The Top Hotels in India’s Golden Triangle
From Agra’s Taj Mahal to the British-colonial heritage sites of Uttar Pradesh, the red sandstone fortresses of Jaipur to Delhi’s cosmopolitan hideaways, the historic palaces of India’s Golden Triangle inspire the region’s opulent hotels and resorts.
Dr Zakir Hussain Marg, Delhi Golf Club, Golf Links, New Delhi, Delhi 110003, India
New Delhi’s first modern business and luxury hotel, built in 1965, is a contemporary white box amid a sea of greenery. After a $100 million makeover overseen by starchitect Adam Tihany, The Oberoi now has 220 large rooms inspired by Sir Edwin Lutyens’s original plans for the city, with peacock-blue accents, spacious bathtubs, and super fast WiFi. Beloved restaurant threesixty˚ maintains its see-and-be-seen status thanks to its airier layout, and a new rooftop bar has become the go-to cocktail spot on warm-weather days. But the enthusiastic, attentive staff remains unchanged, earning adoration from repeat guests who appreciate the brand’s reliable and faultless service. Indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, proximity to a large golf course, and the convenient location just south of Delhi Gate make this hotel a great place to relax at the beginning or end of a countrywide tour.
National Highway 8, D Block, Samalka, New Delhi, Delhi 110037, India
Designed by Thai architect Khun Lek Bunnag—who has garnered a reputation for building luxury resorts that highlight the natural beauty of southeast Asia (Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai; Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve)—the centerpiece of this peaceful boutique property is a 330-foot swimming pool that’s anchored by four massive gold-leaf columns and meanders through a forest-backed eight-acre garden. Vast domed and wood-covered rooms are controlled with iPads and express a fusion of modern Thai and Indian aesthetics—think sleek marble surfaces, whimsical panelled walls, and silk throw pillows. Guests are mostly couples and child-free travelers unfazed by the freestanding bathtubs that sit next to king-size beds and showers separated from sleeping areas by glass sliding doors. The many unfenced walkways over the swimming pool and other water features make the hotel unsuitable for very young children, though older kids might appreciate outdoor movie screenings.
Subramaniam Bharti Marg
Still known to locals as the Ambassador, the hotel is a listed heritage site built in 1945 by colonial architect Walter Sykes George in a fusion of British and Art Deco styles. But its purchase and refurbishment by the Taj Hotels group ensures its present-day comforts, namely pet-friendly rooms with high ceilings, reliable WiFi, and 24-hour room service. While the early clientele included Indian royals, today the building attracts business and leisure travelers looking for a terrific value for their money and a convenient launchpad from which to experience modern New Delhi—it’s next door to one of the city’s most upscale shopping malls. Shop till you drop, then return to the hotel for international favorites like burgers, pasta, and steaks, as well as Indian tandoori specialties at Yellow Brick Road restaurant.
Janpath Ln, Janpath, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Delhi 110001, India
New Delhi’s original power hotel, The Imperial opened in 1936 and played host to celebrities and historic figures: It was here, rather than at Connaught Place that Pandit Nehru, Mahatama Gandhi, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and Lord Mountbatten met to discuss the partition of India and creation of Pakistan. Though renovation has lent a bit of a corporate vibe to the high-ceilinged hallways, the hotel still oozes nostalgia at every turn. A vast museum-worthy collection on display throughout public and private spaces includes life-size oil portraits of princely rulers, statuary, tapestries, old photographs, and British and Indian military and polo regalia. Rooms come in Victorian, Indian heritage, and Art Deco motifs, with marble floors, sumptuous velvet furnishings, and antique rugs. The centerpiece of the palm-studded lawn is a huge, beautifully tiled swimming pool where red-uniformed staff deliver ice-cold drinks to sunbathers in the stultifying heat, but if you prefer a moodier venue for your cocktails, the property has a library-like bar with wood-panelled walls as well as four atmospheric restaurants serving every kind of cuisine. And don’t miss the afternoon tea, enjoyed in the light-filled atrium.
Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, Delhi, India
Talk about first impressions: Carved sandstone elephants welcome guests into a two-story chandeliered lobby at this palace-style hotel. Attentive service starts at check-in, with gifts of bindis and fresh jasmine necklaces. At 550-square-feet or larger, rooms are palatial themselves, and richly decorated with oriental carpets, jacquards, and hand-embroidered brocades. Those on higher floors offer panoramic city views, but many visitors choose spaces overlooking the internal courtyard or expansive garden (and away from a 16-lane highway) for a sense of calm. The hotel’s Edwardian-inspired bar draws locals and guests alike with its 25-page whiskey and scotch menu, as does a rooftop pool with stunning vistas over New Delhi’s urban landscape. Unique amenities include an on-call astrologer and, for women travelers, the option of an all-female service staff, including butler, gym instructors, and private city guides.
Taj East Gate Rd, Paktola, Tajganj, Agra, Uttar Pradesh 282001, India
If the Taj Mahal were a performance, The Oberoi Amarvilas would be the front-row seats. Just a few steps from the eastern gate of India’s most iconic monument, this luxury hotel—which is often ranked as one of the world’s best—is full of Mughal-inspired design, from the arched walkways and marble accents to the inlaid-wood furnishings and gold leaf–embellished frescoes that appears throughout the common areas. Things get even more beautiful at night, when the hotel illuminates its numerous fountains and terraces and serves romantic, candlelit dinners by the pool. Rooms here are as elegant as you might expect, with teak floors, deep soaking tubs, and unobstructed views of the Taj Mahal.
Babaji Ka Modh, Goner Rd, Jagdish Colony, Prem Nagar, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302031, India
Situated on 32 acres of land on the outskirts of Jaipur—but still a quick drive from the city’s historic forts and palaces—this massive hotel mixes traditional Rajasthani style with modern amenities. Although there are a number of lovely garden rooms with four-poster beds and deep soaking tubs, many travelers opt for the property’s tent-style accommodations, with campaign-style furnishings and block-printed fabrics, or splurge on one of the villas, which come with private pools. Restaurants are just as romantic, serving Indian specialties against a backdrop of gold-leaf details, cane-backed pieces, and intricately carved architecture. While The Oberoi Rajvilas makes a great base for exploring Jaipur, it also offers plenty to do right on the property, including a luxury spa, gigantic swimming pool, cooking classes, and meditation sessions with the resident Hindu priest.
Nihal Ganj, Dholpur, Rajasthan 328001, India
Built in honor of a visit by Prince Albert in 1876, this heritage hotel—formerly known as Dholpur Palace—features a unique mix of European and Indian design elements. On the building’s red-brick façade, archways and columns blend seamlessly with jhalis (traditional Rajashtani stone screens) to create an elegant East-meets-West aesthetic. Inside, the trend continues with stately common areas featuring Venetian-style glass chandeliers, a curious mix of Art Nouveau and midcentury modern furniture, marble floors, and columns adorned with intricate floral patterns. Sprawling lawns, which regularly play host to a huge variety of birds, add to the hotel’s regal effect. Though Raj Niwas is only an hour’s drive south of Agra, its peaceful location on the banks of the Chambal River creates the impression of being far from city life.
Sardar Patel Marg, C Scheme, Shivaji Nagar, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302001, India
If this hotel looks like it’s fit for a king, that’s because it is: Housed in one of the region’s oldest palaces, the boutique property is owned by Jaipur’s royal family and is one of the most romantic places to stay in the Pink City. The guest rooms are made for Instagram, with colorful wallpaper, beautifully upholstered furniture (including four-poster beds in suites), and crystal chandeliers. The common areas and restaurants are equally stunning, from the Colonnade, a 24-hour terrace with turquoise-accented interiors overlooking verdant lawns, to the more formal Orient Occident, where you can order rare Rajasthani specialties against a backdrop of regal oil paintings. If you’re lucky, you may even spot royalty while you’re visiting—the palace has long been a favorite of visiting dignitaries, from Jackie O to Queen Elizabeth II.
30, Km, Ajmer Road, Ajmer Road, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302012, India
Situated on the outskirts of Jaipur, The Farm is a self-described “eclectic art hotel.” The boutique property is set on sprawling grounds, which it shares with some 70 species of birds as well as four resident rescue dogs. Each of the five rooms and two suites has its own design scheme, with décor ranging from brightly colored throw pillows to intricate wall decals and even an old motorbike. Meals are served family-style and include ingredients sourced from the on-site organic garden. There’s also a swimming pool, game room with a pool table, and library, though many guests come here just to work, as The Farm offers artist retreats by request.
Amber Fort Road, Jal Mahal, Parasrampuri, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302002, India
Set on pristinely manicured grounds, the Trident Hotel offers a modern alternative to the traditional properties found throughout Jaipur. One of its biggest selling points is its prime location—across from the stunning Jal Mahal and just a short drive from the majestic Amber Fort—but rooms offer plenty to love, from the Rajasthani archways and rich upholstery to the beautiful views across the property’s expansive lawns. In addition to two restaurants and a handful of event spaces, the Trident offers a sleek fitness center, luxurious spa, and quiet courtyard with a swimming pool, not to mention a kids’ club with activities like arts and crafts and cooking classes.
Amer Rd, Jorawer Singh Gate, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302002, India
One of India’s most celebrated heritage hotels, this 18th-century palace—owned by a local titular princess—is among the most over-the-top-glamorous places to stay in Jaipur, particularly for those who prefer ornate beauty over the stark minimalism favored in many modern hotels. The property has an opulent, regal vibe, from the serene mosaic-tile swimming pool to the huge Swapna Mahal, a long dining room outfitted with massive crystal chandeliers, Edwardian-style chairs, and gilded furniture that wouldn’t be out of place in Versailles. If that feels too formal, you can sample Mughal kebabs or afternoon tea in the fountain courtyard. Each of the 50 rooms has its own look and feel, but all share design elements like Rajasthani archways and Italian marble bathrooms. For those who really want to splurge, the two-bedroom Jhanki Mahal Suite occupies a full floor and comes with its own rooftop deck, outfitted with a swimming pool and Jacuzzi.
Marine Drive, Vipin Khand, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh 226010, India
Sandwiched between Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Park and the eastern banks of the Gomti River, this upscale property is the perfect base for exploring North India’s historical city of Lucknow. The rooms here eschew Indian motifs for classic design, including wooden furniture and simple decorative accents. At the heart of the property is a courtyard featuring a glistening, palm-flanked pool around which candlelit dinners can easily be arranged. Prefer something less intimate? The hotel’s Oudhyana restaurant serves fine-dining takes on local fare in a classically elegant space, complete with chandeliers and crown-molded ceilings. The Taj also offers guided walking and horse-drawn carriage tours focusing on the city’s Mughal heritage or its more recent British-Victorian history. Both options conclude with a lavish spread of Lucknow’s celebrated meats and flatbreads.