here you find my Travel Report for my last trips to Rajasthan (4 weeks in March 2015 and twice 12 days over Easter 2012 & 2013).
I have also added a detailed budget part (http://grandescapades.net/grand-escapades-budget-guide-to-rajasthan/) and a short selection of pictures (my 70 best pictures - http://grandescapades.net/rajasthan-a-selection-of-70-pictures/)
I hope it helps - Do not hesitate if you have specific questions.
You can also find more information on my Blog: http://grandescapades.net/travel-guide-to-rajasthan/
Itinerary And Time Of The Visit
In April 2012 I had my first brush with India, to be precise Eastern Rajasthan: for 11 days I gazed at the most incredible Moghul architecture in Agra and Jaipur. I also threw in a bit of wildlife by visiting Ranthambhore National Park. When I returned in March 2013, I headed for the Southwest of Rajasthan for 12 days, to marvel at these impressive forts & palaces in Udaipur, Kumbhalgarh, Bundi, Chittorgarh and last but not least Pushkar & Ajmer. Delhi was my hub during both trips.
In March 2015, I went back to Rajasthan for one full month, and made an extensive loop through this area of India: Delhi, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri & Abhaneri, Jaipur, Pushkar & Ajmer, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Kumbalgarh & Ranakpur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner & Nawalgarh. I ended the trip in Amritsar (Punjab) to marvel at the Golden Temple.
Why Travel To Rajasthan?
Rajasthan is definitely an ideal place to get a first glimpse of India:
• Rajasthan is incredibly easy to travel: the level of comfort covers everything from the cheapest backpacker hostel to 5 star palaces, from luxurious tours to riding in 3rd class trains. I preferred staying in Havelis, the splendid homes of former noblemen. These have lots of cozy places to relax. Above all, they are the perfect retreat from the noise and hassle of the streets.
• Public transport and infrastructure are generally very good: modern buses crisscross all cities and Delhi’s metro is ultra modern. A longer journey is best done by train, which are not only an extremely efficient and pleasant but also a cheap way to travel long distances. Chartering a car (long distance taxi) is a good way to do day trips to places a bit off the main drag. These can be organized within minutes through the hotel and are very cheap compared to Europe.
• Last but not least, you find in Rajasthan some of the finest Mughal Architecture, and except if you have at least one full month at hand, your main concern will be to choose between places as you will not be able to cover even the main highlights!
Challenges Organizing The Trip - What Would I Have Wished To Know?
• Plan enough time in each city you visit, as the highlights are not only the famous Forts & Palaces & Mausoleums & Tombs & Whatever, but also the street life, the markets, numerous more remote and less visited places… Besides, street life can be vibrant & hectic and hence tiring, so keep in mind that you will want to retreat to some quite places after a few hours… Moreover, no matter when you visit Rajasthan, it will be warm or even hot during the day, so plan to start early and to rest between 11:00 and 15:00 o’clock.
• Booking ahead is advisable if you want to stay in some of the nicer Havelis (houses of former noblemen turned into guesthouses), which are extremely popular and fully booked sometimes weeks in advance.
• Booking ahead is also necessary if you want to travel in the upper classes of trains: the First AC is generally sold out weeks (sometimes months) in advance, and even the Second AC (especially 2 Tiers, but also 3 Tiers) should be booked ahead. This can be easily done online, though registering into the system can be downright frustrating… Check my post on Indian Trains.
• If you intend to visiting National Parks like Ranthambhore to spot Tigers in the wild, book the transport inside the National Park as far in advance as possible so that you secure a seat in a Jeep and not in one of those huge trucks. Keep in mind that all this is state owned, bureaucracy managed… Booking starts 3 months ahead and within days, all Jeeps are sold out. My experience of Ranthambhore was really disappointing, though!
• Chartering a car between cities is a very efficient way to travel between cities, especially if there are interesting places to visit on the way, like Fatehpur Sikri & Abhenari between Agra & Jaipur or Kumbalgarh & Ranakpur between Udaipur & Jodhpur. Avoid approaching larger cities like Delhi by car, as traffic can be maddening in India!
• Last but not least, only few ATMs give larger amounts of cash, so if you have a fix commission for each withdrawal, which most credit & debit card do, consider withdrawing larger amounts in big cities. Chase enables you for instance to withdraw 20.000 Ruppies (approx. 275 €) at a time, whereas most ATMs in smaller cities only allow 10.000.
Highlights Of The Trip
• Agra - Yes, the Taj Mahal is simply magical! And no, it is actually not in Rajasthan, but no visit there would be complete without the most perfect Mughal Architecture. But there are many other highlights in Agra…
• Jodhpur, The Blue City - Long strolls through the maze of the Old City, Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Tada… Jodhpur is one of the most fascinating cities of Rajasthan, and one where you will more easily escape the crowd.
• Jaipur, The Pink City - At first sight a chaotic, congested, hot city, but Jaipur abounds with highlights and is definitely worth spending several days to somewhat scratch below the surface. The good news, if you have enough time to explore more of the city than just the Amber Fort, the City Palace and Palace of the Winds (visited by groups in this very order), you will meet very few tourists…
• Udaipur, The City On Lake Pichola - With its stunning lake view, its magnificent temples, its Havelis and palaces turned into museums or hotels and Rajasthan’s largest palace, it made Udaipur to one of my favorite places in Rajasthan…
• Jaisalmer & Bikaner, The Fortresses Of The Thar Desert
• India’s Great Wall in Kumbhalgarh… - Just me and a few monkeys! Nearby Jain Temple in Ranakpur is also one of the finest Temples I ever visited in my life!
• The Gigantic Fort Of Chittorgarh - Thirty overwhelming kilometers of wall encircle the fort that spreads over an area of nearly 700 hectares. Only once up do you understand that this is actually a tabletop mountain…
• Relaxed Bundi - A town with narrow lanes of Brahmin-blue houses dominated by a fascinating Palace.
• The Golden Temple In Amritsar - No, the Golden Temple in Amritsar is not in Rajasthan but in Punjab. But yes, it was an incredible “final touch” to this trip through Rajasthan…
• Cheerful Holi Festival - Best enjoyed in smaller cities and early in the day
• Indian People - Friendly and curious of foreign tourists, this is how I perceived my host country. Those who speak English will use the opportunity to talk to tourists on trains, at tourist sights and whenever there is a chance. So often I was asked to pose for photos with the whole family and, most important, “questioned” how I liked their country.
• Riding those long Indian Trains
How To Go Off The Beaten Track?
For more information, check my Blog: www.GrandEscapades.net
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Travel Report for Rajasthan (including Agra & Amritsar)