India’s hotel options run the gamut from ridiculously cheap backpacker hostels to super luxury resorts where your every whim is catered for. But what about for families? There are lots of hotels that say that they cater for kids but these days, a highchair and baby cot isn’t enough to call yourself family-friendly. When I lived in India we stayed in some good hotels, some very average hotels and some hotels that I will never go back to again! But I also found some really amazing hotels that are light years ahead of their competitors when it comes to looking after families. Here are seven of my favourite.
1. Alila Diwa, Goa
How do you make a luxury getaway child-friendly? Ask the Alila Diwa; a stunning family-friendly resort in South Goa. Set back from Majorda Beach amid a lush landscape of paddy fields the property mixes contemporary Balinese design with traditional Indo-Portuguese architecture. It was built to blend into the environment and so there are trees everywhere including a beautiful mango tree that shades the main dining area. But there is more to Alila Diwa than simply good design. This is a wonderful place to stay simply because they have thought of absolutely everything you might need to enjoy your holiday. Plus, the staff genuinely love children. There is a dedicated kids’ club open to children below six where babies and toddlers are kept busy in a spotless playroom run by trained staff. For older kids there’s the Teen Zone, a large room filled with beanbags, table football, Wii sports games and more. An ice cream trolley is parked permanently poolside, afternoon tea and treats are served daily on the lawn and there are regular movie screenings in the in-house home theatre.
2. Diphlu River Lodge, Assam
Set in the forest on the banks of the Diphlu River, the Diphlu River Lodge is the place to stay when visiting the Kaziranga National Park. The grounds are beautiful, filled with wild flowers and birdlife and elephants bathing in the river nearby. The resort is made up of 8 individual and 4 semi-detached cottages. These delightful thatched chalets on stilts are made from bamboo and natural materials and are very comfortable. Each has a veranda, which makes an ideal place for you to enjoy the scenery with afternoon tea and for the kids to watch the resident elephant taking her lunch. Guests at Diphlu River Lodge get two trips into the national park a day and each family is designated a guide from Diphlu’s team of naturalists who will accompany you. There are 34 major mammals living in Kaziranga including wild elephants, swamp deer, wild buffalo and gaur. If you are really lucky, you may even spot a Bengal tiger!
3. RAAS Haveli, Jodhpur
The very stylish RAAS Haveli was the first boutique hotel to open its doors within Jodhpur’s Brahmin-blue city and is a wonderful destination for families. The hotel sits almost directly below the 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort and commands stunning views from every corner, including nearly all the bedrooms. The hotel itself is a clever blend of old and new combining an 18th century haveli with modern-day amenities. Mughal-inspired gardens decorate the central courtyard alongside a sparkling swimming pool and there are two excellent restaurants. For kids there are a range of activities on offer including treasure hunts and rangoli making (decorative flower art), and cooking and music lessons. Games consoles are available, badminton is on offer and yoga (and even gardening!) can be arranged. The hotel also has its own cornflower blue auto-rickshaw for touring the streets, which children of all ages love.
4. Marari Beach Resort, Kerala
Eco-friendly Marari Beach Resort is an extremely easy, luxurious family getaway. The coastal retreat lies bang on a golden stretch of Keralan sand and offers everything you need for a beach holiday. The resort consist of 62 traditional thatched cottages set among 36 acres of gardens filled with frangipani and bougainvillea. There’s a lovely central swimming pool, organised activities, friendly staff and plenty of space to simply relax and be. Yoga lessons are held daily and an Ayurvedic centre offers a range of treatments. Kids will enjoy the daily walks with the naturalist who can introduce you to the 350 species of plants, 40 types of dragonfly, 10 kinds of frogs and literally hundreds of birds that live here. Other highlights include the two resident cows that wander the grounds (yougner children love them!), the colourful butterfly gardens and the daily afternoon visit fro the chaiwallah (tea man) who arrives to pour cups of Keralan brew from his ‘meter chayya’, served with delicious banana fritters.
5. Oberoi Amarvillas, Agra
Boasting the best views of the Taj Mahal in town is this magical hotel belonging to The Oberoi Group. Set within a whimsical landscape of terraced lawns, bubbling fountains and Moorish pavilions, the Obveroi Amarvilas provides a luxurious – and family-friendly escape just metres away from India’s most famous monument. The palatial interiors showcase the region’s artistic heritage, there’s a wonderful swimming pool, a holistic spa, two very good restaurants and a lobby lounge serving tea and a bar serving very good G&Ts. As with many of the Oberoi hotels, Amarvilas excels at being a luxury property that also welcomes children. From the complimentary baby product kit and charming wooden cots to kiddie sized slippers and dressing gowns, and the personalised gooey cakes delivered to your room at tea time, children are very well looked after here. But the main drawcard is the location. Positioned just 600 metres from the entrance to the Taj Mahal you really couldn’t be any closer to Agra’s main attraction – perfect for sightseeing-weary kids!
6. Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling
Started by a Scottish tea company in 1860, glorious Glenburn Tea Estate is a fifth-generation tea estate and is still fully functioning today. This beautiful boutique hotel is set within 1,600 acres of forest, hills, and tea plantations with picture-perfect views of the mighty Kanchenjunga. The main house, the Burra Bungalow, has been home to generations of tea planters and today is still at the heart of the estate. It offers four beautiful bedrooms (a newer bungalow houses a further four), a cosy living room with a fireplace, and the elegant dining room where all guests eat dinner together. There’s plenty to do – from tea tasting to camping – or you can simply do nothing at all. What is particularly special about Glenburn is that all guests are treated equal, regardless of age. That means that babies, toddlers, kids and teens are very welcome here in spite of the luxury boutique hotel tag. There is also plenty for children to do, particularly older children and teens. There are hikes galore ranging from one hour to a full day, you can learn how tea goes from plantation to pot, go trout fishing or white water rafting, bounce across the hanging bridge into Sikkim and camp overnight at Glenburn’s very own lodge.
7. The Dune Eco Village & Spa, Pondicherry
Set amid 35 acres of organic farm The Dune resembles a small village with 62 individually designed cottages, villas and rooms each differing in size, design and feel. Sandy tracks link the resort and the best way to get around is on one of the hotel’s bicycles. You can do laps in the infinity pool, soak up the sun on the private stretch of sand, serve a game of tennis or join in the daily afternoon volleyball competition. If you’re seeking a dose of (Gallic) culture then pretty Pondicherry is just 15km away and the experimental town of Auroville is nearby too. The setting is the perfect playground for children of all ages. For younger children there is a shallow children’s wading pool, enormous sandpit (with a ragtag collection of toys) and a playground with a slide, swings and multi-coloured playhouses fashioned from old water storage tanks. Daily tours lead to The Dune’s very own farm where chickens, turkeys and rabbits live, and kids can even try milking one of the docile (and very patient) cows. Organised children’s activities include art and pottery lessons and there are a handful of kid’s bikes for zooming around the property. The Dune is located right on the beach but guests should note that this is a public beach with little shade. The sea is also too rough here for little swimmers.
If you’re looking for more hotels and resorts in India then here are some more that I recommend in Goa as well as Jaipur and Jodhpur. For more India hotel ideas and inspiration, and to check hotel prices in India, it’s worth taking a look at Wego, a travel site with a huge number of hotels listed in India.
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