Rajasthan is India at its exotic and colorful best.
Rajasthan is India at its exotic and colorful best. This is the home of the Rajputs, a group of warrior clans who ruled this part of India for over a thousand years with a code of chivalry and honor which is akin to that of the medieval European knights.Geographically Rajasthan is somewhat dry and inhospitable destination, but it’s very varied. A line drawn south-west to north-east divides the state into the hilly and rugged south-east region and the barren north-east Thar desert which extends all the way across the border.
The Department of Tourism has innovatively unwrapped this magnificent state of Rajasthan to the discerning international tourists so that visitors can experience the rich heritage, vibrant culture and surreal landscape of Rajasthan in a manner befitting royalty.The varied experiences range from palatial havelis resonant with the past, of forts at the rim of deserts, rugged jungle lodges in the midst of haunting wilderness and luxurious spas in royally opulent hotels. In fact, there is an endless list of avenues to pamper your sense and soul. Rajasthan today has the blueprint of a truly extravagant holiday laid out for you: all that is exclusive, unusual and an atmosphere that is far removed from standardized sameness and hospitality that comes from the heart. This is an incredible journey that passes through the fairytale cities of Jaipur, Udaipur, Bikaner and Jaisalmer, with a peek into surreal Pushkar and round up with a visit to the famed Ranthambore National Park.
Jaipur, the capital city of the state of Rajasthan is popularly referred to as the “Pink City” from the pink colored sandstone with which the edifices in the old, walled part of the city are constructed. This fascinating city is remarkably harmonious and is located in the midst of a desert-like landscape, surrounded by barren hills.
The city owes its foundation to the erstwhile royal warrior-astronomer, His Excellency Maharaja Jai Singh II (1699-1744) who laid out the city with its quintessential walls and six rectangular blocks by adhering to the principles of town planning as laid down in the ancient Indian treatise on architecture – the Shilpa Shastra.
The Old City is situated to the north-east of Jaipur while the new settlements have spread away to the south and west. As dusk descends, this part of Jaipur attains a magical glow, courtesy the pink and orange colored edifices which is befittingly complemented by the brightly clothed Rajasthani folks.
What to See
Hawa Mahal, City Palace, Chandra Mahal, Mubarak Mahal, Dewan-E-Khas, Dewan-E-Aam, Observatory, Museum, Govindji Mandir, Art Gallery, Nahargarh Fort and Jhal Mahal.
Where to Stay
The magnificent Taj Rambagh Palace hotel, which used to be the past residence of Jaipur’s royal family, located ideally to the south of the town is in a class of its own. The ITC Rajputana and the Oberoi Rajvilas are also excellent choices. In fact, Jaipur’s hotel landscape is dotted with big players of the global hospitality industry – The Hilton, Holiday Inn, The Marriot, The Sheraton, Le Meridien and Radisson have all made their presence felt in the capital city of Rajasthan.
What to Buy
Jaipur’s bustling shops and markets are located in the neighborhood of Hawa Mahal, Johari Bazzar (jewellery), Bapuji Market (textiles) and Tripolia Market (wooden carving and brass products).
Jewel in the Thar Desert
This surreal desert town is located to the north of Rajasthan and was founded by His Excellency Rao Bikaji. The quintessential feature of Bikaner is its high, battlemented fortification which is 7 km long with five entrance gates, built way back in the 18th century.
Apart from the impregnable fort, Bikaner has carved a niche for itself as a camel breeding centre and there is a farm in close proximity to the city. There are hundreds of camels here and rides in the desert are available.
One of Bikaner’s prized possessions is the imposing red sandstone Palace – Lallgarh Palace, built by the erstwhile Maharaja Ganga Singhji in the year 1902. This oriental fantasy designed by Sir Swinton Jacob, is one of the most magnificent specimen of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. Today, this exemplary Rajput Palace has been converted into a luxurious heritage hotel, standing tall with its rich heritage and plays host to a number of dignitaries from all over the world.
Another feather in the cap of this desert city of Rajasthan is the Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum, said to be one of the best museums of Rajasthan and is replete with artifacts dating back to the pre-Harrapan, Gupta and Kushan period.
What to See
Junagarh Fort, Sri Sadul Museum, Royal Cenotaph at Devi Kund Sagar, Prachina Culture Centre & Museum, Deshnoke Temple, Camel Breeding Farm and Laxmi Nathji Temple.
Where to Stay
The regal Laxmi Niwas Palace hotel and the WelcomHeritage’s Lallgarh Palace are two exquisite royal properties. They offer a unique blend of medieval charm with contemporary amenities.
What to Buy
The best place for shopping is in the neighborhood of K.E.M. Road located near the fort. Camel hide articles such as shoes, purses and cushions are top draws. The pride of Bikaner is of course its unique range of sweets. The Haldiram outlets are simply fabulous and do brisk business.
The lake city of Udaipur is a cool oasis in the dry landscape of Rajasthan and probably the most romantic in a state where every city has some romantic or exotic tale to boast off. Udaipur dates back to 1567 and was founded by His Excellency Maharana Udai Singh and is enclosed by the remains of a city wall that sprawls away on the east side of Lake Pichola. Being the capital of the erstwhile Mewar dynasty (568 AD), this romantic city abounds with tales of heroism and valor of the Rajput warriors.
The city is replete with magnificent structures and The Lake Palace in particular, which has now been converted into a luxury hotel, is simply awe inspiring in all its regal grandeur. This one-of-a-kind palace floats over the lake and is a conglomeration of buildings added by various royal figures (Maharajas) but manages to retain a surprising uniformity in design.
Apart from royal palaces, there is a peculiar museum, the Bharatiya Lok Kala Museum, which epitomizes the preservation of folk arts and has an interesting collection of dresses, dolls, masks, musical instruments, rare paintings and the high point of the museum – puppets.
What to See
City Palace and museum, Fateh Sagar Lake, Jagdish Temple, Pratap Samak, Puppet Museum, Saheliyon Ki Bari and Ahar Museum.
Where to Stay
It isn’t surprising to find some of India’s most magnificent palace hotels in this charming city. The city’s top hotel is also one of the most delightful hotels in India – the opulent Taj Lake Palace hotel located bang in the middle of Lake Pichola. Other luxurious and royally appointed hotels are the Shiv Niwas Palace, Oberoi Udaivilas, Leela Palace, Lalit Laxmi Vilas Palace and Ramada Udaipur to name just a few.
What to Buy
Udaipur has a bustling market zone consisting of the commercial neighborhoods like Chetak Circle, Bapu Bazar, Palace Road and Shastri Circle. Udaipur is renowned for its exquisite silk block prints, Bandhini sarees, wooden crafts and embroidered items.
Jaisalmer is one of India’s most exotic and isolated city. This medieval looking place is something right out of the tales of the “Arabian Nights”.
Centuries ago its strategic position on the camel train routes between India and Central Asia brought great wealth to Jaisalmer. The merchants and townspeople built magnificent mansions (Havelis), carved out of the rarest variety of golden-yellow sandstone. Even today, new edifices must be so designed so as to blend harmoniously with the old.
The Patwon Ki Haveli is the most elaborate and magnificent of all the havelis of Jaisalmer. It stands on a narrow lane and one of its apartments is painted with beautiful murals. There is also the Salim Singh Ki Haveli, which is more than 300 years old.
The Old City is enclosed by an impregnable fort and from within this a hill rises with more fortified walls. The ancient Jain temple and an old palace are located on this hilltop.
There are some fascinating locales around Jaisalmer which is best explored by a Camel Safari – a stupendous experience to be had. The usual tours take four days and three nights in a circuit around Jaisalmer via Mool Sagar, the Sam sand dunes and back via Lodruva passing through fascinating Rajput, tribal and abandoned villages. The more adventurous at heart may opt for the longer safari duration that stretches from seven to eleven days, taking the discerning travelers through some of the most amazing desert landscape.
What to See
Havelis, Gadi Sagar Tank, the Fort, Jain Temples. The annual Jaisalmer Desert Festival held during the 1st to 3rd of February 2015 is a riot of colors. Camel races, exotic dance recitals, folk music, desert ballads and puppet shows are all part of the festivity.
Where to Stay
Hotel Suryagarh on Sam Road and hotel Sonargarh Fort are two outstanding heritage hotels in Jaisalmer. There is also the WelcomHeritage’s Mandir Palace, which is an exquisitely carved architectural marvel and its intricate stone carvings are unmatched.
What to Buy
The Central Market located just below the Trikut hill and another bustling market near the gate of Amar Sagar are great places to go shopping while in Jaisalmer. Stone artifacts, embroidery items and woolen blankets are very popular and much admired by the discerning travelers.
Traveler’s Fact File
The convenient way to reach Rajasthan is by air to New Delhi, India’s capital city, which is linked worldwide by a wide network of international airlines. From New Delhi one has the option of either flying by any of India’s domestic airline or by road to Jaipur, the capital city of the state of Rajasthan. There are also regular train services from New Delhi to various cities of Rajasthan. Ideally, Jaipur should be your gateway city to explore the state of Rajasthan.
By air, there are convenient flights on the New Delhi – Jaipur sector.
By road, the distance from New Delhi to Jaipur is 260 kms that can be covered in five to six hours.
By train, two of the world’s most outstanding luxury rail journey originates from New Delhi – The Palace on Wheels and The Royal Rajasthan on Wheels.
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