Walking the Streets of Bundi, a (sort of) Laid-Back City in Rajasthan, India
You’re probably a little confused by the contradictory nature of this article’s title. Bundi is one of the most laid-back cities in India, but it is still in India, which means you can expect honking rickshaws, cows eating trash on the side of the road and a general chaotic buzz that is almost impossible to escape in the cities of this colourful country.
We hit the streets of Bundi for a full day of sightseeing, taking in a fairy tale palace, an abandoned (by humans) hilltop fort and countless decaying buildings from various points in Rajasthani history. We also talked to lots of locals, who seemed pretty stoked that we had chosen to include Bundi on our three week trip through Rajasthan.
Here are some of the things to see and do in Bundi:
Bundi Street Scenes
The streets of Bundi are a joy to walk through compared to busier, dirtier cities elsewhere in Rajasthan. The old town is dotted with historic buildings of all shapes, sizes, colours and levels of neglect. The fantastical Garh Palace and Taragarh Fort, a popular monkey hang out, tower above the historic streets. We generally rode rickshaws in Rajasthan but in Bundi we walked everywhere. While walking, the locals met us with a sense of curiosity and strong desire to strike up a conversation. One guy even passed us on his motorbike, turned back around and stopped for a little chat.
Rudyard Kipling (according to Lonely Planet) described Garh Palace as “the work of goblins”, and it does have a sort of Middle Earth look to it. We entered through Hathia Pol (Elephant gate), passing beneath 2 huge stone elephants. Garh Palace (built in the 1600s) isn’t as well preserved as other palaces in Rajasthan, which in some ways makes it more interesting to explore. The fact that we were the only tourists also enhanced the atmosphere. We walked through rooms full of carved columns and faded colours — one area featured dozens of small elephants seemingly doing their part to keep the roof from caving in.
After a while a young guy offered to show us around some of the locked rooms. Walls and ceilings covered in elaborate paintings detailing life in the royal lap of luxury awaited us inside. These paintings are some of the best we saw in Rajasthan — don’t miss them. We gave our “guide” a small tip and moved on up the hill towards Taragarh Fort, first stopping off at a garden courtyard and then a small tower where we saw a great view of the palace and the town from above (the photo at the top of this post was also taken there). To get there, keep going along the ridge past the turnoff to the fort.
A gang of monkeys (bring a stick for protection) now rule over Taragarh Fort, a dilapidated series of step-wells, towers and walls above Garh Palace. It’s worth a look but watch out for the thorn branches which litter the walkways. Thorns penetrated the thin rubber of my jandals (flip-flops) about 10 times — I definitely recommend wearing shoes.
Apart from being where Rudyard Kipling wrote Kim, a book I’d never heard of until researching about India, Bundi is also famous for its many step wells. The step-wells once provided the city with all its water needs but are now mostly run down and full of trash. Nagar Sagar Kund is a pair of step-wells close to the market (free entrance) — they aren’t the cleanest but are worth a look. Raniji-ki-Baori, AKA the Queens Step-Well, is a nice piece of architecture and is full of intricate details which line its large set of steps. You can’t go all the way to bottom but you probably wouldn’t want to anyway (unless you like trash and bats).
Bundi: The Details
Bundi is around halfway between Jaipur and Udaipur. A lot of people miss it but it was one of the highlights of our trip through Rajasthan, so get there if you can.
- Where to stay and eat in Bundi: We stayed in a cheap room (800 INR) in a nice Haveli (Dev Niwas) but we really felt the lack of air con. We ate at Hadee Rani a couple of times and got talking to the owners, Chintu and Sashi, who welcomed us like old friends. The rooms are excellent value and it seems like an awesome place to stay.
- Getting to Bundi: You can sometimes get direct transport to Bundi, or you can go through Kota, which is around 35 km away. We took the train from Sawai Modhopur (Ranthambore National Park) to Kota and then a bus from Kota to Bundi. I think we paid around 40 INR for a rickshaw from the bus station to our hotel.
- Entrance fees: As of July 2016 the entrance tickets to Garh Palace and Taragarh Fort are 100 INR (plus a 50 INR camera fee for each site). Raniji-ki-Baori will set you back a comparatively steep 200 INR (no camera fee).
After Bundi, we headed to Chittorgarh to explore a massive fort filled with ruined palaces, towers and temples (you can read the post now).
Would you like to visit Bundi? Where are you planning to go on your next trip to India? Let me know in the comments below!
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