Rajasthan literally means ‘Land of Great Kings’ and is India’s largest state. Located on the northern side of the country, it mostly comprises of the wide and inhospitable Thar Desert. Its features include the ruins of the Indus Valley Civilization at Kalibanga, the Dilwara Temples among the mountains in Abu and the Keoladeo National Park near Bharatpur, a world heritage Site known for its bird life. Rajasthan is also home to two national tiger reserves, the Ranthambore National Park and the Sariska Tiger Reserve. The local dialect Marwari belongs to the Indo Aryan languages family.
Places to See:
Founded in 1727, Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is also called ‘pink city’ attributed to the pink buildings of the old city. This royal, vibrant destination transports you to a bygone era rich in beauty, heritage, culture and architecture. Magnificent forts, opulent palaces, splendid gardens, colorful bazaars (local markets) and handicrafts, exquisite jewellery, hand-dyed embroidered fabrics and lavish food make Jaipur a captivating tourist destination.
Attractions: The city palace featuring the exquisite peacock gate, the jantar mantar observatory with specialized astronomical functions that predict eclipses and track stars and the hawa mahal (Palace of the Winds) known for its intricate and fascinating facade. Visit the splendid Amber, Jaigarh and Nahargarh forts to get a peek into the military history of the warrior kingdoms. A visit to chokhi dhani, an ethnic village resort to enjoy traditional food, puppet and dance shows that recreate the energy, hospitality and vibrancy of the desert kingdom is recommended especially if you have children!
Other places to see are the ruinous Galta monkey temple and the famous Government central museum that houses portraits of local kings, costumes, woodcarvings, paintings, arts and crafts. If you want to get up close to the elephant (an animal that is adored in Rajasthan and closely intertwined with its royalty,) a visit to Elefantastic would be in order. Here, you will be able to wash, feed and observe these magnificent tame beasts and learn more about them. The adventurous types could also go on a hot air balloon safari in Jaipur! Well known for its grand fairs which include the kite festival, camel festival and elephant festival, the pink city witnesses maximum tourists during these fests. In the words of travelers, the flamboyance of Jaipur can be experienced only by visiting it.
Shopping: Jaipur is highly addictive for shopaholics who explore the local markets for silver, wood and marble artifacts, traditional perfumes, jewelry, textiles, garments, embroidered shoes and fabrics, tie and dye/ bandhej prints, paintings and handicrafts!
Accessibility: Flights from international cities also connect the Jaipur airport at Sanganer to major airports in the rest of the world.
Best time to visit: October to March is pleasant as summer can record very high temperatures.
Jaisalmer lies in the heart of the Thar desert (great Indian desert) and is a world heritage site. It is called the ‘Golden City of India’ as the yellow sandstone used in the architecture gives the city a magical golden hue. Jaisalmer is crowned by a fort, which contains the well sculpted palace and several ornate Jain temples. Oil, natural gas and tourism are major industries in Jaisalmer.
Attractions: Jaisalmer fort, exquisitely carved Jain temples, libraries that contain rarest of the manuscripts and artefacts, museums, lakes and gardens offer tourists an enriching insight into the rich legacy and beauty of Jaisalmer. Musicians and dancers are a major cultural export from Jaisalmer to the rest of the world. The world-famous Desert festival held in Jaisalmer in January/ February every year to witness performing arts like Kalbelia dances, folk songs and music. Desert safaris also help you enjoy the rustic beauty and adventure of the Thar desert.
Shopping: Shawls, carpets, jewelry, accessories like bags are beautiful things to buy here. Be sure to bargain well to get the best prices!
Accessibility: The nearest airport is Jodhpur. Trains and buses ply between Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. The distance between both the cities is 308 km, about 4 ½ hours by road.
Best time to visit: January/ February for the desert festival; alternatively September – March is the best in terms of weather.
Jodhpur is known as the ‘Sun City’ for the bright, sunny weather it enjoys and also ‘Blue City’ due to the vivid blue-painted houses around the Mehrangarh Fort. The old city circles the fort and is bound by a wall with several gates. Jodhpur lies near the geographic centre of Rajasthan, making it a convenient base for travel in the region.
The beautiful historic buildings, monuments and scenic landscapes here have been featured in big Hollywood movies like The Dark Knight Rises and The Fall. More recently, there have been high profile celebrity weddings in Jodhpur, giving impetus to the lavish wedding industry and increasing tourist footfalls. Jodhpur topped Lonely Planet’s list of most extraordinary places to stay in 2014.
Attractions: Mehrangarh Fort, Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jaswant Thada and the Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower.) Tourists could make excursions to Mandore, Balsamand Lake, Mandalnath temple, Ratanada Ganesh Temple, Sardar Samand Palace, Masooria Hills and the Science Park.
Shopping: Shopping in Jodhpur is an exciting and rewarding experience. It is the home of many talented and skilled craftspeople, including textile dyers, metal engravers and die-makers. Jodhpur still, probably, has the last of the tailors of the classic ‘Jodhpur’ breeches. Jodhpur is regarded as one of the most famous hubs for wholesale export operations in India. Pick up antiques, bandhini (tie and dye,) footwear and mathaniya’s red spicy chillies here.
Accessibility: Well-connected roads from Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer and across Rajasthan. The Jodhpur airport is also well connected to the metro cities by daily flights.
Best time to visit: October to March; the Marwar Festival is held in October & November.
Pushkar means ‘blue lotus flower’ and is one of the oldest cities of India. It is also known as the ‘king of pilgrimage sites’ and is a must-visit destination for devout Hindus. There are numerous stories about Pushkar’s creation – The story goes that when Lord Shiva’s wife Sati died, he cried so much and for so long that his tears created two holy ponds – one at Pushkar and the other at Ketaksha, which literally means raining eyes!
Attractions: Places to see include the famous Brahma Temple (Brahma is the creator of the universe as per Hindu theology) and the Pushkar lake which has 52 ghats for pilgrims to bathe in the sacred waters. Brahma temples are very few around the world so this one, being the only one in India assumes supreme significance. Pushkar is famous for its desert safaris and annual fair (Pushkar Camel Fair) held in November, that attracts a number of foreign tourists. Animals, including over 50,000 camels, are brought from miles around to be traded and sold. Camels at the Pushkar fair are decorated with great care. Camel safaris into the desert are possible at Pushkar.
Shopping: Souvenirs, textiles, beads, brass utensils, lovely colorful bangles, leather goods, unique embroidered clothes, costume jewelry, camel covers, and much more!
Accessibility: The nearest airport is located in Jaipur at a distance of 147 km. Pushkar can by accessed by road from Ajmer 14 km away which is also the nearest railway station to Pushkar.
Best time to visit: While the weather and festivities in Pushkar stay alive all year long, the best time to visit the holy town is between November and March. During this time, the weather is pleasant, and the desert is a whole lot friendlier for day-long safaris.
Udaipur also nicknamed ‘Lake city’ and ‘Venice of the East’ is a very popular tourist destination. Apart from its rich history, culture and scenic locations, it is known for its beautiful lakes and Rajput-era palaces of which many, including the Lake Palace have been converted into luxury hotels. Due to the city’s picturesque beauty, Hollywood and Indian movies (James Bond in Octopussy, Jewel in the crown, Gandhi etc) have been filmed here.
Attractions: The numerous palaces like City palace, Dilkhush mahal, Sheesh mahal, Moti mahal, Sajjan Garh palace and Krishna vilas are worth a visit. They contain priceless antique articles, paintings, decorative furniture and utensils and attract thousands of visitors every day. The Celebration mall, India’s first and only heritage mall, is now serving as a tourist attraction destination.
Other places to see are the Jagdish temple, a great example of Indo-Aryan architecture; the Lake Pichola; Saheliyon ki bari gardens of the royal princess; the Gulab bagh and the zoo, which is home to tigers, leopards, gazelle, birds and wild animals. The Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal, a museum of folk arts hosts puppet shows in its auditorium. The Udaipur Solar Observatory is Asia’s only solar observatory.
Shopping: Handicrafts, pottery, jewelry, wooden toys, clothes, batik/ tie and dye fabrics, antique items and paintings. Udaipur is particularly famous for its miniature paintings inspired by style of Rajputs and Mughals.
Accessibility: Udaipur airport, the city is also connected to most Indian metros by train and road.
Best time to visit: September to March