For Wildlife Encounters: Taj Safari Lodges, Madhya Pradesh
The Taj group was not the first hotelier to bring luxury to India’s wilds—both Oberoi and Amanresorts have been operating upscale tented camps near the Ranthambore tiger reserve in Rajasthan for the better part of a decade. But Taj trumps them all with its combination of vernacular style and game-watching expertise, the latter courtesy of a partnership with &Beyond, a Johannesburg-based operator with decades of experience in Africa’s competitive safari industry. Taj Safa-ris is a four-lodge circuit in Madhya Pradesh, whose parks are home to nearly a quarter of India’s remaining tigers. Mahua Kothi in Bandhavgarh National Park is comprised of a dozen rustic-chic cottages based on traditional mud-and-thatch huts; Baghvan in Pench National Park offers an equal number of colonial-style bungalows; Banjaar Tola in Kanha National Park is set along the forested banks of the Banjaar River; and Pashan Garh, the northernmost lodge, houses its guests in angular stone cottages overlooking a stream outside Panna National Park. All come with &Beyond-trained guides, luxe 4×4 jeeps, pampering service, fine food, and a good chance of spotting Bengal tigers, not to mention a host of other creatures (91-22/6601-182; tajsafaris.com; doubles from US$840).
For Simply Getting Away From it All: Shakti 360? Leti, Uttarakhand
The views from this remote outpost in the little-visited Kumaon Himalayas of Uttarakhand are staggering—but then, so are the logistics of getting here. After an overnight train ride from Delhi, guests face an eight-hour drive through steep mountains to Leti village, followed by an hour’s walk to the camp (a private charter flight will shave about five hours off the drive). Once ensconced in one of 360° Leti’s four minimalist glass-and-stone cottages, however, you will be well rewarded with both epic scenery and sublime service, as well as a roster of activities ranging from hikes to secluded waterfalls and visits to local villages—cultural immersion is part of the Shakti group’s DNA. At 2,400 meters above sea level, you’ll be forgiven for feeling lightheaded. Or maybe that dizzy sensation simply comes with discovering such a stylish bivouac in so far-flung a location. Cottages are appointed with thick sheepskin rugs, woodstoves, campaign-style furniture, and beds cocooned in pashmina blankets and fluffy duvets; each also has a grassy terrace with a sunken fire pit, where you can warm yourself as the stars come out. Come mealtime, the communal lounge serves family-style meals of Indian, Tibetan, and international fare, all excellently prepared and accompanied by an impressive—at least for this altitude—selection of wines (91-11/4173-4788; shaktihimalaya.com; US$1,825 per person for three nights, the minimum length of stay. 360° Leti is closed from May through September during the monsoon season).