Two opulent oases temper vibrant din of Delhi

The Leela Palace New Delhi features the city’s only rooftop pool.
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For travelers to Delhi, the cacophony of an estimated 29 million residents creates a vibrant pulse for a territory rich with history, religion, architecture and commerce. It's a once-in-a-lifetime destination. But when that energy gets to be a bit overwhelming, respite in one of New Delhi's luxury hotels can balance the spectacular sensory stimulation.

The ITC Maurya and Leela Palace New Delhi are two properties that can provide that temporary, indulgent escape.

ITC Maurya

Nestled among New Delhi's diplomatic enclaves, the ITC Maurya (part of Marriott's Luxury Collection) draws its name from the Mauryan Empire, which at one time encompassed most of the subcontinent. The property's historical reference serves as a springboard for a stellar art collection, exquisite design details and a legendary restaurant, all with an eye toward environmental stewardship.

Accommodations include 437 rooms (including 25 suites) featuring a soothing palette of natural tones with pops of ochre and vibrant orange. Suites and ITC One room categories offer butler service to arrange everything from local transportation and dinner reservations to a timely clothing press to refresh packed garments.

The Ashoka Suite bedroom at the ITC Maurya, which features 25 suites.
The Ashoka Suite bedroom at the ITC Maurya, which features 25 suites.

Art lovers can stroll the public spaces to discover more than a dozen works by contemporary Indian artists or request a private guide for a more in-depth tour.

Krishen Khanna served as art consultant to establish the collection, and his grand mural, "The Great Procession," can be seen in the soaring lobby dome. Other highlights include a stunning relief sculpture of Ashoka the Great by the Indian artist A. Ramachandran that features an anti-war inscription and a series of self-described metascapes by Akbar Padamsee.

Visitors from around the globe continue to descend on the ITC Maurya's showpiece restaurant, Bukhara. Originally helmed by head chef J.P. Singh, the menu focuses on succulent meats, vegetables and naan prepared in massive tandoor ovens in an open kitchen that is bustling with energy. The casual environment accentuates the authentic preparations as staff encourage diners to eat with their hands in the traditional manner. Standout dishes include dal bukhara, featuring black lentils and spices sourced from Khari Baoli, Asia's largest spice market, and sikandari raan (leg of lamb).

After a day of exploring Delhi, consider time well spent at Kaya Kalp, the hotel's spa. The serene escape offers a range of ayurvedic rituals, beauty elixirs and body treatments, including an indulgent, 120-minute spa journey that includes a pomegranate sugar scrub, essential-oil body massage and Indian foot massage.

ITC Hotels integrates its commitment to environmental responsibility throughout each of its properties, and Maurya is no exception. The property exceeds industry standards for indoor air quality (dynamic air quality digital displays can be seen throughout the hotel), harvests rainwater and even converts food waste into biofuel. 

Leela Palace New Delhi

The lobby lounge at the Leela Palace.
The lobby lounge at the Leela Palace.

One of 10 Leela palaces, hotels and resorts, the Leela Palace New Delhi offers luxury for the international traveler who wants a touch of the austere with a more modern sensibility. The hotel draws inspiration from the Victorian-style architecture of Edwin Lutyens, whose visual stamp can be seen through much of the city.

The three-acre property includes 254 guestrooms and suites as well as elegant details in public spaces, such as shimmering Murano chandeliers, handwoven Turkish carpets and a gold-leaf dome reminiscent of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the president of India's residence.

Discreet enclaves can be found in the Royal Club Lounge. Accessible with certain room types, the intimate ninth-floor venue offers complimentary cocktails and cuisine as well as a dedicated concierge.

The hotel features the city's only terrace swimming pool, but for those looking to cool down in privacy, three suites with private plunge pools provide secluded indulgence. Take relaxation to the next level at the 16,730-square-foot ESpa, where a variety of treatments are offered, such as the Kiziswedana Ritual with two massage therapists.

The Leela Palace New Delhi widens the lens with its culinary program, offering exquisite Indian cuisine at its signature Indian restaurant Jamavar but also name recognition with two international brands: Le Cirque and Megu. 

The former, a French-Italian masterpiece, goes big with ravioli stuffed with Barolo-braised duck leg and wild mushroom risotto with rare black truffles. 

Megu's private dining room is decorated with wall panels of antique kimono fabric. It's an ideal gathering spot for beloved friends and family — just be sure to make a wish at the enormous Crystal Buddha, sitting majestically at the center of the main dining room. The chef and staff deliver an omakase menu with flair, which may include signature dishes such as hamachi carpaccio and crispy kanzuri (fermented chile paste) shrimp.

The Leela Palace New Delhi is part of Preferred Hotels & Resorts' Legend Collection, a highly curated list of nearly 100 properties worldwide that focus on experiential luxury. 

Getting there

For the past 15 years, United Airlines has been the only U.S. carrier with direct flights to India, including to Delhi and Mumbai. The re-imagined Polaris business class has been retrofitted on all 777-300ER aircraft with continuing rollout on 777-00ER aircraft. The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is used for the recently launched San Francisco-Delhi route. A daily direct route (in addition to Newark and San Francisco) from Chicago O'Hare to Delhi launches in December 2020.

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At press time, the CDC recommended travelers avoid all nonessential international travel to India, where it said Covid risk is high. Travelers at increased risk for severe illness from Covid-19 should consider postponing all travel, including essential travel, to India.

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