India, a land known for its romantic and opulent maharajas and maharanis, a land of vast wealth, gems, art, music and stunning architecture. During British rule, these kingdoms were given autonomy to continue to rule over their territories, in exchange for oaths of allegiance to the Empire of course! However post Independence in 1947, these erstwhile kings lost their official powers and as a result much of their wealth was also lost. In order to ensure that their grand palaces were supported these savvy royals opened up their luxurious homes as grand hotels, where guests can enjoy a taste of regal life, staying in sumptuous suites, enjoying cuisine passed down from the royal kitchens and a glimpse at the lavish lifestyles that these kings and queens enjoyed. Here are our pick of the 5 most palatial hotels in India.
Rambagh Palace, Jaipur
“Representing the finest traditions of Rajput hospitality” Signe Magazine
This stunning palace was built in 1835 and originally one of the residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur, it was converted into a luxury hotel in 1957, one of India’s first palace hotels. It has also served time as the residence of the queen’s favourite handmaid as well as a hunting lodge for the royals and their guests. It is now Jaipur’s most famous and lavish hotels, with its 78 rooms and suites, sumptuously decorated and situated around a grand central courtyard. It is now the location for some of India’s most extravagant weddings and has hosted illustrious guests such as Lord Louis Mountbatten, Prince Charles and Jacqueline Kennedy. For a taste of royal life in the Pink City the Rambagh Palace is the only choice.
Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur
“This trailblazing conversion of a Rajasthani palace into off-the-charts heritage hotel still knocks the opposition out of the water.” Tatler Magazine
A stately, sandstone palace which sits atop Chittar Hill, it overlooks Rajasthan’s Blue City and the magnificent Mehrangar Fort. Its golden hued glow can be seen from miles afar with its iconic neo-Renaissance 32-meter-high cupola, creating an arresting silhouette. The palace, which was built for the current Maharaja of Jodhpur, has 347 rooms, and is one of the largest private residences in the world. It is now equal part royal household, a living museum and luxury hotel. Set in 25 acres of lush gardens, where beautiful peacocks can be seen and heard strutting their stuff, the hotel simply oozes an atmosphere of a byegone age, romance and elegance galore and impeccable staff who will really make sure you’re looked after like royalty.
Lake Palace, Udaipur
“Wake up a princess in one of the world’s most beautiful palaces” Hello Magazine
This marble beauty appears like a mirage in the middle of Lake Pichola in Rajasthan’s most romantic city, Udaipur. With views of the entire City Palace comples and the Aravali Hills in the distance, the hotel is a honeymooner’s dream come true. Built in 1746 by the Maharana Jagat Singh II as his personal pleasure palace. Popular legend has it that his father put a stop to his moonlight picnics with the ladies of his Zenana, on the neighboring island palace of Jag Mandir, so Jagat Singh built his own hideaway. In 1971 the Lake Palace was converted into a luxury hotel where guests could be transported by boat to their elegant hideaway. Ultra romantic and luxurious the hotel has 83 rooms and suites, which are decorated in the traditional Rajput floral motifs, you can be guaranteed a truly regal stay at this exotic hotel.
Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad
“An otherworldly experience, and a retreat of a lifetime. The service, the cuisine, the history and the glamour… This is India at its finest”. Brad Johnson
Originally built in 1894 as the residence of the Prime Minister of Hyderabad, Nawab Vikar-ul-Umra, who was married to the Nizam of Hyderabad’s elder sister. The Nizam liked the palace so much that he ended up buying it and using it as his own royal guesthouse. And what a guest house it was – located on a 32 acre estate, it is exquisitely decorated with huge Belgium art-deco chandeliers, French baroque ceilings, Henry VIII stained glass windows, rosewood four poster beds and a dining table which sat 101 guests. The palace’s name means “Mirror of the Sky” and it sits atop a hill overlooking the city, and guests who now arrive to stay at the hotel are greeted at the gate and transported to reception by horse and carriage, the steps to the entrance scattered with rose petals. At turn down, the staff run perfumed baths for guests. That is the kind of attention to real pampering that this hotel is renowned for. It is a truly decadent experience to stay here.
RAAS Devi Garh, Udaipur
“The Setting for A Fairy Tale” Conde Nast Magazine
An hour’s s drive from Udaipur, Raas Devigarh is a vision of white, looming high on a hill top, surrounded by the Aravali Hills. Dating back to 1760, the original fort was gifted to the original resident, Rajrana Sajja Singh, by the Maharana of Mewar, as thanks for his support in the battle of Haldighati in 1576. As the years passed it grew in stature and grandness, and was given a full revamp in 1760 in preparation for a visit of the Maharani of Mewar, which is the 7 story grand palace which now stands. Its restoration to the luxurious hotel than now stands took 15 years, with a team of over 750 transforming it into a dream retreat. Offering 39 modern, minimalist and deeply luxurious suites, a world class holistic spa and wellness centre and a selection of curated and culinary experiences which will transport you back to Rajput times.