From the glistening backwaters of Kerala to the dreamy lakes and gardens of Udaipur, India has a rich heritage that is best experienced in person. To really explore the country, skip the run-of-the-mill hotel and consider these unique lodging options, such as staying in a luxury tent in Ranthambore or a homestay on a Keralan farm, for a truly one-of-a-kind immersion.

 Luxury Safari Tents in Ranthambore

Sujan Sher Bagh
Photo Courtesy of  SUJÁN

Just on the border of Ranthambore National Park—a sanctuary for Bengal tigers, bears, and leopards—SUJÁN Sher Bagh has 12 luxury tents and offers sunrise safari rides near camp. Inspired by 1920s safaris, the hand-stitched canvas tents are outfitted with teak and rosewood furnishings and tiger-motif textiles. Stays include all meals—an eclectic mix of Indian and European fare using their own farm-grown produce and cooked in a traditional outdoor clay oven.

An Opulent Former Palace in Udaipur

RAAS Devigarh
RAAS Devigarh

Tucked into the Aravali Hills and overlooking Rajasthan's most romantic city, the RAAS Devigarh was renovated from an 18th-century palace. The resort maintains its original Rajasthani architecture with fairytale-worthy balconies and grand courtyards, while the bespoke suites have a modern Indian aesthetic, decked out in white marble and semi-precious stones. You can partake in everything from camel rides to the village to sunrise yoga on the roof. A quiet cup of chai on the open-air veranda at sunset is an evening must.

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An Eclectic Homestay at a Keralan Farm

Philipkutty's Farm
Photo Courtesy of Phillipkutty's Farm

On a lush island in the backwaters of Kerala, you'll find Phillipkutty's Farm, a locally-run homestay offering quaint waterfront villas. Meals are prepared by the owner's mother-in-law—anything from fiery Keralan fish curry to paper-thin dosas—and are served family-style in the dining room or outdoor pavilion. An on-site farm grows coconuts, nutmeg, cocoa, and bananas. You'll have your pick of optional cultural activities to keep you busy, like sunset backwater cruises, farm walks, Keralan cooking classes, and temple visits.

Learn all about Indian chai at a Himalayan Tea Estate

Glenburn Tea Estate
Photo Courtesy of Glenburn Tea Estate

Originally a 19th-century Scottish tea company but long run by a local family, Glenburn Tea Estate lets chai enthusiasts explore the ins and outs of tea-making with factory tours, tea picking, and plenty of tastings. Rooms are furnished with cozy antiques, and guests can also enjoy the estate's many gardens and verandas. Cooking classes and group hikes are available to explore surrounding villages and the Himalayan splendor of the Kanchenjunga mountain range.

Sleep Under the Stars at a Wilderness Camp

Jamtara Wilderness Camp
Photo Courtesy of Jamtara Wilderness Camp

Jamtara Wilderness Camp puts a glamorous spin on the traditional machaan, an outdoor bed used by farmers to watch over their lands. Near Pench National Park in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, the region is home to tigers, leopards, and sloth bears. There are 10 luxury tents overlooking the forest for guests who prefer more shelter, but sleeping on a machaan is a rural tradition that goes back generations. Proceeds from the camp go to support local farmers.

Experience Culture in India's First Art Hotel

Photo courtesy of Le Sutra
Photo courtesy of Le Sutra

Mumbai has no shortage of luxury hotels, but Le Sutra, located in the hip neighborhood of Bandra, offers a unique way to experience the creative energy of India's most vibrant city. The three floors of the boutique hotel represent the three different gunas, the energies known as sattva, rajas, and tamas that are used in yoga philosophies to describe three possible states of being. Rooms are based on characters from Indian mythology and are designed using hand-picked art and textiles. The clientele skews international and creative, and filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and painter Vincent Fantauzzo contributed to the hotel's exterior murals.