Bharatpur

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  • 1. Deeg

    Built in the 1730s, Deeg, which featured in Siddhartha (the 1972 film of Herman Hesse's novel) was the first capital of the Jat state and is known for its graceful palaces and gardens, complete with swings and ancient fountains. Indian families find this a charming location for a picnic. Check with your hotel about the condition of the fountains—mostly they are not working, and the lake is dirty. The Jal Mahal (water palace) has fountains that are run to musical accompaniment during certain days in August when the local fair is held. The 18th-century red-stone palace here was once used as a royal summer retreat and is rather arresting; it is surrounded by water.

    Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India
    946-073–9803

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Rs. 200, Sat.–Thurs. 9–5
  • 2. Keoladeo National Park

    Founded by the Jat ruler Suraj Mal in 1733, the city of Bharatpur is famous for the Keoladeo National Park (also known as the Ghana Bird Sanctuary), once the duck-hunting forest of the local maharajas. This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to many mammals and reptiles—blue bulls (antelope), spotted deer, otters, and Indian rock pythons—but birds, especially waterbirds, are the main attraction. It's an ornithologist's dream—29 square km (10 square miles) of forests and wetlands with 400 species, more than 130 of which are resident year-round, such as the Saras crane, gray heron, snake bird (Indian darter), and spoonbill. In winter, birds arrive from the Himalayas, Siberia, and even Europe. The best way to see the park is on foot or by boat (Rs. 200 per person, per hour, depending on boat type, though these are usually unavailable due to lack of rains even in the monsoon; check at entrance), but there are plenty of other options. The park's main artery is a blacktop road that runs from the entrance gate to the center. Surrounded by marshlands but screened by bushes, this road is the most convenient viewpoint for bird-watching and is also traveled by cycle-rickshaws (the best option; Rs. 100 per hour, Rs. 1,200 for the day, but drivers usually expect more, plus a tip of at least Rs. 50), bicycle (Rs. 60 per trip), and the park's electric bus (Rs. 200 per person). The rickshaw drivers, trained by the forest department, are pretty good at finding and pointing out birds. You can also rent a bicycle and head into more remote areas; just remember that most roads are unpaved. The excellent guides at the gate (Rs. 200 per hour; Rs. 250 for groups of five or more) are familiar with the birds' haunts and can help you spot and identify them. Try to bring a bird guidebook: former royal-family member Salim Ali's The Birds of India is a good choice. The best time to see the birds is early morning or late evening, November through February; by the end of February, many birds start heading home. Stick around at sunset, when the water takes on a mirrorlike stillness and the air is filled with the calls of day birds settling down and night birds stirring. A simple government-run restaurant at the Ashok RTDC offers decent Indian food, sandwiches, and drinks, but service is slow.

    Bharatpur, Rajasthan, 321001, India
    5644-222–777

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From Rs. 400, Daily 6 am–6:30 pm (entry before 5:30 pm)
  • 3. Lohagarh Fort

    In Bharatpur's Old City, this solid-looking fort, surrounded by a deep and wide moat, is also known figuratively as the Iron Fort, though it's built of mud. It has a colossal metal door that just might give you entryway envy. The structure might seem fragile, but it was tested and found invincible by a British siege in 1805. Armed with 65 pieces of field artillery, 1,800 European soldiers, and 6,000 Indian, sepoys did manage to win the battle, but they failed to break down the impregnable fort. There are palaces inside the fort and a museum that showcases wall paintings and pieces of sculpture and toys excavated nearby and dating from the 2nd century. The roads and trails leading to the fort are slippery during monsoon season.

    Bharatpur, Rajasthan, 32100, India
    05644-228--185

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Fort, free; museum, Rs. 50, Daily 10–5
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