This week saw the return of the BBC's The Real Marigold Hotel, a travel documentary series wherein a group of nine famous senior celebrities pack their bags and head to India, for a once in a lifetime trip uncovering the fascinating history, wonderful scenery and unique cultural differences of this kaleidoscopic destination. The show takes its inspiration from the hit 2011 British comedy-drama film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which follows a group of British retirees who journey to India for a life at leisure in a seemingly luxurious retirement hotel. The result is a charming and often amusing look at the delights and challenges of a retirement spent in India, where we see common preconceptions about the country tackled from a light-hearted point of view.
While for some, a permanent retirement move to India would be perhaps a little too dramatic, we firmly believe that it is a destination that should be on every discerning traveller's radar. A visit to India is a once in a lifetime experience, allowing you to delve into a brand new, unique culture and enjoy a change of pace quite unlike anything that can be found on our shores. India is vibrant, exciting and full of surprises. Bursting with colour and vitality, it is a feast for the senses; the scent of warm spices drifting through the air, the hectic sound of the bustling bazaars and lively market stalls, and some of the greatest and most exciting cuisine that can be found anywhere in the world all combine to make this a truly unforgettable destination. And, as both The Real Marigold Hotel and the original movie so hearteningly portray, India is a remarkable travel destination for retirees. Over the past two series' we have seen participants rise to meet the challenges that often arise when immersing oneself in an unfamiliar culture, and yet the overwhelming emotional response from the cast has been one of joy, gratitude and appreciation for their new and unique cultural experiences.
Here's why we think India is an eye-opening and unmissable travel destination for retirees…
From its intricate ancient temples and religious structures to the remarkable colonial architecture which harks back to the days of British rule, India's architecture is diverse, fascinating and stunning. Shimla, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, is a popular destination for British travellers. Once the summer capital of the British Raj, Shimla exudes a notably British charm, with preserved Tudor-style buildings and neo-Gothic churches contrasting extraordinarily against snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, and the colourful bazaars and bustling atmosphere of modern day India. Then, of course, there's the sublime beauty of the iconic Taj Mahal, one of the world's finest examples of Mughal and Persian architecture. The elaborate white marble structure was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1653 as a mausoleum for his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, and today stands as a testament to the Emperor's undying love.
So alluring is the concept of the Indian sunshine that the term "Indian Summer" is used to describe an uncharacteristically warm and dry spell of weather in the Northern Hemisphere. With the majority of India subject to a tropical climate and warm, comfortable temperatures all year round, India is an ideal destination to indulge in a spot of winter sun, with temperatures in Delhi reaching a balmy 22°C in December. What could be better than real Indian sun?
Indian food is some of the most famous in the world, shaped over centuries by different cultures and civilizations, with many western countries offering modified versions of traditional Indian recipes. Indian cooking has famously perfected the art of blending various spices, creating cuisine that is both well balanced and exciting. Contrary to popular misconceptions, traditional Indian food is surprisingly healthy, often made from scratch using an array of delicious fresh ingredients, packed full of vegetables, and is not always unbearably hot. Try chaat, a crispy savoury snack widely sold from street stalls and food carts, and traditional lamb Rogan Josh, a mouth-watering, aromatic lamb curry dish.
From journeys in air-conditioned comfort on board the Shatabdi Express, some of the fastest, cleanest and most modern trains in India, to remarkable excursions through the foothills of the Himalayas on the delightful Toy Train, India offers train journeys to delight and enthral. Seeing India from aboard its captivating, exciting trains is without a doubt one of the best ways to experience the real India, as you travel with locals and immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes of each destination.