This content was produced for India 100 by the foundry @ MEREDITH CORP. Time editorial staff was not involved in its creation or production.



From first-class train journeys to luxurious heritage hotels, India is replete with five-star experiences.

The Finer Things

What is luxury? In Udaipur, perhaps it is an opulent hotel nestled on a mid-lake island: where life is dipped in color and gold. In Darjeeling, it is a perfectly executed afternoon tea on the lawn, senses heightened by the sense of tranquility. In Rishikesh or Mumbai, perhaps it is an extraordinary spa, or a hotel where the best of east and west unite. In Wayanad, it is living in the lap of luxury, up in a treehouse. Above all it is service and craftsmanship, executed to perfection.


Luxury Tree Houses on a Tiger Reserve

The Bandhavgarh National Park is a sprawling tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh with the world’s highest density of Bengal tigers as well as deer, leopards, reptiles, jackals and 250 species of birds. In a 21-acre wooded land just adjacent, five luxury tree houses perch above the forest floor. They are airy and well appointed with an elegance that is perfectly at home with their surroundings. That’s good news for kids looking for wildlife adventure and parents looking for more indulgent comfort at the end of the day. The houses at Tree House Hideaway were constructed by local craftsman and named after the trees on which they are built: Mahua, Tendu, Peepal, Banyan and Palash. Jeep safaris, camping and bonfires will keep young travelers occupied while parents can absorb the otherworldly quiet amidst swaying Sal trees on the private terrace or at the jungle-chic 360-degree bar. Naturalist guides are available on-site for nature walks on the property or a scenic picnic in the jungle. But first, enjoy the look on your kids’ faces when you tell them you’re going to stay with tigers in a jungle tree house for vacation this year.

WHEN TO GO: Visit the Tiger Reserve during the cooler months from October to March for the best chances of interacting with wildlife, who dislike overly warm temperatures.

FOR KIDS: Reserve this activity for children 12+, or those who have the maturity to meander through the treehouse heights. Platforms and stairs are not child-proofed.


Live Like a Royal at Umaid Bhawan Palace

One of the world’s largest private residences, Umaid Bhawan was built in the 1920s as a symmetrical pink sandstone vision of domes, turrets and pillars with a bird’s eye view of the city’s magnificent Mehrangarh Fort; now, you can stay there too. On a hill just beyond the old ‘blue town’ of Jodhpur, this was originally a flamboyant residence for members of the Indian royalty. In the 1970s, however, this Rajasthani palace was converted into luxury ‘heritage hotel’ run by Taj Hotels. This sumptuous Art Deco gem offers guests style and service worthy of a royal guesthouse: A grand Marwari-style reception awaits today’s guests as rose petals cascade down upon these visitors and drummers and buglers offer their serenades. Sweeping marble stairways give way to an awe-inspiring domed rotunda that opens onto impeccably manicured lawns where staff in flowing orange and red turbans await, offering a drink and a warm welcome. The palace interiors are awash with Venetian mirrors, flowing crystal fountains and chandeliers; when it comes to the guest rooms and suites, this sense of historic grandeur is fused with contemporary comforts. The palace museum’s fabulous collection of Rajput, Victorian and Edwardian antiques can be enjoyed on a “Champagne Museum Walk”, glass in hand.

WHEN TO GO: Plan your luxury stay from April to June so you can experience all it has to offer — like garden tours and swimming pools — outside as well as in.


Mountaintop Grandeur at Shakti 360° Leti

Staying at Shakti 360° Leti is a rare privilege. This luxury property has just four rooms and perches atop a mountain approximately 8,000 feet up in the Indian Himalayas. Getting here requires a journey along a winding road that passes through villages and valleys of the Himalayan foothills before ending abruptly amid an oak forest with views of distant snowy peaks. From there, porters tote guests’ luggage for the leisurely hour-long stroll to the hilltop plateau, where futuristic villas and a designer log cabin lodge offer spectacular views in every direction. The stone, glass and wood villas with panoramic-view windows and slow combustion stoves are a triumph of design and style considering the construction logistics of such a remote location. Charming and attentive staff, along with the friendly lodge dogs, can accompany guests on treks to a Shiva Temple, the Ramganga River or to take in views of India’s second highest peak, Nanda Devi. The three-night minimum stay makes sense given how long it takes to get there, and most guests would prefer to stay awhile anyway to soak up the otherworldly setting.

WHEN TO GO: This otherworldly resort has only four rooms with a three-night maximum stay, so it is smart to book early. The scenery of snow-capped mountains is a must-see, so book during the colder half of the year, from October to March.


India's Most Exquisite Escapes



This lavish lakefront hotel is a visual feast of opulent traditional Raj...

This lavish lakefront hotel is a visual feast of opulent traditional Rajput design and stylish contemporary interiors. The epitome of luxury, it boasts extensive manicured grounds, a wildlife sanctuary, spa, two pools, and fabulous views. Many rooms have direct private access to a giant lap pool that wraps around the property like a modern moat. The muffled sounds of temple bells, devotional chanting and city hullabaloo drift over the water from the opposite shore. The view of Udaipur’s famous Lake Palace seems to float like an illuminated fantasy in the middle of the lake.

WHEN TO GO: This sprawling resort full of spas, pools, and wildlife sanctuaries is best visited in the warm months of April to July, allowing you to take advantage of all the resort’s grounds have to offer.

Read More Less


The undisputed grande dame of Mumbai, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is one ...

The undisputed grande dame of Mumbai, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is one of the city’s most iconic and photographed landmarks. Built at the turn of the 20th century, in a fairytale blend of Moorish, Oriental and Florentine styles, it is enviably positioned overlooking the Gateway of India and the Arabian Sea. Mumbaikars and visitors alike are drawn to the property’s stately arched terraces and grand staircases, as well as its legendary pool and innovative restaurants. An oasis of calm in the city, the hotel has hosted historic figures and earned its glistening reputation over the course of decades.

WHEN TO GO: Just off the coast of the Arabian Sea sits this historic landmark. Book your trip in the summer so you can take in all the city has to offer, from its stunning architecture to its restaurants with plentiful outdoor seating options.

Read More Less


Venues offering yoga, Ayurveda, and wellness retreats are far from auste...

Venues offering yoga, Ayurveda, and wellness retreats are far from austere these days. Just a short drive from the New Delhi airport, for example, the Kaya Kalp Spa located at the ITC Grand Bharat Hotel is an excellent place for a holistic and rejuvenating escape from the world. The opulent and elaborate Mughal Dynasty palace-inspired facility of over 99,000 square feet is set against the bucolic Aravalli mountains and offers a comprehensive selection of Ayurvedic treatments, new age and Western-style treatments, and meditation and yoga classes. These are often available for overnight guests of the hotel and as longer-term high-end residential retreats.

WHEN TO GO: With a backdrop of the Aravalli mountain ranges, this is the perfect place to spend a snowy afternoon, or overnight. Book your trip during the months of October to March, and relax indoors or in heated spas and pools.

Read More Less


Cruising on a converted rice barge-houseboat through the Kerala backwate...

Cruising on a converted rice barge-houseboat through the Kerala backwaters offers an authentic glimpse of everyday life in remote villages. As you glide through palm-fringed canals and lagoons, fishermen call out from paddleboats to sell their catch, and longboats filled with coir (coconut fiber) and cashews pass by. Wildlife watchers can spy egrets wading in the shallows as iridescent kingfishers swoop overhead and turtles emerge from the depths. Forays onto shore are a chance to walk through rarely visited villages, and discover hidden temples and shrines.

WHEN TO GO: To see the villages abrim with flowers and see wildlife in its most active state, book your cruise in the spring or early summer months—March to May.

Read More Less


The houseboats moored along the shores of the Dal and Nagin Lakes date b...

The houseboats moored along the shores of the Dal and Nagin Lakes date back to the Raj days, when the British flocked to Kashmir every summer to escape India’s heat and monsoon rains. Built as floating palaces, many of the boats have been sensitively restored in recent years to seamlessly blend old-world colonial charm with modern comforts for tourists. The setting amid floating gardens of flowering lotus, with views of the misty Pir Panjal Mountains, leaves little to be desired. But there’s more to see ashore, such as Mughal gardens and the bazaars and mosques of Srinagar’s old town.

WHEN TO GO: The houseboats are the perfect summer getaway. While the weather is sultry, the house will rock lightly on the lake, and you can experience beautiful views while dipping your toes in the water that is the perfect swimming temperature.

Read More Less


Traveling by train along the extensive Indian Railways network is one of...

Traveling by train along the extensive Indian Railways network is one of the most popular and interesting ways to experience the country. And now, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation offers weeklong stays aboard the luxury Maharajas’ Express. This dedicated train travels seven carefully selected routes, so tourists avoid having to book hotels and make special arrangements to visit places like Hampi on the Southern Sojourn route, Bikaner and Ajanta on the Heritage of India tour and Gwalior and Khajuraho on the Indian Panorama. Some of the major luxury train lines to choose from are The Deccan Odyssey, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, Golden Chariot, Palace on Wheels, Royal Orient Train and the Maharajas’ Express.

WHEN TO GO: Take these luxury trains cross country and explore the changing landscapes of India. Book based on what season you want to explore, but be sure to book well in advance as they will fill up.

Read More Less


Numerous former palaces, forts and havelis of the Royal Rajput clans of ...

Numerous former palaces, forts and havelis of the Royal Rajput clans of Rajasthan have been restored and converted into luxurious heritage hotels. Options range from a hotel inside the sandcastle-like Jaisalmer Fort in the Thar Desert, to properties in the Rajput palaces of the Aravalli Hills. Along with their unique combination of modern comforts and vintage style, these elegant properties offer a rare experience of traditional country life. Travelers can go on village and farm walks and rural rambles, escaping the frenetic pace of city life for a while.

WHEN TO GO: Visit the hotels from March to May so you can spend days and evenings exploring the open structures of the hotels and its many gardens and outdoor art.

Read More Less


The new breed of luxury lodges on the edges of India’s safari parks (t...

The new breed of luxury lodges on the edges of India’s safari parks (they are available, for example, in Ranthambore National Park in North India and Bandhavgarh National Park in Central India) make it easier for guests to see rare species in their natural habitats. These hotels employ experienced naturalists who act as guides for travelers by interpreting the sounds of the forest. For example, the alarm calls of langur monkeys and chital (spotted deer) indicate that a tiger might soon emerge from the forest —an unforgettable sight.

WHEN TO GO: To experience wildlife in a never-before-seen state, book your stay at a wildlife lodge in March to June, before the monsoon season picks up.

Read More Less


Udaipur is among the grandest and most elegant cities of Rajasthan. A tr...

Udaipur is among the grandest and most elegant cities of Rajasthan. A treasure trove of ornate palaces and havelis, lively bazars, beautiful temples and romantic old streets, it is the perfect place to slow down and savor the good life. The City Palace Museum showcases the Mewar Dynasty’s opulent lifestyle, and local hotels offer a contemporary version—whether inside the old palace or along the shore of Lake Pichola.

WHEN TO GO: Take your trip to Rajasthan in the spring months of March to May. Exploring everything the city has to offer is a must, so bypass the snow and monsoon seasons.

Read More Less


A luxury cruise along the Brahmaputra River in India’s northeastern st...

A luxury cruise along the Brahmaputra River in India’s northeastern state of Assam is a journey to a land that time forgot. These comfortable trips typically last for seven days and allow time for exploring villages along the riverbanks that are home to Assamese tribes who’ve have had little contact with the outside world. The great joy of a river cruise is the slowly unfolding journey to destinations inaccessible by road and that few tourists ever see.

WHEN TO GO: Let this cruise take you to rarely-seen parts of India — from culture to wildlife. Book your trip early and travel in the idyllic months of March-May where you can comfortably sit outside and enjoy the views of the water and the wildlife.

Read More Less


Chic, contemporary versions of vintage colonial-style tented camps can b...

Chic, contemporary versions of vintage colonial-style tented camps can be found all over the country, from the deserts of Rajasthan to the tropical forests of Kerala and the safari parks of Central India. They offer an extremely luxurious version of camping inside huge tents with en suite bathrooms, lavish décor, and large beds with mosquito nets. Many of India’s annual festivals, such as the Pushkar and the Jodhpur Rajasthan International Folk Festival, now offer luxury camping options.

WHEN TO GO: Book your glamping adventure in the months of October and November, when a number of India’s esteemed festivals take place, with these luxurious tents located close by.

Read More Less


Ananda is a wonderful blend of spiritual retreat and a luxury destinatio...

Ananda is a wonderful blend of spiritual retreat and a luxury destination spa. Clinging to the steep Himalayan foothills and overlooking the meandering Ganges River, the spa manages to combine the ancient philosophies of Ayurveda, yoga and Vedanta in a modern setting. Individually designed spa programs incorporate therapeutic massage with nourishing meals to match every dosha (ayurvedic body type), and guests can relax poolside in between treatments. Treats include warm ginger milk before bedtime and soaked almonds in the morning.

WHEN TO GO: This spa and wellness resort with a beautiful view of the Ganges River is a perfect travel destination from September to November. Be sure to avoid the rainiest months of monsoon season.

Read More Less