India is so tightly packed with iconic sights and regions that it can be hard to plan a trip there. If you only have a short time in India it’s best to stick to a small area. Rajasthan, in the north west of India, is the perfect size for a two week trip. You’ll see hilltop forts, ancient cities and (if you’re luckier than us) maybe a tiger.
Below is our two week Rajasthan itinerary. You don’t need to do it in the order we did as the distances are fairly short and there are good transport links between the major cities (click on the individual posts for more information about trains etc).
I arrived in Pushkar after a long and sleepless journey from the mountains of Himachal Pradesh. I was immediately hit by the infamous Indian heat and hassle. Although ingrained in traveller folklore due to its annual camel fair, outside of that time there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to see in Pushkar. It was a low-key start to my two weeks in Rajasthan. I walked the streets, relaxed by the lake and plotted my journey to Jaipur, where I was about to be reunited with Gia.
Calm and chaos. Rich and poor. Filthy streets and incredible historic sites. This is big city India, with all its charm and horrors visible from the back of a rickshaw. You’ll see heartbreaking poverty and unimaginable opulence, mounds of rubbish on the street and some of the most elegant palaces ever constructed.
A good way to see Jaipur is by rickshaw. I got talking to a guy called Babu at the train station and he showed us around the next day. We went out to Amber to see the sand-castle like fort and explored the sights in the city centre — there’s a lot to see but you can do most of it in a day.
FURTHER READING: Touring the Forts in Palaces in Jaipur
Ranthambore National Park
Unfortunately we didn’t see any tigers during our safari in Ranthambore National Park, but we did get to stay in a really cool hotel. We saw quite a few other animals but it turns out we were there at the wrong time for tigers (March – April is your best bet).
FURTHER READING: A Tigerless Tiger Safari in Ranthambore National Park
Walking around the almost deserted Bundi Palace is one of my best memories of Rajasthan. Bundi, a small city once inhabited by Rudyard Kipling, doesn’t get a lot of tourist traffic. Its unpopularity is confusing. It has one of the most impressive palaces in Rajasthan and the historic city streets are so fun to walk through, with a crumbling old structure on every corner. You can also see some step wells and a hilltop fort full of monkeys.
FURTHER READING: Walking the Streets of Bundi
We stopped off for a night in Chittorgarh to see the huge fort on a hill above the city. The walls of Chittorgarh Fort protect palace ruins and finely carved temples. It’s best explored in a tuk tuk as it’s quite far from the centre of town. If you time it right you could stop off for a few hours on the way to your next destination (if you can find somewhere to leave your bags) as there isn’t much else to see in town.
FURTHER READING: A Rickshaw Tour of Chittorgarh Fort
Probably the most romantic city in India, Udaipur is the ideal place to stop for a few days and relax. There are heaps of rooftop restaurants and at sunset people gather at various ghats along the lake to hang out. We spent the most time of anywhere in Rajasthan in Udaipur — it’s by far the most laid-back, hassle free and clean city I experienced in India. There is plenty to see and do in Udaipur, including a visit to the huge palace, a cable car and some old havelis (grand old houses).
FURTHER READING: Udaipur: The Most Romantic City in India?
Jodhpur, known as the “Blue City”, is, predictably, full of blue houses. It’s hard to grasp just how blue it is until you head up to the intricate and powerful Mehrangarh fort / palace above the city. The views from the fort are great, but it’s what’s inside that really sets this place apart — room after courtyard after room containing some premium (and very old) craftsmanship.
FURTHER READING: The Blue City: Exploring Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur
A Thar Desert Tour, Osian
We did our Thar Desert tour from Osian instead of Jaisalmer. Because it was out of season we were the only guests at the entire desert camp, which was a bit weird at first. We went for a jeep tour through the desert, past small villages and acres of empty space. It’s not a photogenic, dune-filled desert but it has a certain rough beauty. There are also some old temples to see in Osian, but you don’t really need to spend the night in town.
FURTHER READING: Camp Thar: An Off the Beaten Path Desert Experience in Rajasthan
Jaisalmer is home to hundreds of sandstone havelis as well as a sprawling hilltop fort. People still live within the walls of the fort, although it’s advised that tourists don’t stay at hotels there due to the damage these dwellings are doing to the 900 year old historic wonder.
There are plenty of hotels below the fort though, as well as several havelis and shopping streets. Jaisalmer is located in the Thar Desert and the colour of the buildings mirrors the surrounding sand. Many people do camel treks into the desert from Jaisalmer and it’s probably the easiest / cheapest place to do it.
FURTHER READING: A City in the Desert: Sightseeing in Jaislamer
Places we didn’t make it to
We were satisfied with our two week Rajasthan trip, but we did miss a couple of cool looking places. One was the Chand Baori step well — it’s kind of out of the way and we couldn’t get there without a lot of hassle (and we’d already seen step wells in Bundi). The other place we couldn’t quite fit in was Bikaner — a historic city with plenty of sights.
Getting Around Rajasthan
The train system in India is really good, although it does get very crowded. For short journeys we usually bought the cheapest tickets, but for longer ones you’ll want to get a sleeper. Random people will often sit on your seat if you’ve booked a lower bunk, so try and get a top one if you want to lie down early. I could (and probably will) write a whole post about train travel in India. It’s an experience (not always a good one though), but you can book first class tickets which would make it more comfortable.
We also took a few buses in Rajasthan. Sometimes it’s more convenient and they are comfortable enough, especially on the popular routes. Getting around the cities is easiest in a tuk tuk or rickshaw. Make sure to ask your hotel or another trustworthy local how much certain journeys should cost and you’ll soon get an idea of prices. You can also walk around the cities easily enough — watch out for the cows though!
Two Weeks in Rajasthan: Tips
- Choose your season. We were there in June and it was really hot. On the plus side though, there were hardly any tourists. October – March is a more typical (and a lot less hot) time to visit.
- Choose your budget. How much you’re willing to spend on things like accommodation, transport and food will greatly affect your trip. India isn’t generally an easy place to travel, but it can be for the right price. We stayed in some really nice hotels, including a century old mansion in Jaipur. If you stay in places like that and take first class trains you’ll have a very pleasant trip. If you’re on a tight budget things will get a bit more testing, but at least it’ll be cheap.
- India is overwhelming at times, so when the opportunity arises to relax you should take it. Udaipur is a great place for it, so try to spend an extra day or two there.
Other places to see near Rajasthan
Rajasthan is close to Delhi, Agra (where the Taj Mahal lives) and a host of other places of interest. It can be hard to choose which places to go and for how long as there are too many options. Check out my other posts on India and maybe that’ll help you narrow things down a bit!
Have you been to India? Would you spend two weeks in Rajasthan? Let me know in the comments below!
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