One of the most delightful aspects of a holiday in India is the country's array of cool accommodation. There are so many amazing palaces, forts, heritage buildings and stately homes that have been renovated back to their former glory, and turned into fabulous places to stay. The most impressive are run by descendants of the Maharajas, who lost their power when the central government took control in the mid 20th century. There are still hundreds of their ancestral homes scattered throughout India, which were left to fall into ruins, but are thankfully being revived by families who are returning to breathe new life into the old stones. Our India Specialists recommend a few of the palace and fortress hotels that impressed them the most...
Located on the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi, 'the Brij' was built in 1812, and has the dubious honour of being the site of the first 'man-pulled' lift, created to haul the king up to his apartments above. These days things are thankfully more equitable. Many of the rooms have views of the Ganges - we especially love the Maharajah Suite bathtub, which overlooks the river.
Built in 1760 from local marble, Raas Devigarh is one of the finest Indian forts restored as a heritage hotel, and sits on a hill overlooking Delwara in Rajasthan. The palatial fortress has been painstakingly restored and now offers a luxurious experience for guests, with a range of ornate private suites overlooking the palace gardens, the village below, and the stunning mountain scenery beyond.
A 340 year old fort that is presently run by the 16th generation of its ancestral occupants, Fort Barli has been restored to an exuberant, gracious standard, and sits overlooking the riverside town of Barli in Rajasthan. Everything about the place is arranged for fun relaxation, from the richly coloured textiles, and the carved wooden swing chairs hanging from the rafters, to the bean-shaped swimming pool in the battlements...
Sitting between Ranthambore Tiger Reserve and Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary, this 350 year old battle fort makes an excellent base for forays into wildlife-spotting territory - and did we mention the jacuzzi on the ramparts? All the staff are local, and the fort's farm supplies organic veg for your meals - we particularly enjoy dining outside and soaking up the fresh air and superb horizon-spanning vistas.
This fortress hotel in Madhya Pradesh hotel is anything but average, from its location beside the sacred Narmada River, to its three acre estate of tranquil courtyards, rambling gardens and graceful 18th century accommodation. The fort's organic kitchen garden and nearby farm supply ingredients for your traditional thali meals, and kids of all ages can enjoy meeting the hotel's menagerie of pets, which range from rabbits to goats to pugs.
One of Gemma's favourites, this extraordinary property, located within the walls of Nagaur Fort, is owned by the current Maharajah of Jodhpur. When the day trippers have disappeared (or early in the morning before the public arrive), you can stroll around the fort with a guide from the hotel, on a walking tour included in room rates.