Rajasthan with its gracious hospitality, a plethora of striking forts and palaces, colourful markets and fantastic stay options makes for an easy introduction to India. There is a good reason why visitors prefer to visit Rajasthan on their first trip to India. There are so many amazing places to visit in Rajasthan that freezing a Rajasthan Itinerary is no mean task! There are some itinerary suggestions towards the end of this post to help you in finalising Rajasthan destinations to visit.
Rajasthan – India’s largest state by area – is located on the northwestern side of the country. It is my home state and I may be a bit biased, but the Rajasthan destinations, architectural points of interest, local life, good road and rail network all go a long way towards a memorable holiday for anyone.
Your Rajasthan itinerary would involve one or more of the large cities – Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur. But I urge you to combine these with some of the smaller destinations in Rajasthan – Jaisalmer, Mandawa, Bikaner and Ranthambore – to name a few.
Rajasthan Destinations: Known jewels
Jaipur ‘The Pink City’
The capital city of Rajasthan is on most travellers’ first-time trip to India, also the ones who are doing the Golden Triangle route – Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. This beautiful city got the name of ‘Pink City’ since most of the government buildings and old markets are painted a pleasing shade of pink!
The City Palace, Hawa Mahal (Palace of Wind), Jantar Mantar (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and Jal Mahal are the top attractions to visit in Jaipur. Amer palace, located on hills about 11 km from Jaipur makes for a fabulous day trip from the city. This rich ornate palace surrounded by large, imposing fort walls is another UNESCO heritage site. Another impressive fort on the ridge of Aravalli hills is Nahargarh Fort. A trip here late evening offers glittering view of the city lights.
How to reach Jaipur: If you are going to Delhi or Agra earlier, then a road trip to Jaipur makes sense. Jaipur is well connected by air and train to Delhi and Mumbai, and also to other key Rajasthan destinations.
Udaipur ‘The White City’
If there is one city where guests are treated like royalty (at least if you are staying at a luxury property like we did!), it is Udaipur. This ‘City of Lakes and Palaces’ is one of the greenest in Rajasthan. The white palaces against the backdrop of lakes and greenery puts romance in mind, no wonder the city is considered a delight for couples.
The top sightseeing attractions here are the City Palace – don’t miss the gorgeous views of Lake Pichola from the palace, the Vintage Car Museum and Bagore-ki-haveli. Taking a boat ride on Lake Pichola – with the view of the City Palace on one side and Jagniwas island on the other – is a good way to spend an evening.
Monsoon Palace or Sajjan Garh makes for a good day trip outside the city. This 19th century palace is located just outside Udaipur, and offers panoramic views of the city and the area around it.
How to reach Udaipur: There are daily flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Dabok airport (also known as Maharana Pratap airport) in Udaipur. Udaipur is well-connected by trains to all the Rajasthan points of interest and several other cities in India including Agra, Delhi and Mumbai. The road network between these cities is also very good.
Jodhpur ‘The Blue City’
The old town of Jodhpur has most houses painted in shades of indigo, perhaps the reason for its name Blue City.
This is my favourite city in Rajasthan. I can’t exactly put my finger on the reason. The imposing Mehrangarh Fort that looms over the city and can be seen practically from anywhere in the old reason could be one reason. Seeing the Mehrangarh Fort with its expansive courtyards and museums, taking in the lovely views of the old town of Jodhpur from various vantage points of the Fort makes for a great half-day trip. Add to that other architectural marvels such as Jaswant Thada, Toorji ki baoli (an ancient step well) and Clock Tower in the heart of the city and you have a fine day for cultural immersion.
I love Rajasthani food and have enjoyed it in all cities, big and small in Rajasthan. But the Rajasthani food in Jodhpur is particularly delicious. It is also more spicy, so ask for less chillies if your palette cannot take the heat.
How to reach Jodhpur: Jodhpur is well connected to Delhi, Jaipur, Udaipur by trains / roads. There is also flight connectivity from Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur and Udaipur to Jodhpur.
Rajasthan Destinations: Off-beat places to visit
Jaisalmer ‘The Golden City’
Jaisalmer is not really a hidden gem and gets its fair share of domestic and foreign tourists. But it is on the western border and far less connected by road and train than other Rajasthan points of interest.
This Golden City gets its name because of the stone used in making Jaisalmer Fort and some other buildings in the old town area. But unlike the sanitised and well-kept environ of other Rajasthan Forts, a visit to Jaisalmer Fort – the largest ‘Living Fort’ – is different. There are numerous Havelis or merchant houses with intricate carvings to be seen in the old town. Another interesting place to visit especially during sunset is Bada Bagh, a cenotaph where some of the royals were buried.
One of the best experiences to be had outside Jaisalmer is a night in Thar desert. Camel ride over rolling sand dunes, a spectacular sunset with an unending horizon in the desert, sand boarding if you are keen for an adventure activity and sleeping under a thousand stars, this is a must-do on your Rajasthan itinerary.
How to reach Jaislamer: Till recently, there was no air connectivity to Jodhpur but the flights are few and far in between. The best option to reach Jaisalmer is a road trip from Jodhpur or Bikaner.
If you are looking for true-blue Rajasthani hospitality and the best preserved fort in a small town not on the tourist circuit as yet, Bikaner would not disappoint.
Junagadh is definitely one of the most beautiful forts I have been to in Rajasthan. The modern city of Bikaner has developed around the fort. The Fort contains palaces, pavilions and Hindu temples. Rampuria havelis (merchant houses) on Heritage road are another attraction to visit in Bikaner.
How to reach Bikaner: Bikaner has good road connectivity from Delhi, Jaipur, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. There are not-so-frequent flights as well from Delhi and Jaipur.
If you are looking for a smaller, off-beat destination in Rajasthan, consider the Shekhawati region. Mandawa, part of the Shekhawati region, is best known for stunning havelis (merchant houses) with lovely decorations that beckon the past. Grand mansions, baoris (step wells), forts and shrines are scattered all over the Shekhwati region and a stay in Mandawa makes for a pleasant small town experience filled with colour, mythology and ancient tales.
How to reach Mandawa: Mandawa is connected to Delhi, Jaipur and Bikaner by road.
One can’t blame you if your ‘fort-ed’ out after a few days in Rajasthan and want a different experience, especially if you are a wildlife and nature enthusiast. One of the prominent national parks in the country and important for tiger conservation is set up near Sawai Madhopur. There are many stay options from heritage properties to glamping sites near the national park to budget options not too far from the park.
How to reach Ranthambore: You can reach there by road or train. Jaipur is the closest airport.
4 Rajasthan Itinerary suggestions: 5 days to 2 weeks
The starting point of these Rajsthan Itinerary suggestions is mostly Delhi or Jaipur. You should look at spending 2 to 3 nights at each destination depending on the pace you want (perhaps 1 night would suffice at the smaller points of interest in Rajasthan like Mandawa and Bikaner).
Itinerary 1: Options to extend the Golden Triangle route (see map 1)
Delhi – Agra – Jaipur – Udaipur – Jodhpur: One option of extending Golden Triangle circuit of Delhi – Agra – Jaipur is to visit 2 other cities in Rajasthan, say Udaipur and Jodhpur. This is best suited for couples and families who are seeking more luxurious stays, cultural immersion and easy connectivity via flights.
Delhi – Agra – Jaipur – Mandawa – Bikaner: If you are looking to extend the Golden Triangle circuit with further smaller and off-beat locations for cultural immersion, my recommendation would be to add Mandawa and Bikaner. This is best covered by a road trip from Delhi.
Delhi – Agra – Jaipur – Ranthambore: If you wish to extend the Golden Triangle with a wildlife experience, you could take a train or a road trip from Jaipur to Sawai Madhopur and finish off the trip with a stay for 2/3 days at Ranthambore National Park.
Itinerary 2: Classic Cultural Triangle (see map 2)
Jaipur – Udaipur – Jodhpur: The classic Cultural Triangle route would showcase the main places of interest in Rajasthan – again suited for travelers who want the cultural highlights and flight connectivity.
Itinerary 3: Beautiful Gems (see map 2)
Jaipur – Bikaner – Jodhpur – Jaisalmer: This would be a mix of large and small destinations in Rajasthan, and is best done via trains or a rental car.
Itinerary 4: The full circuit (map 3)
Mandawa – Bikaner – Jaisalmer – Jodhpur – Udaipur – Ranthambore – Jaipur: Cover several points of interest in Rajasthan if you have 2 weeks to spend.
Note: All photos in this blogpost have been sourced from Pixabay.
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