Picture a Rajput palace, its ochre-washed walls rising sheer from a sandstone outcrop to apartments encrusted with domed cuppolas and pleasure pavilions. Now imagine gazing from one of the courtyards hidden within it across a mass of flat rooftops to a horizon of scrub hills and dried river beds. It’s a vision you could encounter a hundred times or more in Rajasthan, literally ‘Land of Kings’, where India’s northern plains segue into the mighty Thar Desert.
Nowhere else in the country boasts such flamboyant architecture. Traditional dress is more prevalent here too than most other regions, with the men wearing bulky turbans dyed vibrant colours, and the women decked from head to toe in embroidered textiles and heavy silver jewellery. Couple all this with some world-class heritage accommodation in converted royal palaces, and you’ll understand why Rajasthan offers the perfect recipe for a luxury holiday.
Our tour itineraries will guide you through the state’s highlights, from its salmon-coloured capital, Jaipur, to the majestic lake city of Udaipur. But they also include stops at some lesser known gems – such as fort hotels deep in the countryside, and tented camps out in the desert – where you can gain a taste of off-track, rural Rajasthan as few visitors experience it.
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Places to visit in Rajasthan
Amber Fort (Jaipur)
The great arched gateways of Amber Fort, the seat of the Kachwaha dynasty, who ruled over Rajasthan in the Mughal era is a fortress straight out othe Arabian nights. Rising from the shores of Maota Lake atop a craggy sandstone escarpment, ...
Rajasthan’s fourth city, Bikaner, rises from the eastern fringes of the Thar Desert, its medieval core encircled by rich pink sandstone ramparts. A crop of ancient Jain shrines and eccentric 19th-century havelis cluster in the sand-blown b...
Bundi is truly one of Rajasthan’s “hidden gems”, sufficiently far off the region’s most popular tourist trails to receive only a trickle of visitors, yet full of traditional atmosphere thanks to the presence, on a hill overlooking the town...
Chittaurgarh (or ‘Chittor’), in the far southeast of Rajasthan, is famous for its majestic fort – the scene of a succession of medieval sieges and battles between the Rajputs and Mughals. You could easily spend a whole day wandering around...
The seat of one of Mewar’s most powerful feudal barons, Deogarh lies deep in the arid back country outside Udaipur. Dominating this remote market town is one of Rajasthan’s most imposing fort-palaces – a huge, fairy-tale pile of domes and ...
The capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur, has a markedly different feel from the other two corners of the ‘Golden Triangle’. The traffic is no less intense, but amid the chaos of its walled Old City wander the odd painted elephant and camel cart, ...
Jaisalmer is the undisputed jewel of the Thar Desert. The town lies a long journey west of Rajasthan’s main transport arteries, but once its honey-coloured bastions have appeared on the horizon, you’ll know the effort has been worthwhile. ...
Capital of the former Kingdom of Marwar, Jodhpur owes its prominence to the trade route that once passed its gates, connecting the ports of Gujarat with the cities of the northern plains. The resulting wealth enabled the Marwari rulers to ...
Khimsar, also known as Khinwasar, is a village in Rajasthan nestled amongst the sand junes. It conjures up mystical tales set in the desert and embraces traditional Rajasthani culture. Camels amble by decorated with tassels, the sun sheds ...
The ridges of the Aravalli range ripple west and north of Udaipur into country that has always been something of a world apart from the rest of the region. Its cultivable valleys and surviving tracts of forest are the homeland of semi-noma...
The Shekhawati region to the northwest of Jaipur is renowned for its ornately painted havelis (walled town houses) – vestiges of a more prosperous era, when it lay on a vital trans-Thar trade route. A perfect pied-à-terre from which to ex...
Nagaur’s a delightfully unspoilt market town in Western Rajasthan, built of pale-red sandstone. Every in November it hosts a camel fair to rival the better known one in Pushkar, but the chief attraction the rest of the year is its beautifu...
Pushkar, in the heart of Rajasthan, is one of India’s holiest Hindu sites, and among its most scenic. Overlooked by beautiful desert hills, its focal point is a pearl-shaped lake surrounded by bathing ghats (steps), and more than four-hund...
Just down the mountain from Kumbhalgarh lies the famous Jain temple complex of Ranakpur. Built in the 15th century, the shrines here are renowned above all for their richly carved interiors, sculpted from creamy white marble. The painstaki...
Ranthambore National Park
Everyone wants to see a tiger when they visit India, but for a chance to sight one sprawled on a lakeside domed pavilion or against the backdrop of a Rajput castle, there’s only one option: Ranthambore, in Rajasthan. The park lies on the...
The crop of former merchants’ havelis (mansions) dotted around the dusty desert towns of Shekhawati in northern Rajasthan are unique in India for their superb murals, dating from the time before the arrival of the railways when the region ...
‘The most romantic spot on the continent of India’ was Colonel James Tod’s assessment of Udaipur in the 1820s, and even today, despite the hordes who come here each winter, his assessment still holds true. Set against a hinterland of bare ...
Camel trekking, Thar Desert
A camel trek deep into the Thar Desert is the perfect antidote to the cacophony and chaos of Rajasthani cities. Swaying across those seemingly endless sand flats, interrupted only by the odd mud-built village or tract of yellow dunes, the ...
Pushkar Camel Fair
Puskhar really comes alive during the annual mela, or fair, held over the full-moon of Karthik month (which usually falls in November). Hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims pour in from across the region to take a redemptory dip in the ...
Rajasthan's Folk Music and Dance
Semi-nomadic Langar and Manganiyar musicians were in times past responsible for providing the soundtrack to weddings and other festivities in Rajasthan. Today, the courtyards of luxury hotels in Jaipur and Jaisalmer tend to be where you’re...
Visiting the Dargah
Visiting the DargahLike most religious sites in Asia, the Dargah can be an assault on the senses if you’re a relative newby to Indian travel. But don’t let that put you off. For the few overseas visitors who make it to Ajmer’s hallowed ‘Da...
Best Experiences in India: the Rose Trail
Wander into the fields around Pushkar before dawn and you’ll see dozens of families plucking roses in the shadow of Nag Pahar mountain. The picking has to be done this early to catch the flowers before the buds open in order to preserve th...
Best Experiences, India: Sky Waltz Over Samode
Watching the sunrise over the desert hills of Rajasthan is always something special, but from a couple of thousand feet up, floating in the basket of a hot-air balloon, the spectacle is truly sublime. The sense of space, of being connected...
Best Experiences, Rajasthan: Trekking India's Great Wall
Crowning a pinnacle in the Aravalli Mountains, Kumbalgarh is the loftiest of the region’s many fortress-palaces, and a prominent landmark in the anals of Rajasthan. Its creator, Rana Kumbha, who ruled in the mid-15th century, is something ...
Best Experiences, India: Glamping with Elephants
Time was when an elephant ride to the gates of Amber Fort, outside Jaipur, topped most visitors’ lists of ‘must-dos’ in Rajasthan. Those days, however, are long gone. After years of awareness-raising campaigns, animal welfare activists hav...
Best Experiences, India: Block Printing
The art of printing patterns and motifs on cotton using carved wood blocks is a Rajasthani tradition that is thriving in the modern era, thanks to a rise in the popularity of ‘ethnic’ clothing in India. It originated in Jaipur under royal ...
Best Experiences, India: Exotic Dining
Meal times are a definite highlight of any Indian holiday, and this is particularly true of Rajasthan, where the fragrant, spicy cuisine may be enjoyed against a succession of exotic skylines and landscapes. While palace hotels in cities ...
Best Experiences, India: Horse Riding
Horses have played a major role in the culture of Rajasthan for over a thousand years. In the 11th and 12th centuries, local rulers developed a distinct breed from a mixture of desert ponies and Arabian stallions. Known as the ‘Marwari’, i...
Best Experiences, India: Music, Dance and Puppets
In the most luxury hotels in Rajasthan and the Golden Triangle region, some kind of traditional entertainment is usually laid on for guests in the evenings. This may be a Classical music recital on sitar and tabla, or more exuberant perfor...
Best Experiences, India: Shopping and Souvenirs
With their wealth of dazzling traditional handicrafts, Rajasthan and the Golden Triangle cities are a paradise for shopaholics. Goods from all across India are on sale in the markets and emporia of Delhi, Jaipur, Agra and Udaipur – the fou...
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