"Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and sometimes in the middle of nowhere you find yourself." Well, that’s the magic of a road trip.
We had been on some single day road trips but did not ever experience the wilderness of being on the roads for a few days at a stretch. We planned a 12-day long road trip during August last year, through none other than the royal state of Rajasthan. Rajasthan, because no one is unaware of the rich legacy this state claims. It is one state that offers you abundant places to see, varied experiences and adventures and is probably the liveliest region of India.
Rajasthan has a long list of cities, towns and villages that could be visited, and it really a tedious job to decide upon the itinerary. After a long session on where to go and where not, we decided based on our favorites. Our parents too accompanied us on this crazy and extensive journey. Breaking the stereotypes, Indian parents are ready for adventure these days. At least ours are.
Rajasthan Tourism deserves a special mention here as the tourism industry is taking earnest steps towards creating cognizance about the state. Rajasthan enjoys 6 airports, and Jaipur being the primary one is well-connected to most of the domestic cities and a few international ones.
We chose to fly to Delhi as flights are much cheaper than Jaipur and it's easier to hire taxis from Delhi, as the drivers are willing to be on the road for long days in the neighboring states. Our companion for 12 days was Shri Mohan Singh ji, who had more than 40 years of proficiency in driving and the car was his luxury Innova car with enough space to lodge four of us with bags and baggage. You can check the itinerary at the end of the blog
Khatu Shyamji Temple
Our first destination was 'Khatu Shyamji temple', which is believed to be the most visited temple of Lord Shree Shyam. Numerous government eateries and Dhabas are available on the Delhi-Jaipur highway serving lip-smacking food.
Image Source: http://saibabateachings.blogspot.in
This temple is dedicated to the goddess of power and sees a lot of tourists during the Navratra period.
Image Source: http://www.missionkuldevi.in
‘Balaji Dham’, is a place of religious importance for the believers of Hanuman. Located on National Highway 65 near Sujangarh, Salasar attracts uncountable worshippers throughout the year. On Chaitra Purnima and Ashvin Purnima, large fairs are organized that attract devotees as they pay respect to the deity.
Image Source: supermantra youtube channel
Rajasthan is a pure heaven for foodies with the collection of dishes they have. Most people opt for their elaborate Rajasthani Thalis. The extended menu includes two types of chapatis, rice, dal, kadhi, 3 types of veggies, pickles, raita and papad and the best part is price is fixed and you can eat in infinite quantities. If you do, please take care of your stomach: P
Image Source: http://foodmantras.blogspot.in
Our next stop was Didwana, another town at a little more than an hour’s drive. It was a very short visit mainly because parents wanted to do some rituals in ancestral temples and we enjoyed the narrow lanes, colorful conventional houses and a few peacocks.
Weather in Rajasthan is on the warmer side during the monsoons as well and what made it really challenging is the absence of restaurants or any general food stores in the interiors. You might find some bananas, to satisfy the hungry rats in your tummies.
Not sure, if rats are fond of bananas :P
This place is mainly famous for its 'Ramdevji ka mandir', but it got its due attention from the iconic Satyajit Ray film 'Shonar Kella' where Feluda chases the culprits on camels.
Image Source: http://www.mid-day.com/articles/retracing-the-popularity-of-satyajit-rays-feluda-50-years-on/16930193
As we check in to our abode for the night, we decided to take a walk around the town. Numerous shops on the long roads outside the temple are very attractive, creative art objects from the local artisans and delicious sweets will pull you like magnets. Most famous being the 'Ramdevji ka ghoda' (horse). We bought one too :)
Devotees from all over visit the temple all-round the year. Ramdevra Fair is held here in the months of August and February and is attended by devotees in large numbers.
Tip – Local breakfast includes paratha, aloo sabzi and dahi and its delightful.
Camel Camel Everywhere
Before getting in the Jaisalmer district, know that since the borders are nearby, it is a highly protected zone and the unlawful activities are not unknown to anybody. Camels could be located in almost every nook and corner of Rajasthan, but a caravan of hundreds of camels is not a usual sight. Nearing the desert region, we came across one such herd of camels and useless to mention we took pictures to the content of our hearts. Our enthusiasm knew no boundaries and we went quite inside the jungle leaving our mobile phones in the car. After a stop of a few minutes, we somehow sensed danger as there was no other vehicle to be seen far off and the camel owners tried to be friendly in a weird way.
Tip - In case you encounter such a thing, just know when to leave
Jaisalmer is located close to the Pakistan border and in close proximity to the Thar Desert. Founded by Rawal Jaisal in the 12th century, it is famous as the 'Golden city of India', one day is minimum you need apart from the Sam safaris.
It derives its name from the yellow sandstone, which is used for the building. Entire city buildings are almost in sync and there is so much to appreciate. Major points of interest are:-
Sam Sand Dunes
The silky Sam Sand Dunes, 41km west of Jaisalmer is indisputably one of the most picturesque in the region.
Safaris could be easily pre-booked through the hotel, which includes an adventurous jeep safari, camel safari, and the famous Kalbelia dance of desert with live music performers and an authentic Rajasthani dinner.
Most precious is the sunset view from the desert, which rests with the onlooker forever.
Jaisalmer War Museum
Around 10 kms prior to Jaisalmer on the Jaisalmer - Jodhpur Highway, is the 'Jaisalmer War Museum'. This museum features the bravery, extraordinary courage and valour of the war heroes especially from the state of Rajasthan.
It traces various milestones of Indian Armed Forces and major attraction was the 10 minutes’ video that showcases the glorious history of victories.
Jaisalmer Fort - Shonar Kella
The pride of Jaisalmer and a World Heritage site stands tall on a hill in the middle of the city. It is one of the largest fully preserved fortified cities in the world.
A hand drawn picture of the fort from the famous movie 'Shonar Kella'
The majestic landmark is visible from all points in the city. Inside are shops covered in vibrant colors, art and craft goodies and numerous vendors looking for tourists.
Jaisalmer Fort - Gadisagar Lake
A popular local hangout, mainly famous for its peaceful environment and a break from the hot desert heat. Major pass-times here are feeding the giant catfishes and paddle boating.
Desert Culture Centre & Museum
Just opposite the lake is the Desert Museum accompanied by a small museum around the show hall.. The center operated by Prof. Sharma conducts 2 puppet shows in the evening, which he hosts himself and enlightens about Jaisalmer and Maru Pradesh.
Patwon Ki Haveli
A cluster of 5 small havelis, it is an architectural marvel built in an incredibly narrow lane.
Other interests could be Salim Singh Ki Haveli, Nathmalji Ki Haveli and The Thar Heritage Museum.
We had to unwillingly skip Jodhpur even though we didn't want to, as the city was flooded due to monsoons. Bad luck! We left at 4am from Jaisalmer as we had mighty 450 kms to cover and also Dilwara Temples allow tourists from 12pm-6pm only. Mount Abu is the only hill station in the state of desert and is an unexpected mountain refuge from the baking heat.
Apart from the famous Jain Dilwara Temples with their complicatedly carved marble structures, the town has Gurushikhar Temple, Adhar Devi Temple, sunset viewpoints and the beautiful Nakki Lake.
Dilwara Jain Temples
A world-famous site for its exquisite use of marbles is a sacred pilgrimage place of the Jains. Photography in the premises is strictly prohibited and people are allowed in groups along with a guide, who explains the entire history of the 5 temples in around 20 minutes. It is a heavenly experience.
Image Source: http://www.remotetraveler.com
Tip - Please take a second round of the temple as there are chances you would not go back again and there would be no pictures to cherish later.
Other fascinating places to see are :-
Nakki lake is huge and is a major tourist spot. The tranquil atmosphere makes it very romantic and one can see various activities happening. Boating facilities are also available and it is an ideal site to spend the evening at leisure.
The highest point of the Aravalli Range is quite a trek and one needs to climb a lot many stairs before reaching the peak.
Other interests could be Sunset Point, Brahma Kumaris Spiritual University and Adhar Devi Temple.
Tip - Even though Mount Abu is a hill station, it is not as cold as other renowned ones. Thin jackets might be needed.
Mount Abu being very near to Gujarat borders, gives an advantage of visiting the renowned 'Ambaji Temple' of Gujarat without changing the route much. It is one of the 51 shakipeeths and it is believed that the Heart of Sati Devi has fallen here.
The road to Udaipur is as beautiful as the city itself. Hills and the rock-cut tunnels start giving a feel of awesomeness before reaching. On our way, we saw the most famous sight of a small van overloaded with people hanging here and there, and in front of the driver too.
Udaipur has a rich cultural heritage from the bygone ages. The lakes, temples, huge forts and palaces boast about the affluent legacy of this city and it has been on our must-visit list always. As we reached after dusk, we decided to walk around the local markets and leave the heritage exploration for the next day.
Udaipur, also known as the Venice of the East, with fanciful palaces, temples, havelis, pleasing lakes with a backdrop of Aravalli hills is a charismatic city for both domestic and foreign travellers. This historic capital of the kingdom of Mewar was founded by Maharana Udai Singh II (hence the name), and the current custodian is Maharana Arvind Singh Mewar.
The calmness of boat rides, the bustle of ancient bazaars, limitless alluring shops, world’s best hotels and the divine countryside to explore is a comprehensive dreamland for the travellers. There is so much to see and do, that one-day would never be enough.
Being on time crunch is really sad while travelling, but alas. We too had a 'Places to see' list just like Ranbir Kapoor in 'Ye Jawaani hai Deewani' and fortunately we did not miss the 'Light and Sound Show' as it was priceless.
The list is unending :-
City Palace and Museum
Light and Sound Show in City Palace
We fell in love with the music and narration and have been struggling to find the same rhythm of ‘Padharo Mhare Des’ till now.
Lake Pichola and Lake Fatehsagar
Saheliyon ki Bari
Sajjangarh Palace/Monsoon Palace
View from the palace. The palace is full of langoors.
Sajjangarh Biological Park
This ages old temple is a form of Lord Shiva and is considered to the ruling deity of the Mewar dynasty. We had learnt so much about the temple and Bappa Rawal (its founder) in the Light and Sound show the previous day, we just could not miss visiting the place itself.
Our experience of this temple was unique as we reached there before dawn at 5 in the morning and witnessed the enchanting morning ‘Aarti’ of the deity. Beautiful flower decorations and peaceful chants surely make its way to one’s soul.
Tip - Temple has specific timings for the devotees.
Nathdwara is famous for its Shrinathji temple and literally means ‘Gateway to Shrinathji’. This place is flocked by thousands of devotees and is considered to be a foodie's paradise with street options like Poha, Dhokla, Chai, Pakoras, Samosas, Sweets and a lot more. Nathdwara is a wealthy town in terms of its architecture, religious substance and Pichwai paintings, which recite the tales of Lord Krishna in intricate forms.
Image Source: http://punetopune.com/
Tip - Temple has specific timings for the devotees and is usually open only for 45 mins at a go.
Ajmer Sharif Dargah
The Dargah of Moinuddin Chishti is one of the most recognized religious places in the world. The dargah is open for all its believers irrespective of their religion. Anybody and everybody is welcomed and it is said that nobody leaves empty handed. The pious sufi shrine is believed to fulfill wishes made with pure heart and in good faith.
Tip – The narrow lanes adjacent to the dargah are full of shops selling variety of food items you would not want to miss.
Pushkar is famous for its Brahmaji temple and the Pushkar Lake, which attract thousands of believers round the year. Pushkar organizes a 5-day fair once a year which is considered to be one of the largest cattle (camel) fairs in India.
There is nothing that has not been already said about this capital city/pink city of Rajasthan, and not sure if we will be able to add any more admiring words to that. We will only show you the picture gallery of the lavish spots we captured in our camera.
City Palace and Museum
Sisodiya Rani ka bagh
Other places of interest are Jantar Mantar, Birla Mandir, Rambagh Palace, Albert Hall Museum, Govind Devji Temple, Ram Niwas Garden, Kaanak Vrindavan, Raj mandir Theatre, Anokhi Museum of hand printing...and the list goes on!
Jaipur is a heaven for foodies, so while in the Pink City, do not miss the mouth-watering Paneer Ghewar of LMB and Pyaaz Kachori from Rawat. The picture is mouth-watering too.
Internet is drowned with the history of this red coloured fort, so we would not put in those details here. What needs to be noted is that the fort and its adjacent forests are filled with numerous peacocks, and if you are fortunate you can see them dancing too.
Jaivana Cannon, world's largest cannon on wheels at the time of its manufacturing in 1720 is also displayed here making this fort a major attraction and an offbeat picnic spot.
Nahargarh fort, situated at 17 kms from Jaipur gives a glittering view of the pink city from the Aravalli ranges.
Although built in the 18th century, this place attracted a lot of attention after the shooting of the film ' Rang De Basanti' in the premises. It is a famous picnic spot for the locals.
Built from pale yellow and pink sandstone, and white marble, Amer Fort could be easily assumed as one of the finest and most sought for tourist destinations of Rajasthan.
This fort experiences both domestic and foreign tourists in much larger numbers than the other two. The regal elephant ride although a little expensive, could be availed for a once in a lifetime kingly/queenly experience.
Ranthambore Fort & Trinetra Ganesh Temple
We know the gigantic Ranthambore National Park is inaccessible during monsoons. Our focus was the grand fort amidst the forests and the ‘Trinetra Ganesh Temple’. The overflowing water from the water bodies flood the narrow passages making it challenging to walk till the fort so we preferred taking the car in, and the informed ones say one might encounter water animals on the way.
This fort stands impressively atop a hill overseeing the entire park and the view gets superior and better as you go up
The fort has seven gates to cross before one reaches the top. Many animals and birds could be seen at the eye level, specially monkeys and peacocks.
Some interesting facts about this temple are -
- The idol has three eyes and has appeared on its own
- It is believed that if you make a house with stones in front of the temple, you will soon have a house of your own. Considering the number of houses there, we can only imagine why real estate is swelling
- In many castes in India, the first wedding invitation card is usually sent to this temple to invite lord Ganesha and seek his blessings
Why do good things come to an end? So, we were in Delhi and it was time to part ways with our new friend Mohan Singh ji, but before that we were up for a quick "Dilli Darshan" spree, because when in Delhi, Keventer’s milkshake is an absolute must.
Day 1 - Kolkata - Delhi - Khatu Shyamji Temple - Jeenmata Temple - Salasar Balaji
Day 2 - Salasar Balaji – Didwana – Ramdevra
Day 3 - Ramdevra – Jaisalmer and Sam Sand Dunes
Day 4 - Jaisalmer – Local Sight Seeing
Day 5 - Jaisalmer - Mount Abu and Dilwara Jain Temples
Day 6 - Mount Abu (Local Sight Seeing) – Ambaji – Udaipur
Day 7 - Udaipur – Local Sight Seeing
Day 8 - Udaipur – Eklingji – Nathdwara – Ajmer – Pushkar – Jaipur
Day 9 - Jaipur – Local Sight Seeing
Day 10 - Jaipur- Jaigarh Fort – Nahargarh Fort – Amer Fort – Ranthambore
Day 11 - Ranthambore (Trek to Trinetra Ganesh) – Delhi
Day 12 - Delhi – Local Sight Seeing – Kolkata
Total Distance Covered by road - 3,000 kms approx.
- While on road trip in Rajasthan, you will come across numerous tolls. Consider that while budgeting and keep change handy to avoid delays.
- Although mostly the roads are great, do not forget to carry pillows or buy there, as longer journeys might take a toll on your back.
- Seat belts are a must. We had to pay fines twice for a miss of seconds.
- Keep your water and food stock full in the car, you might not get a single shop for long stretches.
- Hygienic toilets are a big problem for women; please carry your Pee-buddy along.
- Most of the restaurants offer full-fledged 'thalis'. Do not miss on that as it is delicious and in budget.
- Guides are available at all the tourist spots that could guide you through the tempting royal history of this state, and they do bargain a lot.
- Most of the forts and palaces are vast complexes and walking around is the only way to enjoy and feel its beauty. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing.
- Almost all the tourist spots charge an entry fee and extra camera fee, Udaipur being the most expensive one.
- Book your hotels well in advance if you are visiting in peak seasons. Since our's was not in a peak season, we booked it on same days to avail heavenly discounts.
Full of art and craft, there is so much to buy in Rajasthan, it is difficult to decide on what to pick and what to leave. The must buys would be Jaipuri Jutis, Bandhani fabrics or garments, bed sheets, comforters, block prints, puppets, decorative, jewellery, ok there is no end.
And you would not be able to stop there either. Apart from the local markets, your ultimate destination should be Anokhi for if you are a textile lover. It is a personal favourite for us.
No matter how much you try to and how much time you have, you will miss a lot of places worth seeing. That's how cosmic Rajasthan is.
You can also check This Taraf's blog on https://thistaraf.wordpress.com/ for more interesting stories.