India’s most gorgeous palace hotels

By Nadia Sheng,

India’s palace hotels are centred in Rajasthan, the Indian state with the most palaces. Starting with Rajasthan’s most gorgeous palace hotels, we take you through the whole Indian subcontinent, from Chennai in the south, through Mumbai in the west, right up to Shimla in the north to discover the most beautiful, top-rated hotels that are either former palaces or modelled after them.

Jaipur

Samode Palace, Jaipur

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Sorta looks like the Grand Budapest Hotel doesn’t it? Live your Bollywood dreams by staying under the intricately decorated Mughal roof of the Rajasthani palace – the filming location of a countless number of Hindi films. With 43 rooms, and at over four centuries old, maintaining the five-star heritage hotel requires more than just a capable pair of hands. While they’re not the multi-armed goddess Durga, the very capable family that’s been running it since the mid-eighteenth century is who’s running the hotel today.

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There are 19 deluxe rooms, 19 deluxe suites, and four royal suites. If you want the full royal treatment, snag a royal suite and enjoy your very own private courtyard, Jacuzzi, fireplace and en suite bathroom. Located 25 miles north of Jaipur city, in the quiet Samode Village, the Samode Palace is the answer to the adventure traveller’s search for an authentic cultural experience. Open your doors to the Aravali range and close your curtains to its vistas each night.

Samode Haveli, Jaipur

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The name Haveli is the term for traditional Indian mansion. The Samode Haveli, built around 200 years ago in the city of Jaipur, was the residence of the rulers of the area (the same ancestors of the current family that runs Samode Palace). Like the Palace, the Haveli has deluxe room and deluxe suites. What’s special is the Sheesh Mahal Suite as it’s decorated with the original Rajasthani mirror mosaics from the Haveli’s inception.

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What you won’t get enough of is the plenitude of archways and variety of arch types including the leaf-like Moorish Multifoil archs which complement the arabesque decoration. The Samode Haveli is the most wallet-friendly option in Jaipur on our list.

The Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur

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The Oberoi Rajvilas is situated among two acres of lush gardens housed in a Shiva temple that dates back to the 18th century.

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When the standard room option is tantamount to the splurge option at any five-star city hotel, you know that the more spacious room options are bound to be ultra special. The tents are ideal for fans of British Colonial style and anyone who equates travelling through India to the nostalgia-eliciting Darjeeling Limited film. Villas with private pools are also bookable.

Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur

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Part of the Taj Group of luxury hotels, Umaid Bhawan Palace is the epitome of opulence, surrounded by an abundance of greenery – 26 acres to be exact. A testament to why community efforts are meaningful, the palace was commissioned by a Jodhpur king in order to provide work to poverty-stricken farmers.

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Built in the early 20th century, the palace’s interior is styled in the novel Indo-deco style. Another feature design buffs should look out for is the Indo-Saracenic Revival architectural style of the hotel’s exterior. For an only-in-India experience that also doubles as a once in a lifetime experience, stay in the Maharani suite (Maharani is the title given to a princess while Maharaja is for princes) and soak your time away in the exquisite single-block, pink marble tub.

Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai

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It’s fitting that one of India’s most iconic hotels shares the same name with its most iconic site. The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Taj Group’s flagship hotel, was, unlike the previous hotels, commissioned to be used as a hotel from the get go. The country’s first waterfront landmark, the majestic hotel is where Ravi Shankar taught George Harrison the sitar. You can live like rock royalty by staying in the room where the lessons took place – the Ravi Shankar Suite.

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Fine dining options, ranging from Contemporary Indian to Japanese, are fit for royalty. Your hotel food journey only begins there as the highly rated cake shop, La Patisserie, has a large assortment of cakes, pastries, chocolates, and savoury options too. Be sure to try their well known muffin with cream!

The Leela Palace New Delhi, New Delhi

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The Leela Palace New Delhi is proof that there can be modern palaces too. Flip open the menu of services and be surprised to find an astrologer and numerologist right alongside the conventional massage therapist and butler. Find out if your astrologer wants to take your extended reading to the rooftop pool so you can both have a clearer outlook on what the stars have in store for you.

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Rooms start with the Grand Deluxe and end with the Presidential Suite. While the latter might not be attainable in this lifetime, we’ve set our sights on the Royal Suite with Plunge pool that boasts an in-room plunge pool with Jacuzzi. We also recommend the Royal Premier Room with its marble-finished soaking bathtubs.

The Leela Palace, Chennai

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If views of the sea are what you’re after, then you absolutely need to stay at The Leela Palace Chennai – the city’s only palace hotel that’s by the sea.

The grand hotel has a 12-room spa, a grand ballroom, and 338 rooms – at 16 stories you can understand how there’s definitely enough space to fit all of that!  As suites outnumber rooms you’re encouraged to book a suite. Make sure to pick a sea-view room!

ITC Mughal, Agra

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By now you should be well-versed on the subject of India’s architectural styles. The moden hotel was built in the Mughal style, as homage to the Mughal builders of Agra. As in true Mughal fashion, the hotel is enveloped in 35 acres of thriving foliage.

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Alongside rooms and suites, there’s also the option to stay in chambers (the equivalent of a deluxe room). If you want to feel lavished, stay in the Grand Presidential Suite which has its own plunge pool while the other suite options have access to the exclusive spa pool.

Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad

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Imagine staying at the former residence of a man who was once the world’s richest person. The palace’s design, unlike the others on our list, is completely European, made entirely of Italian marble in the Tudor architectural style.

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You’ve never felt more like a Disney princess than in the ballroom, surrounded by Venetian chandeliers, French brocade curtains, handcrafted mirrors, and carved wooden ceilings. In fact a princess, the wife of the prince of Hyderabad, was responsible for the palace’s interior design, including the 60 guest bedrooms.

Wildflower Hall, Shimla In the Himalayas, Shimla

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This hotel has views of the Himalayas…need we say more? 2,514 metres above sea level, at Wildflower Hall you won’t have to worry about skyscrapers obscuring your mountain view. Whether from the open air, infinity whirlpool or from the mountain view rooms or suites, you can enjoy unparalleled panoramas of the snow-capped Greater Himalayas.

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The original Wildflower Hall, a 15-room residence of a colonial era British lord, was transformed into a 85-room hotel by the Oberoi group in the ’90s. The hotel’s current décor evokes this colonial heritage with its ottomans, antiques, and other furniture accents.