THE BEST WAY:
From LAX, Air India, British, Continental, Delta, KLM, Lufthansa and United offer connecting service to New Delhi. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $1,153 until May 25, then rise to $1,172 until July 10.
WHERE TO STAY:
The Imperial, Janpath, New Delhi; 011-91-11-2334-1234, www.theimperialindia.com. Doubles from $425. In the 1930s, this hotel, above, was a rare sanctum where British and Indian aristocracy could rub shoulders. The public spaces are warm and inviting, especially the Atrium, which is reserved for hotel guests only. The rooms are large and comfortable, with flat-screen TVs and all the amenities you'd expect of one of the top hotels in Asia.
Oberoi Rajvilas, Goner Road, Jaipur, Rajasthan; 011-91-141-268-0101, www.oberoirajvilas.com. We found the hotel and grounds had a wonderful facade, but it ultimately felt less inviting than we had expected, and the price was steep. The library bar was small and had the sterile feel of a movie set. But the health club was the best we found on our visit (and they opened it up after hours when asked). The rooms were lovely and contained all the amenities. Hotel rooms start at $600, but we got a lower rate through Protravel International, Beverly Hills; (310) 271-9566, www.protravelinc.com.
Oberoi Amarvilas, Taj East Gate Road, Agra 282001; 011-91-562-223-1515, www.oberoihotels.com. The Amarvilas, above, would be a spectacular hotel even without the view of the Taj Mahal from every room. It opened in 2001 and has nine acres of terraced lawns, fountains, reflecting pools, a delightful spa and a pool that is too pretty to swim in. The rooms are large and elegant. The hotel lists its rack rate as $600 and up for a double-occupancy room, $650 for a room with a balcony. We did slightly better, $585 for a room with a balcony, arranged through Protravel International.
WHERE TO EAT
Bukhara, Hotel Maurya Sheraton & Towers, Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi; 011-91-11-2611-2233. It's no wonder that heads of state adore this restaurant, which was listed as one of the 50 best in the world by Restaurant magazine in 2004. It's cozy, with cushion-covered stools, low wood tables and a view of the kitchen. No reservations are taken after 8 p.m., but it's worth the wait. Simply delicious chicken and lamb kebabs, dal and naan. Main courses $8 to $30.
Masala Art, 1 Sardar Patel Marg, Diplomatic Enclave; 011-91-11-2611-0202, www.tajhotels.com. This contemporary Indian restaurant has an eclectic menu, updating some of the classics. We leaned toward vegetarian dishes and adored the scrambled paneer (cheese) with corn and spices and the spinach with garlic (Lasooni palak). Entrees up to $30.
Surya Mahal & Courtyard, Oberoi Rajvilas, Goner Road, Jaipur, Rajasthan; 011-91-141-268-0101, www.oberoirajvilas.com. This is a good choice if one of your group is looking for food from back home. Both the Indian food and a plate of shrimp and pasta were nicely prepared. We ate in the pretty courtyard on a nippy night; the waiters placed wire boxes of burning coals between the tables. (Watch out for sparks.) In Jaipur, don't miss Jantar Mantar, above, one of the observatories of Maharajah Sawai Jai Singh II, built in 1710.
TO LEARN MORE
Government of India Tourist Office, (213) 380-8855, www.incredibleindia.org.