India is a diverse country, rich in culture and traditions. The hospitality industry here is renowned all over the world, and has the ideal of athithi devo bhava – the guest is like god – at its heart. Looking for the very best places to stay for a special occasion? Here are the finest luxury hotels and best places to stay in India, where you’ll receive nothing but the best service.
Looking for a haven from the hot Rajasthan sun? Amanbagh, near the Aravalli mountain range, offers a refuge of pavilions and suites with Mughal design aesthetics, vaulted ceilings and secluded patios and verandas – all surrounded by swaying palm and fruit trees. Treat your body to Ayurveda-based spa wraps, scrubs and yoga before a walk through the garden, once a favourite haunt of the local Maharaja.
Sleek and modern, this city resort offers sunlit standard rooms, plus garden terrace rooms with panoramas over the Lutyens’ Delhi neighbourhood (named after architect Sir Edwin Lutyens who was a key player in the design of New Delhi). You can also opt for a veranda pool suite with a private plunge pool, or a massive two-level Sultan Suite. Cafes, bakeries and bars, plus a variety of restaurants serving continental and Indian fare, mean you won’t go hungry. Hit the squash or tennis courts to burn off those big meals, or go for a hot stone or deep tissue massage at the spa.
What pass for tents at RAAS Chhatrasagar in Rajasthan offer more comfort than most modern homes. Jodhpur stone, teak furnishings, hand-painted local decor on sound-proofed canvas walls – plus heating and air conditioning – make these stylish lodgings the epitome of luxury camping. The real attraction here, though, is the attached reservoir, home to an abundance of birdlife – bring your camera to capture the striking blue kingfishers or the prehistoric-looking pelicans.
Want to spot a Bengal tiger in the wild? If so, Oberoi Vanyavilas Wildlife Resort is the destination for you. Stay in kitted-out triple-canopy tents (with king-sized beds and personal butler service) next to the tiger reserve in Ranthambore National Park. Lily ponds and Mughal architecture, along with a central swimming pool and attractive after-dark lighting, catch the eye. But you’re here for the tigers. Book jungle outings with the Rajasthan Forest Department before heading out to see these endangered predators in the flesh.
ITC Grand Goa is one of the best beach hotels in India. Found just off Arossim Beach, it’s full of cobblestone paths, artificial lagoons, swimming pools, small bridges and plenty of holiday charm. Choose a more modest (yet still lavish) garden-view room with a private balcony, or perhaps go for the sea-view suite with a private lap pool and lounge deck. With six dining spots serving a globe-hopping menu, plus an Ayurvedic wellness spa, your belly, skin and mind are well looked after here.
In the mountainous Himachal Pradesh, Wildflower Hall is the destination for luxury at elevation. Surrounded by the towering snow-capped Himalayas, this colonial-style resort has grand suites, plus alpine-view rooms with teak furnishing and Victorian-inspired decor. When the weather permits, dine outside under a hilltop gazebo with a Himalayan backdrop. When temperatures fall, go ice skating on a tennis court converted into a rink, then get cosy inside next to the fireplaces in the hotel bar or private dining hall.
Luxury runs deep at Kumarakom Lake Resort in Kerala, where Prince Charles chose to celebrate his 65th birthday. It offers luxurious stays in suites and villas edging a 250m-long (820ft), river-like pool. Or you could book a houseboat, drifting along Vembanad Lake, home to plenty of birdlife. Food is equally spectacular – head to Ettukettu Restaurant for seafood-centric Keralan gastronomic delights, including the appetising karimeen pollichathu (fish in banana leaves).
Located less than a kilometre away from the Taj Mahal, the Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra is the most sought-after hotel in the region. The highlight of this five-star hotel lies in the uninterrupted views of the Taj Mahal that each room offers. Book the Luxury Suite for 24-hour butler service, walk-in wardrobe and private terrace. Hop on a golf cart to the historic monument during the day and indulge in a romantic candlelit dinner by night.
Once the residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur, Rambagh Palace gives an authentic royal experience amid the beauty of a bygone era. Constructed in 1835, it has impressive gardens, marble colonnades and opulent guest rooms. Catch a polo match at the adjacent Rambagh polo grounds, hire a vintage car to explore the nearby Amber Palace or book the Baradari Experience, which includes a private dinner and a live music performance.
Nestled in the vast depths of Coorg at 1km (3,500ft) above sea level, the Tamara Coorg is the epitome of a quiet retreat in the lap of nature. The property is surrounded by lush greenery, including coffee, cardamom, and pepper plantations. Listen to the birdsong from your private cottage, complete with a plush king-sized bed and terrace overlooking the rolling hills. With an ecologically sensitive outlook, the hotel minimises its impact on the environment by using electric golf carts around the resort and reusable slippers for guests.
One of the most luxurious places to stay in India, Taj Falaknuma Palace exemplifies 19th-century splendour. Dating back to 1894, it was formerly the residence of the Nizam of Hyderabad, who was the richest man in the world at the time. You will be ushered into the resort on a horse-drawn carriage, before strolling through the richly decorated interior. Book the Nizam suite with its private pool and exclusive access to the Jiva spa.
Experience the heart and soul of India’s smallest state, Goa, with a stay at Alila Diwa. While the region is known for its party culture, this resort offers a tranquil, family-friendly stay. Take a dip in the infinity pool overlooking the rice paddies, while your kids are happily entertained at the on-site kids’ club. Dinner at the restaurant is a must, featuring traditional Goan family recipes. Finish the day with a smokey Manhattan at the speakeasy bar.
The Taj Mahal Palace is a legendary sea-facing jewel of Mumbai. More than a century old, this spectacular India hotel is renowned for its grandeur and its views of the Arabian Sea and the Gateway of India monument. Each luxury room and suite harks back to colonial times with four-poster beds, plush bedding and chandeliers. Eight eateries are available on site – ranging from Japanese to eastern Mediterranean cuisine. Book afternoon tea in the Sea Lounge for a truly regal experience.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Charishma Thankappan.
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