Rajasthan is one of the most visited states in India. It's not surprising because it shows India at its most colorful and exotic best. All the things that come to mind when you think of India can be found in Rajasthan - forts, palaces, deserts, tigers, rivers, jungles, temples and just about everything else that the word `India' brings to mind! Women are dressed in colourful saris with chunky jewellery whilst men wear elaborate turbans and sport huge moustaches. On our Rajasthan tour you travel by car with private chauffeur to explore the myriad attractions.
Day 1 - Pushkar
Today you drive from Jaipur to Pushkar, an ancient religious town in the Thar desert of Rajasthan. The town clings to the side of the beautiful Pushkar Lake, considered by Hindus to be extremely holy. Hundreds of small temples are built on the periphery of the lake with wide stone steps or `ghats' leading down to the lake. A magical quality of light hovers over the lake, bouncing off the surrounding white-washed temples and bathing ghats. At sunset Pushkar turns into one of the most exotic places on earth. You have the afternoon at leisure to explore the lakeside with its many holy men, pilgrims and temples.
Day 2 - Jodhpur
Continuing further into Rajasthan, you drive to Jodhpur, the second largest city in Rajasthan, dominated by the massive Mehrangarh Fort which sits atop a sheer rocky ridge right in the middle of town. Jodhpur is famous for its blue buildings, which were originally painted to signify that they were occupied by Brahmins (the highest caste in India). Afternoon visit to the impressive Meherangarh Fort, with fantastic views across this blue-hued city. In the afternoon your driver will take you on a sightseeing tour of Meherangarh Fort. The Jaswant Thada memorial lies on the approach to the Fort, and the large white marble structure is surrounded by the cremation grounds of former rulers. The fort itself is approached by a series of seven gateways set at an angle so that armies could not charge them with any success. Past the gates, the fort-palace has huge courtyards surrounded by wings of palatial buildings, part of which is now turned into a fabulous museum. An excellent audio tour is included in the entrance fee, and this leads you through the museum within the Fort. There are some world class exhibits which include ornate Howdahs (seats strapped on elephant-backs) and palanquins for transporting royal ladies. Afterwards it is well worth exploring the ramparts of the fort, with their superb views over the `blue city'. Do allow plenty of time to visit the Fort - you can spend hours wandering through it.
Day 3 - Jaisalmer
Today you cross the desert to the `Golden City' of Jaisalmer, looming magically out of the horizon. Separated from Pakistan by the Thar Desert, Jaisalmer is the last stop for many travelers picking their way across Rajasthan. The smaller town atmosphere is a pleasant change from busy Jaipur or Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer is a good base for desert excursions. Jaisalmer's mesmerizing ancient fort, built in 1156, is perched high on a pedestal overlooking the city. Inside, the fort is alive and spellbinding. It houses five palaces, several temples, and some exquisite havelis (mansions), as well as shops and other residences.
Day 4 - Jaisalmer
Today, after breakfast, you will meet your guide who will take you on a few hours' walking tour of the Old City. Jaisalmer, with its narrow cobbled lanes, is a wonderful place to wander around on foot. The Fort itself is not simply a monument, but is home to a community of several thousand people. Within it you can see some attractive Jain temples, fascinating architecture, and enjoy superb views over the city and the desert beyond from the many vantage points on the city walls. Hidden amongst the narrow lanes leading off the main market street are several elaborate and magnificent havelis, The Patwon Ki Haveli is best known for its latticed facade. The 300 year old Salim Singh Ki Haveli has a beautiful arched roof with carved brackets in the form of peacocks.
Day 5 - Bhenswara
From Jaisalmer, you drive through rarely visited areas of Rajasthan to Bhenswara, a small, colourful village near Jalore in a little visited part of south west Rajasthan. It is another Rajput country estate whose 'castle' has been converted into an attractive heritage hotel. The owners organise interesting village safaris into outlying areas including Bhil villages and Rabari pastoral settlements and night drives by jeep to spot leopards.
Day 6 - Udaipur
Today you drive from Bhenswara to Udaipur, stopping en route to visit Ranakpur, a little village tucked away in the Aravalli hills. You find here an amazing complex of beautifully carved temples, built by the Jains who served in the courts of the rulers of Udaipur. Built in marble, the main temple has 29 halls supported by more than 1,400 pillars, no two of which are alike. The temples open for tourists at noon, and if you are here before 1pm you can enjoy a cheap and filling vegetarian lunch in the canteen along with the Jain pilgrims. You reach Udaipur in the late afternoon. The city is an enchanting place full of old mansions, beautiful gardens, intricate temples, and grand palaces overlooking expansive shimmering lakes. Udaipur is famous for its miniature paintings and during a walk through the bazaar, you will see many artists' studios and shops. Udaipur was also an important centre for other arts like pottery, sculpture etc. The lakeside is always full of life; with evening prayers going on in the many temples, people washing laundry, vehicles crossing the narrow bridges. With the sunset, the lake changes colours rapidly, going from a deep blue to red-gold. As darkness descends, a million lights go up around the lake. The entire city palace complex is floodlit, turning it a deep golden colour, turning Udaipur into one of the most romantic cities in the world. The waterfront Ambrai restaurant has arguably the best location and views in the entire city, overlooking both the Lake Palace and the City Palace.
Day 7 - Udaipur
This morning, after breakfast, meet your guide and begin your morning tour of Udaipur. You first visit the huge City Palace which stretches along the eastern shore of Lake Pichola. The way it has been constructed is exquisite, with Rajput military architecture and Mughal style decorative techniques both combined together. Its museum displays many royal heirlooms, family photos, and other memorabilia. There are superb views over Lake Pichola and the Lake Palace Hotel from many of the terraces and courtyards within the museum, and an overall air of luxury and grandeur. Nearby is the Jagdish temple, a centre of constant activity. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the temple was built in 1651 by Maharana Jagat Singh 1, and is famous for its superb and distinctive architecture. You round off your tour with a pleasant one hour boat trip on Lake Pichola. The afternoon is at leisure to allow more time to explore Udaipur's colourful bazaars.
Day 8 - Udaipur
Your trip ends after breakfast. You can choose to travel from Udaipur to Jaipur, allowing you a stay in the fabulous Deogarh Mahal along the way. Alternative you can travel from Udaipur to Ahmedabad and enjoy a stay in the Udai Bilas Palace in Dungarpur. Udaipur is also well connected by trains and flights to many other places in India.