Sumptuous luxury, excellent service, and location just a few hundred meters from the Taj Mahal make the Oberoi Amarvilas the best place in Agra from which to explore the most celebrated monument of India.
India is all about extreme contrasts, but some places reveal the contrasts more than others. Agra seems to be the very opposite of Taj Mahal—as if its raison d’être was the ugliness, against which its famous building would appear even more beautiful. Surrounded by the muddy colors of this dusty city, bathed in the oppressive heat of the day, the Taj Mahal shines like a diamond.
Only a short ride from the mausoleum stands another gem of Agra: The Oberoi Amarvilas, a place of calm among the urban sprawl. It is the only hotel in the city that has an unobstructed view of India’s most famous monument. Amarvilas is located literally in the sight of the Taj Mahal.
In our journey across Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, Agra was the second stop, after Delhi. That day we did only a few hours of driving, but we were still delighted to finally enter the hotel’s sumptuous lobby and leave the road behind.
The first impressions stayed with us. While itself, not a heritage building, the Amarvillas does a good job of emulating a Mughal palace. The welcome ceremony matches the theme. It includes putting orange clay between the guests’ eyebrows, as a token of “good luck”.
The property seduces with architecture inspired by the Mogul past and the hotel’s 102 rooms follow the “opulent luxury” template. They are richly decorated and textured, with hand-knotted rugs and silk cushions, period-themed furniture and marble-inlay tables.
Marble features expansively throughout the property, and so are reflecting pools and colonnaded courts—everything that you’d expect from a palace.
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The best spots
The focal point of the hotel is a beautiful terraced garden peppered with architectural features and spanned with staircases descending to the large pool. It’s a lovely place to swim and sunbathe, have lunch, or just lounge with a drink.
But this was not our favorite spot. We checked-in to one of the rooms with a balcony and had the Taj Mahal view to ourselves. Watching the mausoleum in the dying hours of the day, with a glass of wine, we thought: this is the India picture-perfect.