Things to see in Rajasthan (with photos)

Best time to go: from October to March

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SUGGESTED ITINERARY IN RAJASTHAN

Where to go in Rajasthan

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RAJASTHAN: TRAVEL GUIDE, TIPS AND THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE GOING

WHY GO TO RAJASTHAN?

Rajasthan is probably the most visited federal state of India by tourists and is generally the ideal destination for the first trip to India. The reason for this interest from visitors is certainly well justified by the vast variety of attractions that Rajasthan offers, from art to architecture, from culture to traditions, without forgetting also nature and landscapes. So if you've never been in India and are looking for the ideal route for your first trip to the country, but even if you are a returning visitor, Rajasthan is certainly the main destination to consider. In addition to the countless things to see, Rajasthan is also convenient for the wide range of tours available, it is a comfortable holiday with overnights in hotels of a good standard, it is not an expensive destination and Rajasthan is a safe place without significant issues.

WHAT TO SEE IN RAJASTHAN?

The list of things to see in Rajasthan is long and includes numerous locations among every corner of this state. Let's see which are at least the main things to see in Rajasthan, which should not be missed from any travel itinerary:

  • Jaipur. Capital and most populous city of Rajasthan, Jaipur offers various attractions, including 3 majestic forts, the City Palace (current residence of the royal family), the Wind Palace and an incredible astronomical observatory dating back to the '700, housing huge structures.

  • Udaipur. Known as the Venice of India for its water palaces, Udaipur is also famous for its Belgian glass mosaics and for the fascinating art of Rajput miniature painting.

  • Jodhpur. The Fort overlooking Jodhpur stands on top of a rocky hill and has imposing walls up to 40 meters (130 feet) high, which seem to be the natural continuation of the rocky walls above which these colossal structures rise.

  • Jaisalmer. At the edge of an arid desert that extends all the way into Pakistan, Jaisalmer is also known as the yellow city for the color of its sandstone buildings. The fort of Jaisalmer not only houses imposing palaces decorated with incredible bas-reliefs, but is still inhabited and life takes place frantically between a maze of narrow streets.

  • Bikaner. Sumptuous palaces with rooms decorated by gold leaf and precious stones, follow each another from courtyard to courtyard, like in a kind of Chinese boxes. Do not miss the luxurious havelis in the old town and the crowded bazaar where everything, from fruits to electronics, is sold.

  • Mandawa. This ancient town was located along the main trade routes between east and west, and became the residence of wealthy merchants who decorated their luxurious homes with elaborate frescoes and bas-reliefs. Not always included in Rajasthan itineraries, we believe it is a destination that should not be missed.

  • Abhaneri. A small dot on the map, which can be visited in just one hour. But this village, lost in the countryside, hosts one of the most amazing engineering works of whole India: a thousand-year-old stepwell, where a system of tiers built to reach the water, creates a geometry and a perspective that seems to come out from an Escher's painting.

  • Ranakpur. Among the Aravalli Range, amidst a relaxing countryside landscape, Ranakpur is home to one of India's largest and most important Jain temples, built with thousands of columns and dozens of domes carved with incredible skills.

  • Pushkar. The whole city is considered sacred and no meat or alcohol is served in the restaurants. The shores of the lake around the city are surrounded by ghats where faithfuls pray, while on the edge of the bazaar, there is an important Hindu temple dedicated to Brahama. The city also hosts Asia's largest livestock fair once a year, known as Pushkar Camel Fair.

  • Ranthambore National Park. A purely naturalistic destination, Ranthambore is home to numerous protected animals and birds, but the queen of this national park is the tiger which can be spotted with some luck during the dry season, when safaris can be easily organized.

These are only the main attractions in Rajasthan, which should not be missed when visiting this part of India: there are however an infinity of additional things to see in Rajasthan, to be definitely included in the itinerary if you have at least three weeks available.

CAN I VISIT THE TAJ MAHAL ON A TOUR TO RAJASTHAN?

Well, you have just decided to go to Rajasthan, but you have noticed that the Taj Mahal, one of the most famous and impressive monuments in the world, is not found in this federated state of India. So you may wonder how you could visit the Taj Mahal as well. Is it possible to visit the Taj Mahal as an extension of a trip to Rajasthan? The answer is: absolutely yes! Not only is it possible to visit the Taj Mahal as an extension of a trip to Rajasthan, but it is also easy, cheap and requires only one or two more nights to be added to the travel itinerary. In fact, the Taj Mahal is not far from the border with Rajasthan, along one of the many roads connecting Jaipur to Delhi: therefore to visit the Taj Mahal it is sufficient to travel between Delhi and Jaipur by car or train, instead of by plane, adding at least an overnight stay in Agra. Such itinerary allows also to visit the ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri, the Red Fort of Agra and the magnificent stepwell of Abhaneri. By adding an overnight stay in Delhi, visitors will have the opportunity to visit also the capital of India, which is not only a chaotic metropolis, but which offers many interesting attractions.

CAN I VISIT VARANASI ON A TOUR TO RAJASTHAN?

If visiting the Taj Mahal during a trip to Rajasthan is practical and convenient, unfortunately for Varanasi it's a little different matter. Varanasi is probably one of the most famous places in India after the Taj Mahal, for the many ghats along Ganges river, where faithfuls make ablutions, pray and spell magic formulas. All among hundreds of temples, in an almost surreal scenario. However, Varanasi is rather out of way from Rajasthan and can be reached only by a long journey by train from Agra, or by plane from Delhi. Visiting Varanasi as an extension of a trip to Rajasthan is therefore only possible if you have 3 or 4 more days available (we consider not convenient to make your trip to Rajasthan shorter, only to gain additional days for Varanasi, but we recommend to keep Varanasi for another tour in India).

HOW TO GET TO RAJASTHAN?

Although the major cities in Rajasthan (Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer) have daily flights onto Delhi, Mumbai and other main hubs in India, we recommend to fly from your country to Delhi and to start the tour from this city, by car or train. In fact, reaching Rajasthan by plane, you miss the opportunity to visit the attractions along the way, such as the Taj Mahal, and it becomes impractical to visit Mandawa. We therefore advise to land in Delhi, visit the city, then leave for Mandawa following a circular, anti-clockwise itinerary in Rajasthan, ending with Jaipur, Taj Mahal, and finally returning to Delhi from where you can fly back to your country. The anti-clockwise itinerary is the one with the best in terms of time optimization and leaves the amazement of being in front of the Taj Mahal on the last day of the trip.

HOW TO MOVE AROUND IN RAJASTHAN?

Although India has one of the most extensive railway networks in the world and there are also numerous tours where groups move around by bus, we recommend to travel in Rajasthan by car with driver. With this type of tour, tourists will get own car for the whole trip and the price includes also meals and accommodations for the driver. The price is usually so affordable for western standards, even if you travel alone, that it's really useless to consider any other type of tour or way to move around. The itinerary will be fully customizable and you can start the tour on any day of the year, since the trip will not be shared with other people on fixed a schedule and program. A travel package based on a car with driver in India, may also include under request all the hotels of price range you prefer, while licensed guides are available at major spots (this is quite important if you would like to learn more about the attractions you are visiting). Generally, the car with driver formula, does not include meals (except breakfast), so you are free to choose where to have lunch and dinner, while tickets to enter the various attractions are not always included (as you decide what to see) . The travel agencies that offer car-with-driver options are many and some have agreements also with major worldwide tour operators. The trip presented in this travelogue has been organized through Tusk Travel.

HOW ARE THE ROADS IN RAJASTHAN?

When planning a trip to Rajasthan, it must be kept in mind that the roads are not always in good conditions and that the traffic, the potholes and the animals crossing suddenly, require to keep a rather low average speed. Considering that the various cities of Rajasthan are not really close to each other, it means that a lot of time will be spent in the car. Sometimes travel agencies tend to compact the itinerary too much (obviously to be able to take even customers who have less time available and less budget), therefore it is necessary check carefully if the intended route and schedule gives sufficient time to visit the various attractions in the city. As general rule, I have seen that the ideal schedule is to stay 2 nights in each city: the first day is usually spent more or less on the road to get to the city, while the whole second day can be spent to actually visit the city. This gives also enough time to rest and to see other attractions normally not included, avoiding early morning departures to get the next destination as soon as possible.

WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT RAJASTHAN?

A trip to Rajasthan assumes several hours a day spent outside to get to and to visit the various attractions, so you may be wondering what is the best season to go to Rajasthan, which has less rain and more pleasant temperatures. India is subject to a strongly monsoon climate and Rajasthan is no exception, moreover the summer can be characterized by particularly high and uncomfortable hot temperatures. Therefore, what is actually the best period to go to Rajasthan? The best season to visit Rajasthan is winter, approximately from October to March, with further details to consider:

  • October and November in Rajasthan: the rains are few or even absent (in particular from mid-November onwards), while the temperature is particularly pleasant, with the highs rarely exceeding 27-30°C (80-86°F) and the lows on early mornings requiring a light sweater. This is probably the best time of year to go to Rajasthan, with an excellent compromise between all the various parameters.

  • December and January (winter in Rajasthan): the middle of the winter is particularly dry, although morning fog or dense haze is not uncommon and could limit the visibility too much: temperatures reach their minimum values and in the morning it could be even a little bit cold (but on daytime, it is like an eternal spring). This is the highest tourist season in Rajasthan, also because of Christmas and New Year holidays in western countries, during which lot of tourists travel around.

  • February and March (dry season in Rajasthan): temperatures start to rise again but are still comfortable, while the climate remains dry and absolutely ideal for traveling. With October and November, this is certainly the best time to go to Rajasthan.

  • From April to June (summer in Rajasthan): when summer arrives in Rajasthan, the rain is not yet a real problem, but the very high temperatures, which may reach 45°C (115°F) are too uncomfortable to move around and to spend lot of time outside. The number of tourists drops dramatically and the prices of services are probably at their lowest of the year. This is probably the worse time to travel to Rajasthan.

  • From July to September (rainy season in Rajasthan): during these months the wet monsoon is present, with frequent heavy rains that could even cause the closure of some roads. Temperatures drop a lot compared to past months (although it's still hot), but high humidity and showers could be a problem. Certainly, this isn't a good time of year to travel to Rajasthan, however, it is often chosen by Europeans because of summer holidays. Traveling to Rajasthan in rainy season is indeed possible, just do not forget that the itinerary may be altered (with possible delays) due to the conditions of the road. Also, do not forget one pair of replacement shoes, sandals and a good rain gear.

WHERE TO STAY IN RAJASTHAN?

In Rajasthan there are hotels and luxury resorts offering service of western standards most of times. Particularly interesting are the so-called "heritage hotels" or "traditional hotels", which are old houses, palaces or even castles, restored to their original splendor and converted to hotels. If you travel in India by car with driver, the travel agency may book all the accommodations on your behalf, as a part of a complete travel package: just communicate your preference and your budget.

OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE GOING TO RAJASTHAN

  • What is the currency in Rajasthan? The official currency in Rajasthan is the Indian rupee (INR), it is recommended to avoid changing at airports, preferring banks or exchange offices in the city, to have better conversion rates.

  • Are credit cards accepted in Rajasthan? Except Amex, credit cards are widely used in Rajasthan and can be used for hotels, major restaurants and even to pay tickets to various attractions. However, it is recommended to bring enough cash, preferably in small denominations, for tips and for purchases in the markets.

  • How to dress in Rajasthan? In Rajasthan, casual clothing is recommended, avoiding to leave legs uncovered (even for men). In most temples it is forbidden to wear leather objects, shoes or indoor shoes (barefoot is preferred, although short socks are sometimes tolerated).

  • How is the food in Rajasthan? Visitors in Rajasthan will find traditional Indian cuisine. If you don't like spicy food or chili, this can be a problem (however, in general, waiters will ask if you want spicy or less spicy food). For religious reasons, it is possible that in some town or area of a city, only vegetarian food is served. A specialty to try, that should not be missed, is the tandoori chicken cooked at high temperature in a clay oven and then marinated into different spices. Some restaurants offer international dishes like pizza or pasta, but I have never tried them.

  • Is it safe to drink tap water in Rajasthan? We recommend drinking only bottled water, which must be used also for tooth brushing (a rule to follow also in major cities). Many hotels, even of lower standard, provide a bottle of mineral water free of charge. When taking a shower, care must be taken not to drink and not to get water in the nose.

  • Are there mosquitoes in Rajasthan? During the dry season the mosquitoes are few and not very aggressive, however it is recommended to bring a repellent just in case. Malaria is not a big problem in Rajasthan: there are only a few cases in the westernmost areas, as in the surroundings of Jaisalmer, but probably this does not justify the need to do prophylaxis (better protect yourself with repellents and long clothes, which also protect against other numerous diseases transmitted by mosquitoes).

  • Is it safe to go to Rajasthan? Rajasthan is a safe place without particular problems: common sense is recommended, avoiding to leave valuables unattended and ensuring that money and credit cards are carried in well-protected pockets (pickpockets are very common, especially in crowded places). It is good to divide the money and to carry photocopies of the passport and visa separately from the originals.


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RAJASTHAN: COMPLETE TRAVELOGUE WITH PHOTOS

Delhi New Delhi and Old Delhi  
The main gateway to India, Delhi will probably be your first contact with the country, before continuing the tour to Rajasthan. Let's see what are the main attractions not to be missed, which can be visited in one or two days.
Haveli in Mandawa Mandawa havelis  
Along the edge of a desert, Mandawa was an important logistics station for caravans moving along the main trade routes. Once frequented by wealthy merchants, Mandawa has numerous havelis, luxurious houses decorated with frescoes and bas-reliefs.
Bikaner Bikaner  
With its mighty fortress, the havelis and the huge bazaar, Bikaner will fascinate visitors who will appreciate the splendor of the ancient palaces, once home to the maharajas and members of the royal families.
Jaisalmer Jaisalmer  
Not far from an arid desert, Jaisalmer is also called the "yellow city" for the color of the sandstone used for the buildings. Its mighty fort, still inhabited, dominates the city from the top of an hill and offers a glimpse into the life of the past maharajas.
Jodhpur Jodhpur  
Also known as the "blue city" for the color of the houses in the old town, Jodhpur offers a magnificent fortress built on top of a hill, where the mighty fortified walls seem the natural continuation of the rocky cliffs.
Ranakpur temple Ranakpur temples  
A small town isolated among the relaxing rural landscape of the Aravalli Range, is home to a series of Jain temples that show surprising art and architecture, with hundreds of columns and dozens of domes completely covered by bas-reliefs.
Udaipur Udaipur  
Along the shores of a small lake, Udaipur is also known as the "Venice of India" for its two palaces on the water. But the main attraction is the City Palace, the ancient residence of the royal family, housing magnificent mosaics and surprising miniature paintings.
Pushkar Pushkar  
The whole town of Pushkar is a sacred place, rarely included in tourist itineraries. We visit the Temple of Brahama, the bazaar and the ghats (steps leading down to sacred waters of the lake).
Jaipur Jaipur  
Also called the pink city for the color of its buildings in the old town, Jaipur is one of the most visited places in Rajasthan, thanks to three magnificent forts, the glittering City Palace and the incredible astronomical observatory dating back to '700. But not only...
Chand Baori Chand Baori: a step well in Abhaneri  
A short stop between Jaipur and Agra to visit one of the most amazing attractions of Rajasthan and perhaps of whole India: the surprising thousand-year-old Chand Baori step well, with the walls covered by thousands of steps.
Fatehpur Sikri Fatehpur Sikri  
The ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri was developed with the same speed with which it was soon abandoned. The remains are mighty red sandstone buildings finely decorated with bas-reliefs and a history as fascinating as mysterious.
Taj Mahal Agra: the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort  
The Taj Mahal needs no introduction, being the most famous monument in India and perhaps in the whole world. Let's go together to discover the reasons for this fame, but without forgetting the other attractions in Agra, such as the Red Fort.

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