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IN PICS: Top 10 heritage hotels in India

Last updated on: November 3, 2012 17:08 IST

Image: Hotel Usha Kiran Palace
Photographs: Courtesy: lists out the best of India's heritage hotels you must head to this festive season.

With no shortage of palaces and castles, there is also probably no dearth of heritage hotels in India. Here's a list of the best of them:

10. Usha Kiran Palace
Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh

The 120-year-old palace that has once played host to the King of England is a heritage hotel run by the Taj Group. Surrounded by 9 acres of landscaped gardens and lawns the Usha Kiran Palace is known for its artistic stone carvings and delicate filigree work. The hotel is located about 25km from the Gwalior Airport and 3 km from the railway station.

IN PICS: Top 10 heritage hotels in India

Image: KTDC Lake Palace, Thekkady
Photographs: Courtesy:

9. KTDC Lake Palace Thekkady
Thekkady, Kerala

Situated on an island smack in the middle of the famed Periyar Lake, the Lake Palace used to be a summer palace of the King of Travancore and is now run by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation.

The resort has just six exclusive rooms and is the most ideal (actually the only) place to watch elephant herds playing by the lakeside and watch wildlife at practically any hour of the day.

Lake Palace Resort that used to be a favourite amongst the British Viceroys and Governor-Generals is accessible only by boat and comes highly recommended if you're on a tiger trail.

Since the resort is located in the middle of a tiger reserve, ensure you get there in time since the entry is restricted -- between 6am and 5pm.

IN PICS: Top 10 heritage hotels in India

Image: Hotel Rohet Garh
Photographs: Courtesy:

8. Rohet Garh
Rohet, Rajasthan

A classified heritage hotel, Rohet Garh is situated on the banks of a lake amidst tranquil surroundings in Rohet near Jodhpur in Rajasthan.

With 35 exquisitely decorated rooms and a host of activities -- including an equestrian program and a culinary workshop -- Rohet Garh also claims to have one of the finest kitchens in Rajasthan where the chefs have received training from the lady of the house.

The hotel has also played host who a number of literary figures including William Dalrymple, the late British novelist and travel writer Bruce Chatwin, historian Patrick French and author and journalist Simon Winchester among others.

IN PICS: Top 10 heritage hotels in India

Image: Emerald Isle - The Heritage Villa
Photographs: Courtesy:

7. Emerald Isle - The Heritage Villa
Alappuzha, Kerala

Emerald Isle is an ancestral country house set amidst 9 acres of secluded grounds in the backwaters of the Kuttanad region less than 10 kilometers from Alleppey town.

The house itself dates back toover 150 years and to this day retains its original architectural features including the splendid teak wood carvings.

Emerald Isle also includes fish ponds, lush green paddy fields and a huge timber storeroom that was used to store rice paddy. Being Kerala, the hotel also offers a variety of Ayurvedic treatments as well as houseboat rides.

IN PICS: Top 10 heritage hotels in India

Image: Hotel Ratan Vilas
Photographs: Courtesy:

6. Ratan Vilas
Jodhpur, Rajasthan

Comparatively a far newer property when you compare it with the 150 year-old Emerald Isle or the 120-year-old KTDC Lake Palace, Ratan Vilas was built as recently as 1920 by Maharaj Ratan Singhji of Raoti, a royal from Jodhpur.

Soak in the royal atmosphere while lounging in the imposing living room or the casual surroundings of the courtyard and be treated to the legendary Rajput hospitality.

IN PICS: Top 10 heritage hotels in India

Image: Hotel Samode Palace
Photographs: View over the palace and to the little town of Samod down the hill - Maja/Creative Commons

5. Samode Palace
Jaipur, Rajasthan

Samode Palace is one of the three properties that form the Samode group of hotels -- Samode Haveli and Samode Bagh being the other two.

While in its initial years, the Samode Palace was just a fortified stronghold, it was only in the early 19th century under Rawal Berisal that the castle began to acquire the grandeur that it is now famous for.

However it was under Rawal Sheo Singh that the palace received its most fabulous addition -- the extravagantly florid, hand-painted Darbar Hall and the overlooking gallery which forms the sheesh mahal or the palace of mirrors.

The palace that was converted into a hotel in 1987 to reflects the confluence of the Rajput-Mughul architectural traditions with a strong influence of the Nepal from where the Rawal wives often came.

IN PICS: Top 10 heritage hotels in India

Image: Hotel Jaiwana Haveli
Photographs: Courtesy:

4. Jaiwana Haveli
Udaipur, Rajasthan

Located on the eastern bank of Lake Pichola, the Jaiwana Haveli was once the private residence of the Thakur of Jaiwana

The twenty-four room hotel offers fantastic views of the waters of the lake, the island palaces as well as the Aravli Mountains.

Managed by Yashvardhan Ranawat, the priced possession of the haveli is said to be its rooftop restaurant with its panoramic views

What's more, the hotel is just a stone's throw from Udaipur's famous City Palace and a number of the other landmarks, as well as the bazaars.

IN PICS: Top 10 heritage hotels in India

Image: Hotel Taj Mahal Palace and Tower
Photographs: Courtesy:

3. The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower
Mumbai, Maharashtra

Perhaps the most iconic hotels in India, nothing you can say about the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower of Mumbai can ever match its grandeur and history.

The flagship hotel of the Taj Group, the Taj Mahal Palace boasts of a fascinating history that involves an urban legend about Sir Jamsedji Tata being turned down by the staff at the Watson's Hotel since it was open for 'whites only'. While the veracity of this story has been brought into question and even disproved by some accounts, the fact remains that Tata did in fact commission the construction of the hotel that opened its gates to the public on December 16, 1903.

Another misconception is that the builder Khansaheb Sorabji Ruttonji Contractor confused the architects' building plan and built it facing away from the harbour. Various accounts point to the fact that the hotel was indeed meant to be constructed in the manner it stands now (facing inland), in part because the horse carriages that brought the guests the hotel could more easily approach it from the city.

A little over 40 years ago the old front was closed off and the entrance to the hotel now faces the harbour facing the iconic Gateway of India.

Over the years, the hotel has played host to notable guests such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Bill Clinton, The Beatles, Jacques Chirac, The King & Queen of Norway, The Duke & Duchess of Kent, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, Joan Collins, Roger Moore, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Mick Jagger, Deep Purple, Michael Palin, Hillary Clinton, Michelle, Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey besides professional cricket teams on tour.

IN PICS: Top 10 heritage hotels in India

Image: Hotel Umaid Bhawan Palace
Photographs: Courtesy:

2. Umaid Bhawan Palace Jodhpur
Jodhpur, Rajasthan

Constructed between 1928 and 1943, the Umaid Bhawan palace pretty much replaced the Mehrangarh Fort as its new landmark.

Also known as Chittar Palace because of the local Chittar sandstone used, the architectural genius of Umaid Bhawan is its special system of interlocking with no mortar binding.

The palace has served as the principal residence of the Jodhpur royal family since its completion in 1943 and boasts of a unique blend of eastern and western architectural influences.

It has been designed by renowned Edwardian architect Henry Lanchester and boasts of a majestic Renaissance-inspired 105-foot high cupola and towers that look towards the Rajput tradition for inspiration.

The lavish interiors follow the Art Deco style and are complemented by the murals of the self-exiled Polish artist Stefan Norblin.

Umaid Bhawan stands high above the city of Jodhpur and is considered to be one of the last of the great palaces of India as well as one of the largest private residences in the world spread across a lush 26 acres of land.

The palace was converted into a hotel in 2005 when the Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces took over its management.

IN PICS: Top 10 heritage hotels in India

Image: Taj Rambagh Palace
Photographs: Courtesy:

1. Taj Rambagh Palace
Jaipur, Rajasthan

The former residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur, the Taj Rambagh Palace stands majestically outside of the walls of the city of Jaipur and is often the most preferred hotel of choice for celebrities across the world.

Most interestingly, what went on to become one of the most lavish residences in India had very humble beginnings the first of the buildings on the property was garden house meant for the queen's favourite handmaiden.

Over the years, it has gone through many phases as it was refurbished as a royal guesthouse, hunting lodge and eventually a mansion that was renamed Rambagh, after the then reigning Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II.

In the '50s as the royal family found it difficult to maintain the palace and its 47 acres of gardens they converted it into a luxury hotel which it remains since 1957 boasting of some very fine restaurants as well as the charming Polo Bar that serves the meanest martinis in Jaipur.