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With its magnificent forts and palaces, expansive sand dunes, vibrant local life and long royal history, Rajasthan exudes a sense of grandeur.
This state in northwestern India is ideal for first-timers, with a great mix of culture, impressive UNESCO sites, ornate temples and outdoor adventures. It can also easily be tied-in with a visit to the famous Taj Mahal and the capital Delhi, as the Rajashtani city of Jaipur is part of the iconic Golden Triangle tour.
Wandering through the enchanting blue city of Jodhpur, going on a Ranthambore tiger safari, gazing at palaces built in the middle of lakes and even camel rides through the Thar Desert are just some of the highlights from this unforgettable journey. Here’s the ultimate Rajasthan itinerary for those with at least one week to explore this fascinating region.
Start your tour of Rajasthan in Jaipur, which is known as the Pink City thanks to its rose-hued facades and pastel palaces. The bustling streets are alive with women wearing colourful saris, costumed elephants, snake charmers and vendors hawking their wares, which makes the city seem like something out of a fantasy.
Get a glimpse of local life by browsing the bazaars, then head to historical places in Jaipur like the forts and museums to see first-hand why the city is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Places to see in Jaipur:
- City Palace: Wander through the magnificent halls, courtyards and temples of this 18th century complex, where Jaipur’s royal family still resides.
- Hawa Mahal: This ornate, blush-hued sandstone building with hundreds of windows was used by the royal ladies to look at life on the streets below, and is one of the top sights in Jaipur.
- Amer Fort: Experience the imperial lifestyle of the Rajput rulers on a visit to this spectacular 16th century fort, which is perched high on top of a hill overlooking the city. It’s played home to the royal Rajput rulers and now consists of a series of manicured grounds, extravagant palaces and lavish rooms.
- Albert Hall Museum: Discover traditional Indian arts and crafts–sculptures, pottery, weapons, jewellery, paintings and more–in this splendid museum which looks stunning when lit up at night.
- Jal Mahal: Your Jaipur itinerary must include a stop to view this palace–aptly nicknamed the Water Palace–which was built in the middle of a lake. In an incredible feat of engineering, four storeys of the structure are underwater.
- Panna Meena Ka Kund: Marvel at the series of steps going down to the water below at this beautifully-designed 16th century stepwell.
Where to stay in Jaipur:
- Rambagh Palace: This opulent property is one of the best hotels in Jaipur, thanks to its lavish rooms, fantastic dining experiences and butler service. Owned by the acclaimed Taj Hotels group, guests love the five star service, afternoon tea and serene outdoor pool area. Click here to book
- Pearl Palace Heritage- The Boutique Guesthouse: This classic hotel features huge, individually designed rooms that show off its Rajasthani heritage, with artwork covering almost every single wall. The restaurant’s rooftop deck has fantastic views, and the hotel gets top marks for attentive service. Click here to book
The next stop on your Rajasthan trip is Jodhpur, which is famous for its blue hues where entire laneways and buildings are painted in every imaginable variation of this vibrant tone.
Head to a high-up perch like Jaswant Thada to admire the scene from above, then wander through the neighbourhoods where friendly locals are sure to poke their heads out in curiosity as you pass by and maybe even pose for a picture.
What to see in Jodhpur:
- Mehrangarh Fort: Rising more than 120 metres above the city, the magnificent 15th century fort houses palaces, courtyards and museums and is one of the best places to visit in Jodhpur. There are even turban tying lessons!
- Jaswant Thada: This cluster of stunning white marble cenotaphs are dedicated to the royals, making it an idyllic place to visit outside of the fort.
- Umaid Bhawan Palace: This impressive residence of the Jodhpur royal family has been partly turned into a luxury hotel, and there’s also a museum on site.
Where to stay in Jodhpur:
- RAAS Jodhpur: This gorgeous site inside the walled city was formerly home to the aristocratic Thakur family, and the original 18th-century haveli has been beautifully converted into four hotel buildings. The rooms are a tasteful blend of classic touches and modern amenities, and the property has fabulous views of a fort, on-site spa and outdoor pool. Click here to book
- Hotel Ratan Vilas: The hotel’s huge courtyard is a great place to beat the heat, where guests can enjoy a cool drink, wander around the manicured gardens or hop in the pool. A true sanctuary in the heart of the city, the attentive staff and spacious rooms keep guests coming back time and time again. Click here to book
Enveloped by the majestic Aravalli mountain range, the white city of Udaipur has a fairytale feel to it. From its lovely lakes to the exquisite palaces, this city is perhaps one of the most beautiful and well-kept places to visit in Rajasthan.
Things to do in Udaipur:
- Lake Palace Hotel: If you’re able to splurge, spend a night at this luxury palace hotel in the middle of Lake Pichola. Otherwise, take a boat ride on the lake to see it up close and enjoy sublime views.
- City Palace Complex: Visitors can explore this massive, whitewashed palace complex on the banks of Lake Pichola, which has ornate rooms connected by courtyards and corridors as well as galleries with art displays. It is one of the most popular Udaipur attractions, and has incredible views of the city spread out below.
- Udaipur city tour: Wandering through the quiet, pretty waterfront streets and popping into the shops is one of the best ways to get a feel for Udaipur. Taking a rickshaw ride is another fun way to get into the spirit of the city.
- Udaipur day trips: Journey out to the remarkable Kumbhalgarh Fort, a Mewar fortress which dates back to the 15th century, or go see the exquisite Jain temples of Ranakpur and Dilwara.
Where to stay in Udaipur:
- Taj Lake Palace Udaipur: This ethereal property has played host to royalty, poets and writers over its three century history, and even made an appearance in the James Bond film Octopussy. The grand, lavish rooms are tended by royal butlers, and experiences like rose petal showers and enchanting sunset cruises around the lake makes this the best place to stay in Udaipur. Click here to book
- bloom Boutique | Lake Pichola: Located on the banks of the lake, this hotel’s sunshine yellow facade makes it a standout spot, and the colourful theme is woven throughout the property. Guests give it top marks for the great location and helpful staff. Click here to book
Stories of bravery and tragedy abound in the city of Chittorgarh, which is best known for its colossal fort that was the site of three major seiges by Muslim invaders. Today, the main inhabitants of the UNESCO-protected Chittor Fort are troops of cheeky monkeys, who are quite entertaining in their own right.
Places to see in Chittorgarh:
- Chittorgarh (Chittor) Fort: Spread over a vast area on a hilltop, you can visit the remnants of palaces, temples, towers and water bodies at this fort which is one of the top places to visit in Chittorgarh. Highlights include the Rana Kumbha Palace ruins, the intricately-carved, nine-storey Vijaya Stambha tower and a gem-toned reservoir. Come nightfall, there’s a sound and light show against the fort walls.
- Ranthambore National Park: Chittorgarh also isn’t too far from this 400 square kilometre reserve, which is one of the best national parks in India for a tiger safari. Home to the likes of crocodiles, deer and black face langur monkeys, visitors with a bit of luck on their side might spot one of the 70 rare Bengal tigers living here.
Where to stay in Chittorgarh:
- Hotel Amrit Manthan: This budget-friendly property is surprisingly modern, with huge clean rooms, a swimming pool and easy connections to the railway station. Click here to book
- Fort Begu: This is one of the top hotels in Chittorgarh district (with a price tag to match) where guests get to stay right in a fort dating back to the 1400s, which to this day is owned and operated by the original ruling family. Guests rave about the elegant rooms, surrounding views of Begu and fantastic dining. Click here to book
The final stop on your Rajasthan tour itinerary is the magical, otherworldly city of Jaisalmer, a former trading centre along the Silk Route which feels like the kind of place where time stands still. The ‘Golden City’ is best known for its enormous living fort, which dates back to the 12th century and is home to four-thousand people.
The sandstone structures inside host narrow, winding laneways, chaotic plazas, and shops stocked with handmade leather goods and bright scarves. Getting lost in the streets and checking out the top Jaisalmer attractions is a fun way to spend the day, before heading out to the vast Thar Desert for a camel ride across the sand dunes.
Places to visit in Jaisalmer:
- Jaisalmer Fort: The fort is one of the top things to see in Jaisalmer thanks to its beautiful Jain temples, the Maharaja’s Palace, lovely havelis (traditional mansions with intricate facades) and sweeping panoramic views from Cannon Point.
- Gadisar Lake: Get away from the hustle and bustle of city life by heading out to Gadisar Lake, an artificial reservoir surrounded by temples and picturesque vistas. Take time to admire the sandstone archway Tilon-Ki-Pol, gorgeous reflections and view of the fort in the distance.
- Thar Desert: Exploring the Great Indian Desert landscape by taking a camel ride through the Sam sand dunes is one of the most memorable things to do in Jaisalmer. You can even stay overnight in a Jaisalmer desert camp which is similar to glamping, enjoy dinner in the dunes and watch the sunset.
Where to stay in Jaisalmer:
- Hotel Lalgarh Fort And Palace: With its sandstone walls and traditional decor, the Lalgarh delivers on the heritage theme. Found near the market and fort, the rooftop dining experience serves up excellent cuisine paired with phenomenal views, and is an experience that’s not to be missed. Click here to book
- Hotel Pleasant Haveli: This quaint, centrally-located property boasts a rooftop restaurant, incredibly accommodating staff, and budget-friendly room rates. Click here to book
How to book a Rajasthan sightseeing tour
All of the main cities are connected through a network of roads, airports and railways, and an unforgettable way to make this journey is by train aboard the Palace on Wheels. Many tour companies offer guided trips of the best places to visit in Rajasthan, which is ideal for first-timers who might otherwise be overwhelmed with the logistics of covering such a large distance.
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