Majestic royal forts and palaces of maharajas, vast desert landscape, colourful towns, vibrant culture, festivals and markets, men with colourful turbans and curly moustaches, women in dazzling saris decorated with gold jewellery – all of this makes Rajasthan the most fascinating state of India. There’s so much to see in Rajasthan and deciding what places to visit can be a daunting task. That’s why we made a list of the top 5 must see places in Rajasthan to make it easier for you to decide what places in Rajasthan you should include in your itinerary.
When we were planning our 2-month journey around India, we knew we wouldn’t be able to venture to all corners of India as we would like to. What we wanted to see the most on our first Indian travel adventure was the historic Rajasthan together with other interesting places in northern India – Dharamsala, Rishikesh and Amritsar.
Now we’ll take you on a tour around
the top 5 must see places in Rajasthan.
Arriving late in the night to “the Blue City” of Jodhpur, we were astonished by the spectacular night view of the illuminated Meherangarh Fort towering over the city. Seeing the fort the following morning from the roof of our guest house, we were impressed even more by the majestic architectural masterpiece. The picturesque blue houses of Jodhpur seemed to be insignificant in their size comparing to the fort.
Meherangarh Fort is one of the largest forts in India and was built around 1460. Kings and their wives lived in royal apartments inside the fort that is encircled by massive walls. The fort was once the centre of art, music, literature and worship too.
The walk up to the fort from the old city was quite steep, but strolling through the alleys lined with beautiful blue and purple houses was worth the effort. It took us about two hours to explore the interior of the fort which was amazing.
Then we headed to Jaswant Thanda, a marble memorial to the popular ruler Jaswant Singh II who lived in the 19th century. The memorial was truly beautiful, the interior was carefully carved and the gardens surrounding the memorial added to the charm of the site.
We enjoyed visiting Jaswant Thanda very much – it’s not easy to find such a peaceful site in India. Although on the touristy trail in Jodhpur, Jaswant Thanda is a very quiet place where you can relax for a couple of hours in its garden.
The best part of our stop by the memorial was listening to the sound of ravanahatha, an ancient Indian stringed musical instrument on which the viola and the violin were later based. The Rajasthani man who was playing the ravanahatha was very kind and explained us all details of this special old instrument.
Surrounded by Hindu temples and bathing ghats (lakefront stairs), Pushkar Lake is believed to be one of India’s most sacred place, and therefore, it’s the most important part of Pushkar.
Every year during the full-moon of October or November, Pushkar draws pilgrims from all over India who believe that this short period of the year is the anniversary of the gods’ meeting and that the waters of Pushkar lake will purify their souls.
At the same time of the year the famous camel fair takes place in the desert on the west side of Pushkar. Around 100, 000 Rajasthani villagers come to Pushkar to sell and buy livestock at what is nowadays known as the largest camel fair in the world. The camel market is accompanied by cultural shows (dance and concerts) and competitions of all sorts – the best decorated camel, the longest moustache etc .:)
We visited Pushkar during the camel fair and the time when the town was filled with pilgrims.
What was it like to be in Pushkar in the busiest part of the year?
Colours, chanting, drumming and gongs, busy markets, crowded streets, parades of pilgrims wearing traditional turbans and colourful saris, strong smell of insence sticks and of course – the camels.
Although all of this was very interesting, we were surprised by the the commercialism of the fair and religious practices taking place by Pushkar lake, and by the enormous number of foreign tourists who came to Pushkar to see the camel fair.
The whole atmosphere of the fair and the town was quite overwhelming for us. When we went to the fair to have a look at the camels and to see a Rajasthani dance show, we didn’t stay too long because of the incredible number of people and children who were trying to sell us something or were begging.
The fair might have been authentic and amazing maybe 10 or 20 years ago, but in our opinion, it’s not anymore. What we experienced was a big commercial attraction and we were really disappointed. If we had known that, we’d have chosen another time for our visit. Pushkar might have been more authentic and locals friendlier then.
- U-turn hotel by the lake is a good base – the staff is very friendly, the food is good and rooms are reasonably priced. They have good real coffee too!
- Don’t visit Pushkar during the camel fair when the prices of accommodation go up and the town becomes crazy, unless you think you’d really enjoy it.
- Don’t accept flowers from strangers. It’s an awful tourist trap that happens to almost every tourist. Some local men pretend being spiritual and try to get tourists to go down to the lake with them to pray and repeat prayers after them. At the end of the prayer they want money from the tourists. If the tourists hesitate to pay them for ‘the prayer’, they might become aggressive. As we heard, these men had punched a few tourists who didn’t want to pay them. Every day we saw tourists arguing with these ‘spiritual’ men. Stay away from this group of men who misuse religion and try to deceive tourists. If you want to make a prayer at the lake or even take a holy dip, then do it by yourself.
- Avoid staying overnight in Ajmer. It’s not a nice city at all. The accommodation there is overpriced and the town itself is very dirty. Buses from Ajmer to Pushkar run until around 9pm, so try to get to Pushkar for the night.
Udaipur, “the White City”, often called Venice of the East, is said to be the most romantic town of India. To visit this charming town is a must.
What can you see and do in Udaipur?
- spend some time admiring the imposing palaces of Udaipur and picturing how it could have been like to live in the era of maharajas
- take a boat ride on the calm lake Pichola
- have lunch and dinner in one of the top roof restaurants that are located on both banks of the river And don’t forget to stop by the beautifully carved Jagdish temple!
If you want to have a glimpse of Udaipur, check out our post 48 hours in Udaipur, Venice of the East.
Situated in the hearth of Thar desert in the west of Rajasthan, “the Golden City” of Jaisalmer with its massive yellow Jaisalmer fort and magnificently carved houses attracts travellers because of its remote setting by the desert dunes. Most of them come for adventurous camel safaris.
We liked the golden fort with its palaces and were surprised to see people living in their houses and having shops with souvenirs right in the fort.
We wandered in the narrow winding streets and admired the old golden houses, their beautiful windows and doors. We liked the view of the “Golden City” of Jaisalmer too!
As we have already mentioned, Jaisalmer is known for camel safaris; you will find a lot of agencies offering safaris from one to fourteen days. Don’t expect vast Sahara. Thar desert is partly covered with bushes, but has beautiful sand dunes too. We went for a one-day safari with a local “camel man”.
That day we spent in the desert was one of the most wonderful days we had in India. It was fantastic to escape all the noise and dust of Indian towns at least for one day. No cars, no noise, no smog, no dust, no rubbish – we felt like we were in heaven!
Have a look at this post to know more about our camel safari experience in Jaisalmer. If you plan to go to Jaisalmer, we recommend you to do the camel safari with Kheta, the real desert man.
Jaipur, often called “the Pink City” is the capital of Rajasthan, the largest and busiest city in the region. It’s dotted with spectacular historical sights – palaces, forts and other monuments.
In the centre of Jaipur lies the famous “Pink City”, a walled quarter, where you can find a huge number of bazaars offering Indian textiles, jewellery and precious stones and minerals.
The monument we liked most was the Hawa Mahal, or “Palace of Winds”. It was built in 1799 to enable the ladies of the court to watch what was happening in the streets while unseen from the outside.
Amer Fort is one of the most outstanding places in Jaipur and one of the most famous forts of Rajasthan. Located 11 km from Jaipur, Amer Fort is a beautiful monument, well worth a visit to escape the chaos and noise of traffic jams in Jaipur.
Have you been to Rajasthan? Which place did you enjoy the most?
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