The Grand Heritage Hotels of India
The Maharajas of India’s past constructed magnificent palaces as symbols of their power. However, in 1971, India abolished “privy purses,” the governmental payments made to these rulers. Many of them then transformed their vast estates into heritage hotels or leased them to renowned hotel chains, which meticulously restored them to their former glory. Here are eight regal retreats in various Indian states where travelers can experience the lavish lifestyles of kings and queens.
1. Jehan Numa Palace – Bhopal
Jehan Numa Palace in Bhopal offers visitors a chance to step back in time. This neoclassical palace, with its 19th-century exterior, was originally built by General Obaidullah Khan, son of the last ruling Begum of Bhopal. In the 1980s, his grandsons transformed it into a 100-room hotel. The palace hotel showcases salvaged original artifacts and Raj-era photos alongside modern luxuries like a palm-lined pool and Chakra spa services. Guests can enjoy Italian and Mediterranean cuisine or savor the hotel’s legendary Bhopali fare prepared from secret palace recipes in the restaurant named Under the Mango Tree.
2. Haveli Dharampura – Delhi
Haveli Dharampura, a 19th-century nobleman’s home, underwent meticulous restoration for six years under the guidance of prominent political figure Vijay Goel. Today, it is a 14-room boutique hotel that received an honorable mention in 2017’s UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation. The atmospheric Mughal-era hotel features red sandstone-arched colonnades, a marble courtyard, Arabesque tile-work, and intricate stone and wood details. Guests can relish historic Mughal recipes in the in-house Lakhori restaurant or enjoy the breezy rooftop while listening to the muezzin’s call from the nearby Jama Masjid.
3. Taj Lake Palace – Udaipur
Accessible exclusively by boat, the Taj Lake Palace is a stunning white palace situated in the heart of Lake Pichola. Originally built as a summer pleasure palace for Mewar royalty in the 1740s, it was transformed into a heritage hotel in the 1960s and is now managed by the Taj Group. The palace boasts domed pavilions, ornamental turrets, crystal chandeliers, and 83 antique-filled rooms and suites. Guests can enjoy nightly folk dances in the gleaming courtyard, dine at any of the four restaurants offering a variety of cuisines, or indulge in spa treatments and butler services.
4. Taj Falaknuma Palace – Hyderabad
Perched nearly 2,000 feet above sea level, Taj Falaknuma Palace offers breathtaking views. This hilltop hotel features 60 rooms and suites, each increasing in lavishness. The Nizam Suite, with its fine tapestry, private pool, and personal butler, reflects the opulent lifestyle of the Nizam of Hyderabad, who resided in the palace during the 19th century. The palace’s allure extends beyond its rooms, with grand gardens, a billiard room, and a library inspired by Windsor Castle. Venetian chandeliers, royal portraits, and heirlooms from the Nizams’ era adorn the staterooms.
5. Taj Usha Kiran Palace – Gwalior
Originally a palace dating back to the 1800s, Taj Usha Kiran Palace is now a luxurious hotel that seamlessly combines old-world charm with contemporary style. The interiors feature ancient stone carvings, filigree work, and rich tapestries. Guests can take a heritage tour of the sprawling estate, stay in one of the Royal Suites adorned with four-poster beds and Venetian mirrors, and unwind in the spa or outdoor pool. The hotel also offers an Art Deco-style bar for relaxation.
6. Rambagh Palace – Jaipur
Set amidst 47 acres of gardens, Rambagh Palace in Jaipur was originally a hunting lodge and royal residence for the Maharaja of Jaipur. Dating back to 1835, this heritage hotel managed by the Taj Group exudes regal grandeur. The 78 rooms and suites feature exquisite antique furnishings, silk drapes, domed wooden ceilings, and four-poster beds. Guests can partake in heritage walks, enjoy a round of golf on the premises, savor fine dining in the original palace dining room, and indulge in spa services.
7. The Belgadia Palace – Mayurbhanj
Nestled in the picturesque town of Baripada, The Belgadia Palace has remained with the same royal family since its construction in 1804. A portion of this historic palace has been converted into an 11-room hotel by the descendants of the family. The palace hotel offers lofty ceilings, marble corridors, and a display of artifacts. Guests can relish Odisha-style meals in the lavish dining hall, enjoy traditional Chhau dance performances, and explore nearby handicraft villages during their stay.
8. Chittoor Kottaram – Kochi
For the height of exclusivity, Chittoor Kottaram in Kochi is unparalleled. Once belonging to the king of Cochin, this three-room palace accommodates only one group of no more than six people at a time. Surrounded by coconut groves near the lagoon backwaters of Kerala, the palace features beautiful Athangudi floor tiles and wooden ceilings. The property showcases precious artworks and offers a personal chef to prepare traditional Keralan dishes. Guests can enjoy Ayurvedic massages, private cultural shows, and sunset cruises on the serene waterways.