I recently traveled to India & Bhutan. You can read my trip reports here
- Review: Swiss Airbus A330 First Class from Zürich to Delhi
- Review: India Aman Tour – The Lodhi New Delhi
- Review: India Aman Tour – Aman-i-Khas, Ranthambore National Park
- Review: India Aman Tour – Amanbagh, Rajasthan
- Review: The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra (today)
- Review: The Oberoi New Delhi
- Review: Six Senses Thimphu (Bhutan)
- Review: Six Senses Punakha (Bhutan)
- Review: Six Senses Paro (Bhutan)
- Review: Bhutan Airlines A319 Business Class from Paro to Delhi
- Review: The Leela Palace Delhi
- Review: Taj Lake Palace (Udaipur)
- Review: The Oberoi Udaivilas (Udaipur)
- Review: Lufthansa A380 First Class Delhi to Frankfurt
Today (September 25, 2019): Review of The Oberoi Amarvilas (Agra, India)
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: The Oberoi Amarvilas
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
Located 2000 feet (600 meters) from the Taj Mahal – the world’s most exquisite testimony to undying love – it is easy to rekindle romance at The Oberoi Amarvilas. The property stands amidst nine acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, minarets, pavilions, fountains, reflection pools and terraced lawns inspired by traditional Mughal designs. The resort has 102 exquisitely appointed rooms and suites, each with uninterrupted view of the Taj Mahal and complemented by Oberoi’s warm, personalized hospitality. Many rooms of this elegant five-story building have private terraces. The fine dining restaurants serve pan-international and authentic Mughlai cuisine.
Have you ever stayed at The Oberoi Amarvilas? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review of The Oberoi Amarvilas (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- The hotel is located 2000 ft (600 m) from the greatest monument to love – the Taj Mahal. It’s also the only hotel in Agra to offer views of the Taj Mahal from all rooms. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal was built by the grief stricken emperor Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in commemoration of his favorite wife, Empress Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631 at the birth of her 14th child. The color of the monument’s translucent marble keeps changing from dawn to midnight giving it a magical aura in keeping with Shah Jahan’s vision that the tomb should represent paradise on earth. The Oberoi Amarvilas sells entrance tickets for the Taj Mahal at no extra cost and also provides complimentary golf cart service to/from the monument.
- Modeled on an Indian palace, the mammoth hotel features a splendid architecture, throwing back guests to the mythical time of the Mughal emperors. Its impressive and exotic exterior reflect the timeless grandeur of the nearby Taj Mahal although its facade is restrained enough in its elegance so as not to attempt to challenge the iconic shrine itself (which remains the largest structure in Agra). The hotel looks as it has been there for centuries, but it was built in 2001 and created by leading Indian architect Prabhat Patki. The colonnaded forecourt of the hotel’s ceremonial entrance pavilion is especially impressive, boasting stone bridges, hand painted arches, opulent water fountains, reflective pools, and tall pillars topped by torches.
- Inspired by Moorish and Mughal design, the hotel’s richly decorated interiors are as impressive as its exterior, and feature ornate handcrafted furniture, magnificent frescoes and Asian design elements. From the forecourt, guests step into the octagonal lobby which is located underneath a sky high decorative dome, mirrored by that of the Taj Mahal. A crystal chandelier hangs from the Mughal-style dome, which was painted with cobalt-blue pigment and then gilded. The lobby also connects to several side rooms, housing a French-influenced tea lounge and an Ottoman-style bar, which both feature settees and armchairs covered in locally handcrafted cotton-and-silk and silk brocade fabrics. The lobby’s arched window walls are clad in beaten brass and perfectly frame the breathtaking views of the Taj Mahal.
- The hotels features 102 guestrooms (95 rooms and 7 suites), with each room offering a picturesque view of the Taj Mahal. During my visit, I stayed in a premier room with balcony (please note that not all rooms at the Oberoi have private balconies). The room featured a traditional design that echoed the art and history of the Mughal Empire, with a decorative marble inlay desk, teak floor, hand-knotted carpet, and a wooden frame around the plush kingsize bed with an oversized headboard covered in Mughal-inspired design. Mod cons included a flat-screen T, DVD player, and walk-in closet. The ensuite marble bathroom was small and featured one sink, a shower, and bathtub; it was well stocked with a basket of ayurvedic products.
- The property is set amidst nine acres of beautifully manicured gardens, with a spectacular pool area at its center. The famous designer Bill Bensley landscaped the resort grounds and also created the steps and terraces leading down to the enormous swimming pool. The deep blue colored pool is ideal for cooling off after a sweltering hot day exploring the Taj. There are plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas available, some of them lined up around the pool itself, others placed on the elevated terraces around the pool. The pool extends into a grotto underneath the hotel, where some additional lounge chairs invite guests to escape the sun. The pool is flanked by a white marble colonnaded gallery, where snacks and refreshments are served.
- Fit for a Maharaja , the hotel’s lovely spa lives up to its exquisite reviews, offering an array of speciality baths and a selection of treatments using the Ayurvedic technique having derived from ancient India over 5000 years ago. The spa reception with its traditionally crafted iron gate and the public spa facilities (e.g. mosaic-lined whirlpool tubs, sauna and steam rooms) are located in the hotel’s basement, but the treatment rooms are located on the top floor, providing a perfect view of India’s most famous monument. Imagine being in a bath full of roses whilst overlooking the Taj Mahal and getting treated like royalty! Yoga and meditation are available as well, and there’s also as a state-of-the-art gym on site.
- The Oberoi Amarvilas has two restaurants, which offer the choice of fine international cuisine and authentic flavors of India.
- Esphahan is the property’s demur, specialist tandoor dining space, and is only open for dinner. Live traditional music filters through a mosaic of candlelit tables where you can enjoy Indian recipes passed down from the Mughal Emperors’ kitchens, complimented by soft Indian flat breads.
- Bellevue is the hotel’s all-day restaurant, serving both Indian and international dishes.
- In addition to its restaurants, the hotel also offers its guests the option to book a private destination dining experience, which I highly recommend. This experience includes a specially crafted meal for two served by a personal butler, with a choice between a delicious four course dinner and a sumptuous Royal Indian ‘thali’. The latter is an authentic Indian-style meal made up of a selection of various dishes which are served on a platter, allowing you to sample the broadest range of Indian dishes. The private candlelit dinner is served either alongside the pool or on the privacy of your balcony, against the silhouette of the Taj Mahal.
- The hotel is one of the flagship properties of Oberoi, one of the world’s most exclusive hotel groups. The Oberoi story wrote its early chapters in 1934 in Shimla where Mohan Singh Oberoi pioneered the idea of luxury hospitality in India by opening his first hotel. In the following years Oberoi – assisted by his two sons – continued the expansion of their group with properties both in India and abroad. Today, the group operates 35 hotels and cruise ships in six countries under the luxury ‘Oberoi’ and five-star ‘Trident’ brand. The group still practices the hospitality philosophy that began with Mr. Oberoi himself and are now echoed by his son and current chairman Prithvi Raj Singh Obero: The guest is everything.
- India is renowned around the world for its hospitality, but the Oberoi Amarvilas even goes beyond and delivers phenomenal service. If the luxurious setting doesn’t make you feel like royalty, the super-attentive staff – all fluent in English – surely will and they make this place truly unforgettable. Doors are magically opened, handbags carried, special treats brought to your table, and every room comes with a 24-hour butler service. Every single staff member (from room service to front desk to the concierge) smiles endlessly, is uber-friendly and unfailingly polite. I dare to say that the warm, personalized service at an Oberoi is even better than what you get at an Aman or Four Seasons property.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
The Oberoi Amarvilas is one of the most luxurious hotels in India, offering a sublime palace decor, an incredible pool area, and views of the Taj Mahal from every room. It’s not perfect though, and here’s what you need to know when you consider a stay here:
- Room rates are extremely high, and so are the prices at the hotel’s restaurants and spa. Although the Oberoi is by far the best hotel in Agra and the only one offering views of the Taj Mahal from all rooms, the experience is not really worth the high cost. If it wasn’t for being close to the Taj Mahal, the hotel would not be able to charge half of what it gets away with now.
- The hotel is within walking distance of the Taj Mahal, but nothing else. You’ll need a car and driver to explore Agra.
- The property’s lower category rooms are small and also a bit dated and worn around the edges, which may come as a disappointment (especially for the price you pay). The bathrooms in these rooms are tiny as well. For more space, you need to book one of the suites (although these could use a refurbishment as well).
- During my stay, the main restaurant Bellevue was under renovation (it has reopened since then), and the breakfast was served in a ballroom. Not only was the ballroom’s uninspiring decor a total mismatch for an upscale breakfast service, but the buffet itself was an even bigger disappointment: the lack of variety and quality, and the small size of the breakfast buffet were not acceptible for one of Oberoi’s flagship hotels. IMHO, the hotel should have offered its guests à la carte breakfast inside the rooms during the restaurant’s renovation.
- The Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays, so keep this in mind when choosing your travel dates.
- Location: 8/10
- Design: 8/10
- Pool: 9/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 5/10
- Spa: 7/10
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good 8,4/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks at The Oberoi Amarvilas when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and one complimentary lunch for two).
- Room tip: I recommend to book a room or suite with a balcony, so you can enjoy a private candlelit dinner on your terrace (with view of the Taj Mahal) at least once during your stay.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Agra is between October and March, when the weather is warm, sunny, and dry. Increasing temperatures in April and May can result in excellent value trips, but you can expect high humidity and thunderstorms. The monsoon season starts from July and extends till September and is best avoided.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Oberoi Amarvilas is approximately a 25-minute drive from Agra’s Kheria Airport. It takes approximately 45 minutes to fly from New Delhi to Kheria Airport. For guests who prefer to drive, the trip from New Delhi to Agra takes approximately four hours by car on a highway. Additionally, train service is available. The main railway station at Agra is the Agra Cantonment station. The journey takes approximately two hours from New Delhi by Shatabdi Express and three hours by Taj Express. From there, it’s a 20-minute drive to Amarvilas.