Alyssa Bird for Architectural Digest.
Many of India's architectural wonders -- palaces, forts, and noble houses -- have been transformed into magical boutique hotels, giving travelers a unique view into the country's past. These incredible properties are at the top of our don't-miss list.
Commanding a prime spot overlooking the village of Samode, 30 miles north of Jaipur, the 150-year-old Samode Palace (pictured above) is the perfect base for visiting nearby attractions such as the Sariska National Park and Sanganer, a village known for its papermaking and block-printed textiles. Above you see a veranda off the central courtyard. Many of the hotel's spaces feature lavish frescoes and colorful fabrics from Jaipur. From $350/night; samode.com.
Taj Falaknuma Palace--once home to the monarch of Hyderabad--has seen its share of visiting royalty, from King Edward VIII to Czar Nicholas II. Set on 32 acres, the property has been expertly renovated to include modern comforts while preserving its storied public areas. From $294/night; tajhotels.com.
In addition to smartly furnished rooms, the hotel offers rooftop dining and a lovely pool area. For an unforgettable experience, take advantage of the hotel's off-site dinner event located at a carved-stone step well lit by hundreds of oil lamps. From $192/night; rawlanarlai.com.
The fact that Taj Lake Palace is accessible only by boat is a good indication that it's a special place. Seemingly floating in the middle of Udaipur's Lake Pichola, the hotel was commissioned by Maharana Jagat Singh II as a pleasure palace in the 1700s. The structure was converted into a hotel in 1963, before becoming part of the Taj group in 1971. From $281/night; tajhotels.com.
This 17th-century noble residence in Siolim, in the state of Goa, was painstakingly restored to its former glory and transformed into the intimate Siolim House. The hotel's style is reflective of the Portuguese, who occupied the area during that time. From $145/night; siolimhouse.com.
Once the summer palace of the maharajas of Mysore, Ferrnhills Royaal Palace sits on a serene 50-acre estate in Ooty. Even today the area serves as a welcome respite from city life, offering outdoor activities such as cycling, horseback riding, hiking, and fishing. The lavish interiors boast carved woodwork, ornate embellishments, and traditional furnishings. From $128/night; fernhillspalace.co.in.
The state of Kerala in the southwestern tip of the country is a popular destination for its beautiful beaches and lush scenery. Le Colonial in the city of Cochin is a 16th-century home that has seen many residents, from Portuguese and Dutch governors to a British tea trader. The rooms, which are furnished with Indian art and antiques, are named after residents or guests of the home, including Dutch governor Jan van Spall and Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama. From $145/night; le-colonial.neemranahotels.com.
British architect Henry Lanchester had Art Deco style in mind when he conceived Umaid Bhawan Palace in 1929. The structure in Jodhpur was completed for the city's royal family in 1943. The majestic desert-sandstone structure--now part of the Taj hotel group--is located on 26 well-manicured acres. The royal family returned to the palace in 2010 to celebrate the prince's engagement. From $448/night; tajhotels.com.
Several years ago, the once-dilapidated royal residence of Devi Garh in the village of Delwara was given a second chance. Now the 18th-century palace offers its guests the royal treatment with countless amenities, including a spa by L'Occitane. Perched in the Aravalli hills, the hotel overlooks the village and is conveniently located less than an hour from Udaipur. From $559/night; lebua.com.
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