When travelling in a country as richly alien as India, it is tempting and almost forgivable to reach for the familiar. There are several options now. All over India people have opened their homes or created small hotels where you feel safely part of the country. But the word "hotel'' does little justice to this fabulous mix.
There are tree-houses, villas, camps, palaces, cottages, havelis, bungalows and forts – up mountains and rivers, in cities and in the countryside. The variety is almost bewildering. These dreamy little hotels today belong to the descendants of those who lived here in the colonial era, who are your highly affable, energetic and involved hosts.
Brick by brick they have devotedly restored these unique properties, and they now ooze charm and warmth. From the havelis in Rajasthan to the colonial houses in South India, as well as on the tea estates in the foothills of the Himalayas, these are hidden gems.
The rooms are scattered around the premises and face onto the gardens or overlook courtyards. The rooms all vary in shape and size, and are very prettily decorated in local fabrics and with varied colour themes. They are home to some fabulous frescoes and with their pretty courtyards and leafy gardens, it is difficult to believe that you can stroll out from them into the bustling city streets. A glistening swimming pool usually occupies one of the courtyards, overlooked by the open-sided dining room. The gentle and caring staff do their utmost to look after your every whim.
Much of the charm of these heritage hotels, is the individual attention and personalisation; the very meals, for example, that were cooked for generations are still served at your table. Families in residence for centuries now welcome you to their homes as guests. And each ancestral home is different, uniquely so, reflecting its own, exceptional history, tradition & period. The ambience is perfectly reflected through sepia photographs and family memorabilia. Even the retainers may have been in the service of the families for generations.
A holiday to India or Sri Lanka can often become hectic and fast-paced for some. These countries offer some fantastic opportunities to spend a few days at a beautiful retreat either in the foothills of the Himalayas, in South India or amongst tea plantations in Sri Lanka, or perhaps staying in a boutique hotel located in a paddy-field or at a lovely eco-retreat in the north-west region of Sri Lanka.
These unique properties are set in great idyllic locations and offers a range of interesting activities. Imagine taking a short walk in the morning to arrive a hill top that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside and a beautiful laid down picnic breakfast, or visiting a small village temple for the evening ceremony, or a culinary experience with a local family or just enjoying the pristine surroundings at your Raj era planters bungalow.
Above all, India is utterly itself. It is so diverse that the footprints of other cultures quickly fade or take on an Indian hue. That is a considerable strength, and you, too, if you step off the path to meet the people to whom these places belong, will be changed. Each place gives you India on its own plate – a treat for every type of traveller
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
Nicola Shepherd, founder and CEO of The Exploration Company, organises unusual trips for HNW and UHNW clients ranging from birthday parties at an Indian Maharajah's palace to reliving Sir Vivian Fuchs's 1950s expedition to the South Pole. Citywealth caught ...
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