Rajasthan is a state in the northwest of India. It is mainly arid and its western border is adjacent to Pakistan. The main attractions for travellers are the vast Thar Desert, one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world - the Aravalis - and the Rajput heritage which is apparent in the forts, temples and palaces established by Rajput kings such as Bappa Rawal, Rana Kumbha, Rana Sanga and Rana Pratap.
|Ajmer Division (Ajmer, Bhilwara, Nagaur and Tonk Districts)|
in the central part of the state, home to the Brahma temple in the holy city of Pushkar
|Bharatpur Division (Bharatpur, Dholpur, Karauli and Sawai Madhopur Districts)|
in the far eastern part of the state, home to Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary
|Jaipur Division (Alwar, Dausa, Jaipur, Jhunjhunu and Sikar Districts)|
in the eastern part of the state, home to the state capital, Jaipur (the Pink City)
|Jodhpur Division (Barmer, Jaisalmer, Sirohi , Jalore, Jodhpur and Pali Districts)|
in the western part of the state, home to the desert near Jaisalmer (the Golden City) as well as Jodhpur (The Blue City)
|Bikaner Division (Bikaner, Churu, Sri Ganganagar and Hanumangarh Districts)|
in the northern part of the state, famous for its sweets
|Kota Division (Baran, Bundi, Jhalawar and Kota District)|
in the southeastern part of the state, less arid than the other divisions
|Udaipur Division (Banswara, Chittorgarh, Dungarpur, Rajsamand, Udaipur and Pratapgarh Districts)|
in the southern part of the state, home to Udaipur and all its lakes and palaces
Here are nine of the most notable cities.
- 2 Bamnera — small village located in the Pali District of Rjasthan with several Hindu temple sites
- 3 Darrah National Park — consists of 3 wildlife sanctuaries. The park contains a large tract of forest land and was once the hunting grounds for the Maharaja of Kota
- 4 Jaisamand Lake (Dehbar Lake), Alwar — second largest man-made lake in Asia. The Dhebar Lake Marble Dam is considered a Heritage Monument of India
- 5 Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary (Keoladeo National Park) — a globally important reserve also called Keoladeo Ghana National Park,
- 6 Mount Abu (Mount Abu Wildlife Sanctuary) — spreading out onto a plateau, this park is rich in varieties of plants and animals. A single unique variety of orchid can also be seen in this park
- 8 Sariska Reserve and National Park — one of the most famous national parks in India and designated as a tiger reserve
Rajasthan literally derives from the Hindustani words meaning "Land of Desert" or "Land of Kingdoms". The state is home to the Thar Desert, a large dry desert that has a wide variety of plants, animals and birds. Part of the Thar Desert is protected and contained in the Desert National Park.
Most people speak Rajasthani dialects, Hindi and sometimes broken English. In tourist places like Jaipur and Jodhpur, you will find trained English, German and French guides too. You may not be able to understand some people due to the dialect that they speak and at times, they may add words from these dialects while speaking Hindi. This does not mean that they are unable to understand you. In Rajasthan, Hindi is universally understood whereas English is spoken among the educated. Bear in mind that Rajasthani languages are more likely to be spoken by older people rather than younger people.
Rajasthan is one of the larger Indian states and distances are long, making planes a fairly good option for getting in. Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur all have airports with direct links to many major cities, though if coming from a smaller city, one has to go via Delhi.
Overnight trains from Delhi and Mumbai reach most of Rajasthan's major cities. For points further out, like Jaisalmer, you'll be looking at a second day on the train as well. The Shatabdi and Rajdhani express are excellent trains and have excellent service.
The National Highway 8 which runs through Rajasthan is excellent and connects Delhi to Mumbai. Though Mumbai may be too far away, this is the most popular way to travel to Jaipur from Delhi as the road is in excellent condition and the drive can easily be completed in under 4 hrs.
Otherwise from Delhi various private travel agencies organise trips to Rajasthan, but they are rather costly. But if you do not travel alone, it is better to hire a car with a driver (for example a car from Delhi International Airport to Neemrana Village costs ₹4000 for five persons).
Rajasthan Tourism and Rajasthan State Transport operate luxury air conditioned Volvo bus services between Delhi and Jaipur. The first bus departs at 5:25 and the last, at 01:00, with a frequency of approximately every half hour daily. This bus is equipped with personal LCD TV, charger and (in some trips) Wi-Fi. These buses are very comfortable and the most desired travel option between Delhi and Jaipur. Tickets can be booked online on the Rajasthan State Transport website or a visit to Scindhia House New Delhi (near India gate). Buses start and end at Scindia House in Delhi and Sindhi Camp in Jaipur. Private agents generally not allowed to book tickets for this route, so if anybody offers to book a ticket for you, be wary. Rajasthan Tourism and Rajasthan State Transport also operates luxury air conditioned Volvo bus services between Delhi and other cities in Rajasthan, with 2 or 3 trips per day. These buses may depart from any of several different areas of Delhi (Scindia House, Kashmiri Gate ISBT, and Sarai Kale Khan ISBT); a phone call to Rajasthan State Transport office will give you all the information.
All the cities have public transport in form of buses. Also available are terrain vehicles on hire, but beware of terrain vehicle drivers who overcharge tourists.
Railways can be the better travel mode as it is quick and the service on most trains is excellent. But in Rajasthan, roads may be more enjoyable for short distances as the sights of the desert with the hills are beautiful. A popular drive is from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer, which is because the flight takes longer overall and the road is excellent.
A very popular option is Palace on Wheels which is a week long luxury train ride through interiors of Rajasthan.
Rajasthan is one of the most popular tourist destination to observe Indian heritage and royalty closely. A fortnight should suffice to be able to glimpse the splendor of the state. It has a lot of natural and man made tourist destinations, which include:
- UNESCO World Heritage sites Hill Forts of Rajasthan: includes six majestic forts in Chittorgarh, Kumbhalgarh, Sawai Madhopur, Jhalawar, Jaipur and Jaisalmer.
- Amber Fort in Jaipur
- Bundi Fort in Bundi
- Camel fair in Pushkar
- Chittorgarh Fort - A massive structure with numerous gateways, the fort is an outstanding example of Mauryan architecture.
- The Desert landscape in Jaisalmer
- Dilwara Temples in Mount Abu
- Jaisalmer Fort - Located in Jaisalmer. This fort is constructed with sand stones and is an important landmark of Jaisalmer city.
- Jal Mahal in Jaipur
- Junagarh Fort in Bikaner
- Khejarla Fort in Jodhpur
- Mehrangarh Fort - Located in Jodhpur. Set on the hill top, Mehrangarh Fort is a humongous royal mansion.
- Pichola Lake in Udaipur
- Ranthambore in Sawai Madhopur
- The Pink City in Jaipur
- Umaid Bhawan in Jodhpur
- Wildlife Sanctuary in Ranthambhore National Park Ranthambore wildlife sanctuary was established in 1957. In 1974 this park came under the campaign of “Tiger Reserve”. Visitors can easily see many water bodies, everywhere inside the park, which is the perfect destination to relax during the summer for the wildlife animals.
- The Sariska Tiger Reserve was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1955 and received the status of national park in 1979. The park is famous for both its wildlife and historical monuments and temples.
- Many of the cities and towns in Rajasthan offer a chance to do a camel safari.
- Another great experience is to explore Rajasthan on horseback. Beginners can go on shorter rides while experienced riders can join horseback safaris running from a couple of days up to 3 weeks.
- Parasailing - popular adventure to experience in Jaisalmer. Catch the majestic bird-eye view of entire region. The activity costs around ₹800 for a 15-minute ride.
- Travellers can get brilliant, intricate henna patterns done on their hands and/or feet.
- Visit the bird sanctuary at Bharatpur and the wildlife park at Ranthambore. Make sure you take the tiger safari at Ranthambore.
- Travel in Palace on Wheels- Palace On Wheels is one of the most luxurious trains in the world, equipped with all sort of luxurious comfort. Riding on this train is the most memorable and pleasing way to explore the beauty of Rajasthan. This train has exact replicas of almost everything kings used to have in their palaces. The journey covers the destinations of Jaipur, also known as Pink City, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Ranthambhore National Park, Chittaurgarh, Udaipur, Bharatpur and Agra before ending at Delhi.
- Shop at the bazaars (local markets) located in most cities in narrow alleys and lanes. You can pick up traditional puppets, tie-and-dye clothes/apparel, kota textiles, accessories. Pick up excellent and beautifully done block print textiles from where it originates. The art has been initiated by the villagers of Pipar Village.
- Visit fairs arranged for traditional festivals, where you get to see the locals in traditional finery.
- Hiking and camping in the only hill station of Rajasthan in Mount Abu
- Watch camel races.
- Enjoy traditional folk music.
- Go on a terrain vehicle safari, night safari or a nature hike in the Aravalli Mountains visiting some of the interesting wildlife sanctuaries there such as Sita-Mata, Kumbhalgarh or Jaisamand.
- Hot Air Ballooning. A breathtaking experience of hot air ballooning over the heritage sites and seeing a totally different perspective of Jaipur. Mesmerising should be the word for the entire 3-hour experience. ₹10000.
Ranthambore National Park was declared as an Indian Wildlife Sanctuary in 1957 and in 1974 it gained the protection of "Project Tiger". There are many water bodies located all over the park, which provide perfect relief during the extremely hot summer months for the forest inhabitants.
Desert safari is the best way to explore the world famous “Thar Desert”, located in Rajasthan. Tourists can explore the real beauty of Rajasthan villages, their culture, tradition and colours through this amazing ride. Multiple operators run services for Camel Safaris into the Thar desert, which is generally followed by a cultural folk music evening, accompanied by dinner featuring local Rajasthani cuisine. Traveling by Camel was once the norm in Rajasthan. Many older Rajasthanis remember a life without electricity, roads, and trains. If you wanted to travel from Jaisalmer to Jodphur, an 8-day camel ride was the quickest way to go only 60 years ago (now 8 hours by bus).
Nowadays, however, multi-day camel safaris are primarily for the tourists, and a massive industry has been built up around them. With this has come high-pressure tactics and shoddy operators. An amazing, authentic camel safari is possible, but tourists should spend time researching guides, companies, and/or routes. Your best bet is to talk to other tourists who have recently completed a camel safari, and ask their advice.
Camel safaris are often loved or hated. Some people stay an extra day or two in the desert after already being out for 4 days, others find the camel foul-smelling and excruciatingly painful to ride. For those considering a 4-5 day trek, a two-hour ride may answer many questions.
The highlights of a camel safari include amazing desert scenery, the experience (however jarring) of riding a camel, Dal and Chapati cooked over an open fire, incredible star-gazing (no ambient light and no pollution), and a flavor of a different world.
Most of the preparation is in picking the length of safari (ranges from 4 hours to 5 days), the tour operator, and the city to start from (some people feel that smaller cities offer less touristy experiences). Generally, the tour operator arranges transportation, and the Camel Driver chooses your itinerary. Be clear from the beginning, before you pay, if the trip involves stops in handicraft stores.
Because of the importance of tourism upon Rajasthan's economy, tourists are fairly safe on a camel safari in terms of physical safety. Sufficient bottled water, sunscreen, a hat, a flashlight, and warm clothes for the cold night air are important. Solo female travelers should exercise caution when selecting a camel driver/guide, but otherwise should be safe.
If you have problems, or feel you have been cheated, be firm with the tour operator, and if necessary threaten going to the police/tourist office, and be willing to actually go. Many tourist offices, such as Jaisalmer's, make efforts to keep tourists safe and happy.
Avoid shopping at outlets guided by the local auto/rickshaw drivers or even with the local tour guide you may have hired as these outlets all claim to have some association with the Rajasthan government or the actual artisans which are generally fabricated claims and you end up paying anywhere between 20-40% above the actual price (including a hefty commission parted by the shopkeeper to the guide/auto driver). The guide is more keen to show you all these shops rather than the places you have travelled to see.
Bargain is the key word. If you are buying jewellery, artefacts, handicrafts, etc. definitely bargain. Most tourist shops will bargain up to 30–50%, although some shops, mostly big ones such as National Handloom, India Rugs Exports, Jaipur Rugs, India Crafts, Government organizations, have fixed rates with little or no scope discount on bulk buying.
Eat and drink
Savory food is generally very spicy - to be enjoyed in moderation for first timers. Dairy-based sweets are also very popular in this part of the country. Restaurants are mostly vegetarian. Finding restaurants serving good non-vegetarian food could be difficult, and in general, non-vegetarian fare in road side eateries should be avoided. Bread, both leavened and unleavened, is readily available.
A typical Rajasthani meal would include daal-baati-churma. Daal is lentil curry; baati are round balls made out of wheat flour and baked on a charcoal fire; churma is a dessert made out of crushed wheat balls rolled in jaggery/sugar and topped with ghee.
As always, be cautious of your environment and be vigilant like any other tourist place. Most of the city is closed by the evening so it is advisable to not roam around unless you feel safe. Beware of touts. One of the safest ways to travel around is by having a driver who knows their way around Rajasthan.
There are many clinics and hospitals in major cities which provide treatment of reasonable quality at relatively inexpensive prices.