It wasn’t cheap. Not even a little bit, by any standard. But all it took was one look from my balcony and all of a sudden I didn’t care.
I was speechless. No, not at the pollution. Not at the $650/night price. The Taj Mahal was sitting RIGHT THERE.
It was amazing.
But then again so was the hotel, the Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. And I skipped ahead, let’s go back to the beginning.
First off: how did I book it? What points did I use?
Spoiler alert: I didn’t use points. I found India to be a pretty great redemption value for points, but I didn’t have anything that could be used here. I wanted my first experience going to the Taj Mahal to be magical so I figured I would splurge on this place.
Now, not using points doesn’t mean you cannot take advantage of credit card benefits, so I used my American Express Platinum Fine Hotels & Resorts benefit for this hotel, which gave me an upgrade, a free dinner, breakfast, and late checkout. By no means was the room cheap, but for $650 and the location I felt I got a wonderful value.
When I made my booking, I was promptly sent a message on Whatsapp by a staff member at the hotel, asking if there was anything I needed arranged and that they were happy to help however they could. I told them the train I was arriving on and asked if they could arrange a transfer from the station to the hotel. They quoted me a reasonable (by US standards) price for an Audi Q7 to come pick me up, including an absolutely lovely driver named Mr. Stanley. He was waiting for me outside the train station and whisked my bags away from me as I grabbed a seat for the short 15-minute drive to the hotel.
We pulled into the Oberoi Amarvilas, an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of Agra. A welcoming party of 5 people was waiting for me as my bags were whisked away. I was greeted with a chorus of “namaste” as I went through the hotel metal detector and laid my eyes on the incredible facility. It was truly like a palace.
I completed check-in proceedings in the bar over a coffee and then was escorted to my beautiful room. And that’s where we pick up our story…
My Room at the Oberoi Amarvilas
Like I mentioned before, my room was upgraded as part of my American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts benefit, but I cannot imagine there being a bad room in this place, as I believe every room faces the Taj Mahal.
Let’s pick things back up with the view from my balcony.
The view was tremendous but the entire room was luxurious but not in an ostentatious way, it almost had a boutique feel, which was impressive for such a large property.
The long corridor that yielded its way to my room had a series of offset “landings” where two rooms awaited.
From the second I opened the door to my room I was impressed. It was just so thoughtfully done.
Yes, there was modern amenities like you would expect, but they were resting upon period-appropriate furnishings that were consistent with the rest of the decorations at the hotel, it was almost perfectly harmonious.
Artwork adorned the walls, attesting to the history of the area. As I walked in, there was a closet on my left and a bathroom on the right.
I had honestly forgotten that they had taken my bag from the Audi so I was kind of startled upon seeing it appear in the closet, a pleasant surprise!
The bathroom was absolutely gorgeous, ornate and colorful.
Finally it was time to explore the room itself.
Oh, and did I mention I was given a floral necklace upon arrival?
Just a wonderful room. The mix of luxury and “appropriateness”, for the lack of a better word, reminded me of how the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek is super luxurious but still feels like a ski lodge.
I decided to go for a walk around the amazing facilities as sunset approached.
The Oberoi Amarvilas Property
The physical space of the Oberoi Amarvilas was just incredible, like the most opulent resort in Dubai except there was the Taj Mahal just sitting there in the background. I made my way back to the main entry of the hotel to head outside. A simple staircase? No way, this was goergeous!
I made my way outside to the incredible restaurant area above the pool.
The resort was fairly full but you would never know it, there was so much space for people that it never really felt crowded at all. The hotel itself was great, but for a photographer like me it was even more like paradise with all the symmetry around!
I looked back towards the main hotel building and noticed the arches in the pool area and had to pay a visit.
The arches yielded a beautiful lounge area.
The symmetry was beautiful as music started playing, part of the nightly sunset show featuring local music and twirling dancers.
I walked back inside to prepare for dinner (which was included, thanks to my FHR benefits), snapping some pictures of some of the lovely gathering areas at the hotel.
The bar area was as beautiful as the rest of the facilities.
I walked out front to the courtyard full of fountains that I walked past earlier as part of the check-in “ceremony”.
I went back to my room to relax for a minute and watch the twirling dancers. Wait, let me finish that sentence.
Having just moved to Australia 4 months before, I sat on the balcony of my hotel room at an incredible resort to watch twirling dancers with the Taj Mahal in the background on a quick weekend trip.
Pretty cool sentence to write, and this picture summed it all up.
Oh, and they left some chocolates for me as part of the turn-down service 🙂
I was a bit delirious from a long day of travel and was a bit jetlagged so I completely forgot to get pictures of the delicious Indian food assortment that I had for dinner, I was a bit lost in the moment as a performer played beautiful music on a hammered dulcimer.
I already told you about the next part but here’s a bit more
I did this trip report a bit out of order, as I already posted about my visit to the Taj Mahal, but this hotel deserved a feature as well. The next morning, they had a golf cart waiting to take me to the line at the Taj Mahal’s entry. After I left, I decided to walk back to the hotel, a short distance away. The golf cart driver happened to be driving past and recognised me from earlier that morning and pulled over, insisting that he drive me back to the hotel.
Summing up the Oberoi Amarvilas
This may have been the best hotel stay I’ve ever had. Better than Aman Tokyo. Better than Amanpuri. Way better than the Peninsula in Hong Kong (even though their Rolls Royce was a bit cooler than the Oberoi’s Audi).
The part I have left out until now was the flawless service. I’m a bit of a customer service junkie so I always try to pay attention to how hotels manage a customer’s experience. It’s more than just Saying Hello To Every Customer You See, which the Oberoi was perfect at doing by the way, it’s about knowing when a guest arrives at the gate at the entrance to the property so the manager and the welcoming party can be waiting at the driveway. It’s about everyone I spoke to at during check-in knowing my room had been upgraded to give me a better view and, once I mentioned I was a photographer and was there to get pics of the Taj Mahal, that knowledge somehow became part of my profile and every subsequent interaction involved hotel staff either asking me if I was excited about getting good pictures of the Taj Mahal or asking me how the pictures turned out when I saw them after my Taj Mahal visit.
They did all the little things perfectly, and I respect how much work goes into making it all seem effortless. I’ve simply never experienced anything like it.
I’ll put it to you this way: yes, I want to return to the Taj Mahal someday, but even if the Taj Mahal wasn’t there sitting in the background I would still want to return to this incredible hotel. The Oberoi Amarvilas was just that good.
What’s your favourite hotel stay? Tell me in the comments below!