Give me the lowdown: For travellers here to see India’s most important tourist attraction, the Taj Mahal, there is no better place to stay than The Oberoi Amarvilas. The only building in the green belt surrounding the palace, the hotel is just 600 metres from its entrance and every one of its 95 rooms and seven suites has unrestricted views of the iconic building. Many rooms have private terraces, the perfect place to watch the Taj Mahal turn shades of pink as the sun goes down and, combined with the Oberoi’s famed levels of service and design, make the experience of staying here close to heavenly.
Is this an actual palace? Amarvilas might appear to have been built for royalty who’ve enjoyed staring at the Taj Mahal for centuries, but it was actually designed and built in the early 2000s. Inspired by traditional Mughal palace design of the 16th and 17th centuries, the ‘campus’ is a tranquil respite from Agra’s crowded, dusty bustle. It’s set among a curated mix of fountains, terraced lawns, traditionally-inspired sculptures and reflection pools, the air fragrant with jasmine and gulchadi. The spectacular entrance lobby with its domed ceiling and massive chandelier will also give you delusions of aristocracy, particularly with the level of service provided, which includes 24-hour butler service for every room.
Swim like a maharajah: It’s difficult to pinpoint the Oberoi Amarvilas’ most spectacular feature but the central lapis-coloured pool would have to come close. Not just a beautifully designed area with its colourful umbrellas and shady pavilions, the constant access to fresh water, cold towels, frozen fruit and drinks from the bar might rival a trip to the Taj Mahal as the best way to spend your day.
Eating and drinking: The two restaurants here – the dinner-only Esphahan with its tandoor tasting platters and all-day Bellevue with its pan-Asian, Indian and European menu and excellent outdoor terrace – are supported by the self-explanatory The Lounge and The Bar, decorated in suitable lavish style with marble, silk brocade and teak detailing.
Taj Mahal access: Amarvilas offers guests transport via golfcart directly to the entrance of the Taj Mahal, the only vehicles allowed on the entrance road and the best way to avoid the tourist crush. Private guides can also be arranged.