The leaves are turning yellow in many parts of India. There is a clear nip in the air in late nights and early mornings. This is the season to travel to most parts of India and let’s talk about Rajasthan.
There is just so much Rajasthan has to offer in terms of nature, wildlife, history, heritage, religion, culture, arts, crafts and music, and food of course.
Summers are harsh in this North Western part of India, much of which is the Thar Desert. Therefore, sightseeing or any outdoor activity is uncomfortable (read difficult) in summer. Late October to February is the best season to visit Rajasthan. Mid-March onwards it starts getting hot and from May till September, there are very frugal tourism activities here.
To make up for the lean summer months, not only India but the world flocks to Rajasthan, the most colourful state of India, in winter.
Rajasthan is very easily accessible from Delhi by road, rail, or flight. We have been fortunate to visit Rajasthan during various times of the year, but winter is indeed the best. There is just so much to see and here is a list of our favourite destinations to visit in Rajasthan during the winter.
We would place Jaipur among the easiest road trip from Delhi. A mere 5-hour drive from Delhi, and 4 hours if you are in Gurgaon, you are already spotting the boundary wall of the famous Amer Fort of Jaipur.
Jaipur is the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan. Yet, it has an inherent holiday vibe. There is so much to do in Jaipur that it makes sense that you start early. You can visit Amer Fort, City Palace Museum, Birla Mandir, and innumerable small palaces during the day. The evenings could be spent exploring the most colourful markets of Jaipur. In fact, it is while roaming in the markets of Jaipur, we assimilated why Jaipur the Pink City of India in the truest sense.
Jaipur has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is also home to the internationally acclaimed Jaipur Literature Festival in January every year.
How to reach – Jaipur is well-connected to most major cities of India. You can take a flight or a train or drive on a newly repaired highway. Bus services from Delhi are very comfortable as well.
What to eat – This is an endless list. Try dal bati churma, Rajasthani thali, chat, kachoris, and anything you salivate on. Among desserts, we would recommend the ghewar, a delicacy from here. We also love the milky tea on roadside carts. There are some cool new places as well in Jaipur. If you want to try continental food, try Peacock restaurant. This spot exudes a cool vibe.
What to shop – Many visitors come to Jaipur with shopping as their agenda. It is a treasure trove of arts and crafts. Bandhni tye-dye and block printed fabrics, clothes made therefrom and saris are very popular. Jaipur quilts or razais are very cosy yet pretty. Lacquered wood artifacts and light furniture make great home accents.
This could be news to people in Delhi. One of the prettiest nature spots in India, the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, also known as the Keoladeo Ghana National Park is just about 4 hour’s drive from here. From Gurgaon, it should take about 3 hours, and you are in a completely different zone. Bharatpur is a mixture of nature and history and you can cover both in a single weekend.
Mornings and afternoons are when you are allowed entry into the Bird Sanctuary. Given that hundreds of majestic migratory birds fly in during the winter, it is a riot of colours and melodious bird calls. You also get to see a variety of deer, nilgai, and rare lizards. During our visit, we were lucky to have spotted a rare python. Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is a World Heritage Site as declared by UNESCO.
In the days and evenings, you can soak in the subtle splendours of Rajasthani architecture such as Bharatpur Fort, Deeg Palace, and Lakshman Temple in the main market.
How to reach – The best way to reach Bharatpur is by train from Delhi. Delhi to Bharatpur is about 3 hours by train. If you are driving from Delhi or taking a cab, it should take you 4 hours each way.
What to eat – You could try Rajasthani delicacies like kachoris and samosas. Also, dry snacks are very tasty here.
What to shop – Bharatpur is not very popular as a shopping destination. But the local markets are fun and we found glimpses of Rajasthani colour in all items here.
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Udaipur is known as the City of Lakes. But if you want to see the majestic Rajasthan, you must have Udaipur on your Rajasthan travel list. You could visit the City Palace and Bagore ki Haveli for a glimpse of old Rajasthan. Many of the other famous palaces have been converted into heritage hotels. However, you can still go in and have a look.
Among the other must-dos in Udaipur is a boat ride on Pichola Lake. You get to have the most enchanting sunset experience from here. Also, the Jagdish Temple is a not be missed spot for its exquisite carvings in pristine white stone.
If you have an extra day, you can visit the Kumbhalgarh and Chittorgarh Forts, some distance from the city. We also recommend the Nathdwara for the hugely artistic statue of the deity.
Incidentally, Bagore ki Haveli hosts a cultural show, Dharohar, every evening. We loved every minute of this program.
How to reach – Udaipur is well-connected to most major cities of India. You can take a flight to Maharana Pratap Airport. By train, it takes a night from Delhi.
What to eat – It is a happy place for people who like spicy food. We loved the kachoris and poha at Udaipur. There are some German bakeries here that serve decent food.
What to shop – Udaipur is a shopper’s paradise with all exquisite arts and crafts endemic to Rajasthan. We recommend a visit to Hathi Pol Bazar. The serpentine lanes and bylanes with shops on both sides transport one to another era.
Sariska and Alwar
Sariska is well known to tiger enthusiasts. Sariska Tiger Reserve is merely 3 hour’s drive from Delhi and given the proximity it hardly feels like Rajasthan. In addition to the Bengal tiger, Sariska is home to a variety of deer, jackals, hyenas, primates, and birds. What enchanted us was the rich natural beauty. The flora here is shades of green punctuated with some brown. The richness of the forest is a treat for sore city-weary eyes.
Alwar is the nearest city near Sariska, hardly 30 minutes from here. Alwar is rich in Rajasthani history and art. The must-visits include Alwar City Palace, Alwar Museum, and Bala Qila Fort. One needs police permission to visit the Bala Qila Fort but that is not very difficult.
How to reach – There are frequent buses and trains from Delhi and Jaipur that takes about 3 hours. The nearest airport is at Delhi.
What to eat – Alwar is famous for Kalakand, a variety of sweet milk cakes. We also loved the snacks and mixtures here that are available at shops as well as on carts. Also, a must-try food item here is Kadhi Kachori.
What to shop – Colourful lacquer bangles from Alwar are well-known. These are widely available in local markets.
Neemrana Fort Palace is a heritage hotel in Neemrana village, mere 90 km from Delhi. It is a 15th-century fort that was renovated and converted to this sheer opulence that is a walk-through time. Every nook and corner here is picturesque and not a single item seems out of place. You can book a room and stay here. You can also do a day trip at Neemrana Fort for a ticket. However, you fully enjoy the place if you spend the night. A stay here is indeed an indulgence that is worth every bit.
How to reach – Neemrana is en route to Jaipur. Neemrana Fort is a slight drive through narrow village lanes once you reach Neemrana. It should take about 2 hours from Delhi to reach this spot. Delhi to Neemrana via public buses takes about 3 hours.
What to eat – Neemrana Fort food is mostly served as elaborate buffets. Breakfast and tea are part of the room booking price, but other meals are extra.
What to shop – There is not much to do in Neemrana outside Neemrana Fort Palace. Hence shopping options are confined to the Palace store. The store carries gift-worthy items that may work for tourists.
If you want a desert experience, then Bikaner is the place. Being a desert, it is best enjoyed in winter. Moreover, it has a host of unique spots that are not only famous in India but also well-known worldwide.
There are high chances you have heard of the Karni Mata Mandir, popular as the Rat Temple of Rajasthan. Karni Mata Temple, with all its glory, is in Bikaner. In addition, there are a host of palaces and forts here that you can visit. We also recommend the Camel Research Center, the only one in India. This could be the activity that brings you back to Bikaner.
How to reach – There is a small airport in Bikaner with limited flights from Delhi and Jaipur. The closest fully functional airport is at Jodhpur about four and a half hours away. Many trains come to Bikaner as well.
What to eat – You get Rajasthani and North Indian food in Bikaner and laal maas, the red meat dish here is famous. But Bikaner is famous for kulfis and juices. Most important, the best Rajasthani snacks or Bhujias are made in Bikaner. Bhujia here is a must-try.
What to shop – Nokha raazai or quilts are famous here. Also, traditional camel leather shoes are popular in Bikaner. Packets of Bhujias as gifts could make you popular among friends and family.
Mount Abu is the only hill station in Rajasthan. Being part of the Aravalli Mountains, the scenic beauty of Mount Abu is different from most other hill stations we visited in India. Mount Abu is adjacent to Udaipur and many tourists cover both these spots in a single trip.
The primary attraction in Mount Abu is the Dilwara Jain Temples. These are like long poetries in stone. The headquarters of the Brahmakumari sect is located on Mount Abu. In addition, there are other temples like the Guru Shikhar and the Achaleshwar Mahadev temple that you can visit. The Mount Abu Museum experience is short and sweet.
How to reach – There are many convenient overnight trains from Delhi to Mount Abu and one has to drop at Abu Road station.
What to eat – Mount Abu food is mostly a fusion of Gujarati and Rajasthani vegetarian cuisines. What we strongly recommend is the poha around Nakki Lake. One has to taste this breakfast dish from the cart to understand how good simplicity in Indian food can taste like.
What to shop – There are many shopping options. However, given the prevalence of the Rabadi community, their beautiful silver jewellery is a must check-out from here. But you may have to ask around to spot the right places. You may also try Chacha’s Museum to buy souvenirs but the prices are higher as compared to local artisans.
Ranthambore is popular for its tiger reserve. However, when we visited this place, we realised there were so many other great activities in Ranthambore.
Ranthambore National Park is one of the most popular places in India for spotting tigers. In addition, the old fortresses inside the forest area add a groovy charm to the wide expanse. Outside the National Park, you can visit Dastkar Ranthambore, a crafts organisation working with local skills. You should also visit the Ranthambore School of Art for mind-blowing tiger paintings. We also visited the Ranthambore Fort. It is a smallish structure as forts go, yet very photogenic.
How to reach – Delhi to Ranthambore is best approached by train. The nearest railway station to Ranthambore is Sawai Madhopur.
What to eat – You get standard North Indian food items here. Also, a must-try food item here is Kadhi Kachori.
What to shop – You can shop for the most exquisite crafts and prints from Dastkar Ranthambore. While roaming local markets, we found rare silver ornaments. Rajasthan is indeed a tourist’s delight. For us, the season is not a deterrent. Yet, we still recommend a winter tour to Rajasthan since you can do so much more. When you come here, you would not want to waste a single minute indoors. After all, it is called Rajasthan – The Land of the Kings not for nothing.