22 Best Sights in Jaipur and Environs, Rajasthan

Amber (Amer) Fort and Palace

Amber Fodor's choice

Surrounded by ramparts, this hulking but grandiose fortress is perched on a hill near the Maota Lake and grows more alluring as you approach it. There's a Persian inscription at Amer, added when it was completed, that reads: "Just as the heavens should always be laden with rain, so also this stately building, the foundation of the Maharaja's longevity and wealth, be preserved from any kind of damage."

And it has been preserved remarkably well. Raja Man Singh began building it in 1592; Mirza Raja Jai Singh and Sawai Jai Singh continued the construction over a period of 125 years. For centuries the fortress was the capital of the Kachhawah Rajputs, but when the capital shifted to Jaipur in the early 18th century, the site was abandoned. Although the fort is in ruins, the interior palaces, gardens, and temples retain much of their pristine beauty. Both the art and the architecture combine Rajput and Mughal influences in felicitous ways; the old rainwater harvesting and lifting systems have been renovated and are particularly worth a look. You approach the palace complex by walking up a sloping incline to the Singh Pole gate and Jaleb Chowk, the preliminary courtyard—or you can drive up from the rear end into Jaleb Chowk. Elephant rides are also offered up to the fort in the early morning; however, due to claims that the elephants are abused and that riding them causes lasting damage to their bodies, we do not recommend this option. The fort-palace attracts legions of tourists, especially during high season when Indians are also traveling (summer, Diwali, Independence Day, and the Christmas holidays) and sometimes the traffic volume is so high the traffic police close the roads to prevent further arrivals. You are best off exiting your hotel for Amer by 8:15 and reaching the fort entrance by 8:45 to beat the heat. You will then need to set aside just an hour to tour the fort.

To get the most from your visit, pick up an audio guide at the ticket window.

Two flights of stairs lead up from Jaleb Chowk; to start, skip the one leading to the Shiladevi Temple and take the one leading directly to the palace. In the next courtyard, the pillared Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience) contains alabaster panels with fine inlay work—the kind of craftsmanship for which Jaipur is famous. Typical of the Mughal period, the rooms are small and intimate, whereas the palace's successive courtyards and narrow passages are characteristically Rajput. In one corner is an interesting hammam (Turkish bath) area.

One of the elaborately carved and painted gates is known as Ganesh Pol, after the elephant god Ganesh. From a latticed corridor above it, the queen—always in purdah, or hiding—would await the king's return from battle and sprinkle scented water and flowers down upon him. Each room shows some vestige of its former glory, especially the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors), with glittering mirror work on the ceiling. Narrow flights of stairs lead up to the lavish royal apartments, and beyond the corridors and galleries there you'll find the small, elegant Char Bagh garden. Take in the views of the valley, the palace courtyards, the formal gardens abutting the octagonal pool next to the lake, and the vast Jaigarh Fort, the ancient fortress on the crest of the hill above you. Also on the upper floor is Jas Mandir, a hall with filigreed marble jalis (screens) and delicate mirror and stuccowork.

On your way out, peek into the 16th-century Shiladevi Temple to the goddess Kali, with its silver doors and marble carvings. Raja Man Singh installed the image of the goddess after bringing it here from lower Bengal (now Bangladesh). Exit the palace by the gate near the temple, and just a few minutes down the road is the 16th-century Jagat Shiromani temple. Dedicated to Krishna, this exquisitely carved marble-and-sandstone temple was built by Raja Man Singh I in memory of his son. Amer village has several other old temples and buildings. Before you exit, within the fort there are a few legitimate government-run handicraft stores worth visiting---Rajasthali, Magical Creations, and Tribes. Avoid the handicraft shops in Amer village, even if your guide or driver recommends them. For a cool drink, stop at Coffee Cafe Day, also before the exit.

Camel Fair

Fodor's choice

If you really want an experience, go to Pushkar during its renowned annual Camel Fair, the largest in the world. Every October or November—depending on the lunar calendar—during the full moon (Kartik Purnima), people flock here by the tens of thousands (if you don't love crowds, be prepared to feel overwhelmed) to see the finest camels parade around the fairground, edging the sand dunes, in colorful costumes. People come to buy, sell, and trade camels, and to race one camel against another, and it is a treat to see Rajasthanis, who already dress in bright colors, kitted out in their best. A good male camel goes for at least US$500, although some of the popular Marwari animals go for much more. Other types of livestock are also sold. In addition to the camel activities, there are cultural programs, cricket matches, competitions during the day, and all kinds of spontaneous music, dance, and folk performances in the evenings.

In recent years the festival has extended beyond the five days of camel trading (get here early to see the real traders in action), and the rest of the week-plus time has been packed with Indian and foreign tourists doing everything from snacking on cotton candy and playing fair games to taking camel rides out in the desert. Reserve a room far in advance---several months is best---and be prepared for street vendors and hawkers selling anklets, trinkets, and more to crowd you in hopes of making a sale. Several tented camps with modern conveniences also mushroom during the fair.

The website only goes live before the event.

City Palace

Pink City Fodor's choice

The opulent complex of pavilions, courtyards, and chambers is one the gems of Jaipur. Begun by Jai Singh II in 1727, wings were added by later maharajas. Start the tour with a visit to Mubarak Mahal (Guest Pavilion), built by Maharaja Madho Singh in the late 19th century. Now a museum, it's an ideal place to admire some of the royals' finest brocades, silks, and hand-blocked garments and robes, some dating back to the 17th century. The armory in the northwest corner of the courtyard has one of India's best collections of arms and weapons. The paints used on the beautiful, 18th-century ceiling are believed to have been made from crushed semiprecious stones. The Bhaggi Khana (carriage museum) offers a peek into the royal family's horse-drawn vehicles and palanquins. In the inner courtyard, through the gateway guarded by two stone elephants, is the art gallery, housed in the cavernous Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience). Built in the late 18th century, the building has a magnificent, vintage-1930s painted ceiling, rows of gray marble columns inside the courtyard, the second-largest chandelier in India, and two silver pots so large that they are mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records. The art includes scores of miniatures from the Mughal and various Rajput schools, rare manuscripts, and 17th-century carpets from the Amber Palace. From the courtyard, enter a small hall on the left that leads to the Pitam Niwas Chowk (the square). Here's where to get up close to the four small gates (doorways), intricately painted to represent the four seasons and Hindu gods. They include the Peacock Gate, Green Gate, Rose Gate and Lotus Gate---they're smaller in person than they appear in photos but still striking. In busy months there's a line of people posing in front of each one. Look up to see the seven-story Chandra Mahal (Moon Palace). Built by Jai Singh II, it was the official residence of the last maharaja, "Bubbles" (a nickname bestowed on him by his British nanny because of the amount of Champagne that was consumed when he was born in 1931)—Lieutenant Colonel Sawai Bhawani Singh—who passed away in 2011; his family still lives on the upper floors. The ground floor, open to visitors, has sumptuous chandeliers and murals. A "Royal Grandeur" tour is available for Rs. 2,500, taking you close, but not quite into, the royal family's quarters and their guest rooms, including the grand Sukh Niwas (Hall of Rest), complete with stunning geometric archways painted in deep Wedgwood blue. Plan on two hours to tour the palace. The recently renovated Baradari Restaurant within the complex is a sleek, upscale eatery offering contemporary and traditional Rajasthani food, as well as alcoholic beverages. You don't need to pay admission to City Palace to enter the restaurant; it's become a trending spot with locals and visitors.

Watch out for cons claiming that you need a guide to tour the palace—you don't. There are official guides available for Rs. 300 and audio guides for Rs. 200 in eight languages at the ticket window.

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Jaipur, Rajasthan, 302001, India
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Rate Includes: Palace, from Rs. 500. Royal Grandeur tour, Rs. 2500, Daily 9:30–5 (last tickets sold before 5)

Recommended Fodor's Video

Ranthambhore National Park

Fodor's choice

If you want to see a tiger in the wild, Ranthambhore, in the Sawai Madhopur district and once the royal game reserve of the Maharaja of Jaipur, is the best park in Rajasthan to visit. The park (392 square km [151 square miles]) is part of the larger Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve which encompasses 1,334 square km (515 square miles) of rugged terrain bordered by the Chambal and Banas rivers and is home to a vast ecosystem of flora and fauna. To protect the fragile environment only a limited section of both the reserve and the park is open to visitors. Ranthambhore is noted for its tiger and leopard populations, although you still have only a 30% to 40% chance of seeing a large cat on any given expedition. The best time to see tigers is right before the monsoon, in summer, when the tigers emerge to drink at small water holes—when it's dry and the water table is low, the tigers are forced out of hiding to quench their thirst. What you will definitely see are numerous peacocks, sambar (large Asian deer), chital (spotted deer), chinkara (gazelles), nilgai (blue bull or Asian antelope), wild boar, jackals, crocodiles, and often sloth bears.

Sighting a wild tiger in Ranthambhore is an exciting experience, even if you never come face-to-face with the king. First, of course, you will hear the jungle sounds that warn of a tiger's presence. Monkeys and peacocks scream loudly and the deer in the area become agitated and nervous. Ranthambhore became a national park in 1972 under the Project Tiger program, which was launched in an effort to save India's dwindling population of Bengal tigers. Sighting a leopard is much more difficult, as these cats live on high, inaccessible slopes and are extremely shy.

The park is run by the Indian government, and the rules are happily inflexible: you can only enter the park in an official government Jeep, and the Jeeps keep strict hours, daily from 6:30 or 7 am to 9:30 am, and 3 pm to 6 pm (the times may vary by 30 minutes during summer and winter months when the park opens later in the morning). Book a Jeep in advance, or online (though you must register on the website and book no more than 90 days in advance), or save yourself the hassle and book through your hotel (it's worth the service charge). Government regulations state that visitors must keep minimum distance of 20 meters from all wildlife (50 meters if you're in a vehicle) and that vehicles may only remain at a sighting point for up to 15 minutes. While the park is typically closed during mating season and monsoon season, July to early September, it's experimented with remaining partially open during this time in recent years. Check with your tour operator or hotel to confirm if you plan on visiting during this time.

You can also explore the surrounding region. The 10th-century Ranthambhore Fort, perched on a nearby hill, is one of Rajasthan's more spectacular military strongholds and where the reserve got its name. Dastkar, a craft-and-textile shop on the Ranthambhore Road, is run by a nongovernment legitimate cooperative organization.

The government-run heritage Castle Jhoomar Baori (12 rooms and two suites, Rs. 4,000–Rs. 7,500) offers the chance to spend a night near the animals, but little else. It can be booked through the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation website. A better option is to stay at one of the hotels along Ranthambhore Road and take a morning safari. The neighboring town of Sawai Madhopur has numerous hotels, but most are basic.

Albert Hall Museum

The oldest museum in Jaipur, inside the Ram Niwas Bagh, is worth a visit just for its breathtaking architecture—the sandstone-and-marble 19th-century Indo-Saracenic-style building was designed by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob, the father of that movement that merged popular Indian and Victorian architecture of that era, and who was one of Rajasthan's great builders (he built the Rambagh Palace as well). Named in honor of Victoria's son Prince Albert (who became Edward VII) who came visiting shortly after it was built, the exteriors and gardens offer a glimpse of what the then--New Jaipur (completed circa 1887) was like. The museum's enormous collection includes folk arts, miniature paintings, textiles, pottery, traditional costumes, marble carvings, coins, musical instruments, ivory, and visual explanations of Indian culture and traditions. Avoid the weekends when it gets crowded with local tourists. The museum has night hours (7--10), when it's set aglow with twinkling lights and you can have access to the central part of the museum.

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Jaipur, Rajasthan, 302001, India
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Rate Includes: Rs. 300; night entrance, Rs. 100, Daily 9–5 and 7-10

Bathing ghats

Many of the marble bathing ghats on the holy Pushkar Lake—a must-visit if you want to see India's sacred sites—were constructed for pilgrims by royal families who wanted to ensure power and prosperity in their kingdoms throughout Rajasthan by appeasing the gods. It is believed that the waters of the lake are healing powers and that the water near different ghats have different powers. There are 52 ghats in all with various degrees of significance. When you pass an entrance to a ghat, be prepared for a priest (or 10) to solicit you by offering you a flower—he'll want you to receive a blessing, known as the "Pushkar Passport," and for you to give him a donation (or dakshina) in return upon completion of the ceremony (Rs. 100 is typical, or you can negotiate the sum when he approaches you). If you agree, he will lead you to the water's edge, say a prayer, and then ask you to recite a blessing in Sanskrit (you'll repeat after him). Then he'll paste a tilak (rice and colored powder dot) on your forehead and tie a religious red thread (denoting a blessing) to your wrist.Once you have the "passport," no other priest will approach you.

The ghats get extra busy during auspicious pilgrimage times, especially during the Kartik Purnima, the full moon during the Hindu month of Kartik, around November (also the time of the Pushkar Camel Fair). Thus there may be tens of thousands of people here bathing and getting blessings from local Brahmins. If you are claustrophobic, this might feel intense. The peaceful parts of the ghats can be accessed from the eastern shore of the lake, close to Sunset Café.

Be sure to follow etiquette, which includes taking off shoes and being respectful.

Pushkar, Rajasthan, India

Brahma Temple

In the center of town, not on the lake, this is one of India's most important temples in spite of its unimpressive architecture and more modern feel postreconstruction. Although many say it's the sole temple dedicated to Brahma in the world, in reality there are a few others; it's just that they are not considered authentic. The building is newer, but the shrine dates back to the 14th century. Pilgrims visiting the temple climb a long stairway into the walled area to take the blessings of the god—in the form of small sugar balls. There are varying versions of the legend concerning the temple, but most have to do with Brahma's wife Savitri, who was delayed in attending a special yajna or religious ceremony Brahma was carrying out. Impatient, Brahma married the goddess Gayatri (some say she was a milkmaid), and when Savitri found out, she put a curse on Brahma, declaring that the earth would forget him completely. She then relented, but said that Brahma could only be worshipped in Pushkar. Predawn and postsunset aartis (special rounds of worship) are held and are atmospheric. Shoes, bags, cameras, and video cameras are not allowed in the temple (do not try to take a photo with your phone)—it is best to leave everything in the car with your driver (if reliable) or back in your hotel, and deposit your shoes at the temple shoe stalls (for Rs. 20–Rs. 40). Mind your wallets and phones, and don't think of visiting the inner sanctum of the temple during festival times---there are thousands of others crowding to get inside---but if you're visiting at this time, you can view from afar.

Pushkar, Rajasthan, India

Chokhi Dhani

About a 45-minute drive from Jaipur, this large replica cultural village includes a huge buffet meal in the admission price, consisting of pretty much every regional vegetarian dish you can imagine as well as a formidable selection of sugary desserts. Come hungry and expect to eat with other tourists, either sitting on benches or on the floor in a lantern-lit hut. If you are uncomfortable sitting on the floor, there is inside seating at chairs and tables in a/c comfort; however, prices are higher. Performance tents host a vibrant Rajasthani pageant—traditional dances, including the dramatic fire dance, folk singing, katputli (puppet shows), and juggling. Tipping is discouraged. You'll find plenty of vendors selling every type of Rajasthani tchotchke under the sun; salesmen can be irritatingly pushy. There's a less interesting hotel on-site, although not in authentic village style—it's much more luxurious—and its restaurant and bar, serving regular Indian fare, offer an alternative to the buffet. It gets very busy on weekends and holidays.

Tonk Rd., Jaipur, Rajasthan, 303905, India
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Rate Includes: From Rs. 700, Credit cards accepted, 5 pm–11 pm

Dargah Sharif

The shrine of the 13th-century Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty is in the heart of Ajmer, a city about 11 km (7 miles) southeast of Pushkar. The shrine is very significant for South Asian Muslims—visiting it means the chance to set your soul free eternally—and is visited by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The busiest time is during Urs, the anniversary of the saint's death, which takes place during six days in the Islamic month of Rajab starting with the day of the full moon. The custom when you visit this shrine is to offer flowers, sugar balls, beads, and a chaadar (ornate scarf)—the beads and sweets will be blessed and given back to you. Sufiism is a more mystical and less austere aspect of Islam that is embraced vigorously in these parts.

Be prepared to deal with crowds and aggressive beggars on the street leading to the dargah whenever you visit. Ajmer itself isn't much of a destination, so most people bypass it on their way to Pushkar, then backtrack for a half-day visit to the shrine; the drive to Ajmer to Pushkar is scenic and descends through some minor hills offering views of Ajmer and its lake. The shrine is located at the end of a narrow lane and is not very accessible. Have the driver (if you have a car) park on the wider main road and hire a tuk tuk for Rs. 200 or so (let the driver negotiate a price, if possible) to take you to the dargah and back. Shoes, purses, rucksacks, cameras, and video cameras are not allowed in the dargah—it is best to leave those items in the car with your driver (if reliable) and deposit your shoes at the shrine shoe stalls (for Rs. 50, and you get a basket of flowers to offer inside). Mind your wallets and phones. Women and men need to cover their heads inside the shrine and must be dressed appropriately (no skirts, shorts, sleeveless tops). Don't think of visiting the inner sanctum of the dargah during the Urs festival, but do view from afar. There's a lot of rush on the weekends and during holidays, especially toward evening, and you can stop by to hear devotees banding together and sitting down in the couryard to sing qawwalis, lovely devotional Sufi music, from about 6 pm onward.

While you're here, the 19th-century Nasiyan Temple is worth a visit as well. The detailed display depicting the Jain story of the world's creation inside the temple is mesmerizing. It's near Agra Gate, or just ask people how to find the Jain temple.


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
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Rate Includes: Rs. 200, Sat.–Thurs. 9–5

Galta Ji

Known by locals and rickshaw drivers simply as Monkey Temple, the surreal Galta JI and nearby Galwar Bagh (empty gardens) is a popular pilgrimage site and temple complex on the outskirts of town. The temple itself, (not one of the area's most stunning), is called Galta Ji Mandir; it's a 30-minute walk from the ceremonial gate called Gulta Pol, located at the far eastern edge of the city. If you visit on a hot day, make sure to bring plenty of water, though avoid carrying unsealed food, as this can attract monkeys, who generally have no qualms about mugging unsuspecting humans for their lunch. Alms seekers will also make their presence known; it's perfectly okay to give small donations, and they typically clean up after the monkeys. The walk leads you over a small mountain pass and past a few small temples and shrines. Jaipuri Hindus believe that at the site of the Gulta Ji Mandir a local saint named Gala Rishi—nicknamed Gulta Ji—brought forth a spring (kund) of holy water from the Ganges that filled a water reservoir 18 feet deep. The waters here are believed to be spiritually connected to the Ganges—if you bathe here, you are said to get the same benefits as a pilgrimage to the Ganges, but as with that river, spiritual cleanliness does not equal physical cleanliness, and we don't recommend going in. The temple, which venerates Brahma, the Hindu god credited with creating the universe, is in violation of a curse by Brahma's wife Savitri; she confined his temples to Pushkar.

Jaipur, Rajasthan, 302003, India
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Rate Includes: Free, Daily 6–10:30 and 4–6:30

Hawa Mahal

Pink City

Jaipur's photogenic Palace of Winds was built by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 so the women of the court (the zenana) could discreetly take in fresh air and watch the activity on the street below. Every story has semioctagonal overhanging windows, and each has a perforated screen. This curious five-story structure, named after the westerly winds that blow cool breezes through the 953 windows (or jharokas) is just one room wide, so the wind easily passes through the building and cools the interior. The building facade has a delicate honeycomb design with close to 1,000 windows, and is fashioned from pink sandstone. Short on time? Skip a trip inside, and view the mahal from the outside, especially at sunrise or sunset, when it is most striking.

For best views, go to the touristy Wind View Cafe across the street, where you can buy a soda or snack and then snap a pic from the balcony.

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Jaigarh Fort

Originally the royal treasury, this dramatic-looking fort has large water tanks for storing rainwater channeled from the imposing Nahargarh. There are fantastic views of Jaipur from the watchtower. Star attraction of the fort is the Jaivana Tope, the largest wheeled cannon in the world, measuring more than 20 feet long and weighing in at around 50 tons. The mighty Jaivana was unsurpassed for power in its day; one of its cannon balls was found 35 km (22 miles) from here. This fort was responsible for the defence of Amer Fort (which is at a lower elevation) and its armory and museum showcases the weaponry it once had as well as photographs. Local lore has it that when Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi ordered a search of the water tanks in 1976 a vast collection of gems and jewelry emerged. Guides are available at the entrance—an English-speaking one will charge about Rs. 200, but it's recommended to negotiate the fee down. For a small fee you can enter the fort by car to reach the top (where the cannon is) and save yourself a long, uphill walk. It's possible to drive from Jaigarh to Amber, but be sure to get a driver who knows the way through the narrow roads.

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Jaipur, Rajasthan, 302002, India
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Rate Includes: Fort, from Rs. 100, Daily 9:30–4:30

Jantar Mantar

Pink City

The scholarly Sawai Jai Singh II was well aware of European developments in the field of astronomy and wanted to create one of the world's finest observatories. He supervised the design and construction of five remarkable facilities in northern India, and Jantar Mantar is the largest and best preserved of the five. Built in 1726 out of masonry, marble, and brass, this observatory is neatly laid out and equipped with simple solar instruments called yantras, which look like large, abstract sculptures, and are remarkably precise in measuring complex celestial data like time, the location of stars, angles of planets, and predicting forthcoming eclipses. Such accuracy was desired for creating astrological predictions. A guided tour is available for an additional Rs. 200, and guides will explain the history and how these devices work, as they're fascinating and, for nonscientists, somewhat complicated.

Avoid the observatory at noon, as it can be very hot.

Jaipur, Rajasthan, 302001, India
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Rate Includes: Rs. 200, Daily 9–4:30

Jawahar Kala Kendra

Moti Dhungri

Jaipur's center for arts and crafts was founded by the state government with a specific vision: to create a space for understanding and experiencing culture and folk traditions. The center hosts regular theatrical, dance, and musical performances; check the website for schedules. It also holds regular classes on film, art, and traditional crafts. You can drop by the impressive modern building to meet some of the locals who exhibit and perform here, or have a look at one of the rotating exhibits.

Kanak Vrindavan Gardens

Man Sagar

This picturesque set of gardens and temples is just below the majestic Amber and Nahargarh forts and is nearly 300 years old. It was established by Jaipur maharaja Sawai Jai Singha. From here you can get a good look at the Jal Mahal Palace in Man Sagar Lake. The gardens also make a great picnic spot, especially on weekends if you like to people-watch. A few Bollywood films have been shot here, such as the famous romantic film Lamhe.

Amber Rd., Jaipur, Rajasthan, 302002, India
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Rate Includes: Free, Daily 8-6

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

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

Nahargarh Fort

The scenic hilltop location of Nahargarh Fort provides breathtaking views of Jaipur and its natural defenses. One of the main reasons to arrive here after doing a round of Jaigarh and Amer, a few kilometers away, is to take in the panoramic landscapes below. Initially built by Sawai Jai Singh in 1734, it was enlarged to its sprawling, present-day glory in 1885 by Sawai Madho Singh, who commandeered it as a lookout point. Cannons placed behind the walls recall the days when artillery was positioned against potential attackers below. During the 1857 revolt, several Britishers took refuge here. The palace of nine queens—with nine separate apartments for the wives of Maharaja Ram Singh—within the fort is also worth a short visit. The massive channels that carried rainwater from Nahargarh to Jaigarh Fort, a few miles away, where it was stored in large tanks as part of a rainwater harvesting system, can still be seen from the approach road. For best views of the city, a sunrise at the fort can't be missed. Alternatively, the lights at sunset give the fort a pretty glow.

Jaipur, Rajasthan, 302002, India
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Rate Includes: Rs. 200, Fort daily sunrise–sunset; palace daily 10–5:30

Salim's Paper

Whatever handmade paper you've seen back home may well have come from Salim's, a factory where you can see each step of the process. Some of the thick, beautiful papers are made with crushed flower petals; it's fun to see them thrown into the mixture of cotton and resin. At the showroom you can buy an enormous range of pretty paper products---gift bags, wrapping paper, gift tags, Christmas stars, albums, and gift boxes.

Savitri Temple

Make an early start to check out the Savitri Temple on a hill overlooking Pushkar Lake. The 1½ km- (1-mile) climb up the long flight of stairs leading up the hill takes between a half hour and an hour, and the outstanding view at sunrise is worth it. Alternatively, the ropeway (cable car) to the top takes 6 or 7 minutes and costs Rs. 80.

Be careful of menacing monkeys, which tend to grab anything edible; don't venture out to the temple if it is getting dark—it may be badly lit and dangerous.

Pushkar, Rajasthan, India

Sisodia Rani ka Bagh

On Highway NH 11 that heads to Bharatpur and Agra stands one of many palaces built for the ranis, or queens, of Sawai Jai Singh II. Built in 1728, the palace, though not as opulent as it once was, still looks lovely against the backdrop of hills. The palace is furnished with murals illustrating hunting scenes and the romantic legend of Krishna and Radha, while the terraced Mughal gardens are dotted with fountains and frequented by prancing peacocks and monkeys. Stop by on your way down the Bharatpur-Agra road. It's often used as a reception site for local wedding parties.

Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
sights Details
Rate Includes: Rs. 200, Daily 8–6