9 July 2015
Renowned for its exceptional hospitality, combined with remarkable history and monuments, aromatic gourmet cuisine, extraordinary wildlife and diverse cultural traditions, travelling to India opens both the eyes and mind. Here, we take a close look at our 10 favourite hotels, properties that we rank among the most luxurious in India.
Stay at the Top 10 Luxury hotels in India:
- Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur
- Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur
- Rambagh Palace, Jaipur
- Banjaar Tola, Kanha National Park
- Wildflower Hall, Shimla
- Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra
- Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambore
- The Imperial Hotel, Delhi
- Jawai Leopard Camp, Ranakpur
- Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling
It's hard to believe that this summer palace is real as it floats above the blue waters of Lake Pichola, India's most famous lake. It was brought to life as one of Udaipur's most iconic buildings due to its ornate glasswork, historic paintings and marble pillars. With 66 rooms and 17 suites, stunning views envelop guests at every corner and relaxing afternoons can be spent by the opulent pool or the spa.
Itineraries and excursions can be organized for guests seeking to get the most out of their visit to Udaipur. The hotel boasts evening culture shows, astrology entertainment and visits to the Bazaar shopping arcade, where you can pick up Rajasthani textiles and antique jewelry. The hotel can also arrange animal excursions such as elephant and camel rides, and sunset or Gangaur cruises, allowing guests to fully experience the ‘Venice of the East'.
The last of the great palaces of India and one of the largest private residences in the world, Umaid Bhawan perches high above the desert capital of Jodhpur. A majestic blend of eastern and western architectural influences, the 64 rooms and suites showcase luxury and a distinct ambience. Guests are invited to rejuvenate with a range of treatments in the Jiva Grande Spa or the Jacuzzi and pool that overlook the Mehrangarh Fort.
Within the palace grounds, tennis and croquet lawns, squash courts, secret gardens and stables, libraries, boutiques and a family museum are available for guests to use. However, an architectural marvel is not all that is provided by Umaid Bhawan for its guests, as day excursions to local bazaars and shopping trips can be arranged, alongside outings to cultural attractions such as the famed Mehrangarh Fort.
Experience unashamed indulgence within the walls of the former residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur, the ‘Jewel of Jaipur'. History echoes through the Indian architecture, majestic gardens, and marbled corridors, with various suites offering a different experience: luxury and palace rooms, historical suites, royal suites, and presidential suites. Dining options are fit for a king, with an indulgent menu, legendary bars and ethereal private dining settings, nestled in the palace gardens surrounded by grand fountains.
Inside the hotel, experiences are waiting to be discovered. Nightly performances, historical walks, bird watching, astrological consultations and traditional treatments at the Jiva Spa give guests a taste of royal living. Elsewhere, palace butlers can arrange visits to landmarks, vintage car rides, sporting activities, local shopping and guided tours of palace grounds and nearby locales for those interested in discovering what the kingdom has to offer.
Located upon the banks of the Banjaar River in the Kanha National Park, guests are invited to stay at one of two elegant camps, each composed of nine spacious tents with bamboo floors, canvas roofs and glass doors leading to private decking with views of the river. the accommodation employs energy conscious architecture and eco-friendly design, with its location and legendary hospitality making it the best place to experience the wonder of this prime wildlife reserve.
The main attractions of the hotel are the safari and wildlife viewing available, from spotting a tiger from an elephant's back or distinguishing the 200 bird species from one another. Leisure is also a specialty of Banjaar Tola; from reading beside the river to enjoying spa treatments and swimming, the guest areas provide calming and relaxing ways to unwind.
Secluded and situated over eight thousand feet high in the Himalayas, this magnificent destination has plenty to offer within the luxurious hotel. Guests can enjoy the ‘Sanctuary Experience', encompassing a hike and picnic prepared by master chefs, the Wild Strawberry Trail, white water rafting, bike rental, a colonial heritage tour and also take part in yoga in the Himalayas.
Once Lord Kitchener's private estate, the grand décor complements contemporary facilities; all rooms feature rich furnishings and a private butler, waiting to create your ideal experience. Pan-Asian, traditional Indian and continental cuisine are available, with a fantastic spa offering Ayurvedic treatments and Western therapies over a restful view in 23 acres of forest.
Located just 600 metres from the Taj Mahal, the royalty and decadence doesn't end there, as classical music accompanies the sound of 64 splashing fountains through a spot-lit courtyard and gold leafed lobby. The Oberoi Amarvilas is the only hotel in the city to offer breath-taking, uninterrupted views of India's most famous white marble domes from each of its rooms. A choice of two restaurants offers Indian cuisine and specialities, alongside popular international and local favourites.
Aside from the exceptional views, guests are invited to enjoy the indulgent Oberoi Spa, gym and swimming pool, or experience a romantic star-lit dinner overlooking the Taj Mahal or enchanting pool side pavilions. For those wishing to divulge in the cultural and spiritual experiences that define India, engage in a Hindu blessing ceremony by a Hindu priest or a cooking lesson taught by speciality master chefs.
Designed to reflect the majestic caravans that crossed the deserts carrying noblemen during the times of the Raj, the luxury tents of Oberoi Vanyavilas feature Wi-Fi, air-conditioning and are within easy walking distance of the pool, restaurant and spa. Guests may climb up the observation tower for panoramic views of the hotel and surrounding jungle, and enjoy private dining in the verdant restaurant garden, amphitheatre or lush mango grove. The restaurant and bar have a daily changing menu, embracing local Rajasthani specialities, pan-India and continental dishes.
Enrich your senses with a private yoga session, an elephant interaction or a trip to the Safari Sanctuary. Senses are heightened in a guided tour organised by the hotel to the dusty, colourful and crowded local market lanes of Swai Madhopur, or the exhilarating journey and historical tour of Ranthambhore Fort followed by a visit to the local Ganesha temple. Whatever you decide to do, a trip to Oberoi Vanyavilas will feed your mind, body and soul.
Ranked as the ‘Best Hotel in Delhi' by Travel + Leisure, and listed amongst ‘15 Legendary Hotels Around the World' by Fodors, this iconic Delhi hotel offers an array of marvellous Victorian, colonial and art deco styles, accompanying themes of old world elegance and creating an ever-lasting first impression. Features include a 16,000 sq. foot spa, a swimming pool, sauna and steam room, state-of-the-art Health and Racquet club.
The historic Chandni Chowk, India Gate, Presidential Palace, Jantar Mantar and Humayun's Tomb are a few of the sight-seeing options that are only a short distance away, alongside the vibrant Connaught Place for those interested in museums culture and shopping. The Imperial has 235 guestrooms, including 43 suites overlooking the sprawling lush, landscaped gardens and nine restaurants and two bars to choose from. The 1911 restaurant offers both indoor and alfresco dining, allowing a true, traditional experience of Imperial India.
A haven of biodiversity, Jawai Leopard Camp is home to a blossoming population of one of the world's beautiful big cats. Before sunrise and at dusk, in the company of a tracker and a naturalist, spot and search for the three dozen leopards that hide in the hills, alongside wildlife including crocodiles, antelopes and sloth bears. The camp itself boasts a luxurious and eco-friendly vibe; the eight sophisticated, air-conditioned tents, infinity pool, superb food and five-star service create a ground-breaking camp, the first of its kind in India.
In addition to the wildlife viewing, activities are rife. Walk out through the bush with a Rabari tribesman and experience how local communities tend to their crops, visit local temples, visit the Sujan Spa for a hot-oil massage or request an alfresco cooking lesson.
Situated among hundreds of acres of rolling tea gardens, Glenburn Tea Estate is a family-run business, perched upon hill slope with two scenic rivers passing through. The estate offers an all-inclusive upscale stay for tourists, in plush bungalows oozing old world charm, overlooked by the peak of Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain. Amidst stunning gardens and magnificent views, Glenburn offers a variety of cuisine; traditional Indian dishes, South-East Asian and even European food. Many of the herbs, spices and vegetables used are grown in their own kitchen garden.
While the Tea Garden and Factory visits are the main attraction of this luxurious boutique hotel, other highlights include guided hikes, experiencing the natural pool here, fishing in the Rungeet River, river rafting, herbal massages and day trips to Darjeeling town or Kalimpong. Glenburn is sure to keep you engaged throughout the length of your stay; with history around every corner, simply ask the lady Najma for stories about life living on a tea plantation or the manager of the tea estate for accounts of his experiences and a chance to sample Darjeeling, considered the ‘Champagne of Teas'.