Women decked out in pompous jewellery and men adorning thick turbans and thicker moustaches. Ornate royal palaces, an endless desert, forts with gorgeous city-views, EDM Holi parties- It’s safe to say that Rajasthan is an intense cultural affair.
You see, here’s the thing about India in general- it is inexpensive and spectacular. And with the backpacking culture on the rise, the travel scenario of India is better than ever.
I recently backpacked solo across the 5 cities of Rajasthan, starting from Delhi. In this article, check out 7 unmissable experiences of Rajasthan- where to do what and the best travel itinerary to cover all of it on a budget.
1. The Palaces and Forts of Jaipur
Rajasthan, translating to the Land of Kings, stands true to its name indeed. At its heart lays the pink city of Jaipur, which breathes an eccentric and royal air. I’ll jump straight to recommendations here because I’ve got plenty!
Things to do in Jaipur
Made out of red and pink sandstone, this one’s the real show-stopper of the pink city. With minimal design on the inside and a contrasting pompous façade, this Mahal is an architectural genius
Go here for the sunset and stay back till the city lights start popping down below slowly. The fort offers a truly magical experience in this way.
With a room made out of mirrors, the famed green walls, and a beautiful view of the city from atop, this fort sits high on a hill and is a must-visit.
The four gates of the city palace left me stunned, to begin with. If you buy the 50$ ticket for the full tour, you’ll come face to face with the true royal life of India, which is fascinating, to say the least.
A truly stunning structure, this gate serves no other purpose than making one admire the beauty of colours, and it is every bit successful at that.
The Albert Hall Museum
As gorgeous as it is on the outside, the museum has a unique collection of artefacts. From coins to statues, everything here introduces you to the rich history of the Rajputs.
2. The Desert Safari of Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer lies in the heart of the Great Indian Desert of Thar, which is also the most densely populated desert of the world. You’re likely to come across Rajasthani tribes immersed in traditions and culture, with pet camels, face tattoos, and a sheer vibrancy in their attires.
I took a private desert Safari with Zostel Escape, which was one of the highlights of my trip. I found myself away from the tourist crowd in the golden desert, admiring the traditional food and dance of the locals. After an eventful day, we slept under a starry sky in the desert itself.
Check out the uniquely crafted escapes by Zostel, which give you the finest travel experiences in different cities here- https://www.zostel.com/escape/
Things to do in Jaisalmer
The Golden Fort, Sonar Quila
Apart from this amazing experience, I also had the perk of staying in one of the very few “living forts” of the world with Zostel Jaisalmer. There’s a whole city burgeoning inside the fort, with schools, temples, city square, shops, and houses. Imagine living high up into a fortified citadel- it was a unique thing for sure.
Around the town, there are havelis that exhibit exceptional stone carving. The two most beautiful ones were the Patwaon ki Haveli and Nathmal ki Haveli, and you wouldn’t get enough of just gawking at them if you’re even mildly intrigued with architectural styles.
The Gadisar Lake
I watched the sunset once from the opposite end of the Gadisar Lake and once from the fort, and both were worth the while.
3. The Dreamy Blue Town of Jodhpur
The old city area of Jodhpur has all its houses painted blue and white, making for a rather picturesque scene. Rajasthan being arid and extremely hot as a place takes refuge from the harsh sun with these cooling colours. Stroll around the town, amusing yourself with its raw culture, pretty corners, and the friendliest people.
Things to do in Jodhpur
The only fort in Jodhpur, this is a great place to get a panoramic view of the blue houses of the city. With intricately carved stone facades and vast balconies, the fort should be first on your list in Jodhpur.
Umaid Bhawan Palace
A museum from inside, this architecturally pleasant palace sits high up on a hill. Go here for a quiet and serene sunset.
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4. The Holi Festival in Pushkar
Holi in Pushkar is a crazy event, quite literally. I’d nonetheless recommend you go for it since it is as unique an experience as it gets. The party begins three days in advance. There are buckets of local cannabis drink, EDM music, powder colours, water balloons, carnival masks, confetti, and even bizarre costumes. And this goes on for 3 days straight!
Things to do in Pushkar
Sitting by the ghats is one of the most soothing experiences Pushkar has to offer. Rent a bike and ride to the different temples of the town, explore the markets for a good shop, try the chic cafes and hike up the hills nearby to make the most of your time.
5. The Gorgeous City of Lakes, Udaipur
With lakes, palaces, gardens, ghats, and more palaces, Udaipur is a lavish city known popularly as the City of Lakes. Here’s all you can look forward to.
Things to do in Udaipur
Jag Mandir and Lake Palace
If you’re amazed that there can be a palace inside a lake, take this- in Udaipur, there are two. The grandeur of the Lake Palace knows no bounds. With a crystal gallery and stunning balconies, the palace sits right in the middle of the lake and is reached by a boat ride. Similarly, the Jag Mandir is also an island palace, loved for its Rajput architecture.
A cluster of 11 palaces by the Lake Pichola, this palace has grand courtyards, gardens, and beautiful mosaics to marvel at.
Fateh Sagar Lake
With 2 small islands doubling as public parks, this lake offers great opportunities for photography.
A hilltop palace, this is where you go for illuminated sunsets. You may remember this place from the famous Bond movie, Octopussy.
6. The Exceptional Food of Rajasthan
In the land of kings, it’s only fair to eat like one! From utterly filling lunch platters to midnight snacks and desserts, there’s a lot of food to look forward to in the State.
The must-haves of Rajasthan include Dal Baati of Jaisalmer, Lassi and Baati Churma of Jaipur, Ghevar of Udaipur, and Mirchi Vada of Jodhpur, and the Israeli street food of Pushkar.
LMB and Bhagat Mishtan Bhandar for snacks, Chokhi Dhani for a flavourful Rajasthani meal and the Peacock Rooftop Restaurant for Continental
Krishna Dal Bati, Millets of Mewar for vegan and gluten-free options
Gypsy for a filling thali, The Curry’s for crazy North Indian, Shandar Sweet House for desserts
Try daal baati and local snacks like kachori in any food shop in the market
Laffa & Falafel in the main market, Café Nature’s Blessing for vegan and organic delicacies, Café lake view for a date with a beautiful sunset
7. A Shopper’s Paradise
If you have a knack of bargaining, you’re going to LOVE shopping in Rajasthan. I’ll put it this way. If you come here with a bag full of stuff, you’ll leave with two! Here are all the places that you must visit, even if you’re not much of a shopper.
Johri Bazar and Bapu Bazar, Jaipur
Jaipur has one of the largest markets of jewellery in the world. From silver to lac, metal to gold, the market is uptight with all kinds of gorgeous ornaments. Other things you’ll find in abundance are cloth items like bedsheets, bags, leather sandals and shoes, and home décor elements.
Clock Tower Market, Jodhpur
Jodhpur is famous for its extraordinarily embroidered leather products. So if you want to take back some creative stuff like wallets, belles, bags, and belts, wait till you see this market.
Hathi Pole and Bapu Bazar, Udaipur
From glass articles to wooden crafts, and marble structures, the markets of Udaipur swarm with classic handmade home décor items. You’ll also find neat footwear in the markets.
Main Market, Pushkar
If you love all things Indie and Boho, you’ll absolutely love Pushkar’s tiny shops filled with vibrant garments, Tibetan influenced bags and shawls, and much more.
Now that we’re done with all the experiences that await you, let’s jump to the best way to make the most of them.
The Ideal Itinerary for Rajasthan, India
Doesn’t matter if you’re going for a road trip, taking cheap local transports, hiring taxis, or even hitchhiking, the itinerary gels well with all kinds of plans!
It covers the 5 prominent cities of Rajasthan- Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Pushkar, and Jaisalmer along with the two metro cities- Delhi and Mumbai. And Agra, well, because you don’t want to miss out on the remarkable Taj Mahal when in India!
Delhi - Agra (1N) - Jaipur (3N) - Pushkar (2N) - Jodhpur (2N) - Jaisalmer (2N) - Udaipur (2N) - Mumbai
From Udaipur, you can head onward to Mumbai or go back to Delhi or anywhere that you’ve planned. The itinerary works great in reverse as well, in case you’re flying down to Mumbai.
Staying at backpacking hostels- The cherry on my cake!
Throughout my backpacking trip, I stayed in Zostels across all the cities, which added significantly to my experience. Zostel is a chain of backpacking hostels across India and Nepal and it is known to be a trailblazer of the backpacking culture in both the countries, with more than 35 hostels in both offbeat and obvious locations. You can check them out here- https://www.zostel.com/
Why am I recommending them? Well, it was always refreshing to come back after a long day of exploration to a very happening environment, full of games, jamming sessions, bonfires, and movie screenings. Along with that, I met amazing people from all over the world, with whom I often travel now. They also have volunteers at most Zostels, who are great to hang out with, take food/place recommendations from, or tag along with for a day-trip.
So, along with a comfortable and safe stay and fun times, I also saved a lot by simply staying in the dorm rooms instead of splurging on expensive hotels. If you’re visiting India, I recommend you have a slice of the country’s backpacking culture at least once.
This article was contributed by Pranavi Chhikniwala from Zostel.
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