Time Traveling Indulgence at Taj's Falaknuma Palace

Rathambore India
Rathambore India // Photo by schita/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Taj Falaknuma Palace
Photo by Meagan Drillinger

Luxury Travel Advisor is still spinning over our very indulgent stay at the Taj Falaknuma Palace, the newest palace hotel from Taj Hotels in Hyderabad, India. There's luxury, and then there's Falaknuma.

A stay at the palace is a bonafide trip back to the 19th century. The completely European oasis perched up 2,000 feet on a cliff overlooking one of India's most bustling cities was once the residence of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Falaknuma Palace underwent a 10-year restoration and was turned into a place to say in 2010 for only the truly elite. Luxury Travel Advisor was able to get a taste of what makes this place truly indulgent.

The Begum Suite at Taj Falaknuma Palace // Photo by Meagan Drillinger
The Begum Suite at Taj Falaknuma Palace // Photo by Meagan Drillinger

Upon arrival, we where escorted up from the main gate by horse and buggy, driven by a driver in period garb. We walked up the regal front steps as pink flower petals rained around us. There we met our personal butler, Varun, who checked us into the Begum Suite (which we hear is where the Princess stays when she visits the palace). Good to know: This is the best suite in the house to catch the sunset over Hyderabad.

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The whole grounds smell of jasmine and incense. Peacocks roam on the beautifully manicured lawns. Occasionally a flute player can be found tucked into discreet corners playing soft music to truly throw you back to a royal era of travel in India. 

A private dinner in an outdoor courtyard // Photo by Meagan Drillinger
A private dinner in an outdoor courtyard // Photo by Meagan Drillinger

A must for your stay is the palace's unique dining experience. The restaurant can arrange for a private dinner in two outdoor courtyards overlooking the city. Be bold and ask the chef to tailor a truly Hyderabadi feast for you. We dined on lambs, chicken, fish, vegetables and traditional Indian breads by candlelight surrounded by incense and hanging garlands of jasmine flowers from the frangipani trees. Soft jazz music from the 1920s even played in the background. It was otherworldly to say the least. 

Photo by Meagan Drillinger

Falaknuma can also arrange for a private meeting with the jeweler of the Nizam family. For 300 years, this family has custom designed elaborate pieces for the royal family. Only available to the palace's most VIP guests, the jeweler will come to the palace for a private showing and will design any piece for clients. 

Guests must also arrange for high tea with Hyderabad local, Nawab Faiz Khan, whose great grandfather was the builder of the palace. Sit at the Jade Terrace for traditional tea service and discuss what makes the palace so incredibly special. 

And, of course, there is the Jiva Spa, where we spent a glorious afternoon feeling like a Nizam ourselves. We were doused in aromatic oils, indulged in steam baths and experiential showers and then massaged. Sit and sip tea in the relaxation area overlooking the green lawns and trees of the palace. 

Photo by Meagan Drillinger

Beyond the palace (if you even feel you need to leave), Hyderabad is a city rich in history. Greaves Tours took us on a lovely tour of the 400-year-old city. We visited Mecca Masjid, the largest mosque in south India. It can accommodate up to 10,000 people. It was completed in 1692. The huge black granite building with stucco decoration houses the tombs of the Asaj Jahi rulers and the Nizams of Hyderabad. Be sure to also make a stop to Charminar, the "Arc de Triomphe" of the East. Built between 1591 and 1612 by Sultan Mohammad Quil Qutub Shah, the Charminar was once the entranceway to the palace complex. 

Another magnificent site in Hyderabad is Golcanda, famous for its diamond mines (Kohinoor diamond, anyone?). The fortress was built of mud in the 12th century and was later reinforced by the Bahmanis who occupied the fort from 1363. Later visit the Qutub Shahi Tombs, the final resting place of the Qutub Shah Kings. The tombs are a mixture of Persian, Pathan and Hindu forms and are built from grey granite. The haunting structures are absolutely magnificent against the backdrop of the city. 

Be sure to check out the full story in an upcoming issue of Luxury Travel Advisor.

Our tour of Taj's southern India hotels continues in Bangalore, where we just spent a night at the Vivanta by Taj Yeshwantpur after a city tour visiting the botanical gardens and political monuments of the city. Today we make the five-hour journey to Coorg for a stay in the recently opened Vivanta by Taj Madikeri Hotel. Keep tuning back for updates from our whirlwind tour of southern India.

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