Our 2018 Five Favourite Luxury Hotels in India

This year’s choice of top accommodation experiences in India

As with many countries, India offers a huge variety of hotels and lodges of all styles, degrees of opulence and price. The service levels, decoration and overall ambiance changes year on year, such that a favourite this year can slide down the rankings by next.

We thought we’d like to update you on this year’s favourites, so that when you plan your next trip to India you’ll love staying in these recommends; with the minimum chance of disappointment and having enjoyed the attention to detail and overall welcome that should be the norm everywhere.
Each of these five choices is outstanding in its own right for different reasons, with no clear winner between them; so we’ve listed them alphabetically.

Imperial Hotel – Delhi


There’s just something about the Imperial Hotel in Delhi that keeps it on our list year after year. Whether it’s because there’s no nicer way to soften the initial onslaught of sound, colour and sensory overload on entering the mayhem of India, or because of the art deco styling, the superb service and all-pervading feel of quality and dignified opulence that permeates every corner.
Unlike many luxury hotels, the dining here is an experience worth savouring; as its three themed restaurants don’t feel as if they’re simply allocated spaces within the hotel but separate entities in their own right, attracting many non-residents accordingly.

The Imperial is aptly named, as there’s an overriding feeling that you could just as easily have arrived in the elitist early nineteen hundreds as the more cosmopolitan two thousands – so whatever your penchant for perfection, the Imperial has got to be at the top of your list.

Kumarakom Lake Resort – Kerala


Prince Charles held his 65th birthday here and we can’t fault his choice! Set on the banks of Lake Vembanad, with private lodges set alongside its own ribbon of little canals, Kumarakom Lake Resort is an idyllic setting amidst the lush greenery of Kerala. The level of traditional design is outstanding and the overall feeling is of living in a perfect Keralan village. Our villa is a careful reconstruction of ‘Manas’, Kerala’s traditional 16th century homesteads.

If you choose to tear yourself away from the resort’s facilities then you can take a sundowner cruise on the lake of head off for a couple of nights on a backwaters cruise – but having stayed here for a few nights, we were more than happy with a simple stroll around the local community before heading back to the pretty, tranquil setting of the resort itself.

For us, a backwaters cruise has novelty that pales after one day and a possibly a night on board, whereas a few days at Kumarakom Lake Resort leaves you sorry that you’re leaving at all.

Samode Safari Lodge- Bandhavgarh, Madhya Pradesh


Samode is better known for its heritage properties near and around Jaipur but Samode Safari Lodge in Bandhavgarh, Madhya Pradesh, sets the standard to which all other lodges should aspire. Its undoubtedly and unashamedly luxury but without shouting opulence or glitz. In many ways it’s much understated but there’s no denying the attention to detail in the colourful tribal décor, beautifully appointed rooms and the overall warmth and welcome from the principals and staff.

Modelled on an African hunting lodge, Samode nevertheless has a distinct character of its own and irrespective of whether you’re ‘hunting’ tiger in the adjacent park, we’d recommend an extended stay here just to enjoy the ambiance and amenities of the Lodge.

Sher Bagh – Ranthambore, Rajasthan


Glamping is positively pedestrian by comparison with Sher Bagh’s luxury tented accommodation. Owned and run by one of the Rajasthani Royal family, this stylish lodge and collection of tents reflects the golden years of jungle ‘campaigns’ but with no compromise in comfort and service.
The jungle camp is relaxed but not lax, extremely well appointed and geared to making every stay an experience. Too many tented camps rely on a visitor’s acceptance of possible compromise in the standard of accommodation or facilities, because of the ‘authenticity’ of canvas. Sher Bagh makes no compromise in quality, facilities or service; so that although you’re under canvas, nothing feels utilitarian.

From the early morning porridge and brandy prior to a park round, to dining on your own private terrace outside your tent in the balmy evening, the staff at Sher Bagh do all they can to cater for every desire. Sher Bagh is so much more than a place to stay when you’re on safari, it’s a place to immerse yourself in and enjoy in its own right.

Taj Palace Hotel – Mumbai

The Taj, on the Colaba waterfront in Mumbai, remains one of our perennial favourites and continues to impress us with its opulence, style and design. For us it’s on a par with the Ritz or the Waldorf – an institution. It’s important however, in our opinion, to opt for the Palace wing if you stay, not the tower, as it’s in the old wing that you’ll appreciate the true splendour of this landmark Indian hostelry.
The tower block, for us simply capitalises on the reputation of the Palace without delivering the same experience in terms of style, design and ambiance. Walk into the huge, imposing galleried central atria of the original Palace wing to really appreciate Indian elegance, with each and every room leading off it offering an insight into comfort and individual design.

The Taj Group has a number of properties worldwide but in our opinion – as much as the group professes ‘Taj-ness’ as a hallmark of their service, we find that other properties in their group can suffer from a ‘corporate’ sameness that has yet to permeate the Taj Palace. This might be as a result of trying to replicate the pride that shines through in each of the Taj Palace staff, who do their level best to make every stay at the Palace a time to remember.

 

Cherrie's Notes

If you would simply like more information about these unique properties then follow these links –

Imperial – Delhi

Kumarakom Lake Resort – Kerala

Samode Safari Lodge – Bandhavgarh, Madhya Pradesh

Sher Bagh – Ranthambore, Rajasthan

Taj Palace Hotel – Mumbai

 

– or why not ask us to arrange your own tailor-made travel throughout India – see below.

 

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