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2 India Spas Fit for a Rajah--or President

March 26, 2000|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS, Times Staff Writer

There's India on $30 a day, best undertaken by college-age backpackers who've had every shot in the doctor's arsenal. Or there are first-class alternatives: India on hundreds of dollars a day at two new luxury hotels.

One is an opulent spa called Rajvilas, where President Clinton and daughter Chelsea stayed last week. In the heart of the Rajasthan region, near Jaipur, the resort is part of the Oberoi Group of luxury hotels. And luxury is the word. A turbaned butler is assigned to guests for the length of their stay. The 54 rooms have four-poster mahogany beds draped with white linen and marble bathrooms that look out on private walled gardens. Luxury tents or villas with private pools are also available.

Modeled on the ancient forts of the desert maharajahs, the hotel took local artisans seven years to build. Thirty-two acres of gardens and fountains surround the traditional pink sandstone buildings. A pool in the middle of the gardens encircles a Hindu temple that has been in use for hundreds of years.

The spa is housed in a 250-year-old palace. Though the building has been restored with every modern amenity, most spa treatments are based on ancient ayurvedic techniques. Telephone (800) 5-OBEROI. Brochure rates: from $330 per room per night, double occupancy, including breakfast.

Meanwhile, 3,000 feet up in the foothills near the holy city of Rishikesh, another luxurious spa-hotel, Ananda in the Himalayas, is set to open Saturday. Operated by the Rafael Hotel Group, it sprawls across the grounds of a 19th century palace erected by the Maharajah Narendra Shah about 160 miles north of New Delhi.

It has 76 rooms and suites, including one in the palace; three restaurants emphasizing spa cuisine; an outdoor amphitheater; a temple; and a 21,000-square-foot spa with everything from ayurvedic treatments to Swedish massage. Introductory rates, through Sept. 30, begin at $275 per room per night, double occupancy, including breakfast, one spa treatment and a "lifestyle evaluation." For reservations, see a travel agent or call the hotel at 011-91-11-689-9999; for brochures, call (212) 686-0555.

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