While preparing my trip to India, I was already amazed by the colors of Rajasthan. It was on the spot that I realized that the pictures I had seen on the Internet or in the travel guides had nothing to do with reality. In this part of India, you’ll be charmed by the colors, the locals, the vegetarian food and the many historical sites.
Udaipur, the white city.
Udaipur is calmness and gentleness. After a few days in Delhi, this tranquility was more than welcome! The havelis are arranged around Lake Pichola — deposited in the middle, the Lake Palace. This palace, all marble, can be seen closer by boat, but it will take out the big tickets if you want to stay (so visit!). Indeed, the palace is now a luxury hotel, one of the most recognized in India. By taking the boat ride offered by the City Palace, you can not only approach the palace, but also visit the Jag Mandir. There is not much to see, but it is still nice to visit.
In Udaipur, the City Palace is impressive. You hardly notice the entrance, invaded by drivers and guides, but once inside, in the main courtyard, one quickly realizes the architectural scale of the largest City Palace of Rajasthan. There are some shops in the main compound, but better to avoid them because the prices are higher than outside (for the same products!). Through the tour, you will find several windows or balconies that offer splendid views of the White City or Lake Pichola. In the evening, the City Palace lights up and it’s magical!
Very early in the morning, the locals wash, and women wash clothes on the edge of the ghats. Go very early and you can witness a beautiful scene of everyday life. We chose to watch the scene from afar, on a pedestrian bridge, but you can also easily go directly to the ghats. Be aware, however, that you will find yourself amid an intimate and sacred moment for these Indians. At dusk, go near the ghats where you can admire a beautiful sunset in the image of Udaipur, sweet and peaceful. Then, as soon as the sun is down, a puppet-show and traditional dance takes place at Bagore Ki Haveli, close to the ghats. The women are beautiful and impressive! Do not miss it.
On the road … Ranakpur
On the road between Udaipur and Jodhpur, stop at Ranakpur to admire the most beautiful Jain temple in the area, entirely made of marble. The detour is well worth the effort. You will not be disappointed! At the entrance of the temple, a cafeteria offers a thali at a ridiculous price. Do not hesitate to go there.
Jodhpur, the blue city
In Jodhpur, there is a frenzy like Delhi. The markets are crowded and there are people everywhere. However, we quickly forget all the chaos with the blue houses that soothes the atmosphere. By the way, walking in the small non-commercial streets, it’s rather quiet, but be careful where you put your feet! Also, the streets are very narrow and no car or tuk-tuk circulates there. Plan it, because you will have to lug your effects until your accommodation.
Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur is impressive. It was one of our favorites of the whole trip. The audio guide is included in the price of the ticket, take it! It is well done, and you will learn a ton of interesting things. If your hotel or hostel has a roof terrace, you can certainly admire the full extent of this fort with, as a bonus, blue houses as far as the eye can see. Then, not too far from the fort, you can visit a marble temple, smaller than the one of Ranakpur, but just for the small garden in the shade, the visit is worth it.
Finally, a few kilometers from the city, you will see the monkeys in action at Mandore’s garden. There are also beautiful cenotaphs to visit. Then, enjoy your visit to Jodhpur to fill up on spices! Prices are more than reasonable, and merchants generally offer the opportunity to place more orders from Canada.
Jaisalmer, the golden city
Arriving near the city, from the road, you will see the magnificent fortress of Jaisalmer that looks almost like a huge sand castle! The blocks are so heavy that they simply hold up by their weight. The interior of the fortress can be visited and there are many textile merchants and camel leather goods inside the Old Town compound.
Also, Jaisalmer havelis are known to be among the most beautiful and best preserved in the region. As we made our trip in the spring and it was the low season, the kind owner of our hotel offered to accompany us in the city to make them discover us. So, we spent the morning with him traveling the city. He explained the story behind the different havelis and their owners. Take the time to look up to watch them!
Finally, we went to Jaisalmer for a camel safari in the Thar desert. I really advise you to shop the agencies and take your time to ask questions. Our hotel organized towers that were very well rated all over the internet. However, we quickly realized that in the low season they do not do business with the same company and we were rather disappointed with our night getaway in the desert, especially since there was a very big storm! Moreover, it is apparently quite dangerous to sleep under the stars in the desert of Thar and should instead favor the agencies that provide tents. Many Indians treated us crazy!
Jaipur, the pink city
In Jaipur, activities and monuments to visit are not lacking. If you plan to visit several sites, get a composite ticket that will give you access to the main attractions for a fraction of the price. Even more advantageous if you are a student! You can get it from any monument where the pass is accepted.
The City Palace in Jaipur is a lot less impressive than in Udaipur, but it’s still worth a visit. Nearby you will also find a bazaar that never seems to end. Take the opportunity to do some shopping, including jewelry and gems. You will make good business! Prepare to be docked by all the merchants.
Within walking distance, you will find the famous Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds. From the street, it is rather difficult to admire the splendid facade. Go to one of the cafes opposite, they almost all have a roof terrace where you can take beautiful pictures while enjoying a samosa and lassi with mango. Inside, you can especially enjoy a view of the surroundings because the main attraction is really the impressive facade that allowed women to observe what was happening without being seen.
Finally, in the same corner, the Jantar Mantar (or Yantar Mandir), former astronomical observatory, is interesting to visit, especially because the tools are still as accurate as when they were built, a few hundred years ago. If you are a fan of astronomy or astrology, you will love it! I advise you to go with one of the guides on site to explain the usefulness of the tools, it will be much simpler than trying to guess (as we did!). The clock giving accurate time to the nearest second is impressive!
Finally, near Jaipur, you can visit the Amber Fort which is also included in the composite ticket. This is a very beautiful and large fort which will certainly take you a few hours to visit. The road to get there offers a beautiful view of Jaipur!
Of course, Agra is not part of the Rajasthan region, but Uttar Pradesh. I include it here because that says, “trip to India”, says “visit to Taj Mahal”! As there is very little to see in Agra, I suggest you make a round trip to simply visit the Taj Mahal and, if you wish, the Red Fort. In Delhi and Jaipur, several agencies offer this getaway (sometimes even hostels and hotels). Otherwise, take a hostel for a single night and it will be ample.
The Taj Mahal is at its best at sunrise, the time the site opens. Get up early, you will not be disappointed! The first rays of the sun striking the mausoleum shine the precious stones embedded in the marble and it is beautiful. Take your time and enjoy this magical moment!
Do not be afraid to go to India because you have not traveled enough. If you are prepared for what awaits you, you will probably live the best experience of your life. Take the time to learn and read as much as you can. Dare to venture and discover this beautiful country that is India!