Rajasthan is the land of majestic forts and astounding palaces, rich heritage and culture, delectable cuisines and warm people, set amidst a rugged yet beautiful landscape. From the time I first heard the stories of the mighty Ranas and Rajputs, this land has inspired me. I am sure each of us have dreamt of visiting Rajasthan and many have already fulfilled the dream too. For those of you who haven’t, here is a guided package tour of Rajasthan for you, within a budget of 20,000 rupees for 15 days of visiting the sands of royalty.
No matter which travel agency you contact (I went with City Travels), the tour remains almost the same. If you are starting from Howrah, like I did, there is a long train journey (extra long in my case because the train was late) to Bikaner, the first stop. We checked into our hotel at noon and freshened up within an hour, had our lunch and the first place we visited in Rajasthan was Bikaner’s Junagarh Fort. Draped in history the fort is beautiful to say the least and the only fort in Rajasthan that’s on ground level.
JUNAGARH FORT, BIKANER.
The next town to visit was Jaisalmer (we had to make up for the time we lost due to the late train). On the way to Jaisalmer, there is the Karni Mata Temple to visit, which is famous as the Rat Temple. Thousands of rats roam about the temple, do not be scared (easier said than done) and pray you see a white rat which can, as believed, make all your wishes come true.
The bus journey to Jaisalmer can be a tedious and taxing one, but when you see the Golden Fort of the golden city in the first morning light, it will make all your tiredness go away. Reaching the hotel early morning, freshen up, have your breakfast and dive into the world Satyajit Ray created, a matter of pride for all Bengalis.
SONAR KELLA OR THE TRIKUTGARH FORT, JAISALMER
After lunch, the camels and desert were awaiting us. Jaisalmer is famous for their desert camps that will give you the feeling of the Arabian Nights in pretty comfortable fully equipped tents. Do stay the night for their bonfire and folk dancing!
From Jaisalmer’s desert, we traveled to the blue city of Jodhpur to visit Asia’s most well maintained fort : Mehrangarh Fort. The next day, Jodhpur’s visit ended with Umaid Bhawan where the present Maharaja lives and the journey went onto the Aravallis.
UMAID BHAWAN, JODHPUR
We reached the Aravalli and our destination in Mount Abu after sunset. The next day will be a bit boring except Dilwara which is a masterpiece to behold. The day ended with hot coffee, cool winds and a spectacular sunset.
The next morning we started towards Udaipur with a short stop at Haldighati to visit the Chetak Samadhi, where Maharana Pratap”s loyal horse gave up his life to save his master. We reached Udaipur in the evening and started the tour of the City of Lakes the next morning. Udaipur is a treat to the eyes with its beautiful lake palaces, the puppet show and folk dance theatre and the gorgeous palace of the white city. The sound and light show late evening is a must watch with the rich history of the Maharanas of Chittorgarh and Udaipur coming to life and bringing tears to your eyes.
The next stop was at Pushkar but the road led us first to Chittorgarh and then to Ajmer. Chittorgarh, to be honest was a disappointment to me after reading about the mighty fort and its majestic Ranas and their brave Queens. Literally everything was in ruins except the huge boundary walls and gates of the fort, the Meerabai Temple, the Vijay-Stambh, the Jauhar Kund (now filled with water) and the Padmini Mahal. The Ajmer Sharif Darga is a must visit where you wish for all your dreams to come true.
Pushkar, was also a disappointment for me because I really do not like temples. But the early morning view of the Brahma-Kund is actually pleasing and peaceful. It didn’t take much longer to reach Jaipur from Pushkar and all the boredom of the morning vanished with three back to back forts and palaces in Jaipur : Jaigarh, Nahargarh and Amer Palace. Jaigarh and Nahargarh gives you the feeling of the warriors of Rajputana and the road leading to them is amazing. Keep your eyes open for peacocks by the side of the road! Amer Palace, the home of Jodha Bai and Maan Singh is a treat to the eyes with its vast courtyards and breathtaking views all around.
The next day in Jaipur was booked for the City Palace, Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar and loads of shopping, Jaipur practically being the shopping haven for Rajasthan. And with another suitcase full of beautiful gifts and memories, we came back to our regular lives the next day.
Now, some important points to be remembered if you take this tour are :
- Hotels, food and the transportation costs are included in the amount mentioned above, just the shopping will be yours.
- Carry loads of sunscreen and moisturizer because the air is very dry and hot with no humidity at all.
- Always appoint guides in all places or else you would miss out on a lot of historical knowledge.
- Do try Rajasthani cuisines but always at the end of the tour if your digestion doesn’t agree with spicy snacks.
Package tours are a convenient way to visit Rajasthan because you can leave all the planning and execution to your tour managers and just sit back and enjoy your vacation. Also, the food is homemade which keeps you healthy because 15 days is a long time to survive on new cuisines everyday.
Now that the lesson is over, go visit this land of the royals. You will find the past, the present and the future interwoven with each other. You will find passion and adventure in the stories you visit. And you will find yourself.
Guest Post by Swati RoyChowdhury