The Best Heritage Hotels in India
No other country captures the imagination more than India. Its long history and extraordinary variety of landscape and climate has created a modern nation of immense variety. The country is blessed with natural wonders, man-made marvels and fantastic heritage hotels which deliver impeccably high service. While the majesty of India’s wonders such as the Taj Mahal are breath-taking, in our opinion the real highlight of a trip to India is a stay in one of its atmospheric heritage hotels. In this blog we will introduce what we consider to be the five best heritage hotel stays in India.
First, we should define what we mean by a heritage hotel. India has a wide selection of historic hotels, but for the purpose of this blog we are showcasing heritage hotels which are still in the hands of their ancestral family and where the family is still involved with the day-to-day running of the property. After searching the country high and low, here are what we consider to be the five finest heritage hotels in the whole of India.
Ahilya Fort, Maheshwar
The Ahilya Fort has a unique history beginning between the years 1765 to 1796 when the fort was the royal home of India’s most famous female ruler, Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar, the head of the Holkar family a hereditary noble family who controlled a large part of central India on behalf of the Maratha Empire.
The fort enjoys a dramatic position perched above the ghats of the River Narmada, the traditional boundary separating what is regarding as north and south India and has been lovingly renovated into a boutique hotel by Prince Richard Holkar, a descendant of Maharani Holkar, in 2000. The hotel’s 19 rooms are spread throughout three acres of courtyards and gardens providing guests with plenty of opportunities for privacy.
This hotel features on our Highlights of Central India tour which covers the cultural highlights of Madhya Pradesh but it also combines well with the state’s premier tiger reserves, so a stay can be arranged at the end of our On the Tiger’s Trail itinerary. The property is only a two-hour drive from Indore Airport providing connections with either Delhi or Mumbai, meaning the property is an option to bookend most trips to India.
Ramathra Fort, Rajasthan
Rising above the surrounding countryside, the Ramathra Fort is a beautifully restored heritage property. Its hilltop position in a largely flat countryside and the fort’s strong perimeter wall crowned with parapets make for an imposing sight. Ramathra was granted as a fiefdom to Thakur Bhoj Pal, a scion of the Maharaja of Karauli, in 1665. He quickly began work on a fort to solidify his rule with multiple additions being added over the following centuries culminating with today’s fort. Still in the hands of Thakur Bhoj Pal’s descendants, the fort has been expertly converted into a heritage hotel and is now run as a 12-bedroom fort-palace hotel.
A stay here opens up a quieter, rural side of Rajasthan and the fort is a destination in itself. Breath-taking views of the surrounding countryside can be enjoyed from the ramparts or the jacuzzi installed in the fort’s turrets and excursions into the surrounding countryside can be arranged through the hotel.
Ramathra fits in nicely between Agra, Jaipur, and Ranthambore National Park so would be a natural stop on a tour of the Golden Triangle. The fort is only 175 km south of the excellent Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary so would also slot into our Beyond the Golden Triangle itinerary.
Samode Palace, Rajasthan
The 475-year-old Samode Palace is a splendid example of regal Indo-Saracenic architecture, combining the best of Rajput and Mughal architectural styles. The Palace is the former seat of power of the Samode royal family who held the title of Raja with control of Samode and 45 surrounding villages. Still in the hands of the family, the Palace is now run as a beautifully furnished 42-room palace-hotel.
The palace is opulently decorated with the trappings of royalty throughout: mirror-tiled halls, mural-lined walls, mosaic floorings and beautifully carved four poster beds. Guests also have access to the manicured gardens and waterways of the Samode Bagh, the private garden retreat of the Samode Family and one of the oldest functional Mughal gardens remaining in Rajasthan.
The Palace’s location just an hour outside Jaipur makes it an excellent option for those looking to explore the delights of the Pink City while eschewing the more frenetic pace of city life. The hotel features on our India in Style tour and can also be used as a luxurious alternative on a tour covering the classic Golden Triangle.
Chanoud is a village located off the Pali road, just two hours south of Jodhpur and home to the 300-year-old fort, Chanoudgarh. The property retains every inch of its character and history and is run by the welcoming Singh family, the former feudal lords of Chanoud and surrounding area who have lived at the property for 13 generations.
The Garh has been lovingly restored into a heritage hotel with ten spacious, airy, alluring suites. The Singh family are welcoming hosts and masters of Rajput hospitality - their excellent home-cooked Rajasthani cuisine is a real highlight.
Located between Jodhpur and Udaipur a stop here is highly recommended to catch your breath and recharge your batteries between a busy schedule of sightseeing in two of Rajasthan’s most atmospheric cities.
Shahpura Bagh, Rajasthan
Located in the charming village of Shahpura is the century-old Rajput family property Shahpura Bagh. The former Raja's (Feudal Lord) family still live on site and are more than happy to entertain and swap tales with their guests giving a stay here more of a luxury homestay feel. The family also own nearby Dikhola Fort, which is largely in ruin but makes for a great spot to watch the sunset with a sundowner.
While the property is showing its age in places, it remains a breathlessly romantic character hotel. Like Ramathra Fort this property will appeal to those looking to experience rural Rajasthan with its proximity to several local villages making it a great spot to enjoy an authentic Holi experience. Almost equidistant between Jaipur and Udaipur, the Bagh makes for a convenient break point between the two cities.
Due to its history of small Rajput kingdoms and the fact the state is littered with former palaces and stately homes converted into unforgettable heritage properties, Rajasthan features heavily on our list. However, you do not need to visit Rajasthan to enjoy a stay in a heritage hotel as India boasts a wide range of historic properties to cater for all tastes and budgets. Whether you are looking to stay in a former Rajput palace in Rajasthan or a tea planter’s bungalow in the Himalayan foothills, please get in touch and we can suggest the best heritage hotel to match your tastes.