Itching to explore the far corners of India in style? Here, we offer a list of eight hotels and retreats guaranteed to provide an unforgettable experience, whether youâ€™re looking to combine creature comforts with critter sightings, or to immerse yourself in the bygone luxury of a Nabobâ€™s palace
Photographs by FrĂ©dĂ©ric Lagrange
For Monumental Views: Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra
Colonnaded courts, marble reflecting pools, terraced gardens, and fountains lit by flaming braziers are but a prelude to the Oberoi Amarvilasâ€™ commanding views of the Taj Mahal, the magnificent 17th-century mausoleum that emperor Shah Jahan built to honor the memory of his beloved third wife. Opened in 2001, the hotel was designed as a tribute to the refined aesthetics of Mughal architecture, which flourished in India during Shah Jahanâ€™s reign. Elaborate hand-knotted carpets, delicate filigree and inlaid marble tabletops, silken fabrics, and intricate miniature paintings are only some of the artisanal masterpieces found throughout. But the ultimate draw is watching the rising sun bathe the dome and minarets of the Taj Mahal in pink hues from your room; the monument, once described as â€śan eternal teardrop on the cheek of time,â€ť lies only 600 meters away. (Even the bathroom in the sumptuous 275-square-meter Kohinoor Suite dazzles with its views.) Youâ€™ll eat like a Mughal, too; at Esphahan, the hotelâ€™s signature restaurant, classical sitar music accompanies such calorific delicacies as rogan joshâ€”slowly cooked lamb spiced with yogurt and Kashmiri pepper and smoky, charcoal-grilled eggplant (91-562/223-1515; oberoihotels.com; doubles from US$698).
For Sheer Romance: Amanbagh, Alwar
Anyone inspired by the romantic vision of the Taj Mahal should continue westward to Alwar; the maddening highway traffic and jarring bumps along country roads might spoil your mood, but after arriving at this modern-day pink-marble palace deep in the Rajasthani desert, youâ€™ll soon be swooning again. Set in a lush enclave kept trim by a small army of gardeners, Amanbagh comprises 40 high-ceilinged suites and pool pavilions. The latter are especially decadent, with bathrooms that would satisfy any maharani. Couples can soak together among marigold petals in their green-marble tub after a day spent exploring the countryside by open-top safari jeep. Experienced nature guides leave guests plenty of time to canoodle between bird-watching stops and intimate picnics overlooking the haunting 16th-century ruins of Bhangarh. Set aside one sunset to climb aboard the resortâ€™s Kashmiri shikara boat for a ride across Lake Mansarova, to enjoy champagne cocktails and a candlelit alfresco Rajasthani feast on a rose-strewn stone platform. And before you leave, stop by the Aman boutique; itâ€™s filled with Gem Palace rings and other baubles for those who wish to mark their tryst with a sparkling keepsake (91-1465/223-333; amanresorts.com; doubles from US$600).