When you think luxury, India is not the first destination which pops up to the mind. With a great diversity in climates, vegetation and terrain to shape it, luxury travel has taken off in a big way. However it is the local culture steeped in hospitality which lends it the character to rate it amongst the best. Mountain retreats to beach front villas to heritage hotels to rejuvenating spas, each of them comparable in quality and service to the best in the world.
Think of the majestic forts and palaces of India and chances are you will find yourself straining toward Rajasthan. The Oberoi Udaivilas on the banks of Lake Pichola, Udaipur, seeks to embody all the different aspects of the bygone era of Kings and convert your stay into one fit for one. You have fountains, sprawling gardens, reflection pools and regal architecture with hand painted frescoes, intricate mirror work and decorated domes, more than enough to transport you to another era. If you tire of the surroundings, you can always take a boat ride across the lake, grab a bite of authentic Rajasthani food with views of the lake and the royal palace or treat yourself to an evening of pampering in its luxurious spa.
Nestled on the serene banks of the Lake Vembanad amidst the backwaters of Kerala, is the small town of Kumarakom, home to arguably one of the best resort spas India has to offer. With its exquisite traditional architecture, murals and antiques, it also offers the best private views of the lake, especially ones had in the infinity pool leading up to it. The Ayurveda spa housed inside the resort is yet another reason to visit.
Situated on the shore of the River Kabini at the confluence of Bandipur and Nagarhole National Parks in Karnataka, the Bison Resort is the only resort in the area which overlooks the forest. A mix of colonial hunting lodge and African architecture it lends a feel of a true explorer camps while not losing out on the luxury. The grasslands beyond provide excellent views of grazers like deer, elephants and boars as well as regular sightings of predators like tigers and leopards in the National Park. The starry nights are yet another memorable take away from this forest retreat.
The party capital of India, Goa has something for everyone. Frequented by people of all ages and ethnicity, this coastal city with its fabulous beaches does not lack for want of luxury hotels. Amongst those, stands out a gated resort of just 4 villas, Coco Shambhala. With a 24 hour concierge, dedicated car and driver as well as a master chef who creates magic with his fingers (there is no set menu, you get what you order) this is a paradise home for those who seek its refuge. If one wishes to escape the verdant surroundings of this resort, there is always the beach, a mere 10 minutes walk away, and wildlife sanctuaries as well as one of the best waterfalls in India, Dudhsagar falls, a short drive away.
Situated in the majestic peaks of the Himalayas, Wildflower Hall in Shimla is a fairy tale luxury resort. Offering amazing views of the Himalayan range which in itself is a deal cracker, it lends a spiritual character to the setting making the rooms a personal retreat in the already private setting of the mountains. The wooden paneling and rich furnishings lends it an old world charm very hard to replicate by stone and concrete buildings. We would recommend meditating in this serene atmosphere, if you would rather not, the outdoor Jacuzzi is yet another way to relax after walking in hidden mountain trails, river rafting or mountain biking around the hotel.
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