The heart of the subcontinent, veteran travelers to India find solace in the natural wonders and abiding history of Madhya Pradesh. In these surroundings of swamps, forests, and mountains are some of the finest accommodations in the whole of India, led mainly by the famous Taj brand. Pressed up against national parks and with glamping in safari surroundings, the Madhya Pradesh of modern day caters to the luxury traveler with top-notch service and unique travel experiences found nowhere else in India.
Taj Mahua Kothi in Bandhavgarh
Once the hunting ground of the local Maharaja, Bandhavgarh is now one of the premier animal sanctuaries in India. Filled with canyons, tall marshland grass, and thickets of wood, it is prime predatory territory, making it home to jackals, bears, leopards, and, of course, it has one of the most prolific populations of tigers in the world.
For visitors seeking an authentic safari experience, the Taj Muhua Kothi is nestled in the heart of the park and features mud cottages (kutiyas), each with its own fireplace and locally inspired decor. The attentive staff can prepare a picnic for dining under a Mahua tree, or provide an Ayurvedic massage, either poolside or in the privacy of the guests’ rooms. Also included are twice-daily jungle safaris for photographers, birdwatchers, and wildlife enthusiasts.
Pashan Garh in Panna
The Pashan Garh, also a Taj hotel, is an open-air jungle lodge set amidst 200 acres of private wilderness, near a watering hole that attracts wildlife. Its name, which literally means ‘stone fortress,’ is evocative of the 12 stone-made cottages for which the lodge is known.
Finding itself off the gorges of the Ken River, Panna National Park, like Bandhavgarh, is a renowned tiger sanctuary. Despite this, the number of tigers at the reserve is low, and guests are more likely to see leopards, and exotic breeds of Asian antelope.
After a day of trekking into the bush, guests can be found relaxing in the central courtyard with a book from the library or under the sala by the infinity swimming pool. Besides a twice-a-day jungle excursion into the bush, there are more than 250 species of birds that can be seen from the comfort of the guestrooms.
Taj Banjaar Tola in Kanha
One of the most famous forests in all of India, Kanha National Park is loved worldwide for being the supposed home of the English classic, The Jungle Book. Full of large sal trees, streams, meadows and open forests, Kanha’s topography is as wild as the abundance of gaurs, barasinghas, tigers, and leopards that live there.
Staying in style in Kanha, of course, means lodging at the Taj Banjaar Tola, in one of two campsite perched on the edge of the Banjaar River. Each campsite has nine tented suites done up in a chic style with shades of saffron and Bastar artwork. After a long day tracking wildlife through the forests, guests can enjoy an outdoor massage or a freshly prepared meal in the open-air lodge or along the shores of the river overlooking the bush. Sunrises and sets in the region, in no small part because of the prevalence of Barasingha deer, are prized by photographers.
Reni Pani Jungle Lodge in Satpura
Meaning 100 mountains, the Satpura is a heavily forested mountain area famous for its lush flora and fauna – with sloth bears, monkeys, and leopards.
A gracious retreat, the Reni Pani Jungle Lodge is spread over 30 acres of forest with suites that blend into the environment, with names like: The Nullah, Forest, and Hills. Guests can indulge themselves in the isolated jungle pool and sample the offerings of the spa, or hike the bush and watch monkeys hop across the path. For a more intimate nature experience, guests can rent a tent or simply dine under the open forest’s shade. Also available are walking treks, boat safaris, and canoeing.
Taj Baghvan Lodge in Pench
Spread across both Madhya Pradesh and its neighboring state Maharashtra, Pench National Park tracts over 900 square miles of grassland, forest, and rock. Since 1992, it has had tiger reserve status.
Featuring 12 stand-alone suites with unobstructed views of the reserve; the Baghvan Lodge is a birdwatcher’s paradise set deep in the bush. Each suite leads up to a Machan, a covered jungle rooftop platform where one may sleep under the stars. The common areas are spacious and air-conditioned rooms with high ceilings. Guests can enjoy a book from the hotel library while relaxing poolside on the large sun deck. Safaris take place twice a day, during which guests are led around the park in custom 4×4 Tata vehicles.