Traveling through the colourful Indian state of Rajasthan you might find your eyes watering: women saunter through the streets in vivid saris, farmers sport large bright turbans, elephants are painted in rainbow colours, and even the cities are known for their different shades – Jaipur the pink city, Jodhpur the blue city and Jaiselmer the golden city.
But Rajasthan is not just about colour. This fantastical state is crammed with imposing fortresses, fabulous temples and an amazing array of wildlife hiding within rich green jungles. These are the reasons why it is India’s most-visited state. Not to mention the fact that Rajasthan has managed to maintain its ancient traditions, all making this the place to see and be.
Kicking off in the capital of Delhi – a huge, bustling city, where you will see modern Indian life as we know it anywhere else – cell phones, coffee bars, and Indians in Western dress, Delhi is a great place to slowly ease into Indian life. In stark contrast, just a days drive away camel carts and rickshaws compete on the street and the locals are clothed in traditional dress. From Delhi you can visit the infamous Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum for the wife of Shah Jahan, who died giving birth to their 14th child. In her dying breath, she urged Shah Jahan to build a mausoleum for her, more beautiful than any the world had seen before. She got her wish.
Travelling out to the west are the old caravan trading posts of Jaiselmer and Jodhpur. Jaiselmer, lying in the heart of the Thar Desert, is known as the golden city. It stands on a ridge of yellowish sandstone and is crowned by a fort containing the palace and several ornate Jain temples. From Jaiselmer you can ride a camel into the desert and spend a magical night under the stars. Jodhpur, the blue city, is the second largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan, and features many palaces, forts and temples, and is also set in the stark landscape of the Thar desert.
Continuing south we come across Udaipur. Full of seductive charm, Rajasthan’s “White City”, is mostly known for it fabulous floating Lake Palace, set like a white pearl in the shimmering waters of the lake. Sight-seeing here includes Rajasthan’s largest palace, the City Palace, and the fantastically carved Jagdish temple.
In the east, and in contrast to the deserts, temples and fortresses of the rest of Rajasthan, are several wildlife reserves. In the Ranthambhore National Park you can test your luck with the tiger, spot deer or leopards in the Darrah Wildlife Sanctuary or view migratory birds at the Unesco Keoladeo Ghana National Park. It’s a nature lovers paradise.
But that is not all. The shopping is to die for. Rajasthan boasts an array of wonderful handicrafts: Agra is famous for its inlaid marble work, Jaipur’s bazaars bulge with embroidered leather shoes, blue pottery, tie-died scarves and other exotic wares. Traditional small floral prints are the specialty of Sanganer block printers and in Udaipur you will see everything from silver jewellery to wonderful textiles. Retail therapy guaranteed!
Rajasthan can be hectic and busy – you might not get the place to yourself, but the combination of bustling humanity, wonderful landscapes and royal relics make this an enriching and vibrant travel experience.
by Julie Paterson