India is a land of extremes: from leafy jungles to golden
deserts, bustling cities to rural villages. It's fair to say that
this sprawling and diverse country offers a different experience
for every traveller - though all should be stimulating, sensory,
Travellers to India can also expect to encounter some of the finest luxury offerings in the world. From
palace hotels - where you can stay alongside royalty - to pampering
spas, fine dining enclaves, and high-end shops, a luxury Indian
holiday is certain to be utterly memorable.
India offers a huge range of fabulous, top-class hotels and
resorts, from former palaces to famous historical venues and
swish contemporary alternatives. Here are some of the very best
options for luxury accommodation in India.
A luxury stay in India begins
with high-end accommodation © Taj Hotels
Ananda, Rishikesh -
Ananda is the only destination spa hotel in the Himalayan
foothills. The retreat is ranked among the top 10 spa hotels in the
world, and the rugged views are unbelievable. A must for visitors
to North India.
Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling
- This is another top hotel located in the Himalayas, this time in
in the east of India. Overlooked by dramatic scenery, Glenburn Tea
Estate is a stunning tea plantation offering some of the best
accommodation in the region.
Taj Mahal Palace,
Mumbai - Mumbai is home to scores of destination hotels,
but the Taj is arguably the most famous and iconic. For the best
service, food, drink and grounds, this is a great choice.
The Leela, Kerala -
Located on a clifftop overlooking Keralan beaches, The Leela has a
sublime setting. 182 rooms and suites sit looking out onto the
Laccadive Sea, with gorgeous swimming pools, private sundecks and
excellent food and drink.
Taj Baghvan, Pench
National Park - This luxury resort lies on the very
edge of Pench National Park, meaning guests are just a five-minute
stroll away from the lush Indian jungle. Here, visitors sip
cocktails under a huge banyan tree and sit on a deck overlooking a
route used by local tigers. If you find yourself in central India,
this is the safari retreat to seek out.
Taj Lake Palace,
Udaipur - Within stunning Lake Pichola is the floating
Taj Lake Palace, constructed as a summer palace for local royalty
in the 18th century. Today, the structure houses a five
star hotel and was made famous in 1983 when it served as a set for
the James Bond film Octopussy.
India offers a colossal abundance of beautiful, historic sights.
Here are a few highlights amongst the stunning Indian sights that
you really shouldn't miss on a luxury tour.
Begin your tour of India's top
luxury sights with the Taj Mahal © Byelikova_Oksana/iStock/Thinkstock
Taj Mahal, Agra - This immense,
17th-century mausoleum was built by Shah Jahan in memory
of his favourite wife, and ranks consistently among India's
most-visited landmarks. Described by Indian poet Rabindranath
Tagore as "a teardrop on the cheek of eternity," its ornate
architecture, reflecting pools, and ornamental gardens are as
stunning in real life as they are in the collective
Hyderabad - This city has lots to offer, from
its dramatic granite fort to its mosques and markets. The Charminar
is Hyderabad's most iconic attraction, built in the 16th
century. This awe-inspiring mosque has 160-foot minarets and
attracts flocks of visitors all year long.
Jaisalmer, Rajasthan - Also known as the Golden
Jaisalmer is a town built of yellow sandstone, located in the
wilds of desert Rajasthan. The huge Jaisalmer Fort stands proudly
above the city, and is well worth a visit.
Ajanta Caves, Aurangabad - For a taste of
ancient Indian history, pay a visit to the Ajanta Caves. These
caverns date back to the 2nd century BC; they were
abandoned in 650 AD and forgotten, until British hunters
rediscovered them in the early 19th century. Exquisite
carvings and paintings can be found inside.
Virupaksha Temple, Hampi - Once a modest shrine
founded around 7 AD, Virupaksha Temple grew over the years to
become a large Hindu complex, visited by countless travellers every
Nadu - Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is one of
India's largest cities yet remains a very friendly place, and one
with plenty of attractions. Elliot's Beach is a famous Tamil film
industry location, and is always busy with people milling around
the food stalls. The city is also home to scores of temples and has
some first-rate restaurants to choose from, as well as a number of
five star hotels.
Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar - Better known as the
Golden Temple, Harmandir Sahib is one of India's most popular
attractions. This is the centre of the Sikh world, built in the
16th century by Guru Ramdas ji. Its gold-covered
exterior makes it one of the most striking religious buildings in
Goa - Goa has its fair share of beaches, as well as
its fair share of tropical sunshine, which is why it's so popular
amongst international travellers and Indian tourists alike. Palolem
Beach is arguably the most beautiful bay along the coast. It has
headlands on either side so the sea is calm, warm, and a pleasure
to dip into.
Varanasi - The city of Varasani is a sacred
Hindu site, on the banks of the equally sacred Ganges River. It's
one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and is ranked by
many as an essential stop for visitors to India.
Jodhpur, Rajasthan -
The Blue City is a marvel to behold, with its indigo painted
walls and houses. The vast Mehrangarh Fort and equally amazing
Umaid Bhawan Palace are must-visit spots, but it can be equally
inspiring simply to stroll around the meandering, azure-hued
India is best experienced first-hand, so get ready to explore.
From safaris to luxury train journeys,
these amazing Indian activities and adventures will provide a
memorable taste of all that the subcontinent has to offer.
A houseboat journey is one of
many amazing Indian activities and adventures © f9photos/iStock/Thinkstock
Experience India's wildlife - India is a
fantastic place to see
wildlife - you only need to read Rudyard Kipling's The
Jungle Book to know that. A number of luxury wildlife safaris
and excursions are hosted across the country's nature preserves and
national parks, allowing you to see exotic animals in their natural
Expeditions in North India and Nepal give you the chance to see
rhinos and tigers; you can seek out Bengal tigers in national parks
like Ranthambore, and a trip to Kerala offers
majestic elephants and cheeky monkeys. There are numerous tours
available of varying lengths, which also allow visitors to get a
flavour for local cities.
Cruise on a houseboat - Kerala is a popular
destination for houseboat
holidays, during which you cruise along the calm backwaters on
well-appointed vessels. Enjoy a gentle, relaxing ride and watch the
tropical, South Indian scenery float by.
Jet off on a private plane tour - Forget delays
and cramped aeroplanes - see the best of India on your own private plane
tour. Set your own schedule and list of destinations, and a
luxury motor will whisk you away as soon as you disembark.
Take a luxury train journey - India has a huge
rail network used by millions of people every day - indeed, over a
million people are employed by it - so this is a colourful way to
get around. Not all trains are created equal, but luxury train
travel is certain to offer a pleasant trip. Custom itineraries take
visitors through Delhi,
Rajasthan, Karnataka and other areas, while offering first
class service and accommodation.
Relax at a luxury spa - India has long been a
destination for travellers seeking peace, relaxation and even
spiritual enlightenment. The home of Ayurveda and yoga, India is
also an excellent place to go for
a spa break. Luxury spa resorts can be found throughout the
country, designed to nurture the body and bring peace to the
Hungry. . .or thirsty? There's no shortage of gourmet Indian
food and drink.
India's fragrant cuisine is well
worth sampling © Krzysztof
Drink - Alcohol is widely available throughout
most of India, although laws governing the sale of alcohol vary
from state to state. Luxury hotels will serve alcoholic drinks, and
if you do visit a high-end establishment, you can enjoy anything
from locally made wine to cocktails - or even just a fragrant cup
of chai, if you so desire.
Food - Of course India is famous for its
curries, and visitors should expect to encounter fragrant,
well-spiced dishes - it's always recommended to try the local
specialities. But luxury hotels, resorts and top restaurants will
also offer much more besides, from salads to fresh seafood and
cuisine from across the world.
Before you embark on your luxury holiday, note the things you
need to know before visiting India.
Luxurious India awaits © styf22/iStock/Thinkstock
When to go to India - The most
popular time to visit India is between November and February,
during the Indian winter. If you go during this period, you will
avoid the rainy season as well as the high temperatures of summer.
It should be noted that peak season is between Christmas and New
Year, so prices are higher at this time.
Visas - Visitors to India are required to have
a visa. A transit visa is ample if you are staying for less than 72
hours, but you will be more likely to need a tourist visa, which
allows a stay of up to 180 days. It can take several weeks to get a
visa from the Indian Embassy, so it is wise to apply with plenty of
time before your trip.
Health and vaccinations - It is wise to visit
your doctor before travelling to India. You may need vaccinations
and other medication, such as antimalarials, depending on the
regions of India you plan to visit.
Money - Indian rupees can only be obtained
inside the country, so you will need to change money on arrival
rather than getting your cash prior to travelling. All towns and
cities will exchange rupees for sterling, or alternatively you
could use a cash point to withdraw money straight from your
Language - Numerous Indian languages are spoken
throughout the country, but the majority of people speak at least
some English. This will certainly be the case in luxury restaurants
Religion and culture - There are numerous
religions practised in India, the most prevalent being Hinduism,
Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam and Christianity. Culture varies
widely state by state - explore several regions to witness the huge
diversity at play.
For the best
holiday plan ahead - Planning a tailor-made tour of
India is the best way to guarantee a luxury break without any
hitches. Craft a bespoke itinerary in order to discover the cities
and sights you're most curious about.