I believe that luxury is not about acquiring extravagant products and lavish facilities – the intrinsic value of luxury cannot be derived from a monetary exchange, rather it is found in the enriching moments that are shared while cultivating new connections and experiences.
I here-by present to you a unique Collection of Retreats which are off-beat, off the grid and offer experiences which are transformational.
In current times when we cannot travel international, it presents us an opportunity to explore and discover our own country. India offers varied locations, destinations, and experiences to match preferences for all kinds of tourists, their expectations and budgets.
It also offers secret life-changing retreats which have so far remained hidden from the native Indians, as for years they have been catering to foreign travelers seeking to connect with Indian culture, it’s people and places.
Below collection of independently owned boutique hotels, residences, and cruises throughout India offers authentic travel experiences that go beyond typical offerings and connect to the very heart of Indian culture and traditions.
At these properties the guests unlock the secrets of India accessing highly unique experiences though memorable stays that showcase the local community, culture, cuisine and atmosphere.
I hope you enjoy browsing and learning about these retreats. All below headings highlighted in Blue have links to their respective, official websites. Or you can book through their booking partner in India Experiential Travel Journeys Pvt. Ltd., a Boutique Travel Design company, based out of New Delhi, India.
Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, West Bengal
Set in the Himalayas on a hillock above the banks of the River Rungeet, this peaceful little tea plantation retreat offers the perfect place in which to discover Darjeeling.
Featuring two comfortable, private and beautifully furnished 4-bedroom bungalows, the views of the world’s third largest mountain, Kanchenjunga are magnificent.
Owned by tea planters for generations, visitors can tour the working tea estate, enjoy mountain activities, and feast on delightful Indian, Oriental and Western cuisine.
Soulitude by the Riverside, Nainital, Uttarakhand
Situated alongside the banks of the Kalsa River in Chanfi village, Soulitude, as the name suggests, provides complete solitude for the soul. A singing glacial stream that flows through the deep valley makes it a completely different world.
It also has an organic farm, emerald green rock pools and waterfalls, offers rejuvenating treks in a pristine remote setting, good food, and warm hospitality.
All told, this 7-room rustic style boutique hotel is ideal for rest and relaxation, replete with all the luxuries of a fine luxury resort.
Soulitude in the Himalayas, Nainital, Uttarakhand
Nestled on a quiet hillside in Gagar near Nainital, this property provides complete solitude for the soul. Surrounded by the mighty Kumaon Himalayas, it is so quiet that one can actually hear the sounds of silence. This sense of quietude transports one into a completely different world.
The boutique hotel has 10 exquisite rooms with all the luxuries of a fine vacation home, alongside fresh mountain air, spectacular 180-degree views, good cuisine, and warm hospitality. It is ideal for those looking to slow down, rejuvenate, and simply be.
Perched on an imposing promontory in the glorious hills of northern Kumaon, Shakti 360° is a hotel with a difference. Set in a breathtakingly romantic mountain wilderness area at 8,000ft, it is a place where you can take time to reflect, and allow the space, peace and astonishing landscape to work its magic on you.
The first and only place of its kind in the Himalaya, Shakti 360° combines age-old building techniques and local materials with innovative contemporary design – ensuring only the lightest footprint on its surroundings.
Reached either by foot or by jeep, four spacious, stone, wood and glass ‘villas’ each look out over a different view and each is the height of comfort and sophistication. A vast bed, replete with pashmina blankets and sumptuous fluffy duvets tempt you never to ‘surface’ and each is very private with its own verandah. Rugs and wood-burners keep them warm and cosy and the bathrooms are predominantly clad in wood and brass.
Mary Budden Estate, Binsar, Kumaon, Uttarakhand
Discreetly located in a cosy corner of the Kumaon region in Uttarakhand, Mary Budden Estate, Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary allows you to experience the magnificent middle Himalayan range in all its glory. The serene five-acre estate is perched almost 8,000ft above sea level, making it the ideal escape from the bustle of everyday life.
The restored eco-friendly heritage property (one of the five privately owned estates in the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary) is named after its former owner, and dates back to the 19th century.
The Kumaon, Almora, Himalayas, India
The Kumaon is a small 10-suite hotel which is all about the setting. It is named after the Kumaon Hills in the foothills of the Himalayas in India, which provide the backdrop to the property, and was designed with the idea of creating a destination where travellers could reflect on their surrounding natural environment.
The Kumaon is architecturally striking while being minimalistic in its design. It gives you space and time to think, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Neeralaya, Manali, Himachal Pradesh
Located on the banks of River Beas, close to Kullu-Manali, Himachal Pradesh, Neeralaya, is both the quintessential ‘little house by the river’ and that ‘secret place’. Surrounded by fruit trees, numerous natural alcoves and breathtaking scenic views of the Himalayas and the river, it seems to rise naturally from the ground – an impression strengthened largely because it has been built without disturbing the gently undulating contours of the lush green land.
In terms of guest rooms, you can choose from 3 villas and 7 bedrooms – again all designed with recycled timber, stone and slate. Some of the rooms have balconies and access to private gardens.
Sukoon Houseboat Kashmir, India
Discover the Himalayan Valley of Kashmir’s warm hospitality, rich culture, and pristine nature on a houseboat. Moored in the beautiful Dal Lake, the unique atmosphere, which reflects traditional heritage and modern facilities, includes elegantly appointed guestrooms, large living rooms, an open-air sundeck and terrace, complemented by Continental, Indian and local Kashmiri food.
Chamba Camp Diskit, Nubra Valley, Ladakh
Champa Camp at Thiksey is located in the Leh Valley and pays homage to the Ladakhi and Buddhist way of life. Cultural attractions and an off beat natural surroundings, this is the perfect place to visit and immerse oneself in authentic local culture.
At Chamba Camp, the exquisitely furnished tents exude old-world charm, reminiscent of the Raj, combined with outstanding luxury – all the tents come equipped with home comforts you would expect to find in a luxury hotel room.
Whilst they vary in shape and size, each tent is spacious and comprises of a bedroom, en-suite bathroom and a veranda area, and the large windows allow guests to soak up the beautiful and remote surroundings. They are also temperature controlled so air-conditioning and heating can be switched on for your maximum comfort.
Snow Leopard Lodge, Ulley Valley, Ladakh
Snow Leopard Lodge is located at just under 4,000 metres above sea level in the remote Ulley Valley and is the only dedicated wildlife lodge in the area of Ladakh. The lodge is simple but provides everything you need to explore this spectacular area.
Nestled into the landscape at the heart of Ulley Village, Snow Leopard Lodge offers homestay style accommodation with just 6 bedrooms. Here you really have the chance for a special and immersive experience as you will be living with a Ladakhi family giving an intimate insight into their lifestyle in this harsh and extreme landscape. The area surrounding the Snow Leopard Lodge has only recently been developed and explored for snow leopard watching and has the benefit of being at the centre of three valleys, under the radar for mass tourism, and known for supporting several snow leopards.
Brijrama Palace Heritage Hotel Varanasi & Ganges River, Uttar Pradesh
Brijrama Palace is one of Varanasi’s oldest landmarks. Set along on the banks of the River Ganga, it was built in 1812 by Shridhara Narayana Munshi who was the minister for the Nagpur estate.
In 1915, the Brahmin King of Darbhanga (Bihar) acquired the palace and the Ghat came to be known as Darbhanga Ghat. In 1994, the palace was bought out by the Brijrama Hospitality group. At that time, it was in a complete state of disrepair and in dire need of repair.
It took 18 years to completely restore the palace, which was then subsequently renamed Brijrama Palace as a tribute to the founder of the Clarks Group, and his wife.
The Farm is a creative homestay that has been the playground for the arts. As a result, each of the rooms is filled with quirky artworks of artists who have stayed here, acquired art and that created by Ritu and Surya.
Local crafts find their way into soft furnishings and other details in the living spaces. Guests are treated like friends of friends and an ‘at home’ atmosphere is encouraged. The idea is to have a quiet, conscious, restful space, filled with inspiration.
It’s small with just six executive rooms and eight freestanding suites, complete with plunge pools and open-air jacuzzis. Each one is visually unique, designed with a sense of whimsy to accompany the clean modern design.
There’s plenty to do, from yoga and massage to outdoor adventures and cooking and painting classes, all in a lively social atmosphere. Meanwhile you’re just minutes from Jaipur, and all its historic charms.
Set in a secluded palm grove beside the Arabian Sea in Northern Kerala, Neeleshwar Hermitage breathes tranquillity. Built according to Kerala Vatsu’s traditional architectural principles, the cottages are a mix of wood and thatch architecture with contemporary touches.
The resort features 2 restaurants, a large swimming pool facing the sea, a spa/yoga centre, and an unspoilt white sand beach.
Winderemere Estate, Munnar, Kerala
Sitting on Observatory Hill, high in the Palani Hills and in the heart of the tea country, Windermere Estate is surrounded by a cardamom estate. The 360° views from this delicious little retreat are truly awe-inspiring and you often find yourself looking down on the clouds below. When the clouds disperse, the Western Ghats open up before you.
Scattered around the hilltop are delightful, large cottages and a farmhouse which, together, house 18 charming, simply decorated rooms with views to die for or a small garden. The wooden, ‘chalet-style’ dining room sits below an airy yet cosy sitting room which boasts a blazing log fire for warmth on the colder nights, and it looks over the pretty garden and pool. The owning family live in the old planters’ bungalow (part time) and their friendly staff will take you off on long walks in the hills or private cardamom estate.
Niraamaya Retreats Surya Samudra, Kerala
Tucked away in the South Indian state of Kerala, Niraamaya Retreats Surya Samudra overlooks the Arabian Sea. Its cottages, nestled amongst the coconut trees and caressed by the sea breeze, offer the best in Keralian Heritage architecture.
A path wends its way to the ‘Chandra’ beach – an idyllic beach with intensely private vibes. Ayurvedic massages and Thai relaxation therapies take you on exhilarating sensory journeys, while Yoga sessions on a platform at the cliff’s edge make for an absolutely enlivening experience.
In the restaurants, bold flavours compete with stunning views – the chef’s Indian cuisine is a masterly blend of the most delicate of herbs with the warmth of spices.
Philipkutty’s Farm, Backwaters, Kerala
Stay in independent, homely, waterfront villas run by a family, on a beautiful farm island, in the backwaters of Kerala.
Staying at Philipkutty’s Farm is an excellent opportunity to enjoy the real Keralan experience in a fascinating location, with a caring family to look after you. It is a special place, as it provides something different, especially for those who prefer small, friendly places, and it is the perfect hideaway for the bespoke traveller.
All the villas are spacious, independent and located on the outer dyke facing the peaceful backwaters. The villas are named after popular local flowering plants, trees and birds.
Purity at Lake Vembanad, Kerala
Overlooking Lake Vembanad with its palm-fringed shores, the Purity offers many authentic experiences including yoga and Ayurveda. The bright and spacious rooms with their handcrafted contemporary yet vernacular design stage a dialogue between the past and the present, showcased by a curated collection of regional art and antiques.
Morning yoga sessions provide a gentle introduction to the day. Then you can go to the lake-side pool, indulge in an Ayurvedic massage treatment, discover the surroundings by boat, bicycle or tuk-tuk, attend a cooking class and enjoy the sunset over a canoe ride on the lake. The Purity kitchen serves creative cuisine with authentic Keralan flavours.
With The Andamans (lying off India’s east coast in the Bay of Bengal and ‘floating’ below Myanmar) set to become the new ‘go to’ place, Jalakara is a gem amongst gems, nestled in the hills and with glorious views across the jungle canopy.
With just 7 individual, beautifully designed rooms, Jalakara is The Andamans’ only boutique hotel and it has been created with huge style, flair and love by English owner Mark Hill.
The bedrooms are all designed for maximum air flow and are cool, light and chic. Wood, stone and tadlac predominate, with soft, earthy colours that blend beautifully with the surrounding rainforest. Several bedrooms open onto private terraces and some are perched high on the hill with birds eye views.
The private villa is superb and has its own garden and plunge pool. The whole style and décor of the hotel is rustic simplicity but ultimately comfortable with everything you could wish for already thought of.
The Blackbuck Lodge, Velavadar National Park, Gujarat
Nestled along the Velavadar National Park, The Blackbuck Lodge is set in several acres of plains owned by its promoters who hail from a village in Gujarat’s Kathiawad Peninsula just about an hour from Velavadar.
Each of the 14 cottages of The Blackbuck Lodge are an en suite room with a patio, sitting area, bedroom, indoor and outdoor bathrooms, and a deck looking out to the exquisite beauty of the bush. The interiors are the right combination of the rustic and contemporary elegance.
The elegant Indian antelope, called Blackbuck, venture close to the cottages, while globally-threatened birds can be seen in the bushes.
SINGINAWA JUNGLE LODGE, Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
A very welcoming, spacious and ecologically friendly lodge set in 55 acres of lush natural forest. Built on 55 acres of grasslands, a fresh water river, stunning rock formations and amazing trees, the lodge is close to Kanha National Park, accessible by road, rail and air.
A world class luxury resort, the Lodge has 12 cottages and 2 forest bungalows (available for small and big groups) that have been designed keeping in mind the forest habitat and wildlife.
These rooms are carefully crafted in the most authentic sense of style and comfort, as well as furbished with the modern amenities to suit the needs of a wildlife traveller.
Jamtara Wilderness Camp, Pench National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Situated in a gloriously remote and rural setting in the buffer zone of Pench National Park and with private access to its ‘own’ gate (there are no other lodges in this area), Jamtara is a gem and provides a wonderful reason to travel to Pench, not only for the exceptional wildlife, but for the overall atmosphere and ambience of this special place.
There are 10 wonderfully spacious, stunningly simple, well-furnished tents, all with air-conditioning, fans, huge double beds and attached shower rooms (solid walls) with plenty of piping hot water. They have warm, wooden floors, a desk, plenty of lighting, and a peaceful verandah with further seating. It is the only camp in India which has ‘star beds’ – a raised wooden platform (based on the ‘machaan’ / African idea), out in the countryside, with a glorious double bed made up with mosquito net and all the ‘trimmings’ – so that you may spend the night out under the stars listening to and watching the ‘night life’.
Samode Safari Lodge, Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh
This exceptional lodge, with its gloriously pretty and secluded location, is the perfect base for visiting Bandhavgarh National Park and has been developed with the impeccably good taste and expertise of the Samode Family.
The lodge sits in incredibly pretty grasslands, close to the jungle and a delightful village. It is a joy to walk or bicycle around, seeing the myriad bird species and a way of local life in an unhassled, friendly way.
Samode Safari Lodge comprises twelve outrageously comfortable, state of the art, stylish villas – no other lodge offers such huge amounts of personal and very private space! Each villa has both open-air and closed bathrooms as well as a private terrace looking over the fields, a large bedroom with four-poster beds, a sitting room, and a sundeck.
Ahilya Fort, Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh
The majestic 250 year old Ahilya Fort sits on the edge of a cliff, high above the mighty and sacred Narmada River, surrounded by the fascinating, unexploited town of Maheshwar. The views over the river and ghats are exceptional. Replete with history and intrigue, myth and legend, Ahilya Fort offers guests a rare chance to get off the tourist trail and an abundance of things to see and do.
With the amazing, deserted city of Mandu and the famed island temple of Omkareshwar nearby, this is a place at which to spend time and relax but from where you can also explore the river, undisturbed by other tourists.
The Royal Tent boasts one of the most spectacular views and locations of any hotel and truly is ‘fit for a king’, with its own garden and plunge pool; whilst the suites are beautiful and subtle and boast oodles of space and fabulous views. The rest of the rooms are scattered around the rambling premises and each is different and cosy.
SVASARA Jungle Lodge, Maharashtra
Svasara at Tadoba is the first jungle lodge in the luxury chain, and is situated 300 metres from Kolara Gate at Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve. The drive to the lodge is a convenient 2-hour journey from the “orange city” Nagpur, which has excellent air and rail connectivity.
The lodge features 10-acres of restored forest with 12 elegantly furnished suite rooms. We provide all modern amenities and luxuries, multi-cuisine dining options including delectable Regional Indian, Continental, and the local Varadi cuisine, as well as an immersive safari experience through custom-fitted jeeps accompanied by knowledgeable naturalists.
Coco Shambhala, Sindhudurg , Maharashtra
Coco Shambhala is a collection of four bespoke luxury villas for exclusive holidays in Sindhudurg, India; a tropical land of forts, unexplored beaches and watching the sea come alive with dolphins. Set in a tropical garden, overlooking the beach, the villas are designed as inclusive, barefoot retreats.
Each villa has a stunning sea facing living area, 2 large bedrooms also facing out to the sea, a well-stocked bar in the living pavilion and its own infinity pool.
Set on a green and forested hill full of birdlife, outside Calangute this light and airy luxurious contemporary Asian style villa with Balinese influences is the perfect place to enjoy a peaceful holiday with family or friends in Goa.
Despite being a stone’s throw away from the hot spots of north Goa, Summertime is an oasis of peace and serenity. No matter where you are in the villa, the views are lush tropical gardens and the pools. Imagine you can wake up to the birdsong, feel the breeze while seated under a tree or watch a koi fish jump in the pond.
Summertime can only be booked as a whole accommodate up to 6 guests for a minimum of 3 nights.
Nestled in a quiet corner of Dolphin Bay in Goa, the Ahiliya by the Sea hotel feels like a family home, its stylish and understated interiors accessorised with decorative objects sourced from around the world to take you on a voyage of discovery.
Coconut trees, frangipani and brightly coloured flowers provide the backdrop for the refined Portuguese colonial architecture. The Holkar royal family that owns the property manages this hospitality enterprise with enthusiasm, aiming to ensure everyone’s experience of this oasis of beauty is simultaneously unique and unforgettable.
Cabo Serai is a delightful new retreat sitting on a secluded hill above Cabo de Rama Beach. Perched above dramatic cliffs that fall down to one of the most beautiful, crystal clear, small bays in South Goa, the hotel is just a short walk to it, downhill. Surrounded by tropical palm jungle in a large patch of land, the views out to sea are utterly stunning and it’s a wonderfully quiet, untouched area of Goa with some of the best beaches around.
7 (soon to be 10) stilted, wooden cottages and tents scramble up the hillside and each is generously roomy with superb sea views. Rustically comfortable, each has a spacious deck, wooden furnishings, excellent large bathrooms and they open up to allow the sounds of the sea and the breeze to waft in. The rooms are fairly close to each other but private due to dense foliage separating them each off. The tents are superb, fully secure, bug proof and air-conditioned.
Aashyana Lakhanpal Villas And Casinhas, Goa
Owner Ajai Lakhanpal’s love for art permeates the six different types of accommodation at Aashyana Lakhanpal, Villas and Casinhas. The stunning property has played host to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and Marquess and Marchioness of Douro among others, and it is where nature and the beach come together, on a magnificent tree-lined estate.
The property’s different types of rooms, cottages and villas makes this the ideal spot for those looking to keep coming back, to explore the various options. While the three casinhas each have two bedrooms, larger groups can opt for Villa Aashyana, which consists of five bedrooms across two floors, and its own private pool.
In the quiet neighbourhood of the rarely visited Cuelim, lies a historical treat in the form of The Postcard Cuelim.
Rooted firmly in the past, this historic site is now home to our six- room hotel overlooking 3500 acres of lush green paddy fields. The centre piece? A 350 year old chapel housed inside the premises from which the hotel takes on its historical and architectural significance.
The Rajbari Bawali, Kolkata, West Bengal
This 300-year-old Boutique Heritage hotel featuring a Greco-Roman style has been superbly restored. The property is reminiscent of both the British Raj and the feudal lifestyles of Bengal’s Zamindari landlords.
It is the ideal place to experience centuries old architecture, opulence and history of this small hamlet of the 24 Paganas, and Bengal’s traditional performing arts. In addition, there is also a strong focus on highlighting and supporting the local arts and crafts from its surrounding village communities.
RAAS Chatrasagar, Dist. Pali-Maliwal, Rajasthan
A truly magical place which comprises delightful, luxurious, state of the art tents pitched on a dam (16) and a hillock (4), overlooking a lake teeming with birds (seasonal) and surrounded by grasslands replete with wildlife.
It is a truly unique and breathtaking site in the heart of rural Rajasthan. The Nimaj family have recently teamed up with RAAS Hotels who have leased and are now running the camp. They have taken it to a marvellous new high in terms of additions and upgradations – there is now a glorious swimming pool overlooking the fields, a peaceful spa, an inviting baradari / dining pavilion and comfortable relaxing areas for absorbing the unforgettable views.
This superb “Fortress of the Sun” overlooks the Thar desert, right in the heart of Rajasthan. Mihir Garh, designed throughout by Sidhart Singh and his wife Rashmi, was born out of their desire to share this heaven on earth.
The fortress mirrors the architecture of the local villages, with its rounded edges, open fireplaces and alcoves, and the colour of the stone merges seamlessly with the surrounding sand.
Mihir Garh stands as a tribute to this land swept by the desert winds and has been designed as an eco-friendly hotel. Each suite provides a unique place to relax, where luxurious appointments act as a foil to the mineral sand of the surrounding desert.
SUJÁN The Serai, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
SUJÁN The Serai is an oasis, a place for rest and rejuvenation in the desert. This outrageously luxurious camp and spa, owned by brilliant hoteliers SUJÁN, is situated outside Jaisalmer, in 100 acres of private desert scrubland.
Fittingly a member of Relais & Chateaux, it takes accommodation, service and cuisine in this area to an unequalled high. The huge, sun dappled tents are magnificently and opulently furnished with a calm, desert theme. The finest linen, ‘campaign’ style furniture, Jaisalmer stone floors and beds, soft colours, and locally sourced artefacts all blend to create a classic, understated elegance.
The tents all have a large sitting area inside, complete with a writing desk and stationary, cushioned verandah outside, and immaculate, roomy bathrooms with double showers. The Luxury Tents also have a private plunge pool in a small, walled garden. The Royal Tent takes space, privacy and luxury to even higher levels, boasting its own pool, spa tent and dining tent, in a large, and adjoining walled garden at one end of the tented enclave.
Alila Fort Bishangarh, Rajasthan
Perched on top of a granite hillock in the midst of a vast expanse of the Aravalli Range, surrounded by hills dotted with havelis, villages and temples, Alila Fort Bishangarh is legendary amongst heritage hotels in Jaipur for the adaptive reuse of a 230-year-old warrior fort into one of India’s most unique heritage properties.
Perhaps the only warrior fort that has been converted into a heritage resort, Alila Fort
Bishangarh is a unique example of the Jaipur Gharana architecture influenced by both the Mughals and the British.
The 59 suites have been carved out of the structure without disturbing the curved and sloping walls of the existing turrets. Rooms and restaurants have been made to fit around the original walls, making the layout (that took 1,800 hours to draw up) far from typical.
Anopura near Jaipur, Rajasthan
Nestled within the fold of green hills, Anopura is a hidden, and thankfully, forgotten corner of the world.
Anopura is your secret hideaway. This luxurious retreat is the quiet Arcadia they call home. This is your home.
A petite collection of cottages and courtyards, of private pools and thoughtful butlers: here lies the charm of Anopura, where every need is so perfectly anticipated. Here hours fade into days and lives lived in traffic and deadlines seem to slip into golden oblivion.
Aman-i-Khas, Ranthambore, Rajasthan
A majestic self-contained oasis set in 10 acres and surrounded by the pristine wilderness of the Aravalli Hills in rural Rajasthan. A secluded wilderness camp offering unrivalled access to nature and a crackling campfire at its heart.
10 luxurious guest tents that rise to six metres with airy living, sleeping and bathing areas.
Situated on the threshold of the reserve, this intimate tented camp offers incomparable privacy and Mughal-era romance – each tent an elegant sanctuary beneath its soaring canopy.
Daily Jeep safaris seek out the reserve’s wildlife, while back at camp, spa therapies, swimming and dining take centre stage.
The Rohet House, Jodhpur, Rajasthan
The Rohet House is the bright new stem in the bouquet of boutique hotels under the House of Rohet banner.
Spread across 14,000 sq. feet, this private property has been lovingly developed into a Luxury Residence featuring Six Suites and two Rooms, a spectacular swimming pool, a beautifully appointed plush dining room, inviting lounges and verandas and a lush garden.
Reggies Camel Camp Osian, Rajasthan
Reggies Camel Camp is an easy 60 Km drive from Jodhpur. With expansive views of the mighty Thar desert on one side and the ancient 8th century temple town of Osian on the other.
Reggie’s Camel Camp, the original luxury tented camp in India, offers an unappalled experience of rural Rajasthan… Venturing out on camel or jeep, one can meet the proud local tribes, the Bishnois and Bhils, potters and weavers and shepherds in their natural surroundings, not to mention the various varieties of desert wildlife such as blue bulls, gazelles, foxes, peacocks and partridges.
Tucked away in Rajasthan’s Aravalli Hills, Rawla Narlai hotel has turned a 17th-century royal hunting lodge into a serene escape from India’s bustling tourist trail. Occupying two wings: one historic, the other contemporary, each of the 32 rooms has been individually decorated.
The vintage rooms showcase each space’s ornate frescoes and archways, and the modern wing is awash with marble and fine filigrees in local designs; all are furnished with the owners’ collection of antiques.
A pool, sensational spa and manicured gardens are ample reason to stay put, but the best of Rajasthan is easily explored from here, including world-heritage temples and forts, lazing leopards, hiking trails and tiny villages.
Ideally located between the popular cities of Jodhpur & Udaipur—a comfortable 2 hrs ride from both.
THE LODGE AT WAH, Palampur, Himachal Pradesh
The charming Lodge at Wah is situated just outside the historic town of Palampur. Lying in the heart of the Kangra Valley, in northern Himachal Pradesh, the lodge is surrounded by a ring of foothills and the distant snow-capped peaks of the Dhauladhar Himalaya.
The air is crisp and fresh, the sky is wonderfully clear and blue (out of monsoon), and the countryside is stunningly beautiful in its mountainous wildness.
The Lodge at Wah has 6 ensuite rooms spread across 3 cottages. All the cottages are made of eco-friendly materials like wood, slate and mud. The cottages are closely placed within the property so that minimal walking is required to move from one cottage to another.
Evolve Back Kamalapura Palace, Hampi, Karnataka
Going back to the glorious days of the 14th century Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi was once described as “the best provided city in the world”. With stunning rugged forests and the famous Hampi ‘boulders’ forming its backdrop, Kamalapura Palace is located just 4 km from this UNESCO World Heritage Site and with the recent opening of Hampi Airport, it is sure to become a hugely popular destination at last.
Kamalapura Palace is a lovely, newly built hotel in classic Vijyanagar style, with oodles of space both inside and out. 46 huge rooms and suites are in the main building which is home to beautiful courtyards, a dining room, a stunning pool and large terrace – with plenty of sunbeds!
Superb villas with private pools and gardens are more like houses than hotel rooms! The bedrooms are also immensely spacious and airy, many with balconies and large sitting rooms and all have state of the art bathrooms. The décor is simple, classic and similar throughout, with rich colours and wood offset against whitewashed walls.
Kahani Paradise, Gokarna, Karnataka
Hilltop hideaway Kahani Paradise is a few hours’ drive south of Goa, in the state of Karnataka. Gokarna, the nearest town, is a hippie-favoured hideout that offers spiritual soul-searchers a taste of what its northerly neighbour might have been like way back when (the Seventies).
The purpose-built residence is the realised dream of a British family, with Rajasthani doors, beamed ceilings and artful arches and antiques adding a little subcontinental spice. The boutique bolthole has just six suites, so you’ll get to know your fellow guests over communal curries, sundowners by the pool and turns of the 20-acre estate.
Rustic cottages and log huts overlooking the Nilgiris mountains. Inspired by the jungle and perfect for nature lovers, The Serai Bandipur is located on the edge of Bandipur National Park in the southern state of Karnataka.
There are 24 rooms at The Serai Bandipur including 12 Courtyard Rooms, six Superior Courtyard Rooms, four Mountain View Log Huts and two Residences. All rooms are decked out with wood-beamed ceilings, wooden or stone tiled floors, large French windows, a front garden and back verandah with panoramic views over the surrounding landscapes.
Facilities at the resort include an elevated swimming pool and spa along with a library and games room.
Situated at the eastern of the Himalayan foothills, the distant former kingdom of Sikkim is a truly stunning area. It’s valleys are deep and impressive and Buddhist and Lepcha villages cling to the hillsides like a colony of limpets.
The walking is vigorous but beautiful, and exciting. Here one may step out of the modern world for 3 – 6 days, walking from village to village, joining ceremonies in village temples and partaking in traditional Sikkimese life that would otherwise be impossible. This walk allows you glimpses of a lifestyle and the warm hospitality of the Sikkimese that others rarely get to see.
You stay in village houses, which have been brilliantly spruced up to provide proper comfort without compromising their authenticity. Some have balconies with views over fields and valleys, whilst others are deep in the forest, but all are perfectly hosted and catered with a roving chef who will introduce you to the delicious intricacies of Sikkimese cuisine.
Seeing and listening to young Buddhist monks chanting away in a monastery, as it slowly emerges from the early morning mist is an extraordinary humbling experience.
Spread over 22 acres and surrounded by tea gardens, the Wild Mahseer in Balipara, Assam is a British- era heritage bungalow that could easily become a habitual getaway. Nestled in the Addabarie Tea Estate the 145 years old Eastern Himalayan Botanic Ark in Residence at Wild Mahseer, will gently sweep you back in time.
Located 25 kms away from India’s cleanest city, Tezpur, Wild Mahseer is a bio-diverse Ark of 1,00,000+ plants, 75+ species of birds and 72+ species of butterflies and is also the gateway to the forests of Pakke, Kaziranga, Nameri and Orang.
Imbued in history on a 22-acre land, it comprises of the Burra (visiting agent’s) Bungalow (3 rooms), a mute spectator of the tea heritage that allows visitors to immerse in the nostalgia of the colonial lifestyle.
Along with an additional four cosy tea bungalows (17 rooms), the First Flush dining pavilion and Two & A Bud conference facility all located on a certified organic property.
RI KYNJAI – SERENITY BY THE LAKE, Shillong
It is the perfect getaway from the urban hubbub. Nature lovers can choose to luxuriate in perfectly appointed cottages, undergo traditional Khasi spa treatments and dine on local delicacies.
The more adventurous may prefer the beautiful hill treks, boat rides and island picnics, and of course, a day at the Shillong Golf Course, dating back to 1889, and still referred to as the ‘Gleneagles of the East’.
This boutique resort is as perfect for families seeking the ultimate all-round getaway. Lovers of authentic experiences will be particularly pleased with the architecture – inspired by the building ‘language’ of traditional Khasi cottages while incorporating the best of modern practices.
Svatma is a hotel with a difference in that it aims to immerse its guests into Tamil customs and a stay here will take you on a rich, cultural and culinary journey, aiming to reveal the hidden secrets, arts and crafts of the extraordinary city of Thanjavur (formerly Tanjore) – all the while, immersed in comfort and peace. Part 100 year old, painstakingly restored family home, and part new-build, the design and furnishings are influenced heavily by Tamilian building styles and materials.
There are contemporary, understated rooms in the ‘new wing’ which have state of the art fittings and various colour themes running through them. The old wing comprises more traditional rooms and suites which have been restored entirely in keeping with local culture and tradition.
Anamallais, Valparai, Tamil Nadu
The bungalow is situated in the Anamallai Hills, a mountain range in the Western Ghats that spans Tamil Nadu and Kerala states of South India. The name “Anamallai” derives from the Tamil/Malayalam word ‘Ana’ meaning elephant and ‘mallai’ meaning hill, thus Elephant Hill.
Of 1940s vintage, the six-bedroom bungalow stands amidst acres of organic tea fields overlooking the Roti Kadai (literally Bread Shop) valley, the location of the first bakery in the district!
This is a journey to the hill country of Southern India. It is a world to be found in the lush forests, the coffee estates and the grandeur of the Palani Hills.
Pallam Palace is the house that sits at the heart of the old Rajakkad plantation. A small garden hotel with 7 unique bedrooms within an 18th century wooden structure that perfectly expresses its rich architectural heritage.
At 1000 meters above sea level and set in the foothills of the Western Ghats, Rajakkad Estate offers a sense of serenity and tranquillity. Life here has changed very little over the last century.
For the traveller seeking a world apart or for the explorer in search of adventure, there can be no better setting. As for those in search of peace, look no further.