Being South Indians, the north of India has always been a fascination for us – the extreme colours and scintillating textiles, innumerous palaces & forts, the free spirited dancing and rich food are too good to resist! So when we had a week off in the midst of our India trip, we planned our hearts out to visit one of the most colourful states of all – Rajasthan – the land of the Kings!
We had only 6 days and couldn’t compromise on visiting any of the four main cities (as usual over ambitious 😉 ). Udaipur for its romantic charm, Jodhpur for the blue city , Jaisalmer for the desert camps and Jaipur for the shopping. These were the tags we had for each of the cities while planning and our experience has now taught us that each of the cities had much much more to offer. So we have named our itinerary a teeny tiny taste of Rajasthan, feel free to add how many ever more days to any of the stops – trust me you will have umpteen number of things to do!
For the whole of this trip, our choices for stay/transport/meals, etc., were budget to mid-range. So other than the to and fro flights, we used public transport (trains/buses) for inter city transport and Uber/Ola/Auto for within city transport. All meals were below 1000 INR for the two of us and accommodation below 2500 INR (except the desert camp).
Lets take you through a brief summary of our experience day by day :
Day 0 : Fly into Udaipur in the night – reach accommodation by 10 PM
Stay at Zostel Udaipur. We loved our stay at this amazing place overlooking Lake Pichola. The highlight is their rooftop restaurant which has decent food and stunning view of the Lake. Rooms were quite clean and very spacious, plus their decor has a very Rajasthani vibe to it. Highly recommend.
Day 1 : Site Seeing in Udaipur
Our favourites from this day were the Udaipur palace, sunset boat ride over Lake Pichola, beautiful gardens of Jag Mandir island and folk and cultural show at the Bagore ki Haveli.
We absolutely loved how the palace was maintained even though the tickets are slightly pricey (Rs.300 per person) and the best part was that we found a really good English speaking guide who elevated our experience to the next level. And don’t miss the cruise over the lake as it definitely lets you see the palace in a different light. The cultural show in the Haveli happens everyday from 7PM to 8 PM and is a perfect introduction to the folk dances from different parts of Rajasthan. We thoroughly enjoyed the show and especially felt honoured and elated to witness the spirit of a 71 year old dancer.
Day 2 : Early morning bus to Jodhpur (Charu travels). Reached Jodhpur by 11 AM. Site Seeing in Jodhpur until 11 PM. Boarded night train to Jaisalmer.
Unfortunately Jodhpur was extremely foggy during the few hours we spent in Mehrengarh fort. The view of the blue city was what we had longed to see but couldn’t. Also, if it is a clear day, it would have been an amazing location for Ziplining/ Flying fox which was available. To make up for all this, our visit to Jaswant Thada turned out to be our most favourite and romantic spot in the trip.
We ended the day with an auto ride through the old city hunting for blue houses. Blame it on our short visit or bad weather, Jodhpur somehow didn’t give us the vibe that we were looking for. But what actually brightened up Shmruthi’s day at least was that we found a Bandhej artisan in the palace grounds, from whom she made her first Bandhej saree purchase 🙂
Day 3 : Reached Jaisalmer early in the morning. Visited Patwan ki Haveli (it needs a separate blog post) and made our way to our desert camp in Sam sand dunes. Camel safari, sunset in the desert, campfire and Rajasthani folk dance occupied the rest of our day and night, and we went to bed after gazing at the million diamonds shining bright in the sky. Truly a magical experience.
Stay at Prince Desert Camp- booked through Agoda at a discount price of around 4.5k INR instead of their usual 7k INR. This price includes Dinner, Breakfast and the other desert activities like camel safari and folk dance. Note that reaching the accommodation is not easy and if you book a pick up and drop off with them it is an additional 1.5k.
Day 4: Left the desert camp to visit a few more places in Jaisalmer, the city which had captured our hearts with its quaint charm, people and golden facades. Loved the Jaisalmer fort and Gandisagar Lake. Especially loved the Audio guide at the fort which gave us an insight into the history of this place and explained how so much art and intricate talent had flourished in the middle of the desert.
The highlight of our Jaisalmer experience was an accommodation we found by chance at the last minute, to spend time before reaching the desert the day before as our train arrived at 5 AM. It costed us just 185 INR and led us to some wonderful people to whom we returned to even on the second day after desert camp.
Left Jaisalmer at 5 PM on a train to Jaipur.
Day 5: Train reached Jaipur at 5 AM. We booked our accommodation at Athithi guest house, a well reputed budget accommodation with really good rooms for as less as 1.2k to 1.6k.
Our first stop Jaipur City palace impressed us with its stunning collection of vintage textiles, but architecture wise it was a let down compared to the rest of the Palaces we had seen so far. The reason could well be that the beautiful interiors can be seen only with a 2000 INR special ticket which we obviously didn’t want to shell out. The Hawa Mahal is a beauty! Go just before sunset and grab a seat in the Wind View cafe to see the sun go down and the colorful windows of Hawa Mahal lit up. Johari Bazaar which is the area surrounding Hawa Mahal is definitely a paradise for shoppers looking for artificial jewellery, lac bangles, mirror work pieces and tie&dye sarees.
Day 6 : We started the day with a visit to Rajasthali in MG Road which is the only official Government Handloom Emporium. It has a huge collection of artefacts and a reasonable amount of textile (especially block print, Chanderi, Maheshwari and Bandhej/Bandhini sarees). The best part about buying here is that you don’t have to haggle and there is nobody pushing you to buy anything.
After lunch at the famous Jal Mahal restaurant , we eagerly made our way to the Jal Mahal palace which is submerged in water only to be put off by the sad state of maintenance. The polluted lake around an architectural lake shows how much we value our country’s heritage 🙁 The final stop of the day was Amber Palace and Jaigarh fort which transported us to a different time! The majestic spirit of this place cannot be captured in words or pictures and definitely requires a visit!
So ended our short but absolutely cherish able trip to Rajasthan. Hope you guys enjoyed reading about it as much as we enjoyed travelling.