New Luxury in India

Ahmedabad India
Ahmedabad, India // Photo by Ashkapoorphoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images


The Pool at the Leela Palace Chennai
The Pool at the Leela Palace Chennai makes for a posh and relaxing experience.


From the frenetic urban pulse of New Delhi to the laid-back beach life of Chennai and the tranquil backwaters of Kerala, India knows how to woo travelers. Fortunately, for those with the most refined of tastes, each of these destinations is home to some of the most over-the-top hotels in the world. Here is a look at three that ought to be on your radar.

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Banyan Tree
Banyan Tree pool villas offer views of the Kerala backwaters.

It had been years in the making, but last December The Leela Palace finally opened on the shores of the Bay of Bengal in Chennai. The inaugural debut was in early 2013. This is the eighth property for The Leela hotel group in India (see Luxury Travel Advisor’s November 2012 issue for the details on our trip to the New Delhi and Udaipur properties).

For the most regal of stays, book the Royal Suite, which is currently the top suite at the resort. The suite spans 4,000 square feet. Top touches include a huge master bedroom with bathroom, a living room with bathroom, a gymnasium, spa room, kitchenette, dining table for 12 and a study. 

Where to Glamp

Luxury Travel Advisor recently met with Jamshyd Sethna, founder of Shakti Village Walks ( in the Himalayas, to learn about high-end hiking experiences (and luxury camps) in some of the most remote mountains in the world. Shakti 360° Leti is a camp that is smack against the Tibetan border, 8,000 feet above sea level. The camp has just four guest pavilions and includes mountain walks, treks and camping, or visitors can just relax outside (we hear the fishing by the river is great). Meals and wine are included, and yoga and meditation sessions can be arranged on request as well. Good to know: Shakti 360° Leti is available from October 1, 2013, through April 20, 2014. For a summer experience, Shakti Ladakh (which recently opened) is 11,500 feet up on a high northern plateau that has earned it the nickname “little Tibet.” Flights from Delhi to Ladakh (Leh Airport) take approximately one hour, and Shakti Village houses are located anywhere from 20 minutes to one hour away from the airport. During the four months before the end of September (when the season in Ladakh closes), travelers can go on walks between mountain villages as well as engage in local activities. Guests can stay in traditional village houses that have been “spruced up” but still maintain plenty of traditional elements (think rustic, exposed beams in the ceilings above traditional carpets and textiles).

—Jena Tesse Fox


Stay Tuned: The Leela Palace Chennai is readying to debut its Maharaja Suite, which will be the jewel at the resort. The palatial space will be almost 5,000 square feet and will have a private gym, spa, master bedroom with bathroom (complete with Jacuzzi and steam room), multiple living rooms, a second bedroom, study, kitchenette and a dining area for 10.

Nice Touch: The Leela Palace Chennai is one of the only sea-facing hotels in the city, so guests can look forward to panoramic views of the Bay of Bengal in the premium category rooms.

For bookings, reach out to Senior Sales Account Manager Umapathy Shanmugam ([email protected]; 011-91-44-3095-8088).

Be sure to ask about The Royal Club rooms. Guests of these rooms are entitled to butler services, BMW airport transfers, access to a concierge lounge and more.

Speaking of concierge services, Clefs D’Or Michael Fernandes is a whiz at arranging personalized services. He has booked tickets for the Tamil music festival, Margazhi; box tickets for the IPL matches; a personal sport fishing trip on a yacht; and an Ella Sapad, which is a traditional style of dining accompanied by a Bharatnatiyam performance. ([email protected]; 011-91-44-3095-8290).

Good to know: The ESPA spa at the resort is still a work in progress, but upon debut will be a two-level retreat that spans over 13,000 square feet. The spa features separate relaxation areas, sauna and steam rooms for male and female guests, nine treatment rooms, a spa suite for couples and a fitness center. We have visited Leela’s ESPA facilities at both the New Delhi and Udaipur palaces and can attest to the level of service and posh pampering.

There are a variety of dining options, ranging from all-day dining at Spectra to refined Chinese cuisine at China XO. We suggest your guests taste India at Jamavar, the signature Indian restaurant. Tip: Order the Lobster Neerulli (think lobster simmered in spiced shallots and tomato masala). We hear the best seat in the house is the Maharaja Table, which is designed exclusive from the rest of the restaurant and is a semi-private dining area. Contact Manager Manoj Mishra ([email protected]; 011-91-89-398 2-0542) for reservations.

Things get sexier after dinner at The Library Blu, the hotel bar. We love the seductive blue interiors and the menu of creative cocktails. Be sure to order their signature drink, the Blue Cocaine, which is a mix of tequila, blue curacao, pineapple juice, absinthe, star anise, clove, cinnamon and thyme.

If an urban setting is more your style, plan a visit to the Kempinski Ambience Delhi. This swank hotel opened earlier this year with two towers, connected by a sky bridge. Each tower has its own entrance, lobby and check-in desk.

Kempinski Ambience Delhi
Kempinski Ambience Delhi opened this year in two towers connected by sky bridge.


No doubt the supreme accommodation here is the Presidential Suite situated on the top floor. It has two bedrooms, a living room, a pantry and a reading room. Be sure to request butler service for your VIPs. For room arrangements, reach out to Director of Sales and Marketing Aditya Singh ([email protected]; 011-91-81-3099-0804).

For truly special experiences, Front Office Manager Manuj Bahl ([email protected]; 011-01-11-4908-8888) is on hand to craft over-the-top requests. We hear he can arrange for city sightseeing or trips to the Taj Mahal in Agra in the hotel’s luxury Audi (think reclining chairs with automatic massage).

Dining options abound at the hotel, with three restaurants. Dilli 32 serves up fresh Indian cuisine; guests can find Asian dining at Mei Kun, and Café Knosh serves all-day fare. We love the Cherry Bar, a glass-enclosed bar which ups the level of chic at this city hotel. Much of the cocktails are cherry-based, but the bar also has a lengthy wine list. Cool Touch: A DJ spins on the weekends making this a hot spot for locals.

Guests can unwind at the hotel’s Shanaya spa, which has five therapy rooms. We hear that the Shanaya Signature Ritual is the top treatment (think body scrub, body wrap and a body massage). For spa bookings, contact Spa Manager Jasmine Mann ([email protected]; 011-91-11-4908-8651).

Coming Soon: Though still in its development stages, we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Banyan Tree Kerala, which sits on a 16-acre private island. Even if the rest of the resort disappoints (though we highly, highly doubt that), the arrival experience alone will set this stay apart. We hear guests sail into the lobby of the resort through the iconic backwaters. The 20-minute boat ride takes guests from the private jetty at Vaduthala to the resort.

We hear that the top suite will be the Presidential Villa, which is equipped with spacious living areas, two bedrooms, a private pool, terrace, sundeck, pond and an outdoor shower. Butler service is included. Note: Even if the Presidential Villa is booked, one needn’t feel disappointed since we hear that all pool villas offer views of the famous Kerala backwaters.

For bookings, contact Director of Sales and Marketing Jaya Mishra ([email protected]; 011-91-98-6899-9888).

The resort’s spa will have eight treatment rooms, four of which will be International Spa Pavilions and the other four will be Ayurvedic treatment rooms. It is best to make spa reservations at the time of booking your stay to ensure availability.

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