Review: Aman-i-Khas

Introduction
Aman New Delhi
Aman-i-Khas / Safari in Ranthambore National Park
Amanbagh / Activities around Amanbagh


After an amazing night at the Oberoi Agra complete with a visit to the Taj Mahal (which I’ll cover later), we made the five hour drive to Ranthambore National Park, where we were staying at the Aman-i-Khas. This is the property where I had absolutely no clue what to expect. The resort consists of 10 (identical) luxury tents, all of which are taken down and built up again yearly, as the resort is only open from October 1 through April 30.

After a grueling five hour drive, the last two of which were more or less down a dirt road, we made it to the Aman-i-Khas resort.

There were no fewer than 10 people lined up to greet us, including the co-GMs, Paul and Christina, a married couple from South Africa. They asked us how our ride was and introduced us to our butler, Surender. This is one of the most unique aspects of the hotel. Lots of hotels advertise butlers, though that usually translates to little more than someone to call when you have a special request.

At Aman-i-Khas each tent is assigned a full time butler who lives on property and is on duty to take care of you 24 hours a day. They wake you up, they do your laundry, they serve you meals, they service your room, etc. Since there are no phones at the hotel, there’s a buzzer you can push in your tent if you need anything, and your butler is supposed to arrive within five minutes, even in the middle of the night. Due to the hours they work, they apparently get a couple of days off between each guest to recover, since it really is a 24/7 job.

It’s worth noting that this resort includes all meals, soft drinks, house wines, laundry, and just about anything else you could possibly want.

Surender was one of the most genuine and friendly people I’ve ever met, so having him taking care of us for two days was awesome.

He first showed us around the resort, including the pool, dining area and fireplace. Since the resort has only 10 tents, there aren’t usually more than 20 or so guests at the hotel at any given time (and on our last day we were actually the only guests, so we had the place to ourselves).

There was both an outdoor dining area as well as a dining tent, and of course plenty of seating so you always have the choice as to where to sit.


Outdoor dining area


Outdoor dining area

The fireplace has live music every night and is a great place for pre-dinner drinks.


Fireplace

While there’s not really a need for a “lobby,” there is a reception tent if you ever need anything, though just about everything is taken care of by the butler.


Reception tent

Towards the edge of the resort was a nice pool with several lounge chairs.


Pool



Guest book

The tents are really spread out so that each has a bit of privacy, and our tent was towards the end of the resort. It’s also worth noting that the resort has about 20 guards on duty at any time, and at night they always follow you to your tent with a flashlight and stick. It’s probably not due to serious safety concerns, but rather to make people feel safe and employ locals, given how cheap labor is around here. Aman resorts are all about being local, and that was reflected in every aspect of the experience.


Walkway to tent

When I heard we would be staying in a tent I had high hopes, though there’s no way I could have prepared myself for the 1,000 square foot “suite” tent we had.

On the outside is a small patio on each side. One side features lounge chairs, while the other features day beds.


Tent exterior

Then just inside of the “entrance” is a table with a couple of chairs, which I guess acts as a porch or sorts, since there’s another “protective layer” before entering the main part of the tent.


“Porch”

I don’t think there are any words that could describe my reaction when I first saw the tent. At least any words that I care to publish here.

The tent featured a large daybed right at the entrance, as well as bedroom, sink area, and shower/bathtub.


Tent


Tent facing the bedroom


Tent facing the bathtub

The bedroom featured a king bed with a desk on each side.


Bedroom

Right by the bed was a cooler with a variety of soft drinks and bottled water which were constantly replenished.


Cooler

Then the bathroom featured two sinks and a table for bags.


Bathroom

On the other side of the tent was the bathtub, shower, and toilet.


Bathtub


Shower


Toilet

It’s worth noting that the tent is air conditioned, so the temperature is always pleasant, no matter how hot it is outside.

After freshening up a bit we headed to the common area for dinner, as it was buffet night. As I mentioned, Surender took care of us full time, so whenever we left the tent he miraculously appeared within a matter of seconds. He took care of our table and noted my love for Diet Coke and my friend’s love for garlic naan for future reference.

The buffet was spectacular. The resort has a “real” chef with top notch restaurant quality food, so there’s no “roughing it” here.

The cuisine was mostly Indian, which in the meantime is my favorite type of food.


Buffet


Dinner


Dinner


Dessert

The highlight of the dinner had to be the local group that performed at the hotel every night, who were not only talented but also incredibly friendly.


Group that played nightly

Many of the hotel guests gathered at the fireplace for drinks and to listen to music, so it was a nice place to interact with others. There were quite a few families staying at Aman-i-Khas, as well as some couples on their honeymoon.


Fireplace

Before we finished dinner Surender asked us if we had any laundry we needed done and what time we wanted to be woken up. We told him we wanted to be woken up at 5AM since we were going on safari, and he asked us whether we wanted breakfast at that point in our room or in the restaurant. We explained we would have breakfast after we got back from the safari, so instead just asked for some juice and tea.

Sure enough, at 5AM sharp the following morning Surender was knocking on our tent with freshly squeezed juice, tea, and some cookies. As he woke us up he asked if he should pack a snack for us to take on safari, which we declined.


Wake up call

I’ll have more on our safari at Ranthambore National Park in the next installment, as this one is already long enough.

The moment we returned from our fruitless tiger hunt, Surender was standing there waiting for us with cold towels and iced tea. I can’t emphasize enough how without any sort of advance notice he always appeared as soon as we arrived at the resort or left our tent.

He then brought us to the restaurant and offered us breakfast menus.


Restaurant tent


Breakfast menu


Breakfast menu

I started with a fresh fruit plate, which was delicious.


Fresh fruit plate

For the main course I had the masala dosa and uttapam. I’m telling you, Indian breakfasts could run IHOP out of business.


Masala Dosa and Uttapam

I was also offered a side of toast with assorted jams with breakfast.


Toast

While we’re talking about food, I might as well go through all the menus now. The lunch menu the first day read as follows:


Lunch menu


Lunch menu

For the starter I had mustard flavored prawns, which were delicious.


Sarson Jhinga

For the main course I had dumplings with curry.


Malai Kofta Curry

And for dessert I had lime cheesecake (the only part of an Indian meal I don’t like is the dessert, since they all seem to involve cottage cheese, which just doesn’t satisfy my sweet tooth).


Lime cheesecake

That night dinner was served a la carte, with the following menu:


Dinner menu


Dinner menu

For the starter my friend had the mushroom soup, while I had the Thai beef salad.


Creamy mushroom soup


Thai beef salad

For the main course I had gatte curry, while my friend had the tandoor platter.


Gatte Curry


Tandoor Platter

For dessert I had the Mississippi mud cake.


Mississippi mud cake

So as you can see, the food was pretty spectacular. Best of all, the dining experience was completely on demand, as you could eat where you want (in the dining tent, outside, or in your tent) and when you want (breakfast at 10PM? no problem!).

One of the other impressive things about the resort is that they actually grow all of their own fruits and vegetables, so one afternoon we went to check out the garden, which was pretty impressive.


Path to garden


Garden


Garden


Lake on back side of the hotel

Also, while I didn’t get any spa treatments, the spa tent was equally impressive, with several treatment rooms and a bathtub. The prices were also reasonable by luxury hotel standards.


Spa


Spa


Spa

Shortly before departing the final day, Surender asked if he could pack us some snacks for our ride back to Delhi, which we gladly accepted.

As was the case on the way out, just about all the staff on duty lined up as we departed to bid us farewell, and we were presented with a couple of gifts (Aman-i-Khas shirts and hats).


Staff lined up (Surender is the third from the left, while Paul and Christine and second and third from the right)

Our stay at Aman-i-Khas was unforgettable. I’ll have more about Ranthambore National Park and the surrounding area in the next installment, though suffice it to say that this resort truly blew us away. I’ve never in my life felt as welcome as I did at Aman-i-Khas, and that includes at home! Everyone genuinely went above and beyond to ensure we had a great time, and did so with great professionalism, sincerity, and friendliness. After this stay I really started to understand the concept of being an “Amanjunkie,” and I’m not sure how I can ever go back…

The rates at the Aman-i-Khas are $925 per night plus a $125 per person compulsory board charge, which includes food, drinks, laundry, etc. If you book through a Virtuoso agent you receive a 50 minute massage once during your stay for up to two in room guests as well as a picnic lunch. If you book through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts you get a 50 minute massage once during your stay for up to two in room guests as well as guaranteed 4PM late check-out.

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Comments

  1. loved my trip to india, but I don’t think I will repeat the 5-6 hours drive anywhere.. Besides the hotel that looks really nice, what else is in that area to see?

  2. @ Antonio — I mean, that’s a toughie. Both had *literally* perfect service, so I can’t put one ahead of the other. That being said, service was obviously a bit more personalized at Aman-i-Khas, not just because of how small the resort is, but because you have your own personal butler.

    @ geektraveler — Stay tuned for the next post, where I’ll cover information on the area, including going on safari in Ranthambore National Park.

  3. Thanks for putting this together. It is the most detailed report on this property that I’ve read.

    How are families accommodated at this property? Do you think they arranged roll away beds or cots on the rooms for the kids? What ages were represented?

  4. At Amandari, my wife nicknamed the staff ‘The Ninja’s’. They were never in sight when you didn’t need them, but the moment you needed them they would appear out of nowhere!

    I can’t wait for our next Aman visit – maybe Amangiri…

  5. @ Lisa — Sadly we didn’t have any luck with the tigers, though I’ll have more on that in the next installment.

    @ NYBanker — I believe they can arrange a rollaway, though I’m pretty sure there were two families staying while we were there, and they each had two tents, which seems to be the most practical given that there’s not so much “free space” in the tent.

    As far as the ages represented go, there was a couple in their 30s (I believe Australian), couple in their 50s (I believe American), and then a couple of families (I believe European).

    @ Lark — Hah, sounds exactly like at Aman-i-Khas!

  6. Ow on the world did you happen to find and book this place? Was it the safari idea first? The idea to visit India? I’d love to know your thinking on this.

  7. “Aman resorts are all about being local, and that was reflected in every aspect of the experience.”

    Not to be snarky, but I have to say the Aman experience here is hardly “local”.

  8. How in the world did you find and book this? Was it the safari first? The idea to visit India? I’d love to know your thinking on this!

  9. @ Jettyboy — Sure the pure luxury doesn’t reflect the surrounding area, but the employees are almost entirely made up of locals, the entertainment is “local,” the food is largely local, and the activities (which I’ll cover in the next couple of posts) are also very local.

  10. @ Susan — I explained part of the background in the introduction post, which was simply that I was planning to do a mileage run to India and asked a friend if he wanted to come along.

    He has always wanted to try Aman properties, and India has three Amans that are fairly easily accessible from one another, so it was his idea. I actually had almost no part in the planning process. I just showed up and had fun.

    And unfortunately for my wallet, I’m afraid I’m pretty hooked…

  11. Hey lucky, once again, a nice report on Aman property. Few questions:

    1) Is the daily rate for two persons?

    2) How are the transports between Agra and this resort as well as back to Delhi arranged? Included in the rate as well?

    3) How long has this property existed? It won’t be another few years until I can even think about trying these types of ‘resorts’ but when I can, staying for three nights or so might be a nice ‘treat.’ I just hope that these exist longer until I can ‘save’ up. 🙂

  12. @ brahms77 — Thanks! The rate mentioned is for two guests. The property has been around since 2003, so I don’t think it’ll be going anywhere.

    The transport is not included, and can be arranged either through the hotel or independently. We arranged it independently as it was quite a bit cheaper. If you go, I suggest not going right after monsoon season (so I would go in November or later), as the roads are in really bad shape at that time, so the drive can take an hour longer than usual.

  13. Aman hotels normaly have included in their prices, adventures! East Bali it’s a traditional yacht? that you go cruising on. The Bhutan property it’s a personal guide. Staying at their new Bejing property in a few weeks which is at the Western end of the Forbidden Palace and includes/allows access directly to the palace out of hours. To do the palace with out the hordes is what I am looking forward to most! Aman has been around since the 90’s and win many luxe awards. I keep asking to do one in Japan but as they say, “the location has to just so” My favourite group you can’t call them a chain.

  14. Whats wrong with you? First a review of a soviet bunker, now of a tent, will the next be a tour of a cardboard box under a viaduct?

  15. Not all Indian sweets involve cottage cheese, somehow Aman guys seems to have a liking for cottage cheese based sweets.

  16. I am considering staying there. What did you tip the butler? I know you have to tip em as well. Wondering how much everything will be including the 20% or so tips.

  17. My daughter and I will be leaving in 5 days for our fourth stay at Aman I Khas and our third stay at Aman Delhi (was not open on our first trip). My area of expertise in the travel business is southeast Asia and I must say I have stayed in all the best hotels and none of them can beat the Aman Resorts. I have stayed 39 times at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok and thought I wold never find anything to compare to that but Aman I Khas and Aman Deli both do. Also I have booked many of the other Aman Resorts for y clients and have never had a complaint. They all become Aman “Junkies”.

  18. I am leaving San Antonio in 5 days for my 6th trip to India and my fourth trip to Aman I Khas and third trip to Aman Delhi.
    I have been in the travel businss for 35 years and my area of expertise is S.E. Asia.
    I have stayed at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok 39 times and all the great hotels of the world. I never thought I would find
    any hotel to match the Oriental but I have to say that Aman I Khas does just that even though it is a totally different type of property.
    No where in the world will one get the warm personal attention one does at any of the Aman Properties. Pure Bliss – Can’t wait !!!
    Lee

  19. Will be leaving in 5 days for Aman New Delhi (2 nights) then onto Aman-i-khas by train with our valet, Mukesh for a 15 night stay. Love Aman-i-khas. The surroundings are peaceful & the service is surperb. We have seen tigers almost everytime on safari. Love Ranthambore Park. The staff at Aman-i-khas are so attentive and warm. Definitely a must stay if you’re heading that way. Aman New Delhi is great as well. Love getting into the plunge pool with some wine after a 15 hour flight from the U.S.

  20. Just returned from our 15 night stay at Aman-i-khas. As always it was pure heaven. Mukesh, our batman is the best and took such good care of us. I went on safari 3 times and saw tiger T-18 and T-39 on 2 of the safari’s. What magnificent creatures they are. All of the staff at Aman-i-khas are so helpful and gracious. Laundry is emptied out of your basket twice a day and is always back promptly. The Forest Dinner down in the woods was wonderful and all of the food is delicious. Rode the train to and from Delhi, where we stayed at the Aman Delhi to Sawai Madapur with our batman, Mukesh and that’s always an “experience”. The first class berths on the train are certainly adequate and the batman provides snacks and soft drinks/water for the ride. Anyone who wants to expereince a true, luxury safari cammp and is going to India should definitely try Aman-i-khas. It can’t be beat.

  21. @ Barbara Carvajal – WOW! I repeat, WOW! A 15 night stay is long. I agree it can’t be beat. I haven’t been to a resort nearly as good and even then, I don’t stay for more than 8 days at a hotel in one go. Truly a paradise for a lucky few!

  22. well her we go again for our fifth stay at Aman I Khas – our paradise in India. We will be there for 16 heavenly nights. Our wonderful batman and friend Mukesh Sharma will meet us in Delhi at the Aman Delhi now The Lodhi Hotel and accompany us on the train trip to Saway Madopur. Over the years we have really had good luck at seeing tigers but I love Aman I Khas so much I wouldn’t care if I ever saw a tiger.

    Lee Loving
    Herff Travel, San Antonio, Texas

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