Legend has it that upon seeing plans for the proposed new Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra, Mr Oberoi himself (yes, there is one) scrubbed out half the guest rooms, demanding that every guest at this unique hotel in Agra must have a view of the Taj Mahal from their room. And what a view it is.
I sat on the balcony of our room and caught one of the most memorable sunsets of my life, watching the sky’s shifting tones as flocks of starlings murmured around the sinking sun. Music softly rose up from the cultural show on the terrace below, imams called out to the faithful and trees shimmered in the breeze as the Taj Mahal slowly dimmed to a faint, ethereal silhouette. Of course, the hotel is fabulous in every way, the pool, the rooms, the dining, the faultless attention to detail. But knowingly, happily, it never tries to compete with the beauty queen next door...
The ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur is a highlight in India. Sightseeing in the Old City can be overwhelming, with its constant cornucopia of buying and selling, tuk-tuks, motorbikes and everything else. Explore labyrinthine bazaars and opulent palaces, the beautiful Hawa Mahal, or ‘Palace of the Winds’ and the Nahargarh and Amber Forts.
After, there’s no better antidote than to retreat to the tranquillity that is The Oberoi Rajvilas. Set on the outskirts of the city within 32 acres of manicured Indian gardens patrolled by a splendid squad of strutting peacocks, you have the choice between an elegant room and domed Luxury Tents for the ultimate ‘Maharaja on air-conditioned safari’ experience. The stillness and purity of the hotel is punctuated solely by the gurgling of fountains and the ee-aws of the peacocks.
I’d heard Udaipur is a beautiful city, but I arrived after sunset, so I couldn’t see much initially. But as our Oberoi motor launch struck out across Lake Pichola towards to The Oberoi Udaivilas, the spectacular lakeside city revealed itself before me. A dazzling show unfolded as competing reflections from the bright lights of the enormous city palace and a full moon above played amongst the boat’s rippling bow waves. As if deliberately trying to not compete with the spectacle opposite, you could almost miss the hotel itself, but once disembarked the regal splendour layers itself upon you as you pass through palatial garden courtyards to your room, escorted by immaculate hotel staff gliding around on an effortless waft of silks and signature scents.
We were fortunate to have a room with a ‘semi-private’ pool which itself wraps around the rooms on one wing of the hotel, and a morning swim off my terrace reveals an impossibly romantic panorama of Udaipur in all its glory. There’s not a soul else in the pool, so it may as well be private.
Mr Oberoi is not a man to do things by halves. Having decided the flagship Oberoi, New Delhi, could do with a spruce, he mandated it must close entirely, for almost two years, to not inconvenience a single guest and ensure every detail could be attended to. Arriving today, this is a brand new hotel as, short of replacing concrete and girders, it effectively is. The room tech is super savvy and the piece de la resistance though, for me, is the brand new rooftop bar – the sunset views are gorgeous.
You can stay at many of these India hotels as part of our Oberoi Golden Triangle suggested itinerary, a six-night round trip from Delhi, visiting both Agra and Jaipur. You’ll travel in a private car with your own driver-guide and it’s completely flexible, so tell us what you want and we’ll tailor-make it for you.