In the last two months, restaurants have shuttered and the vast majority of hotels remain closed, some permanently. But the surviving ones will undergo severe safety protocols to meet WHO guidelines. Thermal screening, background checks of guests, social distancing within premises, mandatory use of masks and gloves, installation of sanitisers, digital restaurant reservations and check-ins have been implemented across the board. While travelling a great distance seems a longtime away, here are luxury retreats and boutique stays that one can check out and check into without leaving their cities post the lockdown.
The heritage hotel is an architectural marvel, iconic to Mumbai. Its prime address in Colaba—with views of Gateway of Indians both a cause for envy, and a strategic location. Having opened in 1903, the 285 room-property has hosted eminent personalities from the globe over and was the site of Lord Mountbatten’s last speech before he left India. (Doubles from Rs9,500, including breakfast; www.tajhotels.com)
The 23rd Soho House property sits at the edge of Juhu beach. The 11-storey building serves expansive views of the Arabian Sea and is a hotspot for Bollywood bigwigs. The menu features Indian and contemporary elements and the rooftop bar shares space with a pool. Intricate details such as lampshades made with vintage saris, sisal carpets, and artworks and photographs by Indian artists lend the 38-room property a personal touch. (Doubles from Rsl0,500; www.sohohouse.com)
The two-decade-old The Manor is tucked inside a tree-lined gated colony. Post pandemic, the two-storey property surrounded by an acre of greenery is likely to introduce a “work from hotel” setup with amenities such as a speedy Wi-Fi to break the monotony of a quintessential corporate space. (Doubles from Rs12,000; www.themanordelhi.com)
Opulent is an apt description for The Leela Palace. The five-star property is both modern and ostentatious with Indian and European furnishings. Think Persian rugs, silk sofas, grand chandeliers, and a rooftop pool that overlooks the lushness of Diplomatic Enclave. Expect amplification of safety levels with UV sanitisation across all public spaces in the premises. (Doubles from Rs15,000; www.theleela.com)
Clockwise from top left: Poolside basking at The Postcard Moira, Goa; Art spaces at Bodhi Tree, Kolkata; Meditation on the banks of the Ganga at Himalayan Hideaways, Rishikesh; High tea at The Leela Palace New Delhi. Photo Courtesy: The Postcard Moira (pool), Photo Courtesy: The Leela Palace New Delhi (interior), Photo Courtesy: Bodhi Tree (paintings), Photo Courtesy: Himalayan Hideaways (man)
The six-room heritage bungalow celebrates a bygone era of Kolkata from the early 20th century. Most items bought and refurbished are from different parts of the city. There are the louvred windows repurposed as installations in the courtyard and bedside tables, and then there’s the charm of old but functional typewriters in each room. On the menu are hearty Bengali fare such as radha ballabhi (lentil-stuffed Indian flatbread), luchi-alur dom (aloo-puri), and rosogolla. Hour-long heritage walks are complimentary for guests. (Doubles from Rs5,000, including breakfast; calcuttabungalow.com)
Located in South Kolkata’s Swiss Park, the property—started by a mother-son duo in 2007—pegs itself as a boutique guest house and serviced apartment. It has an on-site garden, art gallery, patio library and a cafe. The property uses a Buddhist approach to disinfect spaces with bay leaves, camphor and sage. (Doubles from Rs2,000, including breakfast; special discounts available for female travellers and guests of long duration stays; www.bodhitreekolkata.com)
Located adjacent to ITC Sonar, ITC Royal Bengal brings together nuances of culture, art and music. Besides 456 rooms and suites, on offer are: a jazz bar playing live gigs; six restaurants serving Indian and international delicacies; and a luxury spa. (www.itchotels.in)
Spread out across 12 acres, Taj’s year-old venture in Rishikesh is made for social distancing. The retreat is set at the foothills of the Himalayas and overlooks the Ganga river. Garhwal influences are felt throughout the 79-room property, be it the kath-khuni architecture, slate flooring or traditional meals with locally sourced ingredients. (Doubles from Rs17,000, including breakfast; www.tajhotels.com)
Roseate Ganges is located near the quiet neighbourhood of Shivpuri, the launch site for river rafting. The luxury property offers 16 villas, each opening to a private balcony looking over the Ganga valley. Besides the Garhwali and Kumaoni cuisines served at the hotel, on the menu at the wellness retreat are rejuvenating yoga and spa sessions. (www.roseatehotels.com)
The forest-themed lodge overlooks river rapids. Its quiet, serene surroundings are huge draws, and the eight-room property is an ideal base for wellness and adventure seekers. The property is an affiliate of Opensky Resorts, a company that has partnered with 15+ stays ranging from riverside retreats to Raj-era cottages, and jungles lodges to heritage havelis across Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. (Doubles from Rs9,200; www.himalayanhideaways.com)
Wes Anderson meets imperialism at this former royal guesthouse of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur. Sea blue, fuchsia and indigo wallpapers bathe the cavernous interiors of the 1729-built property. Marble makes up the grand staircase, Art Deco furniture is peppered throughout and greenery is everywhere. The 13 rooms and suites have played host to dignitaries like Queen Elizabeth, Lord Mountbatten and Jackie Kennedy, who now have suites named in their honour. (Doubles from Rs55,000; thesujanlife.com)
Live like a royal at Samode Haveli, a traditional Indo-Saracenic mansion flanked by gardens and apartments arranged around a series of intimate courtyards. When the property was built 175 years ago, it was the residence of the Samode rulers. Today, their descendants still occupy the heritage space, and guests are invited to stay in former royal apartments and suites. (Doubles from Rs9,500; www.samode.com)
28 Kothi in Jaipur is minimalistic in approach. Its garden spaces are ideal for lunching and lounging. Photo Courtesy: 28 Kothi
The boutique guesthouse—owned by a jewellery designer and built by a French architect—is centrally located within Civil Lines. The artistic collaboration lends itself a homey touch. Its lush garden, sunlit terraces, quiet reading nooks, and farm fresh organic feasts offer a world detached from the one outside. (Doubles from Rs7,500, including breakfast; www.28kothi.com)
The pocket-friendly stay is situated in Poes Garden, a posh residential neighbourhood in the heart of the city with close proximity to shopping centres, temples and embassy consulates. Until the lockdown lifts, the property is only catering to stranded guests. (Doubles from Rs2,950, including breakfast; call 044 4218 2000)
Also located in Poes Garden, the eponymous Hanu Reddy Residences is a tree-flanked, six-decade old family home converted into a boutique stay. The 30-room property is spread across three bungalows and shares the lane with Rajinikanth’s address. The management often gets requests to take a personal appointment with the celebrity. The rooms are sanitised and left unoccupied for 72 hours post-checkout and 24 hours prior to check-in. (Doubles from Rs4,500, including breakfast; www.hanureddyresidences.com)
Nestled in a bylane in Richmond Town, Casa Cottage is an English-style bed-and-breakfast dating back to 1915. The 18 room-stay is run by an Indo-French couple and is one of the few pet-friendly options in the city. (Doubles from Rs3,300, including breakfast; www.casacottage.com)
The Ritz-Carlton, Bangalore is an urban retreat whose swanky offerings include a Mercedes-Benz limousine service. The hotel has 277 rooms and its corridors and public spaces are amped up with 1,280 sculptures and paintings by mostly Indian, but also Vietnamese, Cuban and American artists. Grills and kebabs are big hits at Riwaz, the in-house Indian kitchen. (Doubles from Rs12,500, including breakfast and a five- course set meal for a couple; www.ritzcarlton.com)
The English-style Casa Cottage in Bengaluru is a bed-and-breakfast dating back to 1915. Photo Courtesy: Casa Cottage
Located close to Candolim and Sinquerim beach, Sol De Goa is a luxury heritage hotel. Designed by Tarun Tahiliani, the hotel offers 21 suites and rooms that overlook two pools and paddy fields. While the sunny state has plenty to offer (think whisky tours, kite surfing and fishing), sometimes, lounging by the poolside or digging into portions of Goan prawn curry and chicken cafreal is all the comfort one needs. (Doubles from Rs5,500, including breakfast; www.soldegoa.com)
In Moira, a sleepy village with lush banana plantations and colourful houses, lies The Postcard, one of the chain’s three Goan properties. Its surroundings are a far cry from the state’s touristy front. The 214-year-old restored ancestral home has nine rooms with four-poster beds, brass fittings and statement lamps. The dining options are quintessentially Goan, and the semolina fried version of Moidechim Kelim (Moira banana) is a must-try. (Doubles from Rs18,500, including breakfast; www.postcardresorts.com)
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is Senior Sub-Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She likes to take long leisurely walks with both hands in her pocket; channeling her inner Gil Pender at Marine Drive since Paris is a continent away.
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