India's 10 Most Romantic Suites to Discover
From barefoot villas overlooking the Arabian Sea to Art Deco Maharani’s boudoirs, we have travelled the length and breadth of India to bring you her most romantic and fantasy-filled suites awaiting discovery. Whether for a honeymoon or an escape with a loved one, each of these handpicked places are laden with a unique aura that only India can produce.
Ahilya Fort has a global roll call of admirers. From Hilary Clinton to Ireland’s most famous cook, Darina Allen, as well as Ampersand’s own James Jayasundera, this royal riverside fort- turned-boutique hotel entrances every visitor who makes the pilgrimage to its remote location. There are 19 rooms scattered through the 18th century buildings but the prize for most romantic goes to the glorious suite overlooking the Narmada River. Set in its own arched pavilion with balconies gazing upon the sacred waters and a temple revered by Hindus as the ‘centre of the universe’, the suite swims with atmosphere. If you are lucky enough to stay when owner Prince Richard Holkar (and his grumble of royal pugs) is in residence, dinners are a candlelit convivial affair with crested menus and the scent of frangipani under the stars.
Falaknuma Palace has to be seen to be believed. The palace is the former royal guesthouse of the last Nizam of Hyderabad and housed figures such as Cecil Beaton. The magnificent property fell into near dereliction before being restored by Taj Hotels and Princess Esra Jah of Hyderabad in what must be one of the most ambitious rescue projects in the world. Now gleaming once more, Taj Falaknuma Palace evokes the heady era of Indian royalty. Arrive by horse-drawn carriage, be showered with rose petals and drift through the cloud-muraled entrance hall, the panelled library modelled after Windsor Castle and into the Grand Presidential Suite, reputedly the largest in India. Every detail has been overseen by Princess Esra, the custom Ottoman fabrics, Carrara marble and the doors opening onto a private swimming pool where dinner is served by moonlight and by a personal butler. Truly a place of dreams come true
Amanbagh has romance in every stone. The former Mughal hunting garden set deep in the ancient Aravalli Hills is chanced upon like a beautiful courtesan behind a veil and once under your skin never forgotten. The contemporary sandstone and pink marble pavilions nestle discreetly around palms, eucalyptus and fruit trees, the only sound in the breeze, the love call of a peacock. Splurge on an award-winning pool pavilion for once-in-a-lifetime decadence.
The former hunting lodge of the Maharajas of Jodhpur, Rawla Narlai draws fans such as Yasmin Le Bon and Jackson Scott who adore its secluded village location and bohemian atmosphere. Style is everywhere, from the faded frescos of dancing Krishnas in the vaulted bedrooms to the scarlet turbans and heavy gold jewellery of the staff. Two hours drive from either Jodhpur and Udaipur, Rawla Narlai is a place to sink into, slowly and luxuriously. Plump for the Heritage Suite with its 300 year old murals, stained glass windows and air of a secret Maharani’s chamber... Unforgettable.
The Andaman Islands, scattered like a drift of pearls across the deepest Bay of Bengal, are having a moment in the spotlight. Undiscovered for many years, this archipelago of lush, white-sand islands are becoming a honeymoon hotspot. Visionary couple Mark Hill and Atalanta Weller have poured their hearts into creating a slice of tropical paradise at Jalakara. Perched on the highest point of Havelock Island, drowning in the best sunsets on the globe, Jalakara has the feeling of a relaxed house party – offering either seclusion or fascinating conversations with other like-minded guests. Walk up stone steps to the jungle-surrounded private villa and be instantly lost in bliss. A polished concrete open-skied courtyard houses a copper infinity plunge pool. The entire villa is wrapped in woven teak with vast open windows overlooking the island skies. This is heaven, address: Middle of Nowhere.
Why go to the South of France when you can take to the skies and discover Pondicherry? An Indo-French seaside town on India’s Coromandel Coast, ‘Pondi’ is the place to wake up in a brass four-poster bed cocooned in the finest cotton and cycle through Jasmine-scented streets of pastel verandahs to a lunch of Bengal-spiced fish and cardamom-laced lassi. The fresh lines and banana-plant festooned pool of La Villa, a converted colonial mansion, offer a tranquil escape in the heart of the French Quarter. The second floor suites, Timeless and Bridge to Heaven, are contemporary gems with private terraces for starlit evenings with cocktails and sharing a panna cotta infused with Indian chai and ginger. La Vie Est Belle.
7). Glenburn Penthouse, Calcutta
Boasting some of the most imaginative interiors in India thanks to designer Bronwyn Latif, The Glenburn Penthouse is a boutique retreat high above the trees of Kolkata’s Maidan Park. Kolkata has a faded romance all of its own and the Penthouse has a Raj-era style with supremely modern comforts. Choose the Royal Bengal Suite with a mesmerising view of the marble-white Victoria Memorial, antique canopied bed and hand-embroidered bed linen scattered with Glenburn tea print. Roll-top baths and arching shutters add to the colonial fantasy while down below ‘the city of joy’ awaits discovery.
Seemingly floating on Udaipur’s Lake Pichola, Taj Lake Palace is, without a doubt, the most romantic palace in the world. Built in the 18th century as a pleasure palace for the Maharana of Udaipur, said to be descendants of the sun and still living in the vast golden palace on the opposite lake bank. Taj Lake Palace was adored by Jackie Kennedy on her visit to India and has become an iconic symbol of India’s beauty. Reached by a tented boat - the fantasy begins at the domed pier - the floating palace conceals water gardens, a swimming pool, a Narnia-like spa boat and palatial suites singing with grand seduction.
Called Goa’s ‘best kept secret’, Elsewhere has the intangible quality of a rare retreat - despite being on the edge of famed beach, Ashwem. Reached by a rope bridge over a Mangrove river, this paradise collection of pastel villas nestled in palm trees and dunes, is the perfect hideaway. Take on the burnt orange Priest’s House, a columned villa filled with airy colonial furniture, gauzy fabrics and ever-changing light - falling asleep here is salty-aired serenity with nothing more strenuous on the agenda than watching the sun dip below the waves and listening to the bells of evening ceremonies float on the breeze.
The fairytale creation of two modern-day visionaries, SUJÁN’s Jaisal Singh and designer Adil Ahmed, Rajmahal Palace is still in the hands of the Jaipur Royal Family and offers a more boutique taste of princely Rajasthan than nearby Taj Rambagh Palace. The Maharani Suite overlooks the ros- pink swimming pool with its tented pavilions and is the last word in romance. Filled with Art Deco furniture and oil paintings of bejewelled princesses, the rooms are evocative and enveloping. Sit down to Eggs Drumkilbo, the late Queen Mother’s favourite dish, in the private dining room with its vast windows, Persian rugs and framed photographs of Jackie Kennedy and the Queen astride an elephant. Memories are made here.
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