Visiting India, travelers are presented with a swirl of experiences. Waves of colors from saffrons, to pomegranates to midnight blues surround; hypnotic sounds rising from complex sitars to percussive tablas fill the quiet spaces; stories running from the mythic to the magical provide meaning in everyday things; mischievous monkeys vying with oxen and automobiles in the dusty streets create surprise and curiosity; and architectural momentum from mughal to minimalism sweep the skylines and offer the simplest moments of awe.
Nothing is ever simple in India, a country that boasts 5000 years of civilization and a kaleidoscope of some of the world’s oldest religions.
But some things make the going easy, if not simply exhilarating. Some of those experiences are wrapped up in stays at two of India’s most iconic hotels: The Lodhi in New Delhi and the SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace in Jaipur. And the two hotels in India could not be more diverse.
Naturally New Delhi
The Lodhi in New Delhi, a forward-leaning mix of contemporary minimalist architecture with touches of raj elegance, offers a top luxury stay on the margins of Lutyens’ Delhi, overlooking Lodhi Gardens – an oasis from the enchanting chaos that is New Delhi. This former Aman hotel brings sharp edges and spacious acres of stone that yield to impressive clean lines to meld with traditional intricate details.
The Lodhi’s 40 rooms and suites are big enough for royalty – some of the most spacious accommodations in the city. Each deluxe room has its own private balcony, daybed and plunge pool. Bathrooms are large with an adjoining dressing room and walk-in wardrobe. Living spaces are given to a comfortable sofa and armchairs. For longer stays, the Lodhi offers 28 pied-a-terre apartments spread over the territory, and worthy of consideration if only for their location by some of Delhi’s most prized green space.
The Lodhi Gardens, loved by lawmakers and romantics alike, is celebrating its 80th year. The 90-acre gem is a favored place for butterflies and birds as it interlaces rare blooms and grasses amid medieval grand tombs protected by the Archaeological Survey of India.
What’s inside the Lodhi is as impressive as the surroundings. The property features eclectic pop-art pieces curated by Apparao Galleries that seem to complement the moods of the various hotel spaces.
The property offers three restaurants serving Western, Indian and eclectic Asian dishes. It also has a large and artfully designed lap pool, spa, fitness center, tennis court and bar.
Location counts and The Lodhi has it. Guests can easily walk the mile to Connaught Place and the famous Khan Market. The property is 12 miles from Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL).
Meanwhile, visitors to India seeking variety in lodging experiences can consider a hotel fit for royalty at the SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace in Jaipur.
Now a Relais & Chateaux property, the SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace was originally built as a palace for the Maharaja of Jaipur in 1729 as a garden retreat for his wife, and remained an official residence until the mid-20th century. Home to the Maharaja of Jaipur, this exquisite royal palace is located at the heart of Rajasthan’s bustling capital. An enclosed oasis, secluded in verdant gardens, Rajmahal Palace is the repository of a celebrated history. The palace reopened under the management of SUJÁN in 2015 with 14 Royal Apartments, Suites and Palace rooms all given to bold Indian styles.
Guests of the palace have included Jacqueline Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth II and Lord Louis Mountbatten.
The Palace has seen many avatars over the years and recently underwent a spectacular refurbishment. Many of the original features remain: the exquisite chandeliers and marble staircases of the original palace are still there and one can experience the grand 1930s Art Deco feel of that bygone era in the color choices and wall patterns. Its bay windows, mirrored doors and meticulously appointed interiors allow guests to be transported to a new era of 21st century regal living.
Rooms are made ever more palatial with high ceilings and personal belongings of the Royal Family of Jaipur, such as old books and photographs that are found amid the restored original furnishings. Fresh-cut roses and jasmine flowers add wonderful aromas to the spaces. Each room is a work unto itself with grand designs that tell the many stories of Jaipur, its rulers and their legacies.
Inspired by the palace’s historic features and the history of the Royal Family of Jaipur, the design elements include the use of family crests, traditional royal motifs, old world art pieces and sensuous fabrics.
SUJAN also offers some wonderful fine dining experiences. The Colonnade restaurant on the original veranda of the Palace is open 24 hours for resident guests with a menu of comfort foods (the restaurant features the best club sandwich in the city) and traditional Indian dishes in a spot overlooking the palace lawns and garden. At 51 Shades of Pink, a dining room inspired by Norman Parkinson’s 1952 Vogue cover, energizing breakfasts are served. The Orient Occident, with its high ceilings, gilded mirrors and original artworks, brings guests into an experience of the rich heritage of the rulers of Rajputana and offers authentic Indian recipes mixed with the fine European cuisine.
Afternoon tea is a daily ritual at the Palace, presented in full British fashion and served in the Palace Gardens.
When cocktail hour calls, the Polo Bar is the place. Turquoise and white hues offer backdrop to the original silver polo trophies collected by HH Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II, who chose Rajmahal Palace as his own personal private residence when he ruled in 1958. An Art Deco swimming pool looks over the gardens and the SUJÁN Spa unlocks the magic of the Vedas in carefully selected Ayurvedic treatments to relax body and soul.
For guests that want a more adventurous experience of India without sacrificing luxury, Sher Bagh, SUJÁN’s jungle getaway from the city is just a few hours drive from the Palace and offers 12 sumptuous tents in the wild. Luxury camping includes jungle wildlife safaris and tiger tracking, affording guests a rare and exciting immersion in the India few visitors get a chance to see.
The Pink City
Jaipur is known throughout the world as the Pink City for its intricate fortifications carved out of salmon colored sandstone. But it is also India’s city of jewels as the Old City is filled today as it has been for centuries with artisans practiced in the arts of cutting gems and precious stones. These items sparkle and beckon from shops all over Jaipur run by merchants all too willing to cut visitors a good deal on polished adornments.
The élan of Jaipur, experienced in the architecture, cuisine, colors, dress and culture of the city can trace back to the intermingling of Rajput and Mughal dynasties. As the Mughal Empire waned at the end of the eighteenth century, the kingdom of Jaipur stood fast against incursions from the southern kingdoms and made alliances with the British throne to protect against these threats. The result was a lifestyle Jaipur came to symbolize – one that immersed in the glamour imported by the Royals, the sophisticated cocktail soirees of the time, and the serious sport played on the area’s polo fields.
Fabulous Festivals in Delhi and Jaipur
The best time to visit India is in the winter months. The weather is cooler and drier and a world of festivals is usually underway. And there is nothing like a festival in India, usually dowsed in palette of pageantry, to mark nearly every day of the year.
Top Winter Festivals in India include:
The Elephant Festival during Holi, usually happening in March and April. This event is especially colorful in Jaipur.
The Kite Festival in January, when the skies over Jaipur and Delhi swarm with wild-looking kits in flight and often in battle with one another.
A January Camel Festival in Bikaner, near Jaipur, offers a view of village life that cannot get more colorful or exciting.
Republic Day on January 26 is celebrated all over the country with parades as only India could present.
Basant Panchami is celebrated in early February as a dedication to Saraswati, Goddess of learning and music. Especially celebrated in Delhi, everyone dresses up in yellow and they offer gifts to the deities.
Other less traditional events to consider during this time are the Book Fairs going on in Delhi and Jaipur in early January as major celebrations of international literary arts. Also the Jaipur Film Festival is scheduled to take place January 7-11, 2017 with a roster of independent films in 16 categories and a lavish Red Carpet event on the last day.
Kurtz-Ahlers & Associates– Curator of undiscovered luxury travel locales with insider info and news from our worldwide portfolio of hotels, wellness retreats, and eco-resorts. View our portfolio on our Online Directory.
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