Best hotels and hostels in South India

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Maharashtra

    The Machan

    This astonishing choice hidden away in forested mountains 16km south of Lonavla buries the competition for the state's best hotel. The 28 pine and red meranti wood tree houses rising 10 to 13m above the forest come in all shapes and sizes, but every one is a postcard-perfect getaway from which you will probably need to be dragged at checkout. The two-bedroom Starlight Villas are the stuff dreams are made of, with a fully retractable roof for stargazing, Victorian deep soaking bathtubs and hammocks on the patio with mountain views – not to mention a sizeable private pool in the forest and two bedrooms connected by a spiral staircase that's perfect for two couples (recycled woods and solar power where possible). Wonderful, home-style meals are taken outdoors and there's yoga, nature walks, bonfires and a spa. You are in the thick of it here with the scorpions, snakes and adorable Malabar giant squirrels. Book well in advance.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Panaji

    Panjim Inn

    One of the original heritage hotels in Fontainhas, the Panjim Inn has been a long-standing favourite for its character and charm. Run by the lovely Sukhija family and overseen by helpful staff, this beautiful 19th-century mansion has 12 charismatic rooms in the original house, along with newer rooms with modern touches to complement four-poster beds, colonial-era furniture and artworks. Head up to the small rooftop for views over Fontainhas and a dip in the jacuzzi. Buffet breakfast is included, and the Verandah restaurant is a popular spot serving excellent Goan food and cold beer. Panjim Inn is the original of a trio of heritage hotels, including Panjim Peoples and Panjim Pousada. If you're interested in a farmstay retreat, ask here about Cajueiro Homestead in the east of the state.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Mumbai (Bombay)

    ITC Maratha

    This five-star, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum-certified hotel channels the most luxurious local character. The details are extraordinary: Muhammed Ali Rd–inspired jharokas (lattice windows) around the atrium, Maratha-influenced Resident's Bar (a guest-only level overlooking public areas), Warli painting–inspired tower rooms with fiery orange marble. The rooms, awash in lush colour schemes, exude Indian opulence. Peshawri, Mumbai’s most memorable Northwest Frontier restaurant, is located here. And there is a lot more fantastic food where that came from, whether it be delectable South Indian at Dakshin; rich, Mughlai cuisine at Dum Phukt; or local treats on a Food Sherpa tour with Chef Deepti Jadhav.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Northern Kerala

    Neeleshwar Hermitage

    This fabulous, plastic-free beachfront ecoresort consists of 18 sleekly designed thatch-roof cottages inspired by Kerala fishers' huts, with voguish touches like pre-loaded iPods and stylish indoor-outdoor bathrooms (two with plunge pools). Built according to Kerala Vastu, the Hermitage has a beachfront infinity pool, lush gardens fragrant with frangipani, superb organic food, a luxurious houseboat (www.thelotuskerala.com), and yoga, meditation and ayurveda. Breakfasts of luscious fruit bowls, masala omelettes and Kodagu coffee are served beachside, while outstanding lunch and dinner menus change regularly (mains ₹350 to ₹590). Biogas energy is used, service is spot-on and most staff come from local families. It's 18km southeast from Bekal.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Mumbai (Bombay)

    Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai

    The grande dame of Mumbai is one of the world’s most iconic hotels and has hosted a roster of presidents and royalty. Sweeping arches, staircases and domes, and a glorious garden and pool ensure an unforgettable stay. Rooms in the adjacent tower lack the period details of the palace itself, but many have spectacular, full-frontal Gateway of India views. With a myriad of excellent in-house eating and drinking options, plus spa and leisure facilities, it can be a wrench to leave the hotel premises. There's even a small but discernibly curated art gallery. Heritage walks at 3.30pm daily (for guests) provide illuminating context about the hotel’s role in the city’s history.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Havelock Island (Swaraj Dweep)

    Jalakara

    Easily the chicest place to stay in the Andamans, this ecoconscious British-owned luxe-boutique hideaway is built into a banana-and-betel-nut plantation, 3.5km south of the jetty. It wows with its rainforest-view infinity pool, organic cooking, small spa, daily yoga, open-air bathrooms and seven highly original, design-led, tropical-life rooms, styled with antiques, earthy tones, polished concrete, and curtains crafted from saris. The gorgeous private villa centres on an ayurveda-inspired copper plunge pool.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Tamil Nadu

    Saratha Vilas

    A different Chettiar charm inhabits this gorgeously renovated, French-run mansion from 1910, 6km east of Kanadukathan. Rooms combine the traditional and the contemporary with distinct French panache; the food is an exquisite mix of Chettiar and French; and there's a chic saltwater pool. Most furnishings were personally designed by the knowledgable architect owners, hugely active players in the preservation of Chettinadu heritage. They're also founders of local conservation NGO ArcHeS.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Panaji

    Panjim Peoples

    The Panjim Peoples is an atmospheric and beautifully restored heritage hotel with just four enormous upstairs rooms in what was formerly the Peoples High School. There are mosaic-covered bathrooms, deep bath tubs, antique furnishings and nautical ship lights.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Maharashtra

    Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge

    Passionate enthusiasts run this two-decade-old, conservation-minded lodge, which is deeply entrenched in studying Tadoba tigers. It's located in the wildlife-rich buffer zone and has its own private park gate. Accommodation is spacious and divided between rooms nearer to the forest or those close to watering holes – there's also the option of overnighting under the stars in a 6m-high observation tower. All safari tours are with expert guides.The 10 rooms (and African-style luxury tents) are modern, spacious and comfortable and the tribal-style Maharashtra thalis absolutely excellent. It's currently in the midst of securing an additional 800 hectares to create India's first private wildlife conservancy.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Maharashtra

    Dune Barr House

    This deliciously preserved 150-year-old bungalow exudes undiluted nostalgia, with quaintly luxurious rooms. Reminisce about bygone times in the company of ornate candelabras, oriental rugs, antique teak furniture, Victorian canvases and grandfather clocks. The verandah has a lovely aspect over Matheran’s wooded hillsides. A new hotel group has taken over management, implementing a few positive changes (no plastic water bottles; organic amenities, including hand-pressed soap from Pondicherry) and some less positive ones (much higher prices). The in-house restaurant does simple dishes, made from market-fresh ingredients hauled by Adivasi staff (mains ₹225 to ₹550).

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Hyderabad

    Taj Falaknuma Palace

    The former residence of the sixth nizam, this 1884 neoclassical palace now run by the Taj group oozes class and grandeur with its embossed-leather wallpaper and 24-karat-gold ceiling trim. The rooms are stunning, facilities marvellous and you'll love the views over the city from its hilltop location. In-house restaurants (Adaa for Indian cuisine and Celeste for international) are exceptional too. Non-guests can come for lunch/dinner or 'high tea' (₹2500) on the Jade Room terrace. Guests (including those just coming to eat) get a free palace tour. Book meals two days ahead, or you won't get past the outer gate of the 1.2km driveway.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Munnar

    Rosegardens

    An award-winning, totally charming family homestay, peacefully located 12km southwest of Munnar, overlooking owner Tomy’s exquisite nursery and organic spice and fruit plantation (complete with biogas plant!). The five spacious rooms are immaculate, with tea/coffee trays, solar-heated water and greenery-fringed balconies. Fuelled by own-grown ingredients, the home-cooked meals are a treat, from coconut-stuffed pancakes to delicately spiced Keralan dinners (₹300). It's on the main road to Kochi, linked by regular buses, and also does free garden tours for guests and cooking classes (₹2000).

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Mumbai (Bombay)

    Taj Santacruz

    Forget the 3500 hand-blown chandelier bulbs or the 75-species aquarium in the lobby of this newer hotel connected to the domestic airport terminal. At the lap-of-luxury Taj Santacruz it's all about the gorgeous Tree of Life art installation forged from 4000 pieces of broken glass (a Rajasthani technique) in the Tiqri bar and restaurant. The standard rooms, decked out in soothing yellow, fuchsia and orange, are the city's largest at nearly 54 sq metres (some have direct runway views). If you cannot stay here, visit on a layover for a massage at Jiva Spa (massages from ₹6000) or a cocktail.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Palolem

    Ciarans

    Ciarans has some of the most impressive huts on the beachfront. Affable owner John has worked hard over two decades to maintain a high standard and his beautifully designed cottages around a plant-filled garden are top-notch. There’s a popular multicuisine restaurant with nightly live music, tapas restaurant and quality massage and spa centre. Eco-credentials are also good here. Ciarans has a sewerage treatment plant, solar hot water and solar lighting. Ciarans also has fine hut resorts at Talpona and Galgibag beaches.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in North Goa

    Wanderers Hostel

    About five minutes’ walk back from Morjim Beach, Wanderers is a real find for budget travellers. The main building, decorated with original travellers' murals, has spotless dorms with lockers, bed lights and wi-fi, full kitchen, cosy communal areas and a pool table. In the garden next door is a tent village with swimming pool, yoga retreat centre and outdoor cinema. It’s an interesting mix of yoga-meets-party atmosphere, and with an enthusiastic young owner, it’s hard to think of a downside to this place. Morjim’s only ATM is across the road.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Mumbai (Bombay)

    Residency Hotel

    The Residency is the kind of dependable place where you can breathe a sigh of relief after a long journey and be certain you’ll be looked after well. It’s fine value, too, with contemporary rooms, some boasting mood lighting, minibars, flat-screen TVs and hip en suite bathrooms. Best of all, staff are friendly, polite and understand the nuance of unforced hospitality. Its Fort location is also excellent, though noise is will be an issue through 2022 due to metro-station construction right outside its door. The best-run midranger in Mumbai.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Puducherry (Pondicherry)

    Villa Shanti

    Occupying a 100-year-old building revamped by two French architects, Villa Shanti puts an exquisitely contemporary twist on the French Quarter heritage hotel. Beautiful modern rooms combine superchic design with typically Tamil materials and colonial-style elegance: four-poster beds, Chettinadu tiles, walk-through bathrooms, Tamil-language murals. The sunken courtyard houses a hugely popular restaurant and bar. The owners are also behind uberchic top-end La Villa.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Kodagu (Coorg) Region

    Rainforest Retreat

    A great place to socialise with eco-minded Indians, this nature-soaked refuge is immersed within forest and plantations, and has an organic, sustainable set-up. Accommodation is lazy camping (prepitched tents with beds) or cottages with solar power. Rates include plantation tours and treks. Check the website for volunteering opportunities. An autorickshaw from Madikeri is ₹250. Faraway Cottage, a cute self-catering rural abode overlooking a forested valley, is also managed by Rainforest Retreat and available for ₹7000 per week.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Tamil Nadu

    Bangala

    Chettinadu's original heritage hotel, this lovingly revamped, efficiently managed whitewashed ‘bungalow’ isn't a typical mansion but has all the requisite charm: colour-crammed rooms, antique furniture, old family photos and a beautiful tile-fringed pool. It's famous for its food: banana-leaf 'meals' (veg/nonveg ₹900/1000) are actually Chettiar wedding feasts (12.30pm to 2.30pm and 8pm to 10pm; book two hours ahead). There are cooking 'masterclasses', yoga retreats, massage, and exclusive-access visits to local mansions.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Kodagu (Coorg) Region

    Taj Madikeri Resort & Spa

    Nestling in misty rainforest, this supremely stylish hotel incorporates principles of space and minimalism, and effectively blends into its environment. Old cattle tracks lead to rooms, with pricier ones featuring private indoor pools, fireplaces and butlers. There are astonishing highland views from the lobby and infinity pool, and a top-class ayurvedic spa. Spread over 72 hectares, and with over 60 accommodation units, this is more luxury mountain hotel than boutique retreat.