Celebrate India’s rich culture with these top 5 luxury weekend festival breaks
India is one of those destinations that has such a rich heritage and diversity of things to see and do that it is tempting to put it on the bucket list for when you have more time to spare.
Yet, with the introduction of UK e-visas with a turn around of less than a week, and an increase in direct flights from the UK, it has never been more accessible.
A great way to get acquainted with India is to take a long weekend break, and for a truly authentic experience, you can match it up with one of the many key celebrations that are a feature of this vibrant and colourful country.
Whether you prefer a city break or spiritual spa, there is something for every mood and each of the featured trips below will give you a taste of Indian culture and hospitality at some of the finest luxury hotels the country has to offer.
FEASTING LIKE A NIZAM TO CELEBRATE EID UL FITR
Where: Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad
When: 14th – 17th June 2018
Marking the end of the Muslim festival of Ramadan, Eid ul Fitr is an important time of celebration and feasting throughout India following a time of fasting.
This year, guests can spend a weekend celebrating like the royalty of Hyderabad, known as ‘Nizam’ at Taj Falaknuma Palace. This lovingly restored palace was built in 1894 and recently reopened in its former glory after a decade-long refurbishment.
Passed on for generations like a precious jewel, Falaknuma Palace or ‘Mirror of the Sky’ was the residence of Nizam Mehboob Ali Khan, at the time the richest man in the world.
During the weekend, guests will experience the elaborate excess and indulgence of legendary Nizami feasts at the hotel’s two restaurants, who intelligently combine traditional fare with modern tastes.
HOW: Rates at Taj Falaknuma Palace start from £385 per night. Direct return flights from London Heathrow to Hyderabad with British Airways start from £549 on 14th – 17th June 2018.
INDEPENDENCE DAY IN INDIA’S CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS
Where: Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai
When: 15th – 19th August 2018
The only place to celebrate Indian Independence Day is in the city that never sleeps, Mumbai. With new licensing laws coming into place that allow shops, restaurants, bars, hotels, theatres and multiplexes to stay open 24/7 there is more to celebrate than ever before.
Mumbai has become the ultimate destination for sophisticated and authentic eating, drinking and partying with an emerging and buzzing dining and bar scene.
The perfect place to stay in South Mumbai to maximise these new 24/7 laws is the iconic Taj Mahal Palace, situated right in the centre of all the action, overlooking the iconic India Gate.
This Independence Day, guests can explore Bandra (the Shoreditch of Mumbai) where the cool kids hang out, where the Bollywood stars live and where the hottest restaurants and bars are situated – visitors are promised delicious foods and fun-fuelled nights.
HOW: Rates at Taj Mahal Palace start from £194 per night. Direct return flights from London to Mumbai with British Airways start from £469 on 15th – 19th August 2018.
WELLNESS DURING GANDHI JAYANTI
Where: Taj West End, Bengaluru & Taj Bekal Resort and Spa, Kerala
When: 28th September – 2nd October 2018
Gandhi Jayanti is the festival celebrated in India on 2nd October to mark the birthday of Mohandas Gandhi, the ‘Father of the Nation’ and one of the world’s most famous non-violent activists.
Visitors can channel his ethos and teachings on a relaxing long weekend break to Southern India. Starting with a the night in Taj West End, Bengaluru, a colonial heritage property situated in a lush and leafy setting, guests can get over the jet lag with a recovery treatment at the hotel’s Jiva Spa.
They can then take a short internal flight to Mangalore for a transformative stay at Taj Bekal Resort and Spa, Kerala, an exceptional beach resort and one of India’s best kept secrets.
Taj Bekal is home to a Jiva Grande Spa, spread over 165,000 sq feet, offering signature experiences, Ayurveda programmes, Indian therapies, Indian aromatherapy and beauty rituals rooted in rich and ancient wellness traditions.
Key mindfulness treatments include the Ajapa Japa, a Hindu concept translating to conscious awareness of a mantra. The 50-minute therapeutic session at the Jiva Spa revolves around the spontaneous repetition of a mantra and brings guests to an awareness of their breathing process which ensures a calm meditative state.
HOW: Rates at Taj West End, Bengaluru start from £113 per night. Rates at Taj Bekal Resort & Spa, Kerala start from £125 per night.
Return flights from London to Bangalore and onto Mangalore with Jet Airways start from £557 on 28th September – 2nd October 2018.
DELVE INTO BENGALI CULTURE IN HONOUR OF GODDESS DURGA
Where: Taj Bengal, Kolkata
When: 18th – 21st October 2018
Explore the roots of Kolkata with the most famous annual festival in West Bengal – Durga Pooja – celebrating the warrior goddess, Durga. During the long weekend guests can delve into the religious traditions of the Bengali people, coupled with a stay at the recently refurbished Taj Bengal, Kolkata, a landmark hotel in the city.
Guests can join the devoted crowds as they pay respects to the beautifully handcrafted idols located in decorative houses of worship known as ‘Pandals’, just a stone’s throw from the hotel.
Foodies can enjoy the indulgent, traditional delicacies of the season, as well as, some of the city’s finest cuisine in the four restaurants at the hotel – Italian fare at the brand-new restaurant, Cal 27, Punjabi and Bengali at the ambient Sonargaon, authentic Chinese at Chinoiserie and Lebanese and Mediterranean at Souk.
HOW: Rates at Taj Bengal, Kolkata start from £94 per night. Return flights from London to Kolkata with Emirates start from £550 on 18th – 21st October 2018.
THE BRIGHT LIGHTS OF DIWALI
Where: Taj Swarna, Amritsar
When: 7th – 11th November 2018
Known around the world as the ‘Festival of Lights’, the glittering festival of Diwali is best celebrated in Amritsar in Punjab. This year, travellers can experience the festival paired with a stay at Taj Swarna, Amritsar that is strategically placed to enjoy the best of Amritsar’s culture, shopping and foodie scene.
The city is home to the Golden Temple, the holiest monument of the Sikh religion, which is surrounded by a sacred lake. Guests will experience the temple at its finest, adorned with special glittering decoration.
During the weekend, Diwali is celebrated with spectacular light shows and firework displays, that cause the surrounding lake to burst into a spectrum of reflective colour.
Guests can retreat to spacious rooms that fuse modern design with traditional elegance, enjoy the hotel’s three restaurants and relax at the Jiva Spa.
HOW: Rates at Taj Swarna, Amritsar start from £100 per night. Return flights from London to Amritsar with Jet Airways start from £549 on 7th – 11th November 2018
All the hotels mentioned are part of Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris which was established in 1903 and caters for discerning travellers seeking authentic experiences in luxury.
From world-renowned landmarks to modern business hotels, idyllic beach resorts to Grand Palaces, each Taj hotel offers an unrivalled fusion of warm Indian hospitality, world-class service and modern luxury.