It is said that every summer has a story. If that is the case, then the summer of 2020 will be best remembered as one where we abandoned all travel plans to stay in. The coronavirus pandemic has rendered all those grand getaway plans impossible. For now, at least. But with restrictions being cautiously lifted, responsible travel within the country is starting to look hopeful. We recced some elegant homestays across India that are the perfect setting to catch a break while still being socially distant.The City Palace, Jaipur
Join the ranks of Princess Diana and Oprah Winfrey as a guest of the 300-year-old The City Palace, Jaipur, home to Jaipur’s royal family. Last year, Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh became the first king to host on Airbnb, inviting travellers to stay in the Gudliya suite located in the palace’s private quarters. Equipped with its own lounge and indoor pool as well as a terrace to enjoy the surrounding Aravalli hills, let’s just call this ‘one for the books’.
Book hereThe Belgadia Palace, Mayurbhanj
This 18th century 15-acre Victorian property in Odisha is the erstwhile home of the royal family of Mayurbhanj. Restored to its former glory and revamped into a boutique homestay, it is now managed by present-day descendants of the family, with a special focus on preserving local communities and craft. Spend your days here soaking in the culture–be it the property’s art and antiquities dating back to the 8th century, Mayurbhanj Chhau (a martial arts dance form) performances or traditional Odia meals.
Book hereAmã Stays & Trails, Alappuzha
A stay by the palm-fringed backwater canals in God's Own Country is always a good idea. The Pathiramanal Villa by amã Stays & Trails (from The Indian Hotels Company Limited whose portfolio also includes Taj) overlooking Vembanad Lake boasts five rooms (for a maximum of 19 guests) and comes with a swimming pool, lotus pond, lounge and gazebo. Azure blue skies will greet you from every window, and each path leads to the backwaters. Did someone say picture-perfect?
Book hereElgin Hall, Dalhousie
Pre-Independence, this 163-year-old gem in Himachal Pradesh is where British royals escaped to during the summer. And now, you can too. Following a facelift last year by Rohit Kapoor of bespoke furniture brand Nivasa, the colonial villa with seven rooms retains its original structure and vintage draw, while also being replete with modern touches.
Book hereAcres Wild, Coonoor
This 22-acre organic cheesemaking farm-stay in Tamil Nadu is run by award-winning film director Mansoor Khan (of Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak fame) and his family, who moved here from Mumbai in 2004. Their aim is to share their holistic, self-sustaining lifestyle with guests while also introducing them to the art of cheesemaking with two-day courses. Haloumi, Colby and Cheddar; the guest cottages (with a total of five rooms between them) are fittingly named after cheeses.
Book hereSaffronStays Frangipani, Goa
A touch of the Mediterranean in the heart of Goa? You’ll find it at this Assagao home. Designed like a quintessential Goan home, the property houses two individual villas and a total of nine bedrooms. The earthy tones, breezy balconies and old-world vibe promise to take you back in time. If you were looking for a clincher, restaurants like Sublime, Gunpowder and Villa Blanche Bistro are just 10 minutes away!
Book hereShahpura Bagh, Bhilwara
If you’re headed to Rajasthan, it had better be for a once-royal retreat. We’d place our bets on this bespoke home stay experience—the private property of Rajadhiraj Nahar Singh of Shahpura—four hours from both Jaipur and Udaipur. The 45-acre gardens are meant to get lost in as you wake up to the pleasures of the unhurried life. The home with 11 luxury suites is also surrounded by two lakes where you can go boating. If you manage to tear yourself from the inviting temperature-controlled pool, that is.
Book hereMary Budden Estate, Binsar
Did someone say nature therapy? It’s bountiful at this restored 19th-century Himalayan forest home in a quiet corner of Kumaon in Uttarakhand. Perched 8,000 feet above sea level, the views here are unparalleled. What’s more, it’s one of the only five privately-owned estates in Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary. Unpack in one of their two private cottages, and fill your days with walks in the sanctuary, cooking lessons and reading.
Book hereLa Villa Bethany, Landour
An old English cottage is the best way to experience the timeless charms of Mussoorie, and this bed-and-breakfast with six elegantly-appointed rooms fits the bill. It is the passion project of husband-wife duo Amarjeet and Sunita Kudle, who each worked in the hospitality industry for 15 years before launching their ‘green inn’—La Villa Bethany is self-sufficient, championing rainwater harvesting and solar energy while also employing the local community’s youth.
Book hereThe Postcard Moira, Goa
Explore another facet of Goa at this 214-year-old ancestral home that has been turned into a nine-room boutique hotel—the perfect hideout for a traveller seeking respite in nature. Spending time outdoors is encouraged here, as is prioritising your wellness. Sign up for their Ayurvedic healing programmes (lasting up to 11 days) during your stay.
Book hereAlso read:
Taking a flight during the COVID-19 pandemic? These are all the steps to keep in mind
4 travel books to satisfy your wanderlust in the time of coronavirus
Can I travel internationally this summer? These are the countries beginning to reopen for tourists