Jaipur. This labyrinthine of fascinating bazaars, opulent palaces and historic sights, is, for many, quintessential India at its best.
It was also home to Evelyn, Madge and Norman in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Fans of the films can follow in the characters footsteps by visiting – and even staying at – many of the locations used.
Here’s our top 5 places to visit from the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films, for your inspiration:
The Viceroy Club – Castle Kanota
Castle Kanota, built in 1872 and spread over 8 acres of land, was the venue for the Viceroy Club and several of Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup’s scenes in the film. It’s located on the outskirts of Jaipur, about half an hour’s drive away. The hotel offers 18 spacious rooms and a built-in museum, all decorated in a traditional heritage style and evoking the grandeur of princely Rajasthan. Castle Kanota is a peaceful base from which to explore the Pink City, or those who prefer to stay more centrally can visit for high tea, sundowners or a special dinner. You may remember, the Viceroy Club had eye-wateringly high membership fees; in reality, double rooms start from approximately $89 (£71) per night.
Panna Mian ka Kund is a 17th century baori (stepwell) built by a eunuch, Panna Mian, a leading figure at the court of Raja Jai Singh I. Hundreds of steps zig-zag down to the water in a stunning, mesmerizing pattern. Today, the stepwell is used as a place to socialise with loved ones. It’s located nearby the splendid Amber Fort; a must-see when visiting the Pink City. It’s also nearby the Anokhi Museum, which is dedicated to the traditional and local technique of hand block printed textiles.
The Flower Market
The vibrant Janta Bazaar (vegetable market) was where Sonny bought marigolds for his girlfriend, Sunaina. Here, colourful marigolds and other flowers are made into garlands, and sold briskly as offerings to beloved deities in temples and roadside shrines.
Nearby is the Jantar Mantar (an 18th century observatory built by Sawai Jai Singh II. Some of the instruments are still used to forecast how hot the summer months will be, the expected date of arrival, duration and intensity of the monsoon), and the City Palace (occupying the heart of the Pink City, the City Palace has been home to the rulers of Jaipur since the first half of the 18th century. It’s now a museum displaying a fabulous collection of treasures; from rare manuscripts to miniature painting, weaponry to palanquins.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (for the Elderly and Beautiful)
The real life Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the Ravla Khempur, is not actually located in Jaipur. It’s over 200 miles away on the outskirts of Udaipur, nestled in the countryside. This 17th century property offers 12 en-suite rooms, all of which have an equestrian touch (the owner, Hemant Singh, is a horse enthusiast).
At one point in the film the characters travel to Udaipur. This fairy-tale like city, dotted with marble palaces and lakes surrounded by a ring of hills, was founded by Maharana Udai Singh in 1559. This romantic city is dominated by the massive City Palace, which overlooks Lake Pichola and its dreamy island palaces, including the Lake Palace seen in the film. The Lake Palace is over 250 years old, and now a luxury hotel run by the Taj group. Scenes were also shot at the Jagat Niwas Palace, where the characters had rooftop drinks.
And a bonus…
The Second Best Marigold Hotel
Hotel Pearl Palace, Jaipur, was the venue for the Second Best Marigold Hotel, and voted as India’s ‘Most Romantic Hotel’ by TripAdvisor users in 2015. Colourful rooms begin from as little as $6 (£5) per night, to $26 (£21), and raise the bar for budget digs in India. The properties rooftop restaurant, Peacock, is one of the most popular in Jaipur.
Jaipur and Udaipur are both must-sees when visiting Rajasthan and the north, and can be easily incorporated into a broader tour of the region. Most visitors begin in Delhi, and the Taj Mahal in Agra is an ideal stepping stone to Jaipur. From Jaipur, one can fly straight to Udaipur, else take the scenic route with a stay in the countryside on the way.
If you’d like to experience the real Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on your upcoming visit to Rajasthan, please do get in touch. As specialists in private, bespoke tours of this region, we’d be an ideal match to assist with your arrangements and would be delighted to craft your tailor-made tour. If you’re wondering where to start, our Classic Rajasthan sample itinerary is an ideal journey for first time visitors.0