From grand architecture and fine indulgences, to riveting tales from history, experience Indiaʼs regal past by checking into some of the countryʼs most magnificent palace-hotels.
BY SURINA SAYAL
WELCOMHERITAGE FERNHILLS ROYAL PALACE, OOTY, TAMIL NADU
Sprawled across 50 acres of lush gardens ensconced in the paradisiacal setting of the Nilgiri Hills, this former summer residence of the royal family of Mysuru is an idyllic escape for nature lovers. You may even recognise its gorgeous misty environs from the immensely popular Bollywood thriller, Raaz! Originally built in 1844 by a British o cer to resemble a Swiss chalet, it was purchased by Maharaja Chamarajendra Wadiyar X in 1873. The striking red-and-white façade is fringed by cardamom and tea plantations, as well as eucalyptus forests, creating a verdant cocoon of serenity and romance. Interestingly, the palace features only expansive, luxuriously appointed suites for accommodation, each designed to transport you to a bygone era of resplendent comfort. The magnifi cent Darbar Hall enthrals with its unique ornamental papier-mâché ceiling. And meals at Curry & Rice, specialising in Anglo-Indian cuisine and royal Wadiyar recipes, are a must! welcomheritagehotels.in
Don’t miss: A hotel-organised visit to the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, just 43 kilometres from the property.
JEHAN NUMA PALACE, BHOPAL, MADHYA PRADESH
The perfect amalgamation of old and new, this regal 19th-century palace offers modern-day comforts with a generous slice of royal history. Named after Nawab Sultan Jehan Begum of Bhopal, it was built in 1890 by her son, General Obaidullah Khan. Swathed in white, the palace features impressive colonnaded verandas, arched walkways, and quiet courtyards that lead to spacious, contemporary-style rooms. Vintage elements such as portraits of Bhopal’s erstwhile begums, horse-drawn chariots, antique fi rearms, exquisite rugs, and more, paint a nostalgic picture of the past. Put in a request for the Imperial Room, and prepare to be greeted by beautiful views of the pool and the horse riding track. Savour the pleasure of a leisurely morning as you sip your tea on the deck while watching the palace’s thoroughbred horses gracefully riding by. Then, head out for a lovely stroll through charming gardens lined with colourful bougainvillea. Sublimely royal, if you ask us! jehannuma.com
Don’t miss: The ‘General’s Table’, a lavish eight-course dining experience comprising local delicacies like Bhopali filfora (spiced lamb).
TAJ FALAKNUMA PALACE, HYDERABAD, TELANGANA
You know it’s going to be a genuinely royal affair when you’re greeted by a horse-drawn carriage to escort you to the property’s central court! With its picturesque setting on a hill around 609 metres above sea level, this former palace of the Nizam of Hyderabad features architectural marvels galore: from the stunning marble entrance hall, and grand staircases, to Belgian chandeliers and the pièce de résistance—a 108-feet-long table in the Dining Hall, one of the world’s longest, that can seat up to 90 guests at a time! The carved walnut roof in the palace library, which is a replica of the Royal Library at the UK’s Windsor Castle, is another must-see. Check into The Nizam Suite, a stately duplex, for some true-blue indulgence! tajhotels.com
Don’t miss: The Champagne Palace Walk at sunset, a guided tour with enthralling stories about the Nizam.
SHIV NIWAS PALACE, UDAIPUR, RAJASTHAN
Set on the banks of the dazzling Lake Pichola, this hotel presents its guests with the authentic Rajputana experience. The crescent-shaped palace was built in the early 20th century, during the reign of Maharana Fateh Singh, for visiting dignitaries and guests of the House of Mewar. Gourmands can savour regional spreads at Paantya restaurant, boasting a stately ambience showcasing gold latticework and antique chandeliers, followed by an unwinding session of drinks and sunset views at Panera bar. James Bond fans may recognise this hotel; scenes of the 1983 film Octopussy were shot by the poolside here and at Suite No. 5, where British actor Roger Moore stayed for the duration of the shoot. Whether real or reel—lavish servings of regalia await you here! hrhhotels.com
Don’t miss: Spectacular views of Lake Pichola on a boat ride. And later unwind with dinner and a classical music performance.
NEEMRANA FORT-PALACE, ALWAR, RAJASTHAN
Picture this: Taking a relaxing dip in a gloriously extravagant heated pool while savouring the bewitching view of a historic fort’s shimmering lights that come alive at sundown. All this and lots more bliss await at this gorgeous 15th-century heritage hotel. Built in an awe-inspiring tiered style across 14 levels into the Aravalli Hills, the grand property is home to nine palace wings, ramparts, pools, restaurants, gardens, and even an amphitheatre! To unwind, try one of the many wellness therapies on offer, from a relaxing massage at the spa to early-morning yoga and meditation. On the culinary front is Holi Kund, an al fresco restaurant with scenic vistas. A must-try here is the laal maas (spicy Rajasthani mutton curry). Pure luxury for body, mind, and soul! neemranahotels.com
Don’t miss: A delightful 1940s-era vintagecar ride around the nearby Neemrana village.
THE RAJBARI BAWALI, WEST BENGAL
If walls could talk, those of this palatial abode would have many tales of grand parties, lavish lifestyles, and prestigious guests who have stayed at this property. Located about a 1.5-hour drive from Kolkata, this architectural masterpiece and hidden sanctuary was built around 300 years ago and belonged to the Mondal Dynasty of Bawali, an aristocratic zamindar family. Its imposing colonnades, exposed brick walls, and carved antique fourposter beds ooze old-world charm and sophistication. And a fine selection of restaurants and bars offers feasts of Bengali and international cuisines. Do sample the Zamindari Thaali, an elaborate spread of 18 traditional Bengali dishes served on terracotta platters and bowls. You can also learn how to recreate some of these dishes, as the hotel organises culinary classes for those with a gourmand’s spirit. On a tight schedule or have limited time? Then opt for the fun Zamindari Daycation and enjoy all the hotel’s offerings for an entire day. therajbari.com
Don’t miss: Sundowner boat rides on the Ganges River, a short distance away, complete with food, music, and sunset views.
THE LALIT GRAND PALACE SRINAGAR, J&K
A stay here is like a never-ending romantic shikhara (traditional Kashmiri boat) ride! Situated by the glistening Dal Lake and encircled by the Himalayan ranges, this opulent palace-hotel was designed and built by Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1910. Antique furniture, rich upholstery, and Kashmiri carpets lend an imperial aura to its 113 guest rooms and cottages. The palace grounds host elegantly landscaped gardens, one of which holds an iconic Chinar tree, once the site of a meeting between Mahatma Gandhi and Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu & Kashmir. As you soak in the history, make time for other indulgences here that range from tee-off sessions at the neighbouring 18-hole Royal Spring Golf Course, set against the backdrop of the Zabarwan mountains, to luxurious swims in the hotel’s indoor temperature-controlled pool. And the lush Chinar Garden multi-cuisine restaurant offers an idyllic setting for a meal. Essentially, paradise awaits around every corner here! thelalit.com
Don’t miss: A luxe treatment at Rejuve Spa, and a guided tutorial on walnut wood carving.