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Hot List 2011
Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
Tel: 866 969 1 825 (toll-free)
Tel: 91 40 6629 8585
At this palatial 32-acre hilltop estate with fragrant gardens and views of Old Hyderabad, all guests get an unforgettably personal welcome: Because cars aren't permitted beyond the front gate, visitors arrive at reception in a golf cart or, for VIPs, a horse carriage. In lieu of a formal check-in desk, a standard bearer greets guests by militarily clicking his heels before leading them under a shower of rose petals and into the former ruler of Hyderabad's neo-Palladian palace. The museum-quality reception rooms are furnished in late-Victorian style, gleaming with burnished wood and leather, glittering with chandeliers. Beyond, the gracious garden courtyard with trees and fountains is flanked by two wings housing most of the 60 rooms. (Just beyond one of the wings, the suites faithfully decorated in a grand Edwardian manner surround a smaller, star-shaped courtyard.) Two accomplished restaurants sit at the other end of the main courtyard, one the Mediterranean Celeste, the other Adá, whose forte is highly refined Hyderabadi slow-cooking. Between these, on a terrace under the colored-glass canopy of the belvedere, guests take cocktails as the sun sets, appreciating the subtly shifting colors of the palace and skywitness the meaning of falaknuma ("mirror in the sky" in Urdu).
Which room to book: The Grand Presidential Suite, formerly occupied by the Nizam, has a private pool and a personal butler.
Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.