The palace hotels in India are exactly what they proclaim. Boasting a rich cultural heritage of princes, maharajas, and ornate architectural styles, these decadent sprawling palaces preserve the legacy of a bygone era. Inevitably, some of these majestic seats and imperial residences have fallen into disrepair; some have been preserved as museums, while others have been converted into exquisite, luxury hotels – perfect for anyone wishing to experience the royal treatment for themselves.
Many of the oldest palace hotels in India are situated in and around Jaipur: roughly a four-hour drive southwest from Delhi, and the perfect distance to escape for a weekend break. Jaipur is often termed the Pink City, on account of its colourful buildings that were designed to imitate the red sandstone of powerful cities in the Mughal Empire.
Before you reach Jaipur, you’ll pass the Neemrana Fort-Palace in Alwar, halfway along the Delhi-Jaipur highway. This 15th century palace is among India’s oldest heritage resort hotels, and sits nestled high in the hillside with spectacular views over the surrounding landscape.
Composed of seven palace wings staggered over twelve different layers, the resort includes hanging gardens, two oasis pools, an Ayurvedic spa, and the novelty of India’s first zip line. The standard of accommodation may vary considerably, so it’s worth asking if you can see the room in person beforehand.
Another secret embellishment on the dusty hillside a little way outside Jaipur is Samode Palace. At 475 years old, this rambling dreamlike residence is a beautiful example of Rajput-Mughal architecture. Between the intricate frescoes and painted corridors are lavish suites of royal comfort, dripping with luxury.
Enjoy some down time in the baked warmth of the Aravalli Hills, or keep cool inside the spectacularly patterned Durbar Hall and impressive Sheesh Mahal (palace of mirrors). And don’t leave before you’ve visited the infinity pool – where you can indulge in a tranquil, sunset swim beside the terracotta cliffs.
Journey a little further along the desert road and you’ll reach Chomu Palace, a 300-year old bastion of history and spirituality. Designed according to the principles of the Vastu Shastra philosophy, the palace has been laid out with harmonious proportions to benefit the wellbeing of its residents.
In addition to the holistic architectural design, the hotel also offers henna painting and palm reading, as well as an extensive pampering health spa with traditional Aryuvedic therapies and a rooftop pool.
Officially recognised as the World’s Leading Heritage Hotel by The World Travel Awards (consecutively from 2007-2013), the Raj Palace Hotel is undoubtedly the pinnacle of excellence among Indian palace hotels. Built in 1727, it’s also Jaipur’s oldest mansion, and a favourite among celebrities including Dominique La Pierre, Frederick Forsyth, and Aamir Khan.
Located in a quiet area to the north of the Old City of Jaipur, this world-class hotel boasts a reputation as one of the few remaining palaces to have been lived in by the Maharajah and sensitively restored. They also offer memorable sightseeing excursions, including tours to the Amber Fort through the historical sights of Jaipur.
Located five miles beyond the city walls of Jaipur, the Rambagh Palace is the furthest from Delhi but the grandest of all Indian palace hotels, and widely considered to be one of the best in the world.
Once the chief residence of Maharajah Sawai Man Singh II, this luxury hotel is owned by the famous Taj Group, and is as thoroughly opulent as the name would suggest. From fine dining in the gilded hall to croquet on the front lawns, there’s no limit to the fun you can have in a place like this. You can even hire a vintage car and chauffeur to cruise around the Pink City: the perfect opportunity to practice your royal wave.
Have you experienced the royal treatment at any of these decadent palace hotels in India? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Written by Elizabeth Gourd