most tranquil and delightful experiences; many have rated it a highlight of their whole India trip. “Like floating through a garden”. Fascinating bird life, the eagle owl is favourite, interesting local fishing techniques, fabulous reflections and possibly even a glimpse of crocodile. (complimentary)
Bicycle tours – the quiet country roads around the Sarai at Toria are delightful for biking. The slow pace allows you to soak in the sights of the agricultural landscape and traditional villages through which you pass. Old temples, tanks and river views provide nearby destination points.

Attractions & Excursions

Nearest Airport : Khajurao- 21 Km
Nearest Railway Station : Khajurao -21 Km, Satna -93 Km, Jhansi-183Km

Cancellation Policy
  • 0%–full refund (less bank/card charges/safari booking charges) if cancelled 45 days prior to arrival.
  • 50% retained if cancelled 30–15 days prior to arrival.
  • 100% retained if cancelled 14 or within 14 days of arrival.

Payment Terms

• 50% advance deposit to secure a confirmed reservation

• Full payment 20 days prior to guest arrival