Vivid colours, camels and elephants, delicious food, and an ancient history… If Rajasthan isn’t on your travel bucket list, you need to add it now. Commonly known as the “Desert State”, the area spans across Northern India’s Thar desert. It’s packed with a rich variety of wildlife, as well as beautiful Havelis, hill forts and palaces. You could easily spend months exploring this diverse region, but if you only have two weeks, here is our list of what to do in Rajasthan.
Jump straight to:
Day 1-6 – Jaipur
Jaipur, or the Pink City, is the capital of Rajasthan. And by pink, we mean PINK. You’ll struggle to see more peach and terracotta buildings anywhere else in the world. This busy, bustling city is the perfect mix of old and new India, with lively marketplaces, historical landmarks and magnificent temples. While you’re in Jaipur, you NEED to check out…
The City Palace
The City Palace was built at the same time Jaipur was established and continues to be the home of the Jaipur royal family. It’s open both day and night, but day tickets are slightly cheaper at 300 rupees. The palace’s architecture is guaranteed to knock your socks off, with every part of the building covered in beautiful, intricate detail. With your ticket, you can visit the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum to learn about the royal family; an armoury and textile museum which displays a colourful range of clothing; and an art exhibition. There are also market spaces inside the palace walls. But unless something particularly catches your eye, wait until you leave the palace to explore the surrounding markets which sell similar products at much cheaper prices.
Jal Mahal (and Night Market)
Jal Mahal, or the “water palace”, floats on Man Sagar Lake. Yeah you heard me, floats. The huge, impressive structure was first built in the 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh II for his queens to hang out in. Check out Jal Mahal at dusk to see twinkling palace lights reflected on the water and explore the surrounding night market. This specific market sells traditional Rajasthani textiles with fabric printing techniques that are special to the region. There is also a wide range of food and chai stalls for you to stuff your face and even a stage where you can see live music and dance performances.
The Amber Fort
The Amber Fort is located just outside of Jaipur in Amer, but you can easily travel there in 25 minutes by auto rickshaw or taxi. Entry costs approximately 200 rupees. It is a bit of a walk up to the fort, but trust me, the views from the top are well worth it. Working elephants patrol the area and you’ll often see them walking along the pathways as you climb. When you finally reach the top, wander through three beautiful courtyards with marble columns, fountains and mirror-studded ceilings. You cannot enter the palace as it is still in use, but you can walk past the entrance and view the gardens from the palace veranda.
This famous Hindu temple, also known as the “Monkey Temple”, is located in the hilly region of Khania-Balaji, 10km outside of Jaipur. Dedicated to Hanuman, monkey God and companion to Lord Rama, the temple is home to a huge troop of macaque monkeys. These monkeys are protected due to their sacred status and connection to Hanuman. The temple complex is made up of several different buildings and places of worship. The buildings are breathtaking, with some of them built into the surrounding rocky landscape.
Hanuman’s Temple is 200 rupees to visit, but I also recommend that you bring some small change as there are different points where you can make donations. You will see the macaques happily roaming around the temple grounds, chilling out with their family members and bathing in the temple springs. There are also places you can purchase nuts if you want to offer them food.
Train from Jaipur to Jodhpur: 5 hrs
Day 6-9 – Jodhpur
With buildings across the city painted in a dreamy sky blue, Rajasthan’s second-largest city is commonly known as the Blue City (there’s a theme forming here!) Well known for its finely crafted furniture, artisan handicrafts, glass bangles, carpets and marble goods, the Blue City has so much more to see than just a nice colour!
Jodhpur’s centre point is Mehrangarh Fort, literally meaning ‘Sun Fort’. The fort was constructed in 1459 by Rajput ruler Rao Jodha. Wear good walking shoes if you aim to explore the full area, which contains marble-structured courtyards and the stunning Jaswant Thada palace. Walk up to the hill known as Bhakurcheeria, the Mountain of Birds, where you can spot griffon vultures circling the city.
Jodhpur’s large Sadar Market revolves around a tall clock tower. Here you can loosen your purse strings in the many stalls which sell jewellery, leatherwork, carpets, Jodhpuri Jutti shoes and bags… Sadar Market has it all. Haggling is expected. And yeah, you might walk away with two pairs of shoes when you only intended to buy one. But at the very reasonable prices the stalls sell their finely crafted goods for, you’ll leave wishing you had brought a bigger suitcase.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, Jodhpur Sweets will be a dream come true. There are so many tasty treats to choose from here, from Mawa Kachori, a syrup-soaked nutmeg-infused doughnut-biscuit, to Rabri Ladoos and Jodhpur’s famous Gulab Halwa, a crunchy, creamy, pistachio biscuit-cake. I’m not drooling, you are.
Dinner with a view
Eat dinner with the magnificent view of Mehrangarh Fort lit up at night. Check out Dylan Café’s rooftop which serves both lunch and dinner. The kitchen serves a variety of Indian food at very good prices and there are also vegan and vegetarian options. If you’re feeling for somewhere fancy, head to The Hoot @ Ota which serves tasty Italian, Mexican and Indian food on a dreamy terracotta rooftop terrace.
Train from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer: 5 hrs
Day 9-14 – Jaisalmer
For their third city in Rajasthan, a lot of travellers choose to see the romantic lake city of Udaipur (which is also a great spot!) But I recommend travelling further into the desert to see Jaisalmer, the “Golden City”. We’ve now got a rainbow on our hands! With a smaller population, the calm of the city offers a perfect environment for you to reflect on your trip. Your third stop is known for its dramatic fairy-tale architecture built out of sandstone and is the best place for you to experience the magic of the Thar desert first-hand.
Journey up to Jaisalmer Fort for a spectacular sunset. Be sure to leave with plenty of time as there are many shops and market stalls to explore on the way up there. Like Jodhpur, the fort is still active, and many people live inside the walls. The building is blindingly beautiful, full of long winding pathways and detailed sandstone structures. You will feel like you’re stepping inside a film set. As you walk up you are likely to see stunning Jain temples – seven of them inside the fort, built between the 12th and 16th centuries. Remember to remove your shoes and any leather products before stepping inside. Finally, head up to Cafe Kaku to watch the sunset with a cup of masala chai. From your birds’ eye view, it will become very clear why Jaisalmer is nicknamed the Golden City.
Take a boat across Gadisar Lake, priced at roughly 100 rupees. In the past, this was once the only source of drinking water for the whole town. But with modern infrastructure, this is no longer the case and the lake has become a peaceful leisure space. The lake is surrounded by many temples’ shrines and Ghats. Sailing across the tranquil water is an experience you won’t want to miss.
Whether you’d rather sleep directly under the stars or in a luxury glamping tent, taking a trip into the desert is sure to be the highlight of your stay. There are a lot of different camel safari options you can book, and many hostels will be able to help you arrange your trip (travelling by camel means you will be able to get further into the Thar than by car.) As you leave the green scrubland behind you will journey over golden dunes as far as the eye can see. After sunset, make sure you look up at the night sky. The Thar desert is one of the best places to view the Milky Way in all its glory, as well as many other awe-inspiring constellations. No matter how hot it is during the day, desert temperatures drop drastically at night so be sure to bring some warm clothes!
And with that, we have come to the end of our two-week trip to Rajasthan. This is just a short list of the huge range of things you can do in India’s magnificent desert state. Let us know about your travels in Rajasthan in the comments below.
The post What to do in Rajasthan, a 2-week itinerary of 3 colourful cities appeared first on Hostelworld Travel Blog.