The Other Rajasthan: Destination Guide
We did this trip ourselves recently, and were honestly blown away by the experience we had at places like Bijaipur, Sardargarh and Chanoud Garh. This itinerary can be custom made to suit your needs. Depending on the time available you can prolong your visit to include other exotic forts and palaces like Begu Fort (1432 AD!) enroute to Chittorgarh and Udaipur or the very exclusive Nagaur Fort near Jodhpur.
JAIPUR is known as the 'Pink City' for the ubiquitous pink sandstone used in its architecture. It also has an immensely rich cultural heritage. Visits to the Rajput forts and royal palaces take you back in time and the bazaars provide fantastic shopping opportunities. Colourful block printed textiles, blue pottery and precious stones are a specialty.
Located in the heart of the city, the palace now houses a large museum, but it also serves as the residence of the descendants of the royal family. There are a variety of articles on display- silks and brocades worn by the maharajahs and their queens, carpets, paintings, chandeliers, ornate palanquins and fascinating antique weaponry.
With nearly 1,000 latticed windows, the five-storied Hawa Mahal or ‘Palace of Winds’ was built to allow women of the royal family to observe the proceedings in the street below, without being seen themselves. They would sit behind the carved stone screens which let in the breeze and at the same time permitted them to observe the practice of ‘purdah’.
An astronomical observatory built by Maharaja Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur, between 1727-1734. The ‘instruments’ are actually huge structures built of stone and marble and are quite remarkable for their accuracy in measuring time, tracking the locations of stars, predicting eclipses, and so on. Let your guide walk you through this place for your lesson in ancient astronomy.
Note: The above three places are all within walking distance of each other.
About 11 km outside the city is the beautiful Amber Fort, most notable for its artistic style which integrates both Hindu and Mughal elements of architecture and decoration. An elephant ride takes you up to the fort (you could always choose to go by car), the rugged exterior of which is in marked contrast to its lavish interior. The walls are covered with paintings, carvings and stunning ornamentation. There’s also a good sound and light show in the evenings.
Is located at the top of the same hill, connected to the Amber Fort by passages through the hillside. Jaigarh houses the massive Jaivana cannon- the world’s largest cannon on wheels, weighing in at 50 tons, with a 20 foot barrel. It also has a commanding view of the surrounding Aravalli hills. A very safe place to entrench yourself from an enemy attack... or a zombie invasion!
Provides a breathtaking view, overlooking the pink city of Jaipur. While the Amber Fort is the most popular and also in the best condition, the partial ruins of Nahargarh offer tranquility to those looking for some time alone.
Off the tourist track, 10 km from the city, lies the Galtaji temple complex. These 18th century temples are built in the hillside and are a destination for pilgrims because the natural springs around the temple are considered holy.
Sisodia Rani ka Bagh
Which means ‘the garden of the Sisodia queen’ is located close to Galtaji, outside the city of Jaipur. Have a royal sprawl around the fountains, painted galleries and tiered gardens built by Sawai Jai Singh for one of his queens.
RANTHAMBORE is famous for its national park and tiger reserve. The forest abounds in a diverse variety of wildlife, and it's perhaps one of the best places in India to see a tiger in the wild. The Ranthambore Fort stands in the middle of the forest.
BUNDI is a tiny jewel tucked away between the two busy towns of Jaipur and Kota and has remained largely undiscovered until quite recently. The lake and the fort dominate the town which is known for its exquisite miniature paintings and its numerous step wells. The chitrashala or art gallery at the palace is definitely worth a visit since it houses some excellent examples of the Bundi school of art, but the once magnificent fort is crumbling into ruin... though it still looks spectacular when it's lit up at night. Narrow streets meander through the tiny bazaar and small doorways open into little shops full of artistic treasures. The discovery of some old cave paintings recently has added another attraction to Bundi's laid back charm.
BIJAIPUR driving through the sleepy village of Bijaipur leaves you quite unprepared for the imposing grandeur of the massive arched gateway that leads into Castle Bijaipur. The 16th century castle, lovingly restored by the Rao Saheb, has become quite popular as a night stop for groups travelling by road to Udaipur. But if you’re a horse lover or a yoga practitioner, you could easily spend a week here riding in the countryside on a Marwari horse or doing yoga in the peaceful surroundings. A walk through the village is an enriching experience, and it’s perfectly safe. All the rooms are exceptionally large and comfortably furnished. Of course, being a heritage property, each room is different. The ones on the third floor are the largest and offer great views over the countryside. The drive to Pangarh, a tented camp belonging to the owners of the hotel, is a pleasant day trip. The camp is set on the banks of a huge lake, rich in bird life and spending a night here, especially if the moon is full, would be gorgeous. For a personal review of the hotel click here.
UDAIPUR is the ‘City of Lakes’ also known as the ‘Venice of the East’. This charming city is famous for its lakes, palaces, museums, paintings and temples. At a short distance are the famous Ranakpur Jain temples and the Kumbhalgarh Fort. Besides the ubiquitous boat rides, there's also a short cable car ride that gives you a great view. The City Palace and its museum is a must-visit.
SARDARGARH perched on a small hillock, the Sardargarh Fort commands a majestic view of the verdant countryside. Each of the lovingly restored 21 suites is charming and unique. Only a part of the fort has been restored and turned into a hotel and the unrestored ruins can provide hours of exploratory fun. While the fort is a destination in itself, a visit to the nearby lake to watch sunset is a must and the night safari or the train ride to a nearby village are interesting options. For a personal review of Sardargarh click here.
CHANOUD GARH tucked away off the main road between Udaipur and Jodhpur, Chanoud Garh is another fabulous little gem. A 300 year old fort with only 7 suites for discerning travellers, Chanoud Garh offers an experience of the other Rajasthan- far away from the hustle of the bigger towns. Each of the suites is a delight, lovingly furnished with attention to detail, comfort and warm hospitality. There’s a wealth of history in the books and pictures in the darbar hall and the food is absolutely amazing. A visit to the local school and market, or even a stroll through the village is highly recommended. High tea on the salt pans at Unam, about a 20 minute drive, as the sun sets behind twin hillocks is a memorable experience. For a personal review click here.
JODHPUR is situated in the centre of the state of Rajasthan and is known as the 'Blue City' as most of the Brahmin houses in the old city around the fort are coloured in blue. The city is famous for its handicrafts and the following visitor attractions.
Towering over the city, the Mehrangarh Fort is one of the most impressive and well maintained in the country. The museum here is full of fascinating artifacts and the ramparts offer a panoramic view of Jodhpur.
Umaid Bhawan Palace
The residence of the Jodhpur royal family, a large part of this magnificent palace has been converted into a heritage hotel. About as royal an experience as you can have anywhere in the world.
Close to the Mehrangarh Fort, the Jaswant Thada is a beautiful cenotaph built entirely in white marble.