India is a huge country no matter the metric you’re measuring with, and its diverse population, sprawling size, gigantic cities, and range of climates and ecosystems means there’s something for every traveller. It also means that there’s a wealth of luxury things to do in India on offer, including everything from sumptuous meals and lavish suites at palace hotels to one-of-a-kind shopping expeditions and lovely natural retreats. No matter the aim of your vacation, let our list of 50 luxury things to do in India be the makings of your next trip abroad.
1) Private Dinner at the Mehrangarh Fort
The golden-hued Mehrangarh Fort is the jewel of Jodhpur. Enjoy one of the city’s best views of the historic landmark during a private dinner with the Director of the Mehrangarh Museum. After dining on the ramparts, the evening concludes with a private walking tour (and generous pours of Champagne).
You can find this beautiful fort featured in the Essence of Rajasthan itinerary.
Go for a private, nighttime dinner at the Mehrangarh Fort © iannomadav/iStock/Thinkstock
2) Hot Air Ballooning over the Pushkar Camel Fair
Every November, thousands of visitors, livestock in tow, flood into the beautiful Rajasthani city of Pushkar. For the best views of the vibrant festivities, which include races and camel beauty contests, take to the skies in a custom hot air balloon.
Hot air balloons provide the best perspective on the Pushkar Camel Fair © rajrajiv/iStock/Thinkstock
3) Private Bollywood Film Screening
Going to the movies in India isn’t quite the same as it is back home. As most films screened are multi-hour Bollywood epics, visitors can expect intervals, food delivered straight to their seat, and comfy accommodations. For a personal experience, rent out a cinema for a private screening.
For the ultimate in Bollywood viewing, opt for a private screening © Kyoungil Jeon/iStock/Thinkstock
4) Visit Delhi with Celebrated Author William Dalrymple
Award-winning writer William Dalrymple has spent the last 30 years in India, where he’s penned masterworks like City of Djinns. A resident of Delhi, he provides visitors to the colourful metropolis with incredible, personal tours into the city’s heart.
William Dalrymple takes visitors through the heart of Delhi © Dell Inc
5) Private Polo Matches
Whether you plan on travelling to Delhi or Jaipur, register for a private polo session to test your athleticism and blow off some steam. Those after a truly special experience can even sign up for elephant polo.
Private elephant polo is one luxurious must-do © alberto cosi/iStock/Thinkstock
6) Meet a Bollywood Star
Mumbai is to Bollywood as Los Angeles is to Hollywood, and visitors to this bustling Indian megalopolis may be lucky enough to meet a Bollywood star in person. In addition to star-studded film premiers and industry parties, a number of swanky restaurants and bars in town are known to be frequented by A-listers.
If feeling like a visit to the red carpet of Mumbai you can view our itinerary for exploring the heart of the area.
Stars like Aishwarya Rai flock to Mumbai © Crystal Lifi
7) Private Snake Boat Race in Kerala
In the Kuttanad region of Kerala, villages have long held traditional snake boat races, where snake-shaped canoes attempt to best each other. The most prominent race, the Nehru Trophy contest, takes place every August.
You can view the other delights Kerala has to offer in our Malabar Days itinerary.
Kerala’s snake boat races exemplify the unique local culture © Jerry John
8) Take Over Taj Nadesar Palace
In Varanasi, the glamorous Taj Nadesar Palace has been a favourite among visiting royals and celebrities since the 19th century. Guests can revel in the palace’s opulence during a private lunch and conversation with scholars from the Jnana Pravaha, a local centre for cultural studies.
The Taj Nadesar Palace is a favourite of royals and celebrities © Taj Hotels
9) A Day Trip and Private Excursion to Indian Wine Country
Nashik in Western India is being hailed as India’s Napa Valley, and it’s true that the area has become known for its high-quality wines. Those looking for a luxury tasting can travel amongst the vineyards in a private plane before finishing with a personal tour and dinner at the acclaimed Sula Vineyards.
You can further read about the famous Sula vineyards in our interview with Rajeev Samant, the man who first launched the company.
Nasik is known as India’s Napa Valley © Sula Vineyards
10) Private Vegetarian Dinner on the Varanasi Ghats
On the Varanasi Ghats, the Peshwa Haveli hosts a spectacular ‘Relive Banaras’ dining experience. The nearby temple is illuminated by lights and diyas, and guests dine in splendour amongst the flickering flames and Brahmin hymns. After the vegetarian dinner, visitors receive tea and coffee and watch a traditional Indian dance performance.
The scenic Varansi Ghats are the perfect location for a private dinner © Dirk Ott/iStock/Thinkstock
11) Take Over the JAWAI Leopard Camp
Wild India is home to a number of incredible species, including majestic leopards. Those staying in the JAWAI Leopard Camp, in gorgeous rural Rajasthan, can take over the camp for an exclusive experience. Local safari treks complete the experience.
Spot local wildlife while staying at the JAWAI Leopard Camp © JAWAI Leopard Camp
12) A Sunset Yacht Tour of Gateway of India
One of Mumbai’s most iconic attractions, the gorgeous Gateway of India is a vestige of the colonial period. Habitually heaving with crowds, the monument is best seen on a private, sunset yacht tour, when it’s illuminated for evening viewers. A private dinner completes the occasion.
The Gateway of India is best appreciated by yacht tour © PisitBurana/iStock/Thinkstock
13) Dinner at Moti Dungri in Jaipur
Dedicated to Ganesha, the Moti Dungri Fort is one of the oldest and most beautiful in Jaipur. For a rare opportunity to venture beyond the outer limits of the building (the inhabited fort is rarely open to the public), visitors can attend a dinner held within its walls.
The Moti Dungri Fort opens rarely for private dinners © Kenneth Lu
14) Take Over a Haveli During the World Sufi Spirit Festival
For an experience full of music, dance, and mysticism, the utterly unique World Sufi Spirit Festival is an unforgettable experience. To spend the festival in true luxury, book out a whole haveli at the luxurious Ranvas Hotel in Nagaur.
The World Sufi Spirit Festival is a mix of performance, spirituality, and music © World Sufi Spirit Festival
15) Private Dining Experience at the Oberoi Amarvilas
Located in the shadow of the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Oberoi Amarvilas promises a truly memorable meal for those seeking a luxury experience. Set just 600 meters away the Taj, the hotel lets guests observe its moonlight glow while enjoying dinner and exclusive butler services.
You can find a visit to the Taj Mahal at dawn planned in our itinerary of the Essential India.
Luxurious private dining at the Oberoi Amarvilas © Oberoi Hotels
16) A Visit to the Abandoned City of Mandu
In the depths of Madhya Pradesh, the abandoned city of Mandu offers an array of stunning ruins, from palaces and mosques to tombs and other incredible vestiges of the past. Explore the Rupmati Pavilion, one of the area’s most impressive monuments, and take in the wild and unspoiled nature of the region.
The abandoned city of Mandu offers incredible ruins © Varun Shiv Kapur
17) A 14-Day Stay at Kalari Kovilakom Ayurvedic Retreat
Find true, spiritual relaxation during a restorative two week-stay at the Kalari Kovilakom retreat in the jungles of Kerala. Far away from India’s urban bustle, the retreat’s comfortable suites, home-cooked food and truly refreshing treatments will leave you feeling brand new.
Kalari Kovilakom specialises in relaxation © Kalari Kovilakom
18) Private Cooking Classes at the Oberoi Rajvilas
The fort-like Oberoi Rajvilas, an elegant complex of imposing architecture, lush gardens, and luxurious villas located just outside Jaipur, is ranked amongst the best resorts in the world. One of its special offerings is a private cookery course in the hotel restaurant, which schools guests in the art of fragrant, spice-laden Indian cuisine.
Guests can learn to cook Indian fare at the Oberoi Rajvilas © Oberoi Hotels
19) A Stay at the Sajjan Niwas Suite at The Lake Palace
A shimmering mirage in the middle of Lake Pichola in Udaipur, the Taj Lake Palace is one of the finest places to stay in all of India. The crown jewel of the hotel, which is set in what was once a royal pleasure palace, is the Sajjan Niwas Suite. Built by a Maharana in 1884, the suite’s terrace opens directly onto the lake.
The Sajjan Niwas Suite is the crown jewel of the Taj Lake Palace © Taj Hotels
20) A Romantic Private Dinner at Chhatra Sagar Dam
A man-made dam in Rajasthan, Chhatra Sagar is a verdant oasis in the dry Rajasthani desert. The property now hosts a luxury camp for travellers, and waterside, private dining is a wonderful way to take in the magical scenery.
Chhatra Sagar is a verdant oasis in Rajasthan © Chhatra Sagar
21) Trips on the Private Greaves Plane
Available exclusively for guests, the private Greaves plane is the best way for the busy traveller to see the best of India. Whether you’re after a trip to the majestic Himalayas in the north or want to venture down to the jungles of the south, you can see it all in ease and comfort.
The Greaves Plane makes travelling across the subcontinent easy
22) A Stay at Amanbagh Resort
Set amongst eucalyptus and palm trees, guests can find new levels of relaxation at the Amanbagh Resort in Rajasthan. The complex, comprised of lavish haveli-style suites, a crystalline pool, and tropical flora, also offers a spa and hosted nature excursions.
The Amanbagh Resort offers haveli-style suites © Aman Resorts
23) A Fashion-Focused Long Weekend in Mumbai
Given that it’s home to India’s glittering film industry, it’s no surprise that Mumbai is also the country’s fashion capital. The style-conscious traveller should devote a long weekend to exploring its offerings with personal shoppers in tow. Hotel tailors can adjust any new purchases to fit you like a glove.
Mumbai is India’s fashion capital © bharath744/iStock/Thinkstock
24) Take Over a Sukoon Houseboat on Dal Lake
The Dal Lake in Srinagar, Kashmir, is often described as paradise on Earth. Lap up the incomparable surroundings from a Sukoon Houseboat afloat on the banks of the lake. Guests also have access to locally cooked meals and a gondola for aquatic excursions.
The Dal Lake in Kashmir has been likened to paradise © Sukoon
25) A Trip on the SUJAN Private Train Carriage
SUJAN operates several luxury camps in the wilds of the north Indian countryside. Now, guests can ensure that every step of their journey is appropriately luxurious with Sujan’s new private train carriages. Affixed to regular trains, visitors will travel in style to and from their hotel of choice.
The SUJAN private train carriage allows for a completely luxurious journey © Hugo Burn
26) The Jiva Spa Boat on Lake Pichola
In Udaipur’s glittering Lake Pichola, Taj’s Jiva Spa Boat offsets the tranquillity of its surroundings with a range of treatments designed to pamper. A number of offerings are available, including deep tissue massages and a soak in the outdoor bath. Gourmet dinners complete the experience.
The Jiva Spa Boat is set in Udaipur’s Lake Pichola © Taj Hotels
27) Astrology Readings on the Lawns of the Taj Rambagh Palace
Travellers with a mystical side will want to stay at the opulent Taj Rambagh Palace when visiting Jaipur. Among the elegant suites and high-end amenities, the hotel also employs an astrologer and palm-reader. Sessions are conducted on the lawns of the lavish property.
At the Taj Rambagh Palace, astrology readings are conducted on the lawns © Taj Hotels
28) The Kanchenjunga Suite at the Glenburn Tea Estate
High in the Himalayas, the Glenburn Tea Estate is located on a remote tea plantation. Looking out on the verdant rows and the snowy peaks beyond, the Kanchenjunga Suite’s wall-to-wall windows provide breathtaking views.
The Glenburn Tea Estate is located high in the Himalayas © Glenburn Tea Estate
29) Shakti Sikkim
Ranked among Lonely Planet’s top destinations for 2014, Sikkim is a remote Buddhist state in India’s northeastern Himalayas. The cultural destination offers visitors an incredible glimpse into the ascetic lifestyle and unbeatable geography, and Shakti provides seamless touring opportunities.
In a fantastic location, Shakti featured in our article of luxurious trekking vacations.
The remote Sikkim offers a tranquil, Buddhist existence © Shakti
30) CGH Earth House Boat
Threading the backwaters of Kerala, CGH Earth’s House Boats provide passage into the remote heart of this southern Indian state. Along the Spice Coast, visitors can take in the stretches of teak, coconut, and cardamom trees and soak up the relaxed atmosphere of the region.
The CGH Earth House Boat was also featured in our article about luxury boats in Kerala.
CGH Earth’s Houseboats explore the Keralan Backwaters © CGH Earth
31) Carnoustie Ayurveda & Wellness Resort
Both eco-friendly and healing, the Carnoustie Ayurveda and Wellness Resort in Kerala has 20 villas and a fully equipped spa on-site. Guests flock to Carnoustie to meet the celebrated Dr. Ali, who hosts retreats here from time to time.
The Carnoustie Ayurveda and Wellness Resort is healing and eco-friendly © Carnoustie Resorts
32) The Ultimate Travelling Camp in Nagaland
The first truly mobile luxury camp in India, the Ultimate Travelling Camp’s Kohima Camp in Nagaland brings guests to the hard-to-access, gorgeous northeastern part of the country. Home of the indigenous Naga people, the region’s Himalayan landscape is stunning, and UTC ensures that a high level of comfort is maintained across its facilities.
Because of its variable location this incredible experience made it into our most luxurious treks in the Himalayas.
The Ultimate Travelling Camp brings glamping to new heights © The Ultimate Travelling Camp
33) See the Taj Mahal by Moonlight
The Taj Mahal closes most evenings at sunset, but during the full moon it stays open later for nighttime viewing. The lunar glow, reflected on the white marble mausoleum, makes for one of the most memorable experiences that any traveller to India could have.
The Taj Mahal is magical when lit by moonlight © Sze Fei Wong/iStock/Thinkstock
34) Stay Onboard the Maharajas Express
India’s network of railways reflects an iconic part of the country’s heritage. The best way to travel along them in style, though, is on board the Maharajas Express. With private suites, bar and dining cars serving gourmet meals, and even an on-board boutique, there are few better ways to travel.
The Maharajas Express is a perfectly luxurious train experience © Maharajas Express
35) A Private Excursion to Somsagar Lake
Those planning to stay at the Amanbagh Resort (see number 22) in Rajasthan would do well to set aside time in their schedules to go on a private excursion to Somsagar Lake. Built in 1598, the lake is accessible through a natural marble ravine. All walks culminate with meditation and breakfast next to its waters.
Guests can leave from the Amanbagh Resort to attend a private excursion to Somsagar Lake © Aman Resorts
36) From Bangalore to the Maldives
Visitors to Bangalore can soak up the city’s style and bustle – side trips to the beautiful Mysore and Nagarhole National Park are also recommended – before finishing off their vaction with a retreat to the Maldives. Regarded as having some of the world’s best beaches, the Maldives are also uniquely accessible from Bangalore, as British Airways flies directly between the two.
Guests can take a direct flight from Bangalore to the Maldives © Tatiana Popova/iStock/Thinkstock
37) A Weeklong Stay at the Banjaar Tola Camp
Those eager to spot some of India’s rare wildlife should schedule a stay at the Banjaar Tola Camp. Located within the jungles of Kanha National Park, the luxury camp is set in the midst of a tiger preserve. Spotting the big cats in their native habitat, while not guaranteed, is more likely here than virtually anywhere else in India.
The Banjaar Tola Camp is located within a tiger preserve © Banjaar Tola Camp
38) Take Over the Villa Aashyana Lakhanpal
Going on a vacation to Goa? The Villa Aashyana Lakhanpal offers travellers a tranquil getaway with luxurious facilities, garden dining, and pristine surroundings. Located on the lovely Candolim beach, it provides a rare chance to fully unwind.
The Villa Aashyana Lakhanpal is located near to Candolim Beach © Villa Aashyana Lakhanpal
39) Stay at Elsewhere
Ranked among the country’s top beach retreats, Elsewhere offers an escape into nature. Accessible from Goa, the property is located right on the turquoise waters of the Arabian Sea. Visitors can go on fishing breaks; bird-watching expeditions; swim with otters; watch turtles hatch, and otherwise fully immerse themselves in nature.
Elsewhere is ranked among the country’s top beach retreats © Elsewhere
40) Take Over Balsamand Lake Palace
A incredible Rajasthani palace that’s located off the main tourist trail, the Bal Samand Lake Palace offers up a rich array of sights for visitors. Its immaculately groomed grounds, lush garden, and views over the lake all transport guests back to a bygone era of royal grandeur.
The Bal Samand Lake Palace evokes bygone glamour © Bal Samand Lake Palace
41) Go to the Jodhpur RIFF Music Festival
Timed to coincide every year with the brightest full moon, known as the Sharad Purnima, the Jodhpur RIFF Festival is held at the Mehrangarh Fort. Showcasing musicians from around the world, the moonlit festival focuses on classical and heritage music.
Jodhpur RIFF is an incredible festival of music © Kavi Bhansali/Jodhpur RIFF
42) Dine at the Terrace Restaurant at the Raas Hotel
The newly opened Raas Hotel is changing the landscape of boutique accommodations in Jodhpur. Featuring sleek, contemporary design, the hotel’s crown jewel is its glittering terrace, which spotlights the illuminated Mehrangarh Fort. The terrace also features an open-air restaurant, one of the finest in Rajasthan.
The Raas Hotel’s terrace offers one of Jodhpur’s best views © Raas Hotel
43) Stay in the Kashmiri Himalayas at the Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa
In the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas, Gulmarg in Kashmir receives heavy snowfall every year. That makes the newly opened Khyber Himalayan Resort perfect for skiers and other winter sports fans. Even if you plan on taking it easy, the amenities – including a luxurious spa, elegant dining, and floor-to-ceiling windows with mountain views – are enviable.
The Khyber Himalayan Resort is perfect for winter sport lovers © Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa, Gulmarg
44) Explore the Orchid Gardens of the Himalayas
For lovers of orchids, India is a kind of earthly paradise: home to hundreds of rare species, the Eastern and Western Himalayas are a veritable garden of these coveted blossoms. From species like the Three Flowered Egret Orchid to the Foxtail Orchid, these colourful varieties are a big draw in the area.
Hundreds of orchid species can be found in the Himalayas © Lee Torrens/Hemera/Thinkstock
45) Enjoy the Beach in Kerala at the Neeleshwar Hermitage
India has no shortage of gorgeous, sandy stretches for those after a beach vacation, and the Neeleshwar Hermitage, a luxury resort in Northern Kerala, is perfectly located for coastal relaxation. The nearby beaches, which look out to the Arabian Sea, are among India’s best.
Kerala’s beaches offer perfect relaxation © Mik122/iStock/Thinkstock
46) Peruse the India Art Fair
One of the most high-profile art fairs in southeast Asia, the India Art Fair brings together close to 100 luxury galleries representing over 1,000 artists. For viewers and collectors, the event offers the opportunity to connect with the subcontinent’s thriving contemporary art scene.
The India Art Fair is a must-visit for both casual viewers and collectors © André J Fanthome
47) Visit the Dance Village of Nrityagram
For those staying at the Oberoi in Bangalore, the hotel provides the rare chance to connect with one of the region’s most stunning cultural offerings: traditional Odissi dance. Those visiting the Dance Village of Nrityagram will enjoy a special performance and tour of the facilities.
The Dance Village of Nrityagram showcases traditional Odissi dance © Iqbal Saggu
48) Arrive into Varanasi from the Assam Bengal Cruise
A hotel and a mode of transport, Assam Bengal Navigation Cruises take guests on a languorous journey along India’s meandering rivers, with sightseeing opportunities aplenty. From Calcutta to Varanasi, the route winds its way through some of the country’s finest landscapes.
Assam Bengal Navigation Cruises provide a relaxing mode of transport © Assam Bengal Navigation
49) See the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland
Held every December, the striking and vibrant Hornbill Festival is a unique celebration. Featuring members of the Naga tribes of the region, the festival offers an incredible opportunity to experience the culture of Nagaland via a series of dance, sport, and other performances.
The Hornbill Festival is a striking celebration of Naga culture © Walter Callens
50) Eat at the Chef’s Table at Indian Accent at the Manor
Within New Delhi’s Manor Hotel, Indian Accent offers accomplished, gourmet cooking that blends Eastern and Western culinary influences. For a truly lavish meal, guests can dine at the Chef’s Table, where they’ll indulge in eight courses, wine pairing with each, and the chance to liaise directly with the Executive Chef or Chef de Cuisine.
Indian Accent at the Manor is one of India’s finest restaurants © Indian Accent