Live like a maharaja: Luxury hotel groups in India

The beautifully decked The Leela Palace Udaipur

WITH India’s rich architectural history and affinity for extravagance, it’s no surprise that luxury hotel groups there have been continually thriving through the years. 

Luxury – defined in the old-fashioned form of elaborate embellishments – refers to India’s typically Mughal-style architecture that plays alongside colonial detailing. Especially in the northern cities of Jaipur, Udaipur, and Delhi, these hotels find a way to remain relevant amidst modern developments.

Even in the age of disruption, Indian luxury hotels offer a sense of escape and timelessness, reminiscent of an era that once was. Whether in the form of dramatic domed towers, manicured jasmine gardens, or impeccable butler service, this unique genre of hotels are often opulent as they are transcendent.

Here are three top hotel groups in India leading the way in luxury hospitality.

The Leela Palaces, Hotels & Resorts

In the last 30 years, The Leela has successfully delivered a world-class collection of luxury hotels across India. The group owns and operates nine award-winning hotels spread across key destinations: Bengaluru, Chennai, East Delhi, Goa, Gurugram, Kovalam, Mumbai, New Delhi and Udaipur. Each property, a market leader in its own right, has garnered international acclaim and ushers in well-heeled travelers from the world over.

The group’s first foray was The Leela Mumbai that opened its doors in 1986. It all began when late founder Capt. CP Krishnan Nair and his wife Leela (whom the group is named after) stumbled upon a vast tract of 11 acres situated close to the international airport. His wife had a hunch then that travelers at the airport would drive demand – and she was right. Fast forward to present day, the group’s foremost property hasn’t looked back since.

The Leela Goa is India’s only Beach and Riverside luxury resort. Set amidst 75 acres of landscaped gardens, it is nestled between the Arabian Sea and River Sal and reflects the Portuguese and Indian heritage. Immensely popular with both Europeans and Indians, the property showcases India’s sometimes underrated status as a beach destination.

Located in India’s IT capital is The Leela Palace Bengaluru which draws inspiration from the architectural style of the Royal Palace of Mysore, a renowned regal structure in the state of Karnataka. It stands amidst seven acres of lush gardens and is the pride of every resident of this garden city.

The Leela Kovalam, India’s only cliff-top beach resort, showcases Kerala’s coastal beauty and plunging clifftop and offers uninterrupted views of the Arabian Sea from all it rooms and suites. It also has a specialized Ayurveda center that offers therapeutic and wellness programs.

The Leela Ambience Gurugram Hotel & Residences, the millennium city’s only “lifestyle” hotel is enveloped in sophistication and the convenience of being situated close to a large number of Indian and global corporate headquarters in India, an adjoining Golf course that is flood lit and one of the best and largest Shopping malls. The property offers 1-2-3 bedroom residences and over 27,000 sq. feet of convention space.

The Leela Palace Udaipur is the only lakeside luxury hotel in Udaipur with unparalleled views of the serene Lake Pichola and The Aravalli ranges from all its 80 king-sized rooms and expansive suites. It’s been rated as one of the Top 100 Worlds’ Best Hotels and is rated by customers as the No. 1 hotel in Udaipur. While here, you can treat yourself to innovative spa treatments by ESPA, a private dining experience over magnificent settings, and the warmth of award-winning associates.

The group’s flagship hotel, The Leela Palace New Delhi, is the capital’s only modern luxury palace hotel and revered as one of the top city hotels in Asia. Centrally located, it is situated close to the seats of Government, Diplomatic missions and New Delhi’s main business districts. The grandiose butterfly-shaped structure is a beacon of sumptuousness and houses the internationally renowned Le Cirque and Megu speciality restaurants.

The Leela Palace Chennai is the city’s only sea-facing modern palace hotel. Nestled in the southern end of Marina Beach – the world’s longest natural urban beach – in the Adyar creek area, the architectural theme of this magnificent palace is based on Chettinad style, befitting stays for royalty.

The Leela Ambience Convention Hotel, Delhi, with over 70,000 sq feet of convention space including a pillar-less hall of 24,000 sq. feet, is the capital’s largest convention center hotel. Situated close to Old Delhi’s main tourist attractions of Red Fort, Jama Masjid & the shopping districts of Chandni Chowk, the location serves to be an ideal stop-over destination en-route the hills of North India and to Agra.

Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces

Rooted deeply in Indian heritage, Taj draws on time-honored traditions central to the Indian homecoming, with details such as welcome drinks and elaborate dinner services. Through these traditions, the group claims to “support endangered artisanal practices and revive regal history at palaces where royal families are still in residence”.

With eight hotels in 62 locations across the country, including business hubs and religious pilgrimages, Taj isn’t limited to India. Its expansion across the Maldives, Indonesia, the UK, US, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Africa, and the Middle East is a sign that Indian heritage is still very much alive and kicking.

Taj offers a range of accommodation options, from beach hotels and city retreats to hill resorts and residences. But it’s the palaces that are most romantic, particularly Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur. Built in 1746 as the pleasure palace of Maharana Jagat Singh II, it’s a recognizable institution in the region and has graced the silver screen in films such as Octopussy.

Jaipur too is host to many of Taj’s opulent palaces including Jai Mahal Palace, a 270-year-old Indo-Saracenic architectural masterpiece set amidst landscaped Mughal gardens. Rambagh Palace – once the residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur – also plays on indulgence, reflective of a bygone era.

Oberoi Hotels & Resorts

Founded in 1934, Oberoi cleverly blends luxury and functionality. While personalized service and attention to detail are still important to the brand, these are executed with a sense of ease and carefreeness. As a bonus, the group also adopts ecological practices in operational processes and technology.

If you have extra cash to splash, you can opt for Oberoi’s corporate chartered air service featuring the Hawker 850 XP executive jet which seats eight. With only a 48-hour notice, a limousine will pick you up and take you to the airport, where airport personnel will escort you through airport formalities.

In tune with Jaipur’s reputation as a luxury hotel hub, The Oberoi Rajvillas is a sweeping property set across 32 acres of landscaped gardens and built around an 18th century Shiva temple. The property is adorned with Mughal-inspired arches, gold leaf frescoes, high-domed ceilings, and glittering crystal chandeliers.

Meanwhile, The Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra is just 600 meters from the Taj Mahal, and is an architectural wonder in its own right. The driveway alone is fringed by dramatic torches and native trees that lead the way to a Mughal-style quadrant and arched passageway. Peak extravagance, we say.

*Some of the properties featured in this article are commercial partners of Travel Wire Asia