Luxe retreats

Luxe retreats
The Serai in Jaisalmer,

The most luxurious hotels and resorts in India - take your pick from Udaipur to Hyderabad, from Agra to Kanha

Staff Writer
April 14 , 2014
07 Min Read

1. Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa: The Sahyadris
There’s hope yet for the Western Ghats. Breaking the golden rule of high-luxury travel in India, a brand-new Hilton has dropped anchor not in sunny Rajasthan or balmy Kerala, but in Shillim, an obscure hamlet about an hour outside Pune. An all-villa property planted in the Sahyadris, the Shillim Estate is the first such address in the area. And with décor that’s suitably minimalist-chic, decks over­hanging virginal forests and tranquil valleys, dedicated spa areas, private pools and gardens and full butler service, it is, by far, the best news for the Ghats since Unesco heritage-tagged it last year. Tariff from Rs 20,000 Contact 021-14712468,

2. Udaivilas: Udaipur
It remains the grand dame of luxury hotels in India. From the Victorian-style bathtubs, to the infin­ity pool-moat and candlelight dinners at the Udaimahal restaurant, Udaivilas makes you feel like you’ve walked into a palace from the 1001 Nights. A massive property set by Lake Pichola, Udaivilas with its domes, frescoes and intricate mirror work is a feast for the senses. You can do properly luxuri­ous things here too, like going out for a mid-lake picnic in your own boat or yoga sessions in the beauti­fully located pavilions. Udaivilas remains one of those properties where the hotel is the destination — even in a destination so superb. Tariff from Rs 41,000 Contact 011-23890606,

3. Amanbagh: Alwar
When luxury travellers around the world tire of luxury and its attendant obsequies they head to an Aman resort. And Amanbagh in Rajasthan’s Alwar district will give them all they’re hoping for: fabulously comfortable accommodations (generous rooms or massive villas with pools and private backyards), fine foods (everything is outstanding, and can range from truffles to dal-sabzi to whatever you want), plenty to see and do in the area (Ajabgarh, Bhangarh, Sariska and more), plenty to not do (massages at the spa). And loads of those crucial subtle luxuries: space, privacy, warm smiles, lack of curiosity and genuflection... Tariff from $800 Contact 01465-223333,

4. The Leela Palace: Udaipur
Flamboyant, even OTT, but fully committed to your comfort, the Leela Palace infuses the Rajasthani no­tion of ‘royal luxury’ with contemporary elements. Entry, in true Leela style, is via a boat across the Lake Pichola, on whose banks the hotel stands and towards which the rooms are oriented. The spa — in spacious tents, with views of the lake, cathedral-like ceilings and fabulous treatments — is worth spending time in. Dining is fine, with a choice of cuisines, and the service is efficient yet discreet (rooms offer butlers too!). If you have the cash to spare, here’s your chance to live like royalty (even if just for a night). Tariff from Rs 36,000 Contact 0294-6701234,

5. Kumarakom Lake Resort: Kottayam
Luxury without ostentation and heritage without pageantry — the Kumarakom Lake Resort, spread over twenty-five acres right on Kerala’s Vembanad lake, is the place to be if under­stated luxury is your thing. The villas, suites and rooms are reincarnations of 16th-century homesteads or illams, but offer all modern luxuries (al fresco bathing areas). The centrepiece, however, is really Ayurmana, the 200-year-old Ayurvedic retreat, once the home of prominent Ayurvedic practitioners and today a place to come and heal. On offer are a range of customised treatments. Food is another highlight, especially the traditional delicacies. And if a room with a view of the backwaters isn’t enough, there’s always a resort houseboat to be had. Tariff from Rs 12,500, valid till April 30 Contact 1800-425-5030,

6. Taj Falaknuma Palace: Hyderabad
In one way or another, the Taj Falaknuma Palace is an endeavour that lasted fifteen years. It shouldn’t have taken that long to turn a disused palace — even if it’s over a century-and-a-quarter old — into a super-luxe sixty-room getaway in the heart of a city. But then Falaknuma is no ordinary palace. It’s a gilded ‘mirror to the sky’ that lords over all of Hyder­abad, spread like a carpet two thousand feet below; incandescent like the Venetian chan­deliers that flare every evening with glamour and forgotten glory. Tariff from Rs 24,500 Contact 040-66298585,

7. Ananda In The Himalayas: Garhwal
It's been around for a while, but even after all these years, Ananda is still unique. Sitting pretty on the palace grounds of the former Maharaja of Tehri-Garhwal, hanging a thousand feet above the green carpet that is the Rajaji National Forest and the Gangetic valley, this is where the world still comes to relax, rejuvenate and reawaken their chakras. Nothing quite compares to hiking in the forested hills above Rishikesh, and then ending the day with an exquisite Tibetan Ku Niye massage and a delicious dinner at the restaurant overlooking the valley. Tariff from Rs 16,200 CONTACT 0124-4516650,

8. Banjaar Tola: Kanha
Camping in Kipling country has its own charms. But when it’s done under a roof of canvas with bamboo flooring, glass doors, multiple Bastar artworks and a floating veranda overlooking the Banjaar river, it acquires the warm patina of royal hunting expeditions. Now a byword for glamping in Central India, Banjaar Tola — a set of two tented camps of nine tents each, spread across ninety acres of land in Kanha — offers safaris led by experts from a combined pool of staff from the Taj as well as &Beyond, Africa’s leading luxury wildlife tour operators. Tariff Rs 36,700 per person, all-inclusive (valid till April 15) CONTACT 1800-111-825,

9. The Serai: Jaisalmer
It’s an inn all right. But don’t let The Serai’s modest nomenclature fool you. For this Relais & Châteaux-endorsed camp — of twenty-one tented suites — is anything but basic. Rising on a hundred-acre private estate of desert scrubland outside the city limits of Jaisalmer, it’s a vision in crisp whites and tans (not a block-print in sight!). Understated and elegant, it con­sciously deconstructs and rejigs old ideals of Rajasthani aesthetics to mimic the elemental peace, noiselessness and space of the desert. This is modern luxury, pitched perfectly. Tariff from Rs 28,750 Contact 011-46172700,

10. Wyndham Grand: Agra
The latest ode to opulence in Agra is also one of the largest. The hotel is situated on an eighteen-acre plot on the Fatehabad Road leading away from the Taj, and it does suffer from a relative lack of proximity to that landmark. How­ever, it makes up for this with a mag­nificent Mughal garden all its own. This central courtyard of pretty fountains and terraced gardens extends from the lobby area to the presidential wing and is fringed by units of suite blocks. The rooms are delightfully spacious and comfortable, and the spread at the hotel’s many restaurants like Pakhtoon Mharo Gaon and Zaiqa is scrumptious. At the Wyndham, you get vintage luxury. Tariff from Rs 14,000 Contact 0562-223700,

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