Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur1/17
Few sights are as magical as Taj Lake Palace, which appears to float upon the surface of Lake Pichola. The hotel provides a jetty transfer for guests, which departs from City Palace several times daily. Constructed from marble during the 1740s, Taj Lake Palace has featured in many films, including James Bond’s, Octopussy in 1983.
Haveli Dharampura, Old Delhi2/17
To reach Haveli Dharampura, one must wander the laneways of Old Delhi on foot, past artisan craft stalls, street food vendors and the non-stop bustle of city life. Once inside, the stone walls create a sense of peace and tranquillity. Time your arrival for the weekend, when dances set to classical music are performed (and can be viewed from every floor), or venture beyond the palace walls to join the queue outside Karim’s, the city’s iconic 109-year-old restaurant that dishes up classic North Indian fare and is just an eight minute walk away.
Rambagh Palace, Jaipur3/17
Many luxury hotels claim to provide a stay fit for royalty, but Rambagh Palace has plenty of experience at the task. The palace, located eight kilometres outside of Jaipur’s city walls, was once the residence of the former Maharaja and his Queen. Since the building was converted into a hotel in 1957, it has hosted many notable guests including King Charles III and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. For the ultimate royal experience, ask your private butler to organise a horse and carriage ride.
Taj Mahal Palace, Lucknow4/17
Taj Mahal Palace built in 1995, is a 30-minute drive from Lucknow airport. The elegant minimalist design contrasts with the city’s intricate heritage buildings such as Bara Imambara and Chota Imambara. Take time to wander the city’s labyrinthine Chowk markets, which feature more than 5000 stalls selling everything from tikka and kebabs to handcrafted bamboo homewares, fragrant perfumes and clothing.
The Leela Palace, Jaipur5/17
It’s just under an hour’s drive north east of Jaipur’s city centre and what The Leela Palace lacks in proximity to the city, it makes up for in luxury and amenity. There’s no need to venture beyond the walls of the complex, because there are countless ways to while away the time: bicycle rides, cooking classes and yogi-led Hatha yoga sessions.
Rajmahal Palace RAAS, Jaipur6/17
At Rajmahal Palace RAAS no two rooms are the same. Rooms styled with pattern on pattern create an energising atmosphere. The palace, which is located 10 kilometres from Jaipur International Airport, has hosted Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, King Charles III and Princess Diana. Dine in at 51 Shades of Pink restaurant, which features locally sourced produce and vegetables grown in the hotel’s own kitchen garden.
Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai7/17
The Taj commands a prominent position overlooking the Arabian Sea and the Gateway of India monument. The five-star establishment has hosted royalty, celebrities and dignitaries including Queen Elizabeth II, Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey ever since it opened in 1903. Nine of Mumbai’s most acclaimed restaurants are located within the hotel (spanning Japanese to Eastern Mediterranean offerings), but taking afternoon tea by a window in the Sea Lounge is a must.
Jehan Numa Palace, Bhopal8/17
Bhopal is just over an hour’s flight from Delhi and is brimming with picturesque lakes, ancient rock shelters, caves, museums, temples and nature reserves. Jehan Numa Palace is the ultimate sanctuary and within its walls the city’s thrum is quieted by garden fountains, birdsong and gently swaying palm trees.
Samode Palace, Jaipur9/17
At 475-years old, Samode Palace is a marvel in its own right. But what lends this hotel an atmosphere of serenity is its location, overlooking the Aravalli mountain range. The sublime view is best enjoyed at sunrise from the vantage point of the secluded infinity pool. Ask the concierge to organise a walking tour of the local village, where locally made textiles, art and jewellery are waiting to be discovered.
The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra10/17
The Oberoi Amarvilas is not technically a palace, but earns its place on this list thanks to its grandeur and unobstructed views of the Taj Mahal, which is just 600 metres away. Each room is attended by a private butler ready to organise a private yoga lesson, or deliver a four-course meal to the balcony of your room.
The Lalit Grand Palace, Srinagar11/17
The Lalit Grand Palace on the eastern side of Srinagar was designed and built in 1910 by the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja Pratap Singh. Today, it is a luxurious hotel set against the backdrop of the Zabarwan mountain range. The hotel is a thirty minute drive from Sheikh Ul Alam International Airport (a one hour and twenty minute flight from New Delhi) and overlooks Dal Lake, which is best explored by a shikara, a type of wooden boat which earned the city its nickname “Venice of the East”.
Nilambag Palace Hotel, Bhavnagar12/17
Nilambag Palace is owned and operated by the royal family who commissioned its construction in 1879. Just 16-minutes by car from Bhavnagar Airport, this hotel is especially great for families. There is a grand library, a designated kids’ area and a large lawn perfect for play. Ask hotel staff about the best time to visit Nishkalank Mahadev Temple, which can only be reached during low tide.
Chidambara Vilas, Ramachandrapuram Kadiapatti13/17
Originally built in 1885 and sensitively restored, Chidambara Vilas Luxury Heritage Resort is an unmissable site in downtown Kadiapatti. The building, which embodies the Chettinad architectural style, reflects the region’s rich trade history and is embellished with jewel tones and decorated with tiles from Italy, wood panelling from Burma, mirrors from Belgium and clocks from France.
Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur14/17
The golden sandstone facade of Umaid Bhawan Palace featured on the international stage in 2018 when Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra and musician Nick Jonas wed at the hotel. Situated atop Chittar Hill, the palace overlooks Jodhpur’s iconic blue buildings, as well as the magnificent 15th century structure, Mehrangarh Fort. Keep an eye out for resident peacocks while taking breakfast at the open-air cafe.
Shiv Niwas Palace, Udaipur15/17
The city of Udaipur was once called “the most romantic spot on the continent of India'' and as a guest of Shiv Niwas Palace Hotel, located inside the Udaipur City Palace, it’s easy to understand why. Couples and newlyweds will fall in love with the property’s vivid frescoes, marble fountain, live music at dinner and flowering bougainvillaea which imbue the hotel with an undeniably romantic ambience.
Six Senses Fort Barwara, Rajasthan16/17
Built in the 14th century and originally owned by the Rajasthani royal family, this citadel has been transformed into a luxury 48-suite hotel with conservation in mind. Think: original stone feature walls, modern Rajasthani-style interiors and private rooftop terraces – some, with pools or hot tubs. Embark on a safari in the neighbouring Ranthambore National Park and spot local tigers or unwind at the 2800 square metre Six Senses Spa with an Ayurvedic body massage.