Every girl dreams of becoming a princess and living in a castle. The closest we can get to that these days is vacationing in one of the numerous palace hotels that dot our historical country. They are a symbol of our glorious past and give us a taste of the regal lifestyle of the royalty in India.
Most of these palace hotels are situated in Rajasthan. Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Bikaner — they all boast huge forts, colourful palaces and the luxurious lifestyle of the royals. Even though monarchy is extinct in India, descendants of the Maharajas and Maharanis of the past still try to maintain their way of life. Their heirloom jewellery, traditional clothes and the feasts produced in the royal kitchens can still take you back in time. The palaces that the living blue bloods call home are now converted to heritage hotels.
Samode Palace in Jaipur is one of these old palaces that has been standing tall for almost five centuries. It’s lit up facade at night forms an iconic image of what an Indian royal palace looked like. The 24 suites and 19 rooms have their own old world charm — the hand painted hallways, colourful mosaics, tall archways and high ceilings make your stay a memorable experience. Exploring the age old corridors could take you on a trip through the history of royal India.
You will feel like you have travelled back in time with the help of a time machine if you decide to vacation at the Neemrana Fort Palace at Alwar. This large property is divided into seven wings. You need not venture out of this hotel as you can spend your whole vacation here and have beautiful photos to take home. An appointment at the in-house ayurvedic spa can help you truly relax and enjoy your vacation.
Jaipur, the pink city, should get the title of the ‘palace city’ as most of these luxurious abodes are located here. One of the world’s finest heritage hotels, the Rambagh Palace Hotel, is located here. The Taj Group has respectfully restored this palace to its former glory as can be witnessed in its airy courtyards, gurgling fountains, beautiful verandas and warm hospitality. Taj Rambagh Palace is fondly called the Jewel of Jaipur and truly deserves this honour. Just a stroll in the 47-acre garden is enough to soak in the grandeur of the past.
The Umaid Bhavan Palace in Jodhpur has a special reason for its opulence — the royal family still calls it home. Though you may not run into a prince on your visit as the residence wing is separate from the hotel wing, just knowing that you are sharing space with the blue bloods is excitement in itself. Being one of the youngest palaces in the country, this hotel is at its glorious peak without any need of restoration so what you get is the original charm.
The imposing structure made entirely out of yellow sandstone stands tall atop a hill looking over the city below. Even if you don’t have the budget to spend a night here, a visit is definitely a must.
Moving away from Rajasthan, the Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad that was a witness to the times of the Nizam of Hyderabad shot to fame recently as the location for Salman Khan’s sister’s wedding. This palace is a mixture of Mughal and Victorian architecture — the library is said to be a replica of the one at Windsor Palace. Just walking down the grand staircases can make you feel regal.
There are numerous gardens that were designed by the Nizam himself. The Palace is also home to priceless pieces of art, sculpture and antique furniture. Your stay will be one to remember for life.
There are also palace hotels in the hills if that is a topography that is preferred to the heat of the deserts. Some of them are the Fernhills Palace in Ooty, which has a British colonial vibe, Kasmanda Palace in Mussoorie, which is still owned by the Kasmanda royal family and Wildflower Hall in Simla, which was home to a British Lord.
The gardens of these palaces are more ‘woods’ than ‘lawns’ and can be explored at length by hiking through them. You could either relax and see the snow covered mountains from your heated room or go white water rafting or trekking. How active you want your vacation in these mountain palaces to be is up to you, but I would rather keep warm and enjoy a massage in the spas!
A country of legends, myths, magic and palaces, India can cater to people from all walks of life wanting to experience the old imperial life. If not to serve as a hotel, a lot of palaces are now historical monuments, like the intricate Hawa Mahal in Jaipur, the Palace of Mysore, Laxmi Vilas Palace in Gujarat and so many more.