Rajasthan Tours and Info on visiting Rajhasthan

Updated: 10th April 2017

Rajasthan Overview

India's largest state is also its most enigmatic, steeped in history from the Rajput dynasties of the 7th century to the golden age of the Mughal Empire and colonial British rule. Known as the 'Land of Kings', the great maharajas that have ruled over Rajasthan have left an undeniably enchanting legacy from the magnificent forts that dominate skylines to the lavish palaces that float on lakes. Very few regions in India offer such a wealth of architectural wonders yet there's plenty more to Rajasthan from the mystical sand dunes of the Thar Desert to the dense forests strewn with abandoned ruins where tigers roam in the wild. Throughout the centuries the people of Rajasthan have developed a unique culture with highly cultivated classical music and dance, and the impressive calendar of festivals that take place each year means there's always a reason to visit. Whether you're a first time visitor to India or a returning traveller, Rajasthan really has something for everyone.

Balloon-Over-Jaipur-Bolt-Ons-India
Bird's eye view from a hot air balloon floating over Jaipur

Best time to visit Rajasthan

Broadly speaking, Rajasthan experiences a tropical desert climate with four distinct seasons - summer, monsoon, post-monsoon and winter. The summer months between April and June is characterised by scorching temperatures and minimal rainfall. At this time of year the desert towns can be unpleasant to visit with the intense heat, which makes it a good time to visit Mount Abu for a little respite in cooler climes.

The monsoon rains usually start in July and continue through until September and brings heavy rains to the eastern part of Rajasthan, bringing out the landscapes in lush shades of green. Although the rains can make sightseeing a little more difficult, the scenery is at its best during this time. It's also a good time to visit Udaipur with Lake Pichola reaching peak water levels and the aptly named Monsoon Palace providing an ideal vantage point to watch the daily showers.

The monsoon generally ends by mid-September and marks the transition from wet to dry climate conditions. Cool winds from the Himalayas clear the skies and vegetation begins to dry out though temperatures do tend to be high.

The winter months of November to March are considered to be the best time to visit Rajasthan with pleasantly cooler temperatures and dry conditions. In the depths of winter temperatures in the desert regions can reach below freezing and nighttime temperatures drop considerably so warm clothing is needed. During these months a number of colourful festivals take place throughout Rajasthan which just adds to the appeal of visiting in winter.

Rajasthan India (2)
Map of Rajasthan showing our selection of top destinations

Getting around Rajasthan

The main cities of Rajasthan are well connected by train and plane with good highways perfect for car journeys. Here's the lowdown on how to get around Rajasthan.

Car

If you're visiting a number of Rajasthan's popular attractions, private car hire is the way to go with the chance to sit back and relax as you pass through semi-desert regions, small towns and rural villages on the way to the next city. It's possible to get from Delhi to Jaisalmer in a week by car with plenty of stops en route. We include the services of a driver and air-conditioned car on our tailor-made tours to India and A/C minivans on our group tours.

Train

No trip to India would be complete with sampling a train journey. The extensive train network links the majority of Rajasthan's larger cities with longer journeys such as Udaipur or Jaisalmer to Jaipur or Delhi served by overnight sleeper trains. The long-distance express or mail trains offer nine different classes ranging from cheap as chips unreserved seating to first class air-conditioned carriages with two-tier bunks and shared bathrooms.

A number of luxury tourist trains operate various itineraries across Rajasthan. Inspired by the Orient Express these trains offer spacious cabins with plush furnishings and wooden furniture with a grand restaurant car and bar serving a variety of international beverages. The all-inclusive tours include meals and touring of Rajasthan's top places with the Palace on Wheels one of the most popular options. The 8 day round-trip from Delhi covers Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur and Agra. The even more opulent Royal Rajasthan on Wheels offers a similar itinerary.

Plane

Direct flights with domestic carriers Kingfisher, Jet and Indian Airlines connect Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur though with check in times and luggage collection at the other end, flying is not always the quickest mode of transport. We recommend domestic flights for longer distances such as Udaipur to Delhi, which would otherwise require a very long day of driving. Air fares are usually very reasonable in India, especially when booked in advance.

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Camel herder and his camel in Rajasthan

Festivals in Rajasthan

From camel fairs to dance performances, numerous festivals are held in cities and towns across Rajasthan and are a fantastic time to visit for an insight into Rajasthani culture and traditions. Here's a selection of our favourite:

Jaipur Literature Festival - This free festival is the largest of its kind with a 5-day programme that features talks given by international and Indian authors as well as live debates and film presentations. The Jaipur Literature Festival is usually held in late January.
Bikaner Camel Festival - This popular festival celebrates the camel with races and pageants held over the course of two days. There's also traditional dance performances and displays of Bikaner's famous fire dances. It's usually held in January each year.
Jaisalmer Desert Festival - Held in February each year, the colourful Jaisalmer Desert Festival takes place across three days with tribal dances, a turban-tying contest and a 'Mr Desert' contest for moustache-twirling gentlemen.
Gangaur Festival - Celebrated across Rajasthan, this is one of the state's most important festivals honouring the goddess Parvati. Women dress in their finest attire and join processions following the veiled images of Gangaur and Isar. The festival is held in April and also marks the beginning of spring.
Mount Abu Summer Festival - If you do find yourself in Rajasthan in May head to the hills for this festival dedicated to local music with classical and folks recitals.
Dussehra Mela - A 2-day public holiday with an 8-day build up of spectacular firework displays and burning effigies paraded through the streets. The event celebrates the victory of Rama over the demon king Ravana and is a particularly good time to visit the towns of Kota and Alwar in Rajasthan.
Pushkar Camel Fair - This is one of Rajasthan's most famous festivals with thousands of camel herders and their stock of camels and horses descending on Pushkar to trade cattle. Attendees of the Pushkar Camel Fair wear their finest gear and even the camels are usually dressed up!

Highlights of Rajasthan

Palace of the Winds
The beautiful facade of the Hawa Mahal in Jaipur
The Pink City

Jaipur

As the capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur is the largest and busiest city in the state with a dazzling display of Rajasthani architectural brilliance. Easily reached by road from Delhi and Agra, Jaipur forms the third point in India's Golden Triangle and its location often means visitors use the city as the gateway into western Rajasthan. At the heart of the city lies the old walled quarter commonly referred to as the Pink City where the majority of Jaipur's attractions are located including the magnificent City Palace, the intriguing ancient observatory of Jantar Mantar and the striking facade of Hawa Mahal. For many travellers a visit to Jaipur would not be complete without an excursion to the lofty Amber Fort, which sits on a rocky ridge overlooking a body of water and can be reached by elephant.

Udaipur - View of Lake Pichola and City Palace
Views across Lake Pichola to the City Palace in Udaipur
India's most romantic city

Udaipur

Backed by the wooded Aravalli Hills and surrounding the placid waters of Lake Pichola, Udaipur is one of India's most charming cities with whimsical palaces, ornate havelis and colourful bathing ghats. One of the city's most iconic images is that of the floating Lake Palace, now a lavish hotel, a white marble structure with open-air courtyards and attractive ponds that was famously used in the James Bond film Octopussy. On the northwest side of the lake stands the yellow sandstone City Palace, the largest palace in Rajasthan with ornate turrets and cupolas. Construction began in the 16th century and today the complex comprises eleven different palaces and a network of courtyards. Other popular sites in Udaipur include the exquisitely carved Jagdish Hindu temple, the pleasant gardens at Moti Magri which offer superb views over Fateh Sagar lake, and the Monsoon Palace (Sajjangarh) which sits on a hill west of the city.

Meharanga Fort over Jodphur
The Meherangarh Fort looks out over the blue-washed houses of Jodhpur
The Blue City

Jodhpur

Sitting on the eastern edge of the Thar Desert, the city of Jodhpur is famous for the incredible Meherangarh Fort that looms large on the horizon, its sheer size likely to make it one of the most impressive citadels you'll see in all of Rajasthan. Rising from a rocky outcrop, the Fort affords amazing views across the indigo-washed houses of Jodhpur, which have earned the city the moniker of 'The Blue City'. The tall clock tower stands at the centre of the old city and from here bustling markets spread out in every direction selling top quality antique reproductions and colourful textiles alongside aromatic spices and delectable Indian sweets. The immense Umaid Bhawan Palace sits on the southeast edge of the city with a lofty domed central hall and extensive wings that have been transformed into a luxury hotel.

Ranthambore National Park - Tiger in a waterhole
A Bengal Tiger relaxing in a waterhole in Ranthambore National Park
Tiger safari

Ranthambore National Park

With easy access from Delhi and India's Golden Triangle, Ranthambore National Park is one of India's most popular wildlife reserves and offers a reliable chance of spotting the Bengal tiger. Covering an area of 392 square km, it's also one of India's largest parks with wild jungle scrub, numerous rivers and lakes, rocky ridges and ruined structures including pavilions and the 10th century Ranthambore Fort. The welfare of the tigers in Ranthambore is overseen by Project Tiger, a pioneering initiative set up to conserve the endangered animal's natural habitat. Tigers in Ranthambore are so used to the jeeps that drive around the designated buffer zones of the park that they will happily meander along well-worn driving tracks, seemingly oblivious to the camera clicks and general excitement of those on safari.

Jaisalmer - Sunset view of Fort and city
Sunset view of the sandstone fort in Jaisalmer
Quintessential Desert Town

Jaisalmer

Located in the far west of the Thar Desert, the city of Jaisalmer is one of Rajasthan's most remote destinations yet few other places offer such an exotic desert experience. The city's crowning glory is the soft yellow sandstone Jaisalmer Fort, its ninety nine wonderfully preserved bastions rising from the flat-topped ridge on which the fort resides. Within the medieval wall lives a sizeable portion of Jaisalmer's old city population, which also enclose a network of narrow winding streets lined with houses and handicraft stores, Hindu and Jain temples dating back to the 12th-15th centuries, and the five-storey Palace of the Maharawal. Jaisalmer is also home to a staggering number of beautiful havelis with pale honey-coloured facades decorated with detailed latticework. It's also the ideal place to join a camel safari for a magical ride out into the desert for a night spent camping under the starry skies.

Pushkar - Morning view of the town and the lake
The lake and town of Pushkar shrouded in morning mist
Hindu pilgrimage town

Pushkar

The compact town of Puskhar developed around the shores of Pushkar Lake, one of India's most holy bodies of water. According to legend, a lotus flower was dropped to earth by the creator, Lord Brahma, and where the petals landed is where small lakes magically appeared and so the town of Puskhar came into being. Whitewashed temples are dotted around town including the Brahma Temple, one of the world's few temples dedicated to Lord Brahma, and it's estimated that there's over 500 temples in and around Pushkar. Leading to the waters of Pushkar Lake are 52 ghats where pilgrims bathe in the sacred waters and scatter rose petals during prayer. The town comes alive for a week in November for the annual camel fair, a riotous display of camel herds and their herders who journey from all over Rajasthan to participate in races and parades.

Shekhawati region - Brightly painted fresoes of the havelis
The brightly painted frescoes of a traditional haveli in the Shekhawati Region
Stunning havelis

Shekhawati Region

The semiarid area north of Jaipur is known as the Shekhawati Region and, despite its proximity to the state capital, remains fairly untouched by tourism with small rural villages, lively market towns, sturdy forts and clusters of richly decorated havelis waiting to be explored. The region's wealth grew from its location on the trade route leading to the Arabian Sea with resident merchants spending their wealth on ever more grand and ostentatious havelis that even today stand in remarkable condition with colourful frescoes and intricate murals. Many visitors to the region use the town of Mandawa as their base, home to an imposing fort and the unusual Binsidhar Newatia Haveli which features images of the Wright brothers in flight painted on its walls. The small town of Nawalgarh is another great option with its own collection of superb havelis and a thriving bazaar.

Bikaner - The Maharajah Palace within Junagarh Fort
The facade of the Maharajah Palace in Bikaner's Junagarh Fort
Forts, havelis and rat temples

Bikaner

The vibrant desert town of Bikaner may not receive anywhere near as many visitors as its more popular counterparts yet it has ample attractions, chief among them is the regal-looking Junagarh Fort. Dating back to the 16th century the fort features richly decorated palatial suites, temples and attractive courtyards set within high walls and encircled by a moat. The red sandstone Lallgarh Palace is worth a visit with an interesting museum displaying photographs of the city's past with a second museum housing a collection of terracotta sculptures. Within the maze-like streets of Bikaner's old city are a unique collection of havelis with architectural details that take inspiration from traditional arts as well as Art Nouveau and British design. Out of town is the Karni Mata Temple, also simply known as the 'rat temple' for the furry rodents that the temple is dedicated to and which scurry along the marble floor looking for plates filled with milk as an offering.

Mount Abu - views of surrounding mountain ranges
Panoramic views of the mountains surrounding Mount Abu
Rajasthani hill station

Mount Abu

Popular with honeymooners and weekend holidaymakers looking for a cool retreat from the heat of the desert plains, Mount Abu is Rajasthan's only hill station. Standing at an altitude of 1220 metres above sea level within the Aravalli mountain range, the town is centred around picturesque Nakki Lake with pedaloes available to leisurely ride the waters and ice-cream parlours creating a fun holiday vibe quite unlike anywhere else in Rajasthan. Walking around the shores of the lake is another popular pastime with a number of strange rock formations and a 14th century temple. There's also several viewpoints especially popular at sunset for romantic views across the lake. Mount Abu is also home to some of the finest Jain temples in India, namely the beautifully adorned Dilwara temples. Made from marble, these five temples feature exquisite carvings that date back to between the 11th and 13th centuries.

Rural Rajasthan - women carrying water jugs
Sari-clad women carrying water jugs in rural Rajasthan
Off the beaten track

Rural Rajasthan

Rajasthan has plenty of iconic cities but outside of these are a host of rural towns and villages off the beaten track that offer a glimpse into a traditional way of life in India. The village of Bishnoi, not far from Jodhpur, is one of the best places to take a 'village safari' visiting local families, sampling traditional food and watching local crafts being made in community workshops. In the small village of Rohet you can stay in the charming, family-run Rohet Garh, a fort that has been transformed into a heritage hotel, while in Samode you can explore the wonderfully restored 18th century palace. The village of Narlai is another great place to visit, surrounded by countryside with several caves and temples dotted on the granite rocks around the village.

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