India is known for its spirituality and diversity. For being on every backpackers trail because it’s just so, so cheap. Right?
India is also the land of royalty, of opulence, home to dozens of erstwhile rajahs and nawabs. Our thirst for over-the-top-luxury has since been honed to reflect the sleek, subtler undertones of the modern rich. So no matter how you choose to define luxury, India has it all.
I’ve had the good fortune of tasting some of this splendour myself, from glamping in the great outdoors to dining in the halls of palatial forts. Here are my five top recommendations from the most high-end hotels in the country.
A fairytale city set in a bygone era and populated by romantics. Squeeze through the tiny bylanes of the old city and you’ll suddenly find yourself in the shadow of the ancient royal palace, stark white walls delicately moulded into trellissed balconies and awnings overlooking the lake. The Taj Lake Palace was made iconic by James Bond in Octopussy decades ago, and it’s still just as thrilling, though it’s now been converted into one of India’s finest heritage properties. The Oberoi Udaivilas is a sprawling complex of uber-luxe buildings and grounds, the proud winner of the Best Indian Hotel for three years in a row.Each room here comes with it’s own private lagoon outside your door and gorgeous views of both the Lake and City Palaces. All said and done, though, they’re still not my final pick.
The Serai, Jaisalmer
Understated and restrained, yet oozing with lavishness. No expense is spared to provide the absolutely highest quality experience in these luxury tents spread on a hundred acres of shimmering desert. Gourmet food, the best wines, private, heated, candlelit pools, privately guided safaris, a world-class spa, private tours, the list is endless. All this, set in the lap of natures bounty among the shifting sands, glinting golden in the warm summer sun.
Originally a kingdom in it’s own right, these majestic mountains rise up above their misty shrouds in a world of complete and pristine isolation. It’s the perfect getaway if you’re looking to cosy up with someone you love in a world of your own. When you’re up for some adventure, you can explore the history of this regal martial race, their gorgeous architecture and culture. Shakti 360° Leti, Bageshwar
Contemporary design, traditional building methods and locally sourced materials come together to create these luxurious one-of-a-kind cabin, the pinnacle of privacy. Floor to ceiling windows offer you an exclusive view of the mountains, verandahs with individual fireplaces make for romantic evenings, unless you want to spend them indoors wrapped in one of the many pashminas strewn around. While the cabin offers you acres of nature without another souk for miles around, liveried staff will still arrive daily with gourmet meals, select wines and any other service you can think of to ask of them. Win-win, isn’t it?
Deep valleys, wide grasslands and dense bamboo thickets spread across 437 sq km. The Bandhavgarh National Park is the quintessential rustling Indian midland forest, packed full with the highest density of tigers in the country, and littered in between are the hunting lodges of erstwhile Maharajas of the region. A 2,000 year old fort is worh a trek through the sal forests to be explored.
Mahua Kothi by Taj, Bandhavgarh
A lovingly restored ‘kothi’ r homestead, surrounded by 12 private suites with individual shaded access, sheltered verandahs and traditional mud floors. You can bank on the famous Taj hospitality as you let the history soaked in the hand-finished walls and open rafters take you on a journey. Each morning, coal warmed kettles will be brought to your door for your daily tea, and gift baskets of yoga goodies and traditional Indian games will keep you busy between bicycle rides.
A colonial paradise of quaint churches and orderly tea plantations, Darjeeling is a slice of heaven on a plate. Ride the adorable toy train to some of the most scenic valleys and cliffs in the country. Stop for a quick momo and thukpa break to fuel up for a lovely walk through the gardens. There is no stress is heaven.
Glenburn Tea Estates
The epitome of sophistication, Glenburn was inspired by the vineyard resorts of Europe, where guests can fully experience and participate in every stage of the wine-making process. But the real draw is the gorgeous accommodation, seven themed suites of delicate British good taste. Hand embroidered linen graces the antique furniture, fresh fruit baskets and flowers adorn the intricate lawn furniture. Mesmerisingly carved wooden panels line the spacious rooms overlooking the green slopes. Pastel shades and soft feathery duvets underline the cosy feel. Hiking trips, fishing, massage therapies, butterfly watching, camping and cooking classes help you unwind at this gorgeous estate.
Since every single one of these locations is at the top of the exclusivity list, you may have some trouble making a reservation. don’t hesitate to drop us a line, we’ll get the job done!