The State of Rajasthan is a microcosm of vibrancy and color that truly defines India and its exotic appeal. Jaipur, the State capital is less than an hour away from New Delhi by air, but is also an easy 5-hour drive… which puts you in touch with natural beauty and gives time to enjoy mustard fields and intriguing structures along the way.
Your trip to Jaipur is incomplete without a visit to the Amer Palace and the Jaigarh Fort. Amer Palace offers breathtaking views of Rajasthani-Mughal architecture at its best, wrapped in stories of Emperors and their queens. You could plan lunch at the fort as they have a pretty good restaurant inside, just where the car-track ends. The museum across the restaurant is a treat, but if you are short of time, visit the museum in the City Palace (in the heart of the old PINK City). Because what you must use your time in the fort to walk from room to room till you reach the garden at the end. Each door you walk through opens a visual surprise… and that must be experienced.
The old PINK City offers a delight for shoppers. Tie-n-dye work, block printing and blue pottery are uniquely crafted in this part of the world. It is good to also plan an hour to see three magnificent old structures; Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar and the Jal Mahal. And if you like museums, Jaipur is your home… take a hotel closer to the old city (rather than near the airport) to enjoy more of it.
Two other destinations that are quintessential Rajasthan are Udaipur and Jaisalmer. While Udaipur is regal, relaxed and the place for palaces, Jodhpur, enroute to Jaisalmer, offers a touch of the same and takes you closer to a unique experience of the desert-town (Jaisalmer).
While it is best to take a flight to Udaipur and continue enjoying the royalty of Rajasthan, to Jaisalmer you must take the road. For one, Jaisalmer does not have a commercial airport (being too close to the national border with Pakistan) and second, the road brings out wonderful scenes such as hundreds of camels together, amazing sunsets over sands and cenotaphs that tell stories of sati-practices and more…
The Jaisalmer fort is among the few forts in India where people’s homes, shops and tourist places are still alive in the medieval setting. The terrace of the palace of the Maharaja (King) of Jaisalmer within the fort is a great place to climb up, to have an unobstructed view of the golden-brown city. And while you are there, a must-do is to spend a night in tents on the desert sands… after a folk music and dance show, over a typically Rajasthani dinner.
While you are in Rajasthan, choose hotels that were Havelis (mansions of noblemen) and have now been modified to provide you a unique experience. You will find them in every city. Several are operated by people who have traveled to Europe and US, and these are better in terms of the maintenance and services.
Another tip, plan your road-trips to capture sunrises or sunsets. You get magnificent views over the earth, as Rajasthan is the land of the bare sun. If you have the option, keep a couple of days extra, to visit remote villages where they make handicrafts, paintings, fossil/stone-artefacts, and garments… any and all of these could become memories for life!