The capital draws countless diplomats and businesspeople, which in turn has led to a thriving (and ridiculously pricey) five-star accommodations sector, meaning that you'll probably need to dig a little deeper in your pockets if you want a certain level of luxury -- not a bad idea if this is your first stop in India. Although a five-star hotel may serve as a gentle introduction to India, most are bland reproductions of what you can expect anywhere in the world, and some are downright hideous despite the hefty price tags. While big luxury hotels are more numerous than we need to mention, there are a few very special options for travelers looking for affordability, style, and something out of the ordinary -- we've reviewed them below, but here's a brief overview of our favorites. In the budget category, we've long acknowledged the pleasure of staying at Master Guest House, the best place by far to stay if you're watching your rupees and would like to live among charming Delhiites. Costing a little more, but so ultra stylish that they are worth every rupee, Amarya Haveli and Amarya Gardens, owned and operated by a pair of Frenchmen, are truly in a league of their own. We also like Oberoi Maidens, Delhi's oldest hotel; and for excellent value, The Manor, the city's first, although no longer the only, boutique-style option -- all offer an alternative to the anonymous atmosphere of larger hotels. There's much parity in the very top-end of the market, with the exception of the Aman New Delhi, which opened early in 2009. First of the respected Aman group's "metro resorts" it represents a revolution in the Delhi hospitality industry; not only is the room count relatively low for a luxury Delhi hotel (just 31 rooms and eight suites) but the more established (and essentially business-oriented) hotels don't really compete with the Aman's genuine sanctuary feel -- The Imperial, for example, despite it's sense of refinement and Old World elegance, has an ever-bustling, busy lobby. That said there's something to be said for being in walking distance from Connaught Place, and our hands-down recommendation after the (admittedly very pricy) Aman is still The Imperial, with its authentic colonial old-world atmosphere, friendly staff, and super restaurants; the only drawback is the temperamental approach to honoring reservations. The other top-end option that we applaud is The Oberoi: More of a chain-hotel feel than the one-off Imperial, but still the ultimate in luxury, The Oberoi has the most lavishly cozy rooms you could wish for, and unbeatable service standards, but you'll shell out for the privilege.
Of the big chains, Hyatt Regency offers predictable facilities and room standards but superb dining options as well as -- depending on the day -- good value rates. Another unadventurous big hotel option, which is a resounding favorite with foreigners (including Bill Clinton), is the ITC Sheraton Hotel and Towers (tel. 011/2611-2233; www.welcomgroup.com; from $400 double). Its location in the diplomatic sector and the expensive rooms are major drawbacks, but foodies will enjoy easy access to Bukhara, widely considered the best restaurant in the country. Note, too, that there is now a second Sheraton property in south Delhi (Sheraton New Delhi Hotel, District Centre, Saket; tel. 011/4266-1122), with typically sumptuous rooms starting at a far more affordable $300.
Note that if you're literally in transit, the Radisson (National Highway 8, New Delhi 110 037; tel. 011/2677-9191; fax 011/2677-9090; www.radisson.com) is your best bet near the airport. It's perched on the edge of a major highway, but guest rooms (from $300) are large and sumptuous, with contemporary furnishings and king-size beds. Ask for a pool- or garden-facing unit.
Although congestion (the Delhi-Gurgaon region has the highest density of vehicles in India) means it now takes a good half hour to 40 minutes to get to the airport from Delhi's satellite town Gurgaon (once considered a good choice "close" to the airport), the new highway should ease this to 15 minutes. Should business or pleasure draw you to stay in Gurgaon, we recommend the charming Tikli Bottom (tel. 124/276-6556; www.tiklibottom.com; all-inclusive doubles Rs 12,000), a Lutyens-style farmhouse offering an atmosphere of complete relaxation. Alternatively there's the spanking new Leela which offers the usual ultraluxe rooms and facilities at a hefty price (tel. 124/477-1234; www.theleela.com/hotel-gurgaon.html; doubles from Rs 22,500) or the very modern, good value Crowne Plaza (tel. 011/4358-7088; www.ichotelsgroup.com; doubles from Rs 10,400) which also has a superb Brazilian restaurant, Wildfire.
Note: The prices are mostly given in rupees. Some are stated in U.S. dollars only, which is how many hotels targeting foreign markets quote their rates. Most of the city's upmarket hotels offer significant discounts on published rates depending on occupancy; so do check online and use the rates only as guidelines.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.