Luxury Travel means enjoying the best of things. Luxury in the industry refers to any good, service, or commodity which gives you the feeling of abundance, comfort, and of being pampered. It of course comes at a cost. Luxury is usually expensive and hence not accessible to everyone. Having said that that doesn’t mean that every expensive good is a form of luxury. The major characteristic of luxury is its elusiveness.
Luxury is evergreen in the world. My friend once quoted “Luxury will always remain in demand because there is a section of people who can’t live without it and can always afford it”. Then, there are those people who aspire to attain it due to its elusiveness. Luxury can be in form of tangible products like sports cars, and fashion brands, and intangible services such as hospitality or travel.
Luxury has evolved over time, especially in an ancient country like India, where it has always existed in different forms and shapes. India’s emerging upper-middle class today aims for a luxurious lifestyle, seeking the material aspect of luxury travel.
India is a huge, diverse country with as many luxury experiences to offer from different regions of the country. Some of the luxurious options in India are grand Palaces. Some of these are now hotels available to anyone to experience, luxury trains, handicrafts, textiles, etc.
Luxury Travel Experiences in India
Let’s look at some of the Luxury Travel experiences which you can explore in India. Come with me to unique places which offer different types of luxury travel experiences. Hope you will get to enjoy them and make a lifetime of good memories.
1. Stargazing a night under the stars at luxury desert camps
India is one of the rare countries that have both hot and cold deserts. Camping in these deserts is a great experience to see how life in such harsh yet beautiful places works. Bonfires in the night, and jeep and camel safaris in the day can be enchanting ways to unwind yourself in these camps.
These luxury camps in hot deserts can be found in Sand Dunes near Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. The perfect time to visit will be in the winter months when temperatures during the day are bearable and nights have a slight chill.
Some other good experiences include staying in the “Tent City” which is built every year for Rann Utsav in Rann of Kutch, Gujarat. The white salt desert is one of the most iconic places to visit in India every winter.
To experience the cold desert, Sand Dunes in Nubra Valley in Ladakh is the perfect place to go. It is home to the Bactrian Camels which are camels having two humps. The best place to visit in the summer. The Cold Desert of Ladakh is one of the rare places where you can get heatstroke due to harsh sun as well as frostbite due to subzero temperatures.
2. Spa and Wellness Holidays – Luxury Travel
India is a much sought-after destination for Wellness holidays due to its rich tradition of wellness through nature. Ayurveda is the traditional medicinal practice of India, fast emerging as an alternative to allopathy. Yoga has its roots in ancient India. Yoga helps us keep our bodies fit mentally and physically. Whereas, Ayurveda addresses any existing health problems.
A healthy mind is essential for the working of a healthy body. These experiences help in relieving the stress which comes from hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Luxury Travel holidays that allow you to rejuvenate and refresh are a must-try.
There are several world-renowned resorts in the Himalayas. Kerala in South India has many globally renowned wellness resorts which have catered to many international as well as domestic clientele.
3. Luxury Travel on Wheels with Railways of India
Indian Railways along with its subsidiaries played a major role in the growth of India. In order to boost international tourism in the country, the railways decided to create luxury train services that travel to major tourist destinations in the country such as Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. There are currently 6 luxury trains namely:
- Deccan Odyssey covering Maharashtra & Goa
- Golden Chariot covering Karnataka and Goa
- Maharaja Express covers a lot of central India
- Palace on Wheels is the oldest luxury train covering the royal Rajasthan
- Royal Orient covering Rajasthan and Gujarat
- Royal Rajasthan on Wheels covering Rajasthan
These trains have facilities such as luxurious suites, spas, private lounges, conference centers, health centers, gyms, gourmet restaurants, bars, and much more like a personal butler. These trains run on fixed schedules and have limited seats that need to be booked in advance. The train packages cost more than INR 3 lakh per person.
Maharaja Express has even been voted the world’s most luxurious train seven times in a row. It is surely a luxury on the wheels.
Read more on the Inditales review of the Deccan Odyssey.
4. Tea Garden Stays
Tea Garden stay is a beautiful experience that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime. It offers a chance to see how the most important beverage of our life is plucked, processed, and prepared for us to drink. The green terraced views are soothing and have a calming effect. Staying in Tea estates means that you will learn the subtle art of plucking and watching a tea factory at work, staying in vintage bungalows, and being served the old-world charm way. Many estates even provide hiking tours due to their vast size.
Luxury tea estate accommodations can be found in Munnar and Ooty in the South. Darjeeling and Assam in the East, and Palampur in the North.
5. Luxury on Water
Like the luxury palace on wheels, India offers luxury on its vast variety of water bodies as well. Houseboat stay is one of the best luxury experiences India has to offer. Houseboats have beautiful interiors, bedrooms, living rooms, decks, and all the modern facilities which you get in your house. Kashmir and Kerala are two places in the country where you can enjoy the luxury of staying in a houseboat.
Dal Lake, Kashmir
The Kashmiri Houseboats are stationary in nature (non-motorized) and are docked at the edges of the scenic Dal Lake. They are largely made of wood with intricate carvings. The tourism department of Jammu and Kashmir has graded houseboats from A to D. Where A means most luxurious and D means least luxurious according to the features it offers. Every houseboat has a large balcony overlooking the lake. A Shikara ride, which is a unique narrow wooden boat found in Dal Lake is often provided complimentary with your houseboat stay.
Houseboats in Kerala, are motorized and bigger in size than the ones found in Kashmir. It’s not fast but is used to provide leisure trips on the backwaters. The houseboats are called “kettuvallum” in Malayalam. The houseboat cruise in Kerala can be availed from several places. But Alappuzha and Kumarkom are major towns on Vembanad Lake from where houseboat services can be availed. Little offbeat options are available on Ashtamudi Lake. The houseboat cruise in the backwaters can range from 1 night to a whole week depending upon the desire of the tourists. The hull of the boat is made of wood which is held together by ropes of coconut fiber. The roof is made from bamboo and palm leaves. The exterior of the boat is painted with protective coats of cashew oils.
While many of India’s roads are well-trodden, there are vast swathes of the country that remain almost untouched by tourism. Some of these are only accessible by boat. River cruises are the best opportunity to explore these places, it also helps in appreciating how life revolves around a river. Ganga and Brahmaputra are two rivers where river cruising is most popular.
Brahmaputra River cruise, Guwahati
Cruising around the Brahmaputra offers scenic views ranging from farmlands, tea plantations, and forests. From the deck of your cruise, you can enjoy the pristine wildlife of Kaziranga National Park. If you’re lucky you might get to see the famous one-horned rhinoceros that the park is known for. Look out for the apex predator – the Bengal Tiger. The Brahmaputra also has the largest riverine island in the world Majuli. Majuli is so big that it is a separate district in itself. Majuli is home to many indigenous tribes with their unique traditional way of life. They engage in activities like mask-making for Vaishnava festivals celebrated here.
Ganga River cruise, Varanasi
The Ganga river is the lifeline of India; nurturing millions of people living on its banks. Ganga connects the people of India spiritually, emotionally, and even physically. Currently, it is not possible to cruise the entire length of the Ganga but it might be possible to do so by 2024. Currently, you can cruise on the river from Varanasi to Kolkata and vice-versa. The cruise captures the heart of the lower Ganga plain from the spiritual ghats of Varanasi to the chaotic waterways of Hugli in Kolkata.
This cruise is a fantastic way to capture the essence of Ganga. Geographically speaking the best time to take this cruise would be summer because of the high water levels in the river due to melting glaciers. From a weather perspective, winter months are most suitable though it takes more time on the cruise due to silting in the river because of the low water level. These cruises don’t always navigate in the main river, they often charter around different tributaries of the river.
6. Adventure Holidays – Luxury Travel
For thrill-seeking travelers, adventure holidays are best. India is a land of many adventures and activities that makes you feel refreshed and happy. Some of the unique adventures you can take are:
Hot Air Balloon Ride
A Hot Air Balloon ride is a great way to get aerial views of stunning locations. For those who fantasize about flying in the air with the cool wind rushing through their hair, feeling light as a feather floating in the sky, hot air ballooning is perfect. Hot Air Balloon rides in India are available in limited places as it is regulated by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). Tethered hot air balloon rides, where the balloon is anchored to the ground by a strong rope, might be available in many cities in India, but it lacks the proper experience of freely floating in the air. The prices vary largely on the basis of the duration of the rides which may range from 10 minutes to 45 minutes in the air.
The desert state of Rajasthan is the most famous place for hot air ballooning in the country. Regular flights operate in the pink city of Jaipur which goes over the city’s famous monuments and heritage buildings. Pushkar also has regular flights during its famous camel fair in November. Other famous sites in India for hot air ballooning are Goa, Lonavala in Maharashtra, Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh, Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh, and Pollachi in Tamil Nadu.
India has an enormous coastline that extends more than 7500 km. Making it a possible venue for global water sports and tourism activities. Scuba diving is one of the adventures that one can experience in India. This sector is still to be fully developed on the mainland coast. But is a big adventure industry in the islands of Lakshadweep in the Arabian Sea and Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. It is an opportunity to see the life, bizarre underwater formations, coral gardens, and unexplored reefs under the seas and ocean. Related activities such as snorkeling can also be undertaken.
The islands of India are the best place to experience a diving trip. Especially if you visit Lakshadweep which is a remote archipelago of atolls that are formed due to the actions of coral reefs which makes the diving experience very colorful due to the variety of corals.
Dwarka in Gujarat is also known for underwater archaeology. But is not available for general tourists as of now.
A skiing vacation is one of the adventurous luxury holidays which you can experience in a few places like Auli or Gulmarg. However, if you wish to take it to the next level and if you’re confident in your Skiing skills then you should not miss the opportunity of Heliskiing. Manali and Gulmarg are primarily two major destinations where you can avail of this facility. These tours can extend from a single day to an entire week. You can pick and choose the mountain and slope you wish to take while you do an aerial survey. A good “curry powder” variety of snow means that long cross-country skiing runs will ensure that you have a leisurely time.
7. Private Wildlife Safari
To lovers of flora and fauna, the idea of a private wildlife safari in the green pastures of Indian forests is a true form of recreation. India is home to 104 national parks which are home to diverse animals and plants. A private safari into any of these national parks means, exploring the paths taken only by a few others. These safaris usually ply on different routes than normal safaris. Hence they are able to capture the essence of the forest better. The chances of sightings on these safaris are significant. With highly experienced guides these tours also enhance knowledge about life in the wild. Many such tours even have a provision for having breakfast/evening tea somewhere in the middle of the forest. Sounds thrilling.
In India, the most sought-after animal sighting in private safaris is the Tiger. This is one of the reasons why private safaris usually operate in forests that have a certified tiger population. While no safari guarantees a sighting. But sightings of deer, elephants, monkeys, and birds are common. Many luxury lodges located near famous national parks have a provision for private safaris. Some popular ones can be found at Bandhavgarh, Kanha, and Pench National Parks.
8. Golf Holidays
Golf is one of the most luxurious and elite sports which continues to be aspirational. A great golf course is located in a scenic location and provides full-fledged amenities inside the field. You can stay in golf-themed accommodations, enjoy golf activities and keep your vacation occupied with just golf.
Several luxury Golf resorts have come up in major cities in the country such as Bangalore, Pune, Goa, and Gurugram which offer good options to relax and play.
9. Luxury Handicrafts and Fashion of India
Fashion and accessories are integral parts of luxury. In fact, they are the lead driving force in luxury trends and the market. Indian craftsmanship in wood, metal, clay, gold, silver, and platinum is world-renowned. Despite machines and technology taking over several sectors, the beauty of handcrafted objects still holds value. India is home to several artisans and craftsmen who have mastered skills that have been passed down over generations.
If we talk about the fashion industry, high-end clothes made from pashmina, and famous intricate embroideries like chicken, Kantha, phulkari, brocades, silks, etc. are part of luxury clothing.
Read More – Silk Route of Bengaluru
Handicrafts and fashion styles in India are regional in nature. It varies from place to place. So the best place to purchase it is from the region a particular thing belongs. For example, the best place to buy genuine pashmina shawls will be Kashmir.
India is also home to several world-famous designers who have promoted Indian Fashion at global levels. They have their showrooms in major cities.
10. Experience the royal heritage of India
India is the land of kings and kingdoms. There are hundreds of forts and palaces spread across the country. Several of these palaces have now become luxury heritage hotels. Some of these hotels are managed by the royal families themself through their trusts. Whereas others have been leased to hospitality brands. A stay in any of these will let you experience the luxurious royal life enjoyed by the Kings, albeit without their responsibilities.
The architectural style in each palace is distinct and unique to its location. Many of the medieval palaces seamlessly blend multiple influences. These palaces have seen renovations over the years to accommodate modern facilities while maintaining their heritage status.
Rajasthan for Palaces
Rajasthan is perhaps the most popular destination for palace stays. They have large and luxurious grandeur as well as history. Some of them such as the Lake Palace is surrounded by water on all sides. Other palaces to explore are the Umaid Bhawan Palace, Rajmahal Palace, etc. Neemrana Hotels have converted many old forts and palaces into heritage hotels.
Chettinad in Tamil Nadu
Chettinad is another region packed with history and grandeur in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is full of palatial homes and mansions. They are so massive in size that you enter them from one street and exit from another. The typical Chettinad mansion has a big front porch known as “Thinnai” in the local language. Within the mansions, there are big courtyards connected through narrow passages. These courtyards are used today for open-air seating, celebrations like weddings, etc.
Chettinad mansions usually have more than 100 rooms. The surroundings are luxurious. Doors have exquisite carvings, teak pillars from Burma, marble, and ceiling tiles from Italy. The smooth walls are coated with a mixture of egg white and lime giving them a sheen that has lasted for decades. The design of the mansions keeps them cool in summer and incorporates water harvesting methods created a century ago.
The stay here highlights the life and wealth in Chettinad. Other experiences here include exploring spice markets, temples and forts, and the world-famous Chettinad cuisine. This is a highly regional luxury experience.
Apart from these, many luxurious Palaces can be found in other parts of the country. Such as Faluknama Palace in Hyderabad, Wildflower Hall in Shimla, and Usha Kiran Palace in Gwalior, to name a few.
These are among the many luxury experiences one can aspire to in this beautiful and large country, India. Many of the experiences are yet to be fully developed, while some are yet to be explored. I’m sure as this country grows in the coming years, so will the luxuries on offer.
This post on Luxury Travel in India has been written by Tejas Kapoor as part of the IndiTales Internship Program.