Picture your arrival: you're met at the airport by a car and driver, guided onto a private boat, then ferried across Lake Pichola—past Udaipur's domed lakefront palaces—into the gardens and fountains of the Udaivilas estate. You're led to your suite, tempered with earth tones. From your window, Udaipur, the city of lakes, carved into the desert landscape by Mewari royals in the 16th century, sparkles in the sun. When sensory overload subsides, wind your way through sprawling courtyards to a traditional Kashmiri gondola, where champagne and canapés for two await. Come back to the 30-acre lakeside property another time to receive traditional Meenakari jewelry boxes lined with deep-red velvet and adorned with enamel flowers, departure gifts given to repeat visitors.
2 of 9Courtesy of Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces
No. 2 Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, India
With 26 acres of landscaped gardens where peacocks display their plumage, and 76 guest rooms, including 40 raj-worthy suites the palace is purportedly one of the world’s largest residences. A 105-foot central cupola sheds a golden light that appears to waft through the long corridors. Built in the Art Deco style of the 1930's for the grandfather of the current maharajah, Umid Bhawan Palace sparkles after a $15 million renovation.
3 of 9Courtesy of Oberoi Rajvilas
No. 3 Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur, India
This modern Rajasthani retreat combines exacting standards with the romance of a bygone era and is made up of well-appointed tents, villas and an Oberoi spa. Royal tents have Burmese-teak floors and claw-foot bathtubs. Pay a visit to the nearby outpost of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, supported by the hotel. The new restaurant Rajmahal serves up a four-course menu prepared with herbs and vegetables from the hotel's garden.
4 of 9Courtesy of Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces
No. 4 Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, India
This lavishly restored 18th-century white-marble palace rises from a rock foundation on its own island in Lake Pichola. The Palace rooms offer some of the best views of the lake. Hire one of the hotel's vintage cars with a personal butler for a trip to the Jaisamandh Wildlife Sanctuary.
5 of 9Courtesy of Oberoir Amarvilas
No. 5 Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra, India
The Taj Mahal, the epic monument just a quarter mile away, is undoubtedly the focal point at this 102-room luxury resort. Fusing Mughal and Moorish architecture, the property is a rich spread of reflection pools, terraced lawns, and a grand colonnaded entrance, while interiors are flourished with sandstone floors, French doors, and four-poster beds. If you can't get enough of the Ayurvedic amenities in your bathroom, head to the spa, where an extensive menu of treatments are inspired by ancient, Indian healing methods— some almost 5,000 years old—for both men and women. Take comfort in the fact that though the Taj Mahal is closed once a week, the close-up view from the hotel bar is open all week long.
6 of 9Courtesy of The Oberoi, Gurgaon
No. 6 Oberoi, Gurgaon, New Delhi, India
The two-bedroom presidential suite, called the Kohinoor Suite, is 5,300 square feet and has a 70-foot-long private outdoor heated pool and deck. Be sure to try one of the hotel's excellent signature cocktails, which your personal butler can serve in your guest room.
7 of 9Courtesy of Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces
No. 7 Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, India
1903 grande dame with dramatic interiors—vaulted ceilings; silk carpets; onyx columns—overlooking the 85-foot-high Gateway of India. The lobby of this a plush Edwardian palace has a new contemporary look, with dragon-patterned panels and etched glasswork, but the heritage wing’s 297 rooms and suites remain reassuringly classic, filled with period furniture and original works of art.
8 of 9Courtesy of the Oberoi, Mumbai
No. 8 The Oberoi, Mumbai, India
Cosmopolitan elegance characterizes everything about the Oberoi's recently renovated flagship, located on Marine Drive, a scenic coastal boulevard that lines Mumbai's south side. From the deep-red concert grand piano that graces the airy foyer to the colored glass tiles that line Vetro, the hotel's Italian restaurant, it's apparent that sleek furnishings were prioritized here. The 214 guest rooms (all graciously updated with WiFi and iPod docking stations) are decked with pietra dura tabletops, oak wood floors and ivory, leather-clad headboards. The hotel is also home to the city's first and only 24-hour spa and a heated outdoor swimming pool, bordered by cushy chaise lounges that look towards Back Bay.
9 of 9Courtesy of Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces
No. 9 Rambagh Palace, Jaipur, India
Tipping the indulgence scale, Taj Hotels’ Rambagh Palace, in Jaipur, has put up two new spa suite tents patterned after a 16th-century Mughal encampment. When India’s royalty went camping, their tasseled tents were made of velvet and embroidered silk. Devised by husband-and-wife hotel design team Amit and Shalini Gehlot, the billowing pavilions contain handwoven carpets, royal pennants, and love swings made from salvaged shesham wood.
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