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The 10 best hotels in India

December 08, 2006 14:31 IST

When it comes to Indian hotels, it's all about the palace.

That's the judgment, anyway, of the expert travelers who chose the best hotels in India for Forbes Traveler.

After all, who wouldn't want to stay in a palace hotel? It's like having your own personal Taj Mahal. Not all of India's grand hotels are in palaces, of course, but why not live like a maharaja, at least for a night?

Which one of the 10 is #1? Forbes Traveler didn't rank them; instead, we had our panel choose the overall best places, based on factors such as room quality, service, d├ęcor and location. We wanted to make our compilation much more than a list -- we wanted it to be a real resource, a place travelers could find the absolute best places to stay.

So we also had professional travel writers who have stayed in these hotels review them, offering an in-depth look at the rooms, service, and other highlights. And since these writers didn't accept a complimentary rate, they could provide an honest assessment.

India's 10 Best Hotels

Hotel

City

Amanbagh

Rajasthan

The Imperial

New Delhi

The Oberoi Amarvilas

Agra

The Oberoi Rajvilas

Jaipur

The Oberoi Mumbai

Mumbai

The Oberoi Udaivilas

Udaipur

Taj Lake Palace

Udaipur

The Taj Mahal Hotel

New Delhi

The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower

Mumbai

Wildflower Hall

Shimla

So where should you bed down? Agra and Rajasthan, of course, are where to find the palaces, where traces of history echo down marble-lined hallways and into the luxurious rooms. Some were once actual palaces; the Taj Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur dates to 1746, and today you ferry across the waters of Lake Pichola with the Aravalli Mountains as the backdrop to reach the four-acre island.

Other hotels, while no less grand, are re-creations of palaces, like the Oberoi Udaivilas (also on Lake Pichola), which was built in 2002. Or stay in the shadows of the ultimate palace: the Oberoi Amarvilas is just 1,900 feet from the Taj Mahal.

You can also head to the Himalayas and stay at Wildflower Hall, set at 8,300 feet among a cedar-and-pine forest, a place that became the Raj era's summertime capital. While it's also a re-creation of a palace, traces of ancient India--in Shimla's monasteries--are nearby.

And don't neglect India's booming cities: when in Mumbai, check out the iconic Taj Mahal Palace, completed in 1903 and overlooking the Arabian Sea (we suggest the Heritage Wing). New Delhi has the colonial-era Imperial, which mixes Victorian, Colonial and Deco styles into one of the country's absolute best hotels.

While 10 hotels may not seem a lot for a country India's size, expect that number to increase. Tourism in India is booming, benefiting both from an increase in foreign visitors and a growing domestic market.

No one can ignore the trend; some of the most upscale international chains are looking at property now, and when they build, they'll increase the overall level of luxury and service.

In other words, these 10 hotels are just the beginning. Check back with ForbesTraveler.com. There'll be more luxury where this came from.

Rich Beattie, Forbes