India’s hotels raise the bar for all others

Over the years I have made a list of my favorite hotels worldwide. Since I travel about 8 months a year, I’m always discovering new hotels, discover the newest decor, eco friendly, the food, spa treatments and restaurant menus, and services in this most competitive luxury hotels.

I have had the good fortune to have met Sunil, before he started his now very successful , India-only travel company with offices throughout India while the head quarters are in Delhi.

His staff was always on time, the promise of safe and English speaking guides and drivers were delivered. And over the years I took his suggestions of hotels that I would favour..and I did. So now I pass them on to you. but first a commercial break.

MY FLIGHT TRIP never failed me and Sunil’s word and ethics are why his reputation is like the pure gold of the country’s jewelry.

So when my London based daughter’s book was published (Dispatches from the Kabul Cafe) my gift was really my dream and she was the excuse. We stayed at only the best hotels with references by MY FLIGHT TRIP.

The hotels are not in order of favorites since I couldn’t begin to have one.

1. ITC MAURYA HOTEL in New Delhi, where our trip started. Over the years I have stayed here on several occasions. From my very first stay, I realized this is one of the finest hotel chains. Service is what I look for as well, of course, cleanliness, decor, food, activities, amenities and all the luxury one expects in hotels with five star accreditation.

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Not only does the Maurya have wonderfully decorated rooms, but the service is splendid as is the food especially Bukara, famed for their India barbecue food,for which they are known. (Bill Clinton returned several times and then the Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton also and so did Chelsea). They were dishes with their name sbut then every Bollywood/Hoiilywood star and Head of State, wanted their name mentioned so not to dismiss any, that idea was canned.

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The art collection in the public areas and in the rooms should be mentioned as the collections are museum worthy. A ‘curator’  will happily show and explain why the various art was chosen and all are by Indian artists. And that includes the amazing lobby with it’s hand painted glass panels that form a huge and impressive dome.

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Location is an important issue, especially in Delhi where there are so many sites to see, shopping areas, and knowing that traffic is, well, impossible, it’s important to stay at a conveniently located hotel.

2. While in India, again in New Delhi, there’s the elegant, old but new again, The Imperial Hotel. It reminds me of a large Maharani’s residence since the old ‘dame’s’ facelift has proven impeccable.

Firstly, the long drive to the entrance is lined with palm tree. There are far too many adjectives to add to this setting, the lobby and the decor of the rooms. But anyone who has stayed at the renovated, famed hotel where most notable politicians, Bollywood /Hollywood stars, American and Russian billionaires and the now rising crop of Indian and Chinese mega rich, have taken to the refinement of The Imperial.

At the airport when I told my driver where I’m going (that’s the time I didn’t ask for the hotel’s service), they seemed so impressed..

The restaurants, room service, fine linens, amenities are what most people can only be compared to being Royalty. Rooms are exquisite and large enough for we two mad shoppers and our daily ventures to great boutiques that filled the large closet.

Many rooms look out onto the majestic gardens that have been manicured to resemble artwork. The doormen under the porte cochere are endearing, assisting these fashionistas with ourparcels.

Despite the constant horn honking beyond the far enough away streets, this location is very serene

I’d certainly be happy to hang my sunhat here for several days, weeks or if I ever win the Lotto, chances would be likely that I would be found at The Imperial.

3. On my very first trip to India, while in Jaipur,(Rajasthan) my guide asked if I’d like to see an interesting hotel in Udaipur. So on one of those highways where you either hide under a blanket or pray for life, we stopped at what I still feel is a dream. Someday, I said to myself those many years ago, “I’m going to stay this extraordinary, historic hotel in the middle of the lake.”


The Lake Palace, is a far cry from any other hotel regarding location and majesty. It sits in the middle of a huge man-made lake Pichola, and was once the summer palace for the Maharajah and his entourage. From there it’s easy to see the Winter palace on the edge of the shore of Lake Pichola, but with the many open arches and walkways, the breeze has the cooling effect so needed in India’s summer.


The boat took us from a perfectly sheltered covered enclave which should have been a clue that this was probably one of the most unusual, exquisite, unique hotels in the world. When my daughter and I were ushered to terra firma, suddenly rose petals cascaded from the skies while the uniformed doorman held a red and gold embroidered umbrella to keep the petals from perhaps falling onto to our hair and clothing. Even the air was perfumed with this mild scent of rosebuds. Neither of us could say anything except stare at each other and both of us are certainly, well experienced world wide travellers.

The lobby was creatively filled with hanging baskets of flowers, like birdcages holding colourful macaws. We squinted at this incredible sight like two travel novices. Since I wanted a first floor room, (always in a rush and hate waiting for lifts,) our room was more than we expected. A large walk in closet lead to an extra large bathroom, the room certainly not huge but more than adequate, was perfectly ‘groomed’ with the finest linens and the large window gave us a great view of the grounds and the constant ground keepers.

Breakfast is what dreams are made of. Nothing one could think of was left out and with our plates taken to our chosen tables by an always waiting waiters. Our outside table where the sun was perfect at this time of the day became our constant table.

The very good book shop on the premises caught our attention and we would spend time with the knowledgable bookseller.

One day we headed to the city in search of some famous ‘things’ of which we had no idea but always in search for exotic boutiques.   At night, we took a boat tour to a nearby island for dinner where the tables were set just as one would expect and when the sun set, there was a gasp since this was certainly breathtaking. All the while, we could see Lake Palace Hotel, its white facade gleaming even as the evening darkened. Yes, Lake Palace Hotel is one of the masterpieces of global hotels.

4. One can’t think of India without issuing the word, ‘TAJ’. Yes, there are now Taj Hotels in the USA e.g The Pierre in NYC, San Francisco., But in Kolkata and Mumbai, there are no comparables.


I’ve often wondered how guests’ names are known within minutes of arrival. For me it’s a plus that each guest is so special.


I recall on one of my birthdays I happened to be in Kolkatta at the TAJ Bengal. There was a knock at my door where two staff members were there with offerings, one with a dozen glorious longest stemmed red roses, the other with a wonderful cake. I insisted that they join me as I cut into this masterful sweet and took the hearty roses on the plane trip to Darjeeling.

5. And does MUMBAI’S TAJ PALACE need any description or identification? I doubt it. Just overlooking the Gate to India where, when I went for a walk, I was flanked by locals who were so friendly and wanted their photos taken with me and their children.

At the hotel, the staff see this as a career not a stepping stone so service it beyond expectations. I tried to spend as much time here, so at lunch, I requested a table near the pool but in the shade and was surprised when that table seemed reserved for me whenever I showed up at lunch.



Nothing is too difficult or strange to ask for since the Taj staff understand and consider that some of their famous guest have idiosyncrasies. But heir request seem to materialize. I opt for the old segment of the Taj,the tower with its sweeping staircase and luminous chandeliers.

The rooms are splendid with wondrous Indian touches and the shopping area in the hotel, could keep any fashionista busy for many hours.

Unfortunately, after that horrific terrorist incident in 2013, a few of the shops have been closed.

There is a most meaningful tribute in the lobby for those who died.But nothing has changed or challenged the integrity of the hotel.

6. Okay… my penultimate for India. BANGALORE’S, WINDSOR HOTEL, isn’t new but is one of the very few fine hotels where there’s a “ladies only” floor. Windsor was one of the first to initiate this facility realizing how many women now travel alone. From room service to housekeeping, all is done by the female only staff.

Also what I love is that you can walk into the lovely garden. It’s very private and chose whether I would sit under pergola or a bench in shady area.

The location of the hotel is not in the centre of the busy IT city but close enough for it not to become tiresome and not far from the temples and Commerce Street which is a real ‘happening’.   There aren’t any touts but I found people so very friendly, easy to meet locals, shop owners and ask where they liked to eat, shop, drink.

Since Bangalore is the Silicon Valley of India, IT industry employs hundreds. It’s difficult to find beggars on the streets as seen in many Indian major cities. Coming back to the Windsor each day was just another addition to the smaller but growing splendid city.

7. I can’t say I’m leaving the best for last, but Agra’s ITC MUGHAL HOTEL , is super special. Of course, one travels to this regal city to see the Taj Mahal. And for those who only come for the day, it’s a major error. Few hotels offer what the Mughal Hotel does even though there are newer and flashier accommodations now. It’s part resort, part fun and probably has the largest spa in the world,.. 50,000 sq. feet. This ‘village’ has separate villas depending on the treatment. And I have experienced many spas and hands on various parts of my body but few have been so expert as the massages, facials, reflexology.

ITC HOTEL MOGUL AGRE india 145My room came equipped with the unforgettable Trevor my valet/butler. Little wonder that he is so well known and always available, insisting on bringing my meals in the restaurant to me …no waiters when Trevor was around. Then seeing how tired I was at the end of a working day, there was a massage chair that he thought “would be most helpful for relaxation”. And I’ll never forget that at his insistence, very early one morning Trevor had arranged a horse and carriage to take me to the Taj Mahal while the marble still had the morning pinkish tone.

ITC brand has proven how absolutely dedicated they are having the best hotels on their list. It may not be the new ‘boy’ on the block but with age comes wisdom and ITC can compete with any of the ‘newbies’ that have been built in the last few years.

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I once read a quote that I paraphrase “a great hotel should be like coming home every day,” if only I could have one of these I could call home.