5 unusual places to stay in India
From a castle in the desert to a riverboat on the most holy of rivers, we’ve searched the country for the most enticing accommodation it has to offer. Here are some inspirational places to rest your head
What would you travel to India for? For the food, perhaps? Or the culture? Or maybe for the sheer exhilaration of experiencing life in a country that’s as crazy as it is beautiful; as peaceful as it is colourful. These are all reason enough to put India on your bucket list, but what about where to rest your head at the end of a day?
We travelled India in search of those places: whether it’s in the desert, along the coast, on the most holy of rivers, here is some of the most enticing accommodation that India has to offer.
Wake up in a castle
Once upon a time Rajasthan was ruled from a network of grand castles spread across the desert state. After Independence in 1947 the government took away the rights of the Rajputs, but many of the castles still exist – and they’re beautiful. Talabgaon, a very grand castle not too far from Jaipur, has been renovated and restored to what it once was: a noble family home that is, literally, fit for a king.
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… feel like royalty, and to explore rural Rajasthani life. The elegant white castle
seems to float between an expanse of lawn and a glistening pool; and with attentive staff and meticulously appointed rooms, you really will feel like royalty. Be sure to take an early-morning wander or a camel-cart ride through Talabgaon village, where life is simple but beautiful.
More information: from HK$620 a night for two people; www.secret-retreats.com
Sleep on the Ganges
The Ganges Voyager offers one of the most luxurious ways to see the little-explored countryside around India’s holiest river. The spacious cabins are so comfortable you could be tempted to spend all day watching India slip peacefully past your private ceiling-to-floor picture window, and tear yourself away only for the vast spread that’s put on in the dining room at meal times, or to enjoy an onboard massage or a cocktail on the viewing deck.
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… experience “real India” without giving up on your comforts. The riverboat takes its passengers on an eight-day journey from Calcutta along the Hooghly River, a tributary of the mighty Ganges. Twice-daily excursions from this boat will take you to places few tourists ever get to see: fascinating villages, and temples and markets where you’re unlikely to see another foreign face.
More information: HK$57,500 per person for seven nights (all inclusive); www.insiderjourneys.com.au
Spend nights under the stars
Imagine falling asleep or waking up in the tranquillity of a coconut grove that’s completely surrounded by an expanse of calm water; or being served dinner as the moon quietly casts the shadows of trees onto a liquid mirror. Kerala, India’s southern state, is known for the backwaters, a vast and pretty expanse of waterways that lace between coconut plantations, rice paddies and villages. You can take a tour out here with a big group of tourists – or you can spend a tranquil night on The Lotus, a two-cabin houseboat that putters through the quiet backwaters of northern Kerala.
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... utter peace and quiet. Golden evenings and crisp mornings out on the waters are a truly enjoyable experience. Take your book, camera and binoculars onto the roof, or your private veranda, and watch time pass.
More information: from HK$1,895 a night; www.thelotuskerala.com
Live without shoes
A hammock on your porch, a shower under the stars, a breezy yoga space that opens onto the beach … could a holiday get more enticing than that? Goa is a wonderful destination for travellers in search of a laid-back vibe where the livin’ is easy, and on Patnem Beach life seems even easier. At Bamboo Yoga Retreat, you step off the veranda of grass-roofed bamboo huts straight onto beach sand. No jacket required.
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… live barefoot for a while, to further your yoga practice, to wallow in the warm Indian Ocean and to indulge in delicious Indian food. You can book into Bamboo Yoga Retreats any time (and take two yoga classes a day), or sign up to join one of the formal retreats.
More information: from HK$473 a night; www.bamboo-yoga-retreat.com
Take a tour on horseback
Imagine staying in a sturdy old fort, where wild peacocks often grace the ramparts at dawn and where the walls are thicker even than the length of your arm. Here at Dundlod Fort, evening meals are taken in a paved courtyard while Indian dancers twirl to the beat of drums. The rooms are tucked into the maze of buildings and what the fort lacks in luxury it more than makes up for in character – and characters.
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… ride the arid plains of Rajasthan on majestic Marwari horses. The owner of Dundlod Fort established the Indigenous Horse Society to protect what were once the warhorses of Rajput lords, and he leads multi-day horseback tours.
More information: from HK$6,300 (all-inclusive, with horse riding and transfers from Delhi) per person, for three nights; www.dundlod.com