When I started on a five month long tour to India, I had no idea what was in store for me. I was not even sure why I planned on a tour to India. May be I was just too fascinated by the lifestyles of the Indian Maharaja’s and wanted to see and experience for myself their lives and their palaces. My interest in Indian palaces and forts developed by reading books like ‘India Style’ by ‘Monisha Bharadwaj’, ‘The Indian Princes and their States’ by ‘Barbara N. Ramusack’, ‘The Indian Subcontinent’ by ‘Alison Arnold’ and ‘Indian temples and palaces’ by Michael Edwardes.
The palaces of the Indian Maharajas
India is a mystic land and has so many things that a traveler can discover. Almost every western traveler is sure to get a culture shock on visiting India; so it is recommended to do some travel reading before embarking on the tour.
History of India is rich and tells us of many brave kings and queens who lived and died for their kingdoms. These kings used to rule over vast kingdoms and lived extraordinarily lavish lives in their exotic and divine forts and palaces. With the passage of time most of these palaces were destroyed by invading troops; the remnants are today converted into hotels by the government of India and some others by private organizations.
Exotic Indian palaces that are converted to hotels
One of my major objectives of visiting India was to stay in one of the many palace hotels and experience the life of the maharajas (kings). I have discussed below some hotels in which I stayed and those that I cherish the most.
The Lalitha Mahal Palace in Mysore
My trip to Mysore was to reflect on my travel itinerary that needed that I visit those places that had a rich heritage and culture. The most famous palace hotel in Mysore is the ‘Lalitha Mahal Palace’. This palace was built way back in 1921 by a king named ‘Wodeyar Krishna’ and was designed by ‘E W Fritchley’ who was a famous English architect.
Today this palace is maintained by the India Tourism Development Corporation and they have done a good job with it. The outside looks show white where as the interiors are almost as good as new. All rooms of this palace over look the beautiful Chamundi hills and give the visitor a breathtaking view of Mysore city.
The palace offers all facilities that one can expect from a five star hotel that include swimming pools, golf grounds, health club, lounges and a shopping arcade.
Fern Hill Palace in Ooty
Ooty located in southern India is India’s well known tourist destination. When in Ooty I decided to stay in the Fern Hill palace hotel that has a history dating back to 1840. Back then it was used by the British as their summer resort. This palace hotel has more than 50 rooms that also include hotel rooms and cottages. Although the palace is quite old, it is well maintained and has everything that can make anyone feel like a maharaja.
This exotic palace coupled with the chilly atmosphere of the hill station gave me something that I could cherish for life.
Bolghatty Palace in Cochin
Cochin in southern India is considered the pearl of the Indian Ocean and lives very much to its reputation. When in Cochin I decided to stay in Bolghatty Palace which was used as a British governor’s residence when India was colonized by the British. The kerala tourism development corporation has renovated this magnificent piece of architecture bringing it back to all its glory.
The palace has five spacious rooms and six cottages. The rooms have been renovated beautifully, not to destroy their essence. It almost looks as if time stood still in the palace since it was built way back in 1744.
Lake Palace in Udaipur
My next destination was Udaipur in Rajasthan situated in the western part of India. The Lake Palace in Udaipur is one of the most exotic hotels that I ever stayed. The hotel is located in the middle of the blue waters of lake Pichola and practically looks floating in water from a near by fort.
Built way back in 1754 by Maharana Jagat singh, the palace is today maintained by the Taj group of hotels and offers the prefect ambiance for a romantic stay. The palace has 85 beautiful rooms along with special suites and fascinates everyone with its lustrous marble pillars, ancient paintings and unbelievable works of arts including glasswork. I almost felt like staying in a fantasy island with my room overlooking a refreshing lily pond.
Udaipur also has many other palace hotels but none can be compared to the Lake Palace. I was also fascinated by the ‘Laxmi Vilas Palace’ which was once a guest house to serve British guests.
Bikaner house (Bharatpur House) In Mount Abu
Mount Abu in Rajasthan is another hill station that fascinated me. Mount Abu has a host of palace hotels as this was a favorite hill station for the Maharajas. I decided to stay in the Bikaner House palace which is located in one of the most scenic locations in Mount Abu. This palace built in 1893 was used as a summer residence for the ancient kings.
The palace is well maintained and has spacious rooms that have ancient paintings and art work. The rooms overlook mystic hills that look so much in peace with them-selves. It almost gave me a heaven on earth kind of an experience.
One more palace hotel which fascinated me in Mount Abu was the Sunrise palace which is situated in one its highest points. This palace hotel was built somewhere in the year 1920, and is quite popular with couples looking for a romantic getaway.
Nilambagh Palace in Bhavnagar
My objective of visiting Bhavnagar, a relatively lesser known tourist destination in western India was to stay in the famous Nilambagh Palace. Built by Maharaja Bhavsinghji in the year 1723 this palace looks like a piece of architecture in itself. The palace is surrounded by lush gardens and has 18 AC rooms and 5 cottages. The rooms are spacious and offer an extremely luxurious stay.
Other attractions in the palace include belgain mirrors, antique furniture, ancient chandeliers and a swimming pool that is designed like a Roman bath with marble steps and white walkways.
The palace on Wheels
The palace on Wheels is not a hotel or palace but a maharaja style train that is run by the government of India for tourism purposes. . I was recommended to make this train journey by a fellow traveler and was I glad I took his advice.
This train was designed for the purpose of giving its voyagers a taste of ancient India. The train covers all major destinations and heritage spots in Agra and Uttar Pradesh in a seven day journey. The interiors of the train look no less than a five star palace hotel. The rooms are comfy, include attached bath and takes you to a completely different world. The food is exotic and is served by waiters dressed in ancient Indian clothing.
When boarding my plane back home, there was a strange nostalgic feeling that had crept over me. But I was glad of one thing; I had lived out my dream of living like an Indian Maharaja.