When you think of Rajasthan – the first things that probably come to your mind are images of kings and queens, palaces and forts, grandeur and pomp, deserts, camels, colour, and festivities.
Images of a time gone by, images of a land filled with prosperity and wealth, history, culture, and steeped in century-old traditions.
And that, my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg, a mere fleeting glimpse into this land called ‘Rajasthan’ – that translates to ‘Land of the Kings’.
It doesn’t get more royal than this.
Located in the north-western part of the country, Rajasthan can easily assume the title of being the crown of the country – if you go by the massive amount of cultural richness this state has to offer.
For anyone planning a visit to India, don’t come away without visiting Rajasthan.
If you haven’t spent a couple of weeks exploring the ‘Land of the kings’, your visit to India will always remain incomplete.
The largest state in the country by area, Rajasthan is also the richest state in terms of cultural offerings.
Every major city in Rajasthan oozes with its own history, wealth, architectural magnificence, and culture.
While every corner of India has something to boast of, Rajasthan is different.
It’s a state that transports you back in time, a state that will make you fall in love with everything you encounter – whether its a fort that lies in ruins, a regal palace that has retained its grandeur.
The Local music, one of the many colourful festivals in Rajasthan, cheerful locals in their brightest, coloured clothes and with the biggest smiles, who’ve adapted to living in the harsh desert climate.
Or something as simple as observing an amazing sunset over the sand dunes, while enthralled in the musical notes of local musicians.
Literally, everything you do, see, and experience in Rajasthan will transform you into a fan for life!
While Rajasthan has a lot to offer in its many cities and villages, let’s take a brief look at the highlights of some of the major cities.
Top Places in Rajasthan You Should Visit.
Jaipur is the capital city of Rajasthan, and should be the first and foremost stop on your travels through the state, aptly being nicknamed the ‘Gateway to Rajasthan’.
Also known as the ‘Pink City’, Jaipur is considered the very first planned city of India, thanks to the genius and foreword thinking ideals of its founder, Sawai Jai Singh II, after whom the city was named.
And of course, it earns its name of ‘Pink City’ from the many buildings, museums, and homes that were painted pink to welcome King Edward VII, the then Emperor of India, when he visited the city.
The tradition stuck, and till date, you’ll see large parts of the city swathed in a pink terracotta colour!
Absolute must-visits in Jaipur include a trip to Amber Fort – options to ascend to the top of the fort include a walk (go with this option, and plenty of water), a jeep ride or an elephant ride.
The fort is well-maintained and offers a stunning glimpse into the coming together of Hindu and Mughal architecture!
Astronomy fans – make a stop at Jantar Mantar. This should be considered the Mecca of ancient astronomy!
This open-air astronomy observatory is filled with massive stone sundials, gnomons, and structures so far ahead of the time they were built in.
From predicting weather phenomenon to locations of planetary bodies, constellations and zodiac information, you’ll find it all at Jantar Mantar.
And stone’s throw from the observatory is City Palace – the living residence of the Jaipur Royal Family.
While access to the wing that is home to the Royal Family is closed to visitors, every other part of the palace is open to being explored!
Other popular locations include Jal Mahal, a place in the midst of a lake, Albert Hall Museum, Hawa Mahal (or wind palace), and Jai Garh Fort.
A short drive from Jaipur (about 2 hours) will bring you to the holy town of Pushkar.
This little town is everything it’s bigger counterpart cities are not.
It’s small, quaint, and idyllic. Built on the banks of the Pushkar Lake, the town offers a breather from the hustle and bustle of travel.
Sitting on the banks of the lake, or taking off on a camel safari where you can gaze at the night sky, or exploring the narrow lanes filled with little tea shops, yoga studios, and hippies – that’s what you can expect on your visit to Pushkar.
The town’s major claim to fame is the Pushkar Camel Festival – held in November.
A five-day fair where traders come from great distances to buy and sell camels, take part in camel races, and participate in a week of festivities that surround this majestic animal!
Nestled in the southern slope of the Aravalli Range, Udaipur sits amid several lakes, giving it the nickname of ‘City of Lakes’ and even ‘Venice of the East’.
Add to this, the pristine condition of its palaces. Udaipur offers travellers a slice into all things royal and majestic.
Spend a day at City Palace, located on the banks of the scenic Lake Pichola.
The palace is made up of numerous smaller palaces that were built over centuries.
Here too, part of the palace is occupied by the Udaipur Royal Family, while other parts have been turned into a museum that’s open to visitors.
Book a night at the Lake Palace Hotel ($$$) to experience a slice of the royal life!
If that’s stretching it, the next best thing is to enjoy a boat ride to Jag Mandir, an outer part of the Lake Palace Hotel that is open to visitors stopping by!
Sunsets on Lake Pichola are a thing of magic, so make sure you catch one.
Soak in stunning views of the city below from the Monsoon Palace or spend an afternoon at the Vintage Car Museum.
Check out the majestic erstwhile Rajput hero of Udaipur, Maharana Pratap, astride his loyal horse, Chetak. This famous bronze statue is located atop Pearl Hill or Moti Magri.
Once you’ve had your fill of lakes, journey onwards to the Blue City of Rajasthan, the royal city of Jodhpur! In the same way, Jaipur is literally painted pink, and Jodhpur is painted blue!
The second-largest city in Rajasthan, Jodhpur was founded in the 14th century by a Rajput king by the name of Jodha Singh, hence the name Jodhpur.
Located in the middle of the state, Jodhpur is the literal beating heart of Rajasthan and considered one of the most extraordinary places to visit in the country.
The walled city of Jodhpur is home to numerous palaces, forts, and gardens.
A visit to Jodhpur must include a day at the Mehrangarh Fort.
The fortress houses palaces, temples, and gardens – each structure within the fortress exude richness and the height of Rajput art and architecture.
Want a bird’s eye view of the fort? You can zip-line your way around parts of the fort for an aerial view!
Stroll around the Umaid Bhawan Palace, one of the more recent additions to the city.
Housing the former Royal Family of Jodhpur, part of the Umaid Bhawan Palace is a hotel (even earning the title of the world’s best hotel!), while another part of the palace serves as a museum.
Get ready to be enthralled!
Other highlights worth checking out while in Jodhpur are the Jaswant Thada, the Mandore Gardens, and the Balsamand Lake!
The bright, dazzling, sun bathes the city of Jaisalmer in a rich, golden hue – and you’ll soon find yourself in the middle of the Golden City.
Located in the heart of the Thar Desert, Jaisalmer is the largest city, area-wise, in Rajasthan.
Similar to the other main cities of Rajasthan, Jaisalmer too, was founded by a Rajput ruler by the name of Maharawal Jaisal Singh, thus giving it the name of Jaisalmer.
And while the sun and the golden sands aptly describe the city, Jaisalmer does have a lot to offer, in addition to mesmerising golden hues!
The mighty Jaisalmer Fort tops the list of ‘must-sees’ in Jaisalmer.
This ancient fort is a terrific example of a living fort, with a quarter of the city’s population housed within the walls of this mighty fort.
You’ll need a day or two to explore the fort in its entirety!
From temples to palaces, museums, mansions, shops, alleyways, and observing life in general, hop onto this fun ride called Jaisalmer Fort, and prepare to be amazed!
For that magical desert experience, make your way to the Sam sand dunes. A sunset here is a must. Even better is an overnight camping experience in the desert!
Wander through the many rooms of the Patwaon Ki Haveli; a mansion made up of five smaller mansions – originally the residences of brocade and jewellery traders in the city!
On a parting note…
Rajasthan has so much to offer visitors, and always, with arms wide open. While this is just a glimpse into some of the main cities of Rajasthan, there’s a lot more to explore.
But no matter which city you find yourself in, take the time to walk through the many lanes and by-lanes to get a real taste of the sweetness of life in Rajasthan.
Shop for colourful scarves and jewellery, sip on chilled, freshly churned yoghurt drinks, bite into Indian sweetmeats and savour the flavours of local food, observe life around you – it doesn’t get more chaotic than this.
Yet, you’ll observe a serene calm in the midst of this chaos!
There are some incredible national parks in the north of India, where you can see a mighty Tiger if you are lucky.
One of these is Ranthambore National Park in Sawai Madhopur District just south of Jaipur.
Ranthambore is often considered to be the park where you have the biggest change to see a wild Bengal Tigers in India.
There are actually 30 different types of mammals including, tigers, leopards, striped hyenas, jackals, blackbucks, as well as sambar, chital, sloth bears, Indian Wild boar and nilgai deer, and two types of monkeys langurs and macaques.
There are many colourful and exciting festivals all over Rajasthan; it seems like there´s actually a festival happening everyday.
With the Desert Festival in Jaisalmer might being the best and most fun one together with the Pushkar Camel Fair and the Pushkar Mela.
The desert festival in Jaisalmer takes places every year at the beginning of February, here you can watch camel races, camel polo, local dances but the most important thing at this festival is the completion of, who has the Best Beard in Rajasthan.
And having an impressive beard in Rajasthan is a very very important thing.
If you are a foreigner and you have an impressive beard, feel free to join.
There´s even a saying in Rajasthan A man without a moustache is like a cup of tea without sugar”
For many people, riding on the top of a camel into the desert and to sleep under the stars is a dream.
And one of the easiest and cheapest places to this is in the Great Indian Desert, also known as the Thar Desert, the world’s 17th largest desert and a natural boundary between India and Pakistan.
With about 85% of the That desert being in India and the remaining 15%in India.
There´s possible to do everything from half-day trips, up to 3 weeks desert trips where you walk across most of the desert.
Jaisalmer is the most popular place to start your desert trip from.
But be sure to do your research about which desert safari company you want to use, the quality of the service varies a lot.
In the western states of India, the hot, dry, summer months were a lot to deal with.
With the Thar desert to one side and slim chances of rain through summer months, water was always scarce.
The monsoons saw heavy rains, but as soon as the monsoons came, they disappeared, leaving long, dry spells ahead.
So came into creation the idea of a stepwell, as early as 550 AD, as a solution to harvest rainwater.
Many of these stepwells were complex engineering feats, similar to every other structure of the time.
In addition to water harvesting, the stepwells had religious significance too, and very often a temple would adjoin the stepwell.
And Chand Baori is one of these stepweels, located in a small town by the name of Abhaneri, about 93 kilometres from Jaipur.
Chand Baori became famous after it was used in ‘The Dark Knight Rises.