Places to Visit in Rajasthan: A List of the Best Options
Imagine Rajasthan as an age-old sculpture. A rajasthani tourist attraction, the sculpture is first chiselled by the winds of the Great Indian Desert and formed on the Aravali Range, the nation’s oldest hills. Then moulded from the valour of the Rajputs and finished with the fine touch left by the Mughal invasions. A land of scarce resources, the region’s response to its arid climate has brought the creation of some of the most beautiful lakes, tanks, and step-wells that extend deep into its terra firma. Looking at the best places to visit in Rajasthan, it’s unsurprising to feel like a time-travelling tourist to a land unknown.
What are the best places to visit in Rajasthan?
Rajasthan is truly an architect’s dream. Its complex and rich history has endowed the region with colossal citadels, bejeweled palaces, lakeside temples and princely mansions carved out of sandstone, marble and indigenous rock. The sheer skill of their artisans is evident through the variety of handicraft, art, cloth and semi-precious stones sold in bazaars and stores.
When you’re done staring in awe at the magnificent forts, memorials and everything left form history, take a camel ride and explore the desert. Blend with the locals during the colourful festivals and fairs. Take a safari around the wetlands where migratory birds and tigers roam free in the forests. Cuddle up with your significant other in the palaces and forts that are now grandiose heritage hotels. Here are some of the best places to visit in Rajasthan.
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The Stunning Hawa Mahal, Jaipur (Photo Credit – Aditya Siva)
Places to visit in Eastern Rajasthan
Painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales in 1853, the ‘Pink City’ has magnificent forts, palaces and temples. One of the top tourists destinations in all of Asia, it is truly a unique place to visit in Rajasthan. You can come visit places like the Amer Fort, a sandstone and marble palace built in the late 16th century by Raja Man Singh I. Apart from the unmissable Amer Fort, the elevated Jaigarh Fort, located on the ‘Hill of Eagles’ in the Aravali hills is part of the same complex and a beautiful sight to see.
Amidst the quickly growing population, shopaholics can lap up traditional footwear, textiles, crafts and eye-catching gems. Participate in the several festivals including the Elephant Festival in spring, when pachyderms pout and prance around. The Hawa Mahal, or the famous ‘Palace of Winds’ is just another site to go visit while in Jaipur.
Already planning on going but confused about what kind of accommodation you can find? Check out this Jaipur guide on homestays.
Abhaneri (Chand Baori)
Due to the arid climate, locals would find inventive and innovative ways to combat the extreme conditions. Locals would build step-wells to try and trap rainwater, and Abhaneri is the perfect example. Consisting of 3,500 narrow stairs and 13 stories, Chand Baori is intricately designed with an interior palace built. It’s one of the biggest step-wells in India going as far as 30 meters underground. Located opposite the Harshat Mata Temple, it makes for a wonderful pit stop on the Agra-Jaipur road.
‘The Eastern Gateway of India,’ Bharatpur is home to the petite Keoladeo National Park. This is a must for nature lovers and avid birdwatchers. Only 29 sq. km total, more than 300 species of migratory birds from all around Asia have been recorded in the park, which also contains a lot of separate wildlife. It is a wonderful mosaic of different vegetation, ranging from swampy woodlands to dry grasslands, and hence is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Everyone’s welcomed at the Pushkar Lake (Photo Credit – Max Art)
This is another extremely visited city in Rajasthan, not only by foreigners, but by many Indians. It’s is one of the most sacred places in all India, and consequently a massive pilgrimage site for Hindus and Sikhs. This is because of the holy Pushkar Lake, from the Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and also other scriptures mentioning the famous place and lake.
Due to the religious significance, there is a myriad of temples and ghats that surround the sacred lake, including the extremely rare temple dedicated to Lord Brahma. You’ll find a lot of tourists, especially younger travellers as it attracts backpackers frequently. It’s a great break from the chaos of Delhi, Agra or Jaipur, and it’s quite small so very easily accessible by foot. Try and go during the two-week annual Camel Fair, one of the largest livestock fairs in India during October or November. Do remember that luxurious high-end accommodation is virtually non-existent in Pushkar.
The Ranthambore National Park is the perfect nature backdrop if you’re interested in seeing some tigers. It’s quite easy to spot tigers in this 392 sq. km park, prowling and roaming freely in their natural habitat. It also includes a variety of different wildlife and flora, like the native dhok trees. The Ranthambore Fort is massive and overlooks the entire park from above offering a stunning sunset and sunrise.
Here’s a guide on homestays in Ranthambore if interested.
190 kms off Jaipur in the north, Mandawa is a small town that is most known for its small forts and most notable its intricately decorated havelis (mansions). The Mandawa Fort, founded in the 18th century is adorned with fantastic frescoes in the medieval style. Now a heritage hotel, couple can celebrate by having a romantic getaway to this picturesque stay. The town, because of the havelis, is known as an open air art museum, as their exteriors are intricately and lavishly painted and decorated. A worthwhile visit if time allows for it.
Welcome to the Jungle (Photo Credit – Syna Tiger Resort)
Places to visit in South Rajasthan
Off the well-worn path, Bundi is a another photographer’s delight with phenomenal landscapes of medieval India. A visit to the old town includes exquisite temples, sometimes even referred to as the Little Varanasi, ornate step-wells, slender by-lanes and lively bazaars. Two of the most notable structures are the Bundi Palace, and the incredibly built Taragarh Fort. The fort rises on a steep hill directly above the town, giving it the aura of an intimidating old guard watching over Bundi.
In the 15th century, the Gujarati rulers tried to attack Kumbalgarh, and failed quite miserably. Of course, this can be easily ascertained from the mammoth sized Kumbalgarh Fort, 36 km perimeter walls and built 1,100 meters above sea level! One of the largest wall complexes in India and the world, the fort also houses water tanks and intricate Jain temples. Take a horse safari from the fort to the wildlife sanctuary to see leopards, gazelles and antelopes. Due to the fort, Kumbalgarh makes a great visit in between Udaipur and Jodhpur.
Udaipur is undoubtedly a romantic city of gleaming lakes and stately palaces that immediately catch the eye. Located amidst the hills of the Aravali range, the ‘City of Lakes’ has to offer a multitude of incredible accommodations of historic palaces converted into heritage hotels. Such palaces surround the famous Lake Pichola, including the marvellous City Palace, built over 400 years. In the vicinity, lie the Lake Palace and the Jag Mandir, both marble island palaces that sit majestically atop the lake.
One can also go horse riding, learn yoga, visit the museums, take cooking classes, or visit the Monsoon Palace overlooking the lakes and city for a beautiful sunset. It’s a very popular destination and rightly so, staying in the old city on the banks or on the lake is a very memorable experience. You won’t regret including Udaipur to your list of places to visit in Rajasthan.
View from the Elegant Lake Palace, Udaipur (Photo Credit – Utturag)
To get the most of your time here, here’s a route that includes Udaipur in a quick comprehensive tour of Rajasthan.
Ahar, a couple of km east from Udaipur, can be a quick excursion if you’re interested in a little bit of history. It consists of a large area covered in domed cenotaphs, close to 400, of the Mewar maharajas and queens. It also includes an archaeological museum with relics dating back to before Christ. The cenotaphs themselves are also a wonderful view to take pictures and take a stroll around.
The area is primarily famous for the Deogarh Palace, an intricately beautiful yellow palace now one of the most luxurious hotels in Rajasthan. While Deogarh also has other luxury heritage hotels, the main palace is definitely worthwhile for those wanting to enjoy some alone time. Another spot to visit is the Dashavatar Temple, a Hindu temple decided to Vishnu.
The village of Ranakpur is most famous for its magnificent Jain temple. It’s said to be the most important and beautiful Jain temple in the world. The campus itself contains four separate Jain temples of lightly coloured marble. Each of the 1444 marble pillars is distinctively different and support the immensely intricate carved frame. This masterpiece attests to the skill of the Rajasthani builders and craftsmen of the past.
Marvel at the intricate designs on the Ranakpur Jain Temple (Photo Credit – Volker Glätsch)
Places to visit in Western Rajasthan
The second largest city in the state, the ‘Blue City’ of India is a popular tourist destination and somewhat polluted. However, various sites at Jodhpur will leave you gaping in wonder at the architectural feats. The mighty Mehrangarh Fort, a massive 15th century structure sits high above the blue city itself, which is enclosed by thick and tall imposing walls. The fort alone is a wondrous site and offers a great view of the city.
The beautiful Umaid Bhawan Palace and the Jaswant Thada Mausoleum are another two sites worth visiting. The former being one of the largest residential buildings in the world, and now also one of the best hotels in the world. Other sites include the clock tower and the famously vivid markets, including distinct Jodphuri shoes. About 60 kms away is Osiyan, a haven of exquisitely sculpted Jain temples.
This small town is known for its historical significance, being the home to the dynastic presence of the Chandelao Tikana. Chandelao Garh was built in the late 1700’s as the living palace and quarters for the Chandelao family. Now it’s a beautiful homestay that we’d highly recommend to anyone. It provides an authentic traditional Rajasthani experience, and additionally offers a great change to the popular places to visit in Rajasthan.
For more homestays across the state, definitely visit here for more information.
The desert city, aptly named the ‘Golden City,’ commands attention for its generous sprinklings of historical monuments. Jaisalmer’s most interesting monument is the Jaisalmer Fort, with a quarter of the population still residing inside the living fort. Set in the sandy expanse of the Thar Desert, it’s the second oldest fort in Rajasthan, built in the early 12th century. It has gargantuan yellow sandstone walls at the top of a hill, making it visible from miles away. An extremely imposing structure that only becomes better during the evening when its lit. The city also has old havelis, Jain temples, and spectacular camel rides in the desert. If you’re looking for another scenic touch to your trip, visit Ramdreva and the Gadisar Lake. Definitely one of the best places to visit in Rajasthan.
Need a little inspiration for a route? Check this trip we planned for a client that included the great Jaisalmer.
Located northwest in the region, it’s the fourth largest city in Rajasthan, and contains a historical heritage worth mentioning. With extremely narrow streets, it’s best to travel with horse carts. The Junagarh Fort, from the late 16th century, is one of the major forts of Rajasthan not built on a hill. Historically, it’s only been captured once for a one-day occupation, the size of the fort extending almost 6 hectares. Other sites include the Laxmi Niwas Palace, a residential palace to the old kings of Bikaner, and the Largarh Fort. The city Bikaner is part of the three desert triangle cities, with Jaisalmer and Jodhpur.
Wanderlust and desert dust (Photo Credit – Richard McAll)
Important information and logistics
How to reach Rajasthan
If arriving into Delhi, one would usually drive to Jaipur via Agra and then start their Rajasthani tour. Alternatively, if you’re flying into Mumbai, one would take an internal flight to Udaipur. Udaipur, Jaipur and Jodhpur all have an active airport.
Getting around Rajasthan
Definitely travel by the local trains and buses. However, the state of Rajasthan is incredible to drive through; so try hiring a car and admire the impressive and unique landscape. Occasionally, you can hail a cycle rickshaw – the most environment friendly option.
Accommodation options in Rajasthan
You can choose from top-notch heritage hotels in old forts and palaces we’ve listed above. Nevertheless, there will also be moderately priced rooms in guesthouses with families. Rajasthan definitely offers the most fantastic range of boarding and lodging options.
Best time to visit Rajasthan
Best time to visit Rajasthan? Peak season is October to March, hence you’ll get sunny days and fairly chilly nights. Summers are scorching, wear sunscreen and replenishing fluids is necessary. Rajasthan is beautiful in the monsoons as it changes colour drastically, and accommodations are much cheaper.
For every head there’s a headgear (Photo Credit – Christian Trachsel)
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