The focus of luxury tourism has moved from expensive hotel suites to bespoke experiences. From a theatrical bar experience in Gurugram to a private meditation session in Ladakh, here is a roundup of our favourite high-end, unique travel experiences in India. By Riaan George
10 Unique Luxe Travel Experiences In India
Sip on a Sundowner at a Deserted Riverbed, Madhya Pradesh
This gets our vote for India’s most unique – and secluded – sundowner. At Bori Safari Lodge in Madhya Pradesh, you drive around in an open-top jeep, through this relatively undiscovered national park, and do a bit of spotting as scheduled. The team then takes you to a deserted riverbed on the Tawa River where they set up high tea and sundowners. The river dries up significantly during certain months leaving gorgeous sandy banks where you are parked. One of the specialities of the area is a local brew called mahua. Have a mahua martini on the sandy riverfront as you watch the sun set over the national park. Approx INR 35,000 per room.
Enjoy Private Dinner With a View, Udaipur
Guests at The Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, can indulge in opulence by reserving a private dinner under the Lakeside Dome. This is a gorgeous dome decorated with fresh marigold flowers and candles. While a personal butler serves you a customised multi-course meal on the beautifully set table, you can enjoy views of Lake Pichola, City Palace, and Jagmandir. Live music by Rajasthani musicians sets the right ambience and rounds off the experience. Now we’re all for curated dining experiences, but this one really spells ultimate luxury to us. Approx INR 35,000 per couple.
Sit in on a Private Meditation Session, Ladakh
If complete remote life and total isolation are what you would consider unadulterated luxury, head to Shakti Himalaya in Ladakh, which gets our vote for one of India’s most unique luxury experiences. Situated along the banks of the Indus River and tucked away in the midst of the Himalayan mountains, Shakti Himalaya offers outstanding experiences. How about calling in a Buddhist monk from the nearby Thiksey monastery to conduct a private meditation session? In this all natural setting, you are guided through the meditation session, with age-old chants, with only the mountains and breeze for company and no human civilisation around. Pure bliss! Price on request.
Live Life King Size, Jaipur
Fancy having the Maharaja of Jaipur as your Airbnb host? That’s altogether possible if you book yourself into the extravagant Gudliya Suite within the private confines of The City Palace in Jaipur. Here, you get exclusive access to the panoramic terrace that is otherwise off-limits to anyone other than the family that resides in the palace. You can amble through the royal family’s gardens, enjoy exclusive access to a dinner in the highly Instagrammable blue and white room, and have the royal butlers on call all day long. The suite itself comes with its own swimming pool and courtyard, while the decor features delightful accents of blue and Jaipur pink. Approx INR 4,00,000.
Ride Off the Beaten Track on Horses, Rann of Kutch
If you are looking for a relatively undiscovered part of India to enjoy glamping and a horseback safari, opt for Rann of Kutch. The arid, dramatic landscapes of this place make for the most immersive luxury experience. We love what the team at Kutch Classic Rider Camp is doing through their horseback safari itineraries. With a choice of seven, nine or 12 days, the horseback safari includes about 30-40 kilometres of safari every day on Marwari horses with stops at some breathtaking spots and quaint villages like Devpar, Nirona, and Dhinodar. On the way, you will also stop at grasslands to spot birds and explore the seasonal wetlands. Price on request
Spend a Wellness Weekend, Maharashtra
Mumbaikars looking for completely exclusive and unique travel experiences in India can take the chopper down to Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa where the sprawling three-bedroom Presidential Villa is ideal for a weekend of wellness. Situated on the highest point of one of the largest—and greenest—resorts in Maharashtra, at this Presidential Villa you can customise a wellness programme including a morning trek to the Western Ghats, a sunrise stretching or yoga session, a private lesson at the shaded yoga shala or a bit of disconnected time at the uber private meditation cave situated in the spa area of the retreat. Alternatively, you can opt for the highly-specialised Dharana Wellness Programme that the resort is known for. Wellness meals can also be entirely customised to your preferences. Price on request.
Witness Bar Theatre, Gurugram
Guests at ITC Grand Bharat, A Luxury Collection Retreat in Gurugram, can experience ‘bar theatre’ at the Peacock Bar. You are assigned a personal bartender, an expert molecular mixologist who uses liquid smoke to make the perfect drink for you. The customised bar experience lasts about 90 minutes during which the bartender takes you through the history of cocktail making, recites poems, shares anecdotes and quotes proverbs, while mixing drinks with fascinating names such as Pharaoh’s Cup, Corpse Reviver No 2, Cigar Smoked Old Fashioned, 1986 Dale DeGroff Cosmopolitan, and more. Approx INR 5,000 per person.
Spend an Extravagant Spa Day, Udaipur
The Royal Mewar Spa package at The Leela Palace Udaipur is completely over the top. But we’re not complaining. Starting with a 90-minute yoga session, the day-long ritual is followed by a customised breakfast and a 3.5-hour spa experience including a scrub, wrap, and massage. The evening tea is served within the alcoves of the spa post which you have access to the private pool for an hour along with flowing champagne. The piece de resistance of this spa day is a bespoke dinner for two at the uber private Spa Alcove. If that isn’t enough, book yourself a nightcap at the secluded corner table of the hotel’s lakefront restaurant. INR 90,000
Live Out Your Tarzan Fantasy in a Tree House, Wayanad
What could be better than spending a holiday on a treetop? Kerala boasts some of India’s best treehouse experiences. A case in point is the Vythiri Resort in Wayanad where your room is set high above the rainforest canopy. The house is built with traditional thatching techniques and indigenous materials. In addition, the house is powered by solar energy. The overall construction of the treehouse is so authentic and natural that you can only go up to your tree with limited luggage after leaving your big bags at the reception. It features a fully functional bathroom, a balcony, and a spacious bedroom. Approx INR 30,000
Go on a Bespoke Picnic, Ranthambore Fort
The ancient fort picnic at Ranthambore’s Aman-i-Khas is highly recommended. The Ranthambore Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site within the national park. The area is dotted with Jain and Hindu temples, which are beautifully preserved. A short distance away is the ancient Khandar Fort, perched atop a hill. Your personal guide will show you around the area following which the team will lay out a picnic for you in the most secluded and gorgeous setting. These picnics are surely splendid outdoorsy unique travel experiences in India to enjoy, especially during Rajasthan winters. Approx INR 5,000 per person, upto 4 pax.