From colonial-era mansions to one-with-nature retreats, these gorgeous boutique hotels in India offer unique experiences enveloped in understated luxury.
By PRACHI JOSHI
Intimate, luxe, design-forward properties offering personalised service are fast becoming the hotels of choice for the discerning, experiential traveller. While larger chains may seem more convenient, their one-size-fits-all approach may not appeal to those seeking a more unique getaway. So, for your next vacation, opt for a boutique hotel that combines carefully curated experiences with a dash of luxury. Here are seven boutique properties around India for a dreamy escape.
Amaya, Himachal Pradesh
Just under two hours from Chandigarh airport, the minimalist yet elegant Amaya spreads lushly across 25 acres of private forest. Blending seamlessly into the Kasauli hillside, the property has been designed by famed architect Bijoy Jain and is built using local materials like wood, lime, and stone. Innovative yet inviting, its nine chalets, six suites, and five villas combine traditional architectural elements with contemporary Nordic design to present a relaxing ambience. Seasonal produce and local ingredients are at the forefront of Amaya’s culinary repertoire, created along with celebrated Chef Prateek Sadhu (of Masque Restaurant)— expect in-house sourdough breads, pickled fruit and vegetables, and regional cheeses on your plate.
Take a dip in the naturally filtered, heated swimming pool, or sweat it out in the Finnish saunas—there’s rejuvenation galore here! Amaya also offers a range of curated experiences, such as a heritage walk to the adjacent Darwa village, private meals on secluded mountain tops, and horticulture tours.
INSIDER TIP: Go foraging or fruitpicking on the property’s farm and come back to a meal made with your fresh, hand-picked produce. theamayalife.com
Vistara offers twice daily direct flights to Chandigarh from Delhi and Mumbai, and daily direct flights from Bengaluru.
Makaibari Bungalow, Darjeeling by amã Stays & Trails, West Bengal
Perched atop a hill in the Kurseong district, with a panoramic view of the surrounding tea estate, Makaibari Bungalow is a contemporary update on a colonial-era plantation bungalow. The Sabyasachi-designed wallpaper in the hallway adds to the turn-of-the-century aesthetic, while the massive glass-fronted living room brings the outdoors inside. Its five bedrooms (four king and one twin) are tastefully appointed with custom-made furniture. The bungalow is home to in-house chefs who dish up mouth-watering Indian and Nepalese delicacies, as well as international fare—all made with organic produce either grown on site or sourced locally.
Take a tour of the vast estate and the 160-year-old Makaibari tea factory—you can even strap on a wicker basket and try your hand at plucking tea leaves. Follow this up with a tea-tasting session that takes one through the aromas and tastes of various tea blends and concoctions.
INSIDER TIP: Explore Darjeeling through outings planned by the local staff, such as nature trails and discovering the quaint corners of the magical mountain town. amastaysandtrails.com
Vistara offers daily direct flights between Delhi and Bagdogra.
Brij Pola, Jawai, Rajasthan
If you love the thrill of staying in the wilderness but need your creature comforts, Brij Pola, Jawai offers the perfect glamping experience. Located in the middle of Jawai Bandh—where leopards roam free amidst millionsof- years-old granite boulders—it houses four apartment-sized tented suites that come with four-poster beds, six-fixture bathrooms, and super-soft linen. Head out on sunrise and sunset safaris with a trained naturalist in search of leopards, sloth bears, crocodiles, and a variety of birds.
Return to sumptuous meals of traditional Rajasthani delicacies, Chinese fare, and Italian cuisine, served either indoors or al fresco,
or even at the nearby home of a Rabari shepherd. Don’t miss an adventurous drive on the boulder hills—hold on tight as it’s a roller-coaster of a ride, but you may just spot a leopard lurking about!
INSIDER TIP: Book one of the two tents with a private plunge pool
and enjoy a fancy floating breakfast. brijhotels.com
Vistara offers twice daily direct flights to Udaipur from Delhi and Mumbai.
Wildflower Villas, Goa
India’s smallest state often draws the largest crowds. But if you’re seeking that perfect Goa vacation, minus the throngs of tourists, then Wildflower Villas is the place to be. Set amidst a 200-year-old forest spread over eight acres, the seven spacious Portuguese-style villas offer a sanctuary, far from North Goa’s cacophonous party scene. Each villa sports a different décor, but all are outfitted with vintage furniture and massive bathrooms. Another highlight is the expansive verandah that wraps around each villa, perfect for your morning cuppa, reading a book, or even an afternoon siesta, Goa-style! Make time for a relaxing dip in the infinity pool overlooking the Saipem River.
Later, savour sumptuous Goan-Saraswat meals with fish fry, prawn curry, tisrya sukke (dry clam preparation), and local red rice, ending on a sweet note with bebinca (layered Goan dessert), serradura (Portuguesestyle cream and biscuit pudding), or mangane (traditional Goan kheer made with sabudana or sago, chana dal, jaggery, and coconut milk). Talk about stylish susegad!
INSIDER TIP: Try a hyper-local breakfast of vatana ros (white pea curry) with poee or pao (local breads) slathered with scrumptious homemade coconut jam. wildflowergoa.com
Starting 14 February 2023, Vistara will connect the New Goa International Airport with daily flights to and from Bengaluru
and 6x weekly flights to and from Mumbai.
The Tamara Coorg, Karnataka
Sprawled across 180 acres of aromatic coffee, cardamom, and pepper plantations, The Tamara Coorg is a lush eco-resort located more than 3,500 feet above sea level in Karnataka’s Kodagu district. Each of its elegant cottages, featuring wood panelling and pastel hues, present stunning views of the surrounding forests and hills. Book the Eden Lotus Cottage for the ultimate luxe experience—it flaunts two bedrooms, a large living room, and a private sundeck with a jacuzzi.
The resort offers plantation tours and treks, of course, but we particularly recommend their exquisite forest bathing experience. Inspired by Japanese wellness philosophies, the encounter gives you the opportunity to completely immerse yourself in the natural environment, while soaking in the positive energies of the forest. The event ends with a guided meditation session followed by a foot massage. This adults-only property also houses a plush spa and two swimming pools, making it the perfect romantic escape.
INSIDER TIP: Sign up for a unique coffee profiling session and make your own signature blend to bring back home. thetamara.com
Vistara offers daily direct flights to Bengaluru from Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Goa, Guwahati, Chandigarh, and Pune.
Blue Book at Gethia, Uttarakhand
A short drive from Nainital, this colonial-era bungalow has been painstakingly refurbished into a cosy boutique hotel. Step into the
past with this charming property’s attention to detail—vintage furniture, Victorian-style upholstery, and antiques all add to its period charm. While each of its 12 rooms is done up in distinctive themes, all cleverly listed as chapters, we lost our heart to Chapter 8: The Gorging Valley for its wood-panelled interiors and stunning views of the Jeolikote Valley.
Food is another highlight here—from Indian and continental to pan-Asian and local Kumaoni meals, you will be well fed, indeed! Not to mention that each meal is served in appealing venues on the premises, from the pretty gazebo to the Majnu ka Tila, overlooking the mountains. If you’re up for it, the team can also organise morning or evening treks, with the promise of breakfast or high tea on the other side.
INSIDER TIP: Kumaoni specialities like bhatt ki dal (Himalayan black bean curry) and pahadi mutton (meat cooked local style) are a must-try! bluebookhotels.com
Vistara offers daily direct flights to Dehradun from Delhi and Mumbai.
Karan Mahal, Srinagar
Built in the 1920s, this charming European-style villa overlooking the Dal Lake is a classy boutique hotel with just eight rooms. But Karan Mahal is no ordinary mansion. It once served as the Srinagar residence of the former rulers of Jammu & Kashmir. And its royal lineage is evident in its handcrafted wooden ceilings, vintage Kashmiri carpets, and crystal chandeliers, as well as the photos of eminent visitors like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and tea sets gifted by Soviet leaders Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin.
Two of the suites have private balconies, while the third offers private access to the sprawling lawn; all the rooms open to spectacular views of the Zabarwan and Pir Panjal Ranges. The kitchen carries forward the legacy of the royal family’s age-old recipes, too. Savour Kashmiri delicacies like lamb yakhni (local meat preparation) and gucchi (wild mushrooms) pulao on your plate, in addition to global cuisines.
INSIDER TIP: Upon request, the staff can curate a selection of carpets, shawls, and handicrafts from local artisans. karanmahalsrinagar.com
Vistara offers twice daily direct flights between Delhi and Srinagar, and daily direct flights between Jammu and Srinagar.