The Great Escape
VIVANTA BY TAJ – MADIKERI, COORG
Isolated and densely canopied, the resort merges into the mists of the hilled rainforest, spread across 180 acres. Getting here means truly getting away. The dining areas see many elements from the architecture of Coorg, ranging from the rafters to the chunky pillars and even the deepasthamba, the traditional multi-tiered brass lamps. The elevated rock bases of the cottages take their cue from Madikeri Fort. The Taj Hotels’ signature spa brand is represented too – visit the three-level Jiva Grande to experience the Gudda Bath, a spa experience that incorporates the traditional Coorg method of heating water in a copper vessel. The body polish treatment uses coffee, avocado and rice powder, all native to the area, for an invigorating experience. Rustic yet lush, this is the right way to be rained upon.
USP: ECO RETREAT
Built around the existing green areas, the Vivanta by Taj in Madikeri has an impressive commitment to being green-friendly. Unbaked bricks made on site, unpolished granite sourced from within 200 kilometres, handmade roof tiles from dismantled houses, recycled wood, organic mud paint and low-energy LED lighting all go towards preserving the delicate biosphere of the region. The indigenous building customs of Coorg are highlighted with the use of locally-made fish trap designs for lighting.
Earlier this year, the Shangri-La Hotel finally threw open its doors to an eager Mumbai. A favourite with the well-travelled, its Mumbai outpost sees steady footfalls. Its hallmark hospitality extends far beyond the well-appointed suites and rooms and is omnipresent in the dining venues. Seven, an all-day restaurant is inspired by the seven islands of Mumbai, the seven Sanskrit numerals, the seven octaves of Indian music and the seven stellar objects. The Lobby Lounge reflects the tea culture of Hong Kong and India, with 36 varieties of tea for guests to choose from.
USP: CITY LUXE
As the newest luxury address in the city, the Shangri-La does not disappoint. Situated directly above the Palladium Mall, inarguably the busiest luxury mall in the city, on one of the busiest roads, the hotel somehow distances itself from the surrounding bustle, to create an oasis of calm. CHI, the spa, is the perfect destination for tired shoppers, an opportunity to re-centre before getting back to business.
ITC GRAND CHOLA, CHENNAI
Chennai’s ITC Grand Chola is an ode to that most successful of South Indian dynasties. The architecture is inspired by the aesthetic sensibilities of the Cholas, featuring the elephant, lotus and wheel of life motifs as embellishments in various areas of the property. The inspirations are also reflected in the naming of the suites, banquet halls and boardrooms, resulting in a veritable history lesson. There are four entrances to the hotel, reflecting a design feature prominent in most South Indian temples, and the Sangam staircase is a breathtaking element. The hotel is also the largest LEED-certified green hotel in the world, a fact that should set your mind at rest as you let your hair down at the 10 venues that range from fine dining restaurants to a club and even a malt and cigar lounge.
USP: BIG AND BIGGER
The ITC Grand Chola is home to the best of the southern state. The Kaya Kalp spa and the Grand Presidential Suite are both the largest in Tamil Nadu. It is the first to have both a luxury retail arcade and an auditorium. The ‘Digivalet’ iPad service in each of the 600 rooms is geared towards helping guests with a seamless digital experience. The Lotus Lounge is inspired by the architecture of the Chola palaces, acoustically designed to amplify sounds in a circle, so voices echo only within the circle.
THE LEELA PALACE, CHENNAI
The Leela Palace Chennai is the latest in the Leela Group’s portfolio and shows all signs of living up to the standards we have come to expect. Inspired by the city’s famous Chettinad Palace, the hotel features the iconic pillars, high ceilings and inner courtyards, and intersperses them with ornate chandeliers, carpets and artifacts sourced from across the globe. The hotel is also home to a spa by ESPA London, which is known for products developed with only the finest plant extracts and oils from around the world. The two palatial ballrooms are sure to be a popular setting for hold-your-breath South Indian weddings.
USP: SEAFRONT SPLENDOUR
Set upon six verdant acres at the confluence of the Bay of Bengal and the Adyar river, The Leela Palace is Chennai’s first seafront hotel. Photographs of the magnificent property are postcard-perfect. The rooftop Italian restaurant is not just home to great cuisine, but also to 180 degree views of the sea.
BENGALURU MARRIOTT HOTEL WHITEFIELD, BENGALURU
The fifth Marriott property in India, the Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield stays true to the brand’s ethos of contemporary style blended with warmth and sophistication. The exquisite pillar-less Grand Ball Room features a ceiling height of 7.8 metres and is an elegant addition to the city’s venues. Apart from the state-of-the-art facilities and services that are a standard feature, the hotel also encourages guests to sweat it out on the jogging and bike track that lies by the pool deck.
USP: BUSINESS HUB
The hotel’s location just 50 minutes from Bengaluru International Airport will be welcome news for anyone who’s ever travelled to that distant aerodrome. Nestled among the Fortune 500 companies that make up Whitefield’s IT hub, the first Marriott property in the city stands tall, making it the most obvious choice for anyone with business to conduct. Over 10,000 square feet of efficient meeting space only adds to the attraction.
THE TREE HOUSE RESORT, JAIPUR
Set just 30 kilometres from Jaipur, this tranquil resort seeks not to plunge urban-dwellers into nature, but gently immerse them in the lush surroundings, without depriving them of the technology and comforts they’re used to. Tree houses of various sizes make up this resort, charmingly named after indigenous feathered friends, with live branches running through the rooms and seamlessly integrating guests into luxurious lofty living. The five-room private suites are the largest in the world, incorporating private patios and gardens, and the only tree houses in the world to house bathtubs.
USP: TWEETING RELAXATION
The Aviary Spa is the first of its kind in India, where caged birds that cannot survive in the wild are released into the aviary, free to fly around as you experience the splendid Ayurvedic therapies. Add to that the gently gurgling water feature and you’ll have a relaxing experience like no other.
RAMADA UDAIPUR HOTEL & SPA, UDAIPUR
Less than an hour from the airport in Udaipur, the Ramada Udaipur enjoys gorgeous views of this most picturesque city. The resort is situated on multiple levels and has been constructed using traditional Rajasthani stone. Choose from deluxe rooms or suites, but either way you are assured of a space significantly larger than other hotels in the category, with gorgeous views. Peek out of windows in the higher suites and you can glimpse two of the man-made lakes that the city is famous for, as well as a panoramic vista of the city.
USP: POOLS WITH A VIEW
You can choose to laze by the pool at the heart of the property – the multi-level lawns surrounding it are ideal for sunbathing, and double up as a spectacular setting for celebratory events in the evening. Or stroll over to the first heated pool in the city, situated next to the excellent spa and gym. Gaze into the distance for an unimpeded view of the Monsoon Palace or walk over to another side to survey the city. Folk musicians and dancers entertain the guests each evening and the hotel can arrange for a private meal by the pool, of traditional desert fare served in royal Rajputana style.
HYATT PLACE, HAMPI
Located in Vidyanagar, Bellary, the Hyatt Place Hampi is a haven from the summer heat. Seven of the 115 rooms feature private plunge pools and the three suites all offer weary eyes spectacular views of the Sandur mountain range. Take advantage of the rain showers in each room to wash off the dust of travelling the six hours from Bengaluru.
USP: LUXE PILGRIMAGE
The Hyatt Palace at Hampi is ideally situated just 27 kilometres from the UNESCO World Heritage site of the ruins at Hampi, with over 500 other historic monuments within easy reach. The Mahadeva Temple at Itagi is only 80 kilometres away, while another stunning example of the Western Chalukya style, the Doddabasappa Temple in Dambal, is 90 kilometres away. Make the Hyatt Place Hampi your base as you explore the majestic monuments.
THE KHYBER, HIMALAYAN RESORT & SPA, GULMARG
The first luxury resort in Gulmarg, The Khyber is an all-season resort set in the midst of seven acres of conifer, pine and deodar.The 85 rooms offer views of the snow-capped Affarwat peaks of the Himalayan Pir Panjal range, the dense forest, or the resort’s terraced gardens. Appointed in deodar and teak, the rooms feature Kashmiri namdas and other furnishings handpicked to showcase the rich craft heritage of Kashmir. The resort is a short walk from the Gulmarg Gondola so the ski season is a great time to visit. Unwind afterwards with a visit to the Alaya Spa or a soak in the adjoining heated indoor pool.
USP: LUSH APRÈS SKI
After a day spent on the slopes, relax in Chaikash, the tea lounge. Partake of the signature afternoon tea, a twist on the classic, served with Indian tea-time snacks and teas, including the traditional Kashmiri kahwa. Or luxuriate like a sultan of old in Calabash, a Moroccan themed cigar and hookah lounge, snug, as you look out over the snowy peaks.