Daydreaming is either my superpower or my manufacturing defect. Either way, it doesn’t look too good on my resume. It does, however, serve me the purpose of escaping. Life, no matter how beautiful, demands an escape from reality once in awhile. It often translates to our need to go away – get a change of scenery, climate, coordinates. As I flipped shut Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, of all things, my mind wandered to the possibility of traveling along the time coordinate. What if we could also, as Vonnegut imagined in his famous novel, ‘come unhinged in time’? My pursuit of the Time Machine seems to be presenting a few more hurdles than I had anticipated, so I wracked my brain for alternatives. This is what I came up with. The next best thing would be to enjoy a slice of the Royal past of India in an anachronous adventure. So, I came up with this cheat sheet to 5 most incredible palace hotels in India within budget to live like Royalty, which, believe it or not, would not burn a Royal hole in your pocket:
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#1 Shivavilas Palace Hotel, Sandur, Karnataka
Closest International Airport(s): Goa International Airport (Dabolim) (293 km), Kempegowda International Airport (Bengaluru) (330 kms)
Minimum Cost per Night: ₹5k including breakfast
This beautiful palace hotel, managed by the WelcomHeritage group is about 350 kms away from Bengaluru City and a mere 40kms from the UNESCO World Heritage site, Hampi. The palace dates back to the early twentieth century and belongs to the Ghorpade family, who are Ore and Mining giants in the region. The Palace was turned into a hotel just a few years back and is fresh from the mint for those seeking the luxury of large rooms and royal furniture at nominal rates.
#2 Itachuna Rajbari, Hooghly, West Bengal
Closest International Airport(s): Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata (86 kms)
Minimum cost per night: ₹2K (meals excluded)
This palace belonged to the Borgis, the Maratha warlords who invaded and settled in Bengal, eventually to become sons of the soil. The family that owns the palace have varied businesses in Kolkata. The rooms are cleverly named after their original occupants (eg: Thakumar Ghor/Grandmother’s) and have retained all the erstwhile furniture. The quintessential Bengali Raj Bhog (the King’s meal) is served in royal crockery. The popular Bollywood movie, Lootera, was shot at this location.
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#3 Amar Mahal, Orchha, Madhya Pradesh
Closest International Airport(s): Gwalior Airport (108 kms)
Minimum cost per night: ₹4.6K (meals excluded)
Amar Mahal was built in the late 19th century in the architecture reminiscent of the Rajput house of Bundelkhand. The palace hosts exquisite Bundela paintings, metal artifacts from local Dokra artists and other items of splendor dating back to that era. The Bundelkhandi Dining is a treat for the senses, made with organic produce from their in-house garden. The palace overlooks the River Betwa, the scenery is likely to take your breath away.
#4 Kasmanda Palace Hotel, Mussoorie, Uttaranchal
Closest International Airport(s): Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi (289 kms), Chandigarh Airport (197 kms)
Minimum cost per night: ₹7.2K (breakfast included)
Originally a part of the Christ Church complex built in 1836, this Heritage Hotel, managed by the WelcomHeritage group is slightly different in taste and architecture from the rest on the list. The Anglo-French building was built for the British Armed Forces before becoming the Summer retreat of the Kasmanda Royal Family. The soothing pine forests surrounding the estate and the breathtaking view of the Doon valley make it one of the most picturesque places to board at. This hotel offers you the chance to soak in colonial elegance while enjoying all modern amenities.
#5 Neemrana Fort Palace, Alwar, Rajasthan
Closest International Airport(s): Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi (104 kms)
Minimum cost per night: ₹6.5K (breakfast included)
How can we traverse palaces without mentioning Rajasthan? The Neemrana group has restored many beautiful forts and palaces across the country. But this one definitely takes the cake. This grand fort was first built in 1464AD and was the capital for the descendants of Prithviraj Chauhan III. The erstwhile owners stood their ground against the British, resulting in quick and steady depletion of their lands and power. In 1947, Raja Rajinder Singh finally moved out, leaving a decrepit fort behind. Neemrana Hotels restored the site and opened the resort in 1986, making this one of the earliest heritage resorts in India.
These were some incredible palace hotels in India right within my budget. Let us know if you know some more !