India is home to some of the world’s most romantic hotels, from historic palace properties to modern but equally mystical purpose-built resorts. No matter where you are in the country, you are sure to find a spot that inspires love. Here are a few of the most spectacular:
High in the Himalayan foothills, overlooking the holy city of Rishikesh, Ananda in the Himalayas is one of the world’s most celebrated spa resorts. This beautiful oasis of tranquility is on the grounds of a 100-year-old royal palace that once belonged to the local maharaja, or ruler. Two of the suites are housed in the old palace and are decked out in original Edwardian décor. The property also has three villas, each with a private swimming pool and uninterrupted valley views.
Ananda specializes in Ayurveda, India’s ancient natural system of health and wellness, and most guests opt for packages that include multiple spa treatments and massages. This focus on wellness extends to the spa’s restaurant, which features daily menus tailored to different body types. Private dining options are also available, and there’s an exclusive private dining pavilion (pictured) with breath-taking views of the Ganges River, some 900 meters below. Ananda guests can also take advantage of the many daily on-site activities, ranging from yoga classes to music lessons, or simply relax next to the resort’s heated swimming pool.
About 15 miles from the enchanting lake city of Udaipur, Devi Garh is among India’s most adored luxury retreats. This heritage hotel is housed in an 18th-century palace that was once the residence of a warrior who received the building as a thank-you gift after saving a local ruler’s life. It was later converted into a hotel, and today features modern rooms and suites that contrast with the property’s traditional exteriors and inner courtyards.
Devi Garh has a lot going for it, from its lavish Ayurvedic spa to its gorgeously appointed restaurant. However, the most enchanting aspect of a stay in this palatial property is the optional dinner in the Sheesh Mahal, or palace of mirrors, an intimate dining spot that’s just big enough for two. The interiors of this little nook is covered with a mirrored mosaic work that looks absolutely enchanting at night, when its lit up by the flicker of candlelight. Guests sit on cushions and dine low to the floor while talented local musicians serenade them from a performance area just outside the hall, creating a unique dreamlike atmosphere that’s perfect for inspiring romance.
Few places in India are more romantic than the unspoiled Andaman and Nicobar Islands, off the country’s east coast. Most visitors that come to the islands in search of tranquility head straight to Havelock, home to the beautiful Barefoot at Havelock. This jungle resort is tucked away in a quiet grove of tropical trees, just off the island’s “Beach Number 7.” Despite its uninspired name, this beach is one of the most spectacular in the country, with powdery white sand and crystal clear, calm water that’s perfect swimming.
Guests at Barefoot stay in individual luxury cabins, all of which contain four-post beds, hardwood floors and conical thatched roofs. While many of the cabins are equipped with air conditioning units, none of them have televisions or phones—the idea is to keep the property as free of unnecessary noise and distraction as possible. If you come during the winter high season, you can also arrange to go on a snorkeling trip with Rajan, the resort’s swimming elephant.
The Taj Mahal is considered by many to be the world’s most spectacular monument to love. This white marble mausoleum was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in honor of his late wife Mumtaz, who died in childbirth with the emperor’s eventual successor. No hotel in Agra has better views of the iconic structure than the luxurious Oberoi Amarvilas.
This spectacular hotel is clearly inspired by the Taj, and its white marble domed interiors covered with extensive pietra dura inlay work give guests the impression of actually living in a 17th century Mughal palace. Amarvilas has two excellent restaurants, a small but elegant spa and a spacious swimming pool flanked by a series of terraced fountains reflective of the Persian garden style that was once popular in Agra. All of the rooms here have uninterrupted views of the Taj, teak floors and deep bathtubs, which the hotel’s gracious staff can fill with rose petals at turndown on request.
If you’re looking for something quiet and off the beaten track, but want to be able to venture into the city once in a while, Tree of Life Resort & Spa may be your ticket. This expansive new property a half-hour’s drive from the city of Jaipur offers guests an unusual blend of privacy and personalized service.
The resort is aimed at couples and consists of 14 luxury villas, each of which has its own private swimming pool or garden. All of the villas contain four-post beds under gorgeous domed roofs, private living rooms and enormous bathrooms. The villas also feature private outdoor massage areas for two, although guests can also opt to take their treatments in the resort’s small spa, which only accepts one individual or couple at a time. Dining at the Tree of Life is also a treat, and all meals are tailored to individual guests, taking in to account their culinary preferences and dietary needs.
Margot Bigg is a journalist and guidebook author who spent the last five years living and working in New Delhi. She’s the author of Moon Taj Mahal, Delhi & Jaipur and Moon Living Abroad in India. You can learn more about her at www.margotbigg.com.