Rajasthan is one of the most visited states in India. It's not surprising because it shows India at its most colorful, iconic and exotic best. Most of the things that come to mind when you think of India can be found in Rajasthan—palaces, forts, desert, camels, and elephants. Don't miss visiting these top tourist places in Rajasthan.
The "Pink City" of Jaipur forms part of India's renowned Golden Triangle Tourist Circuit and was recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not surprisingly, the city is one of Rajasthan's most popular tourist destinations. It has many famous forts and palaces, with most of them boasting stunning views and elaborate architecture. Staying in Jaipur is particularly enjoyable. Accommodations are reasonably priced and many have been converted from heritage properties, giving guests a very regal experience! Jaipur is an outstanding place to go shopping too. Plan your trip with this Jaipur travel guide.
Udaipur is often said to be the most romantic city in India, as it's filled with expansive lakes and old palaces. The exquisite City Palace Complex, which stretches along the eastern shore of Lake Pichola, dominates the city and the royal family still lives in part of it. Many personal royal heirlooms, family photos, and other memorabilia are displayed in the City Palace Museum, giving Udaipur a very regal feel. You can even stay in the City Palace! Alternatively, there are many atmospheric hotels by the lake with amazing views, such as the Jagat Niwas Palace heritage hotel.
A remarkable sandstone city that rises magically from the sand dunes of the Thar desert, Jaisalmer looks like it's straight out of an Arabian Nights fable. Its mesmerizing ancient fort, built in 1156, is perched high on a pedestal overlooking the city. Inside, the fort is alive and spellbinding. It boasts palaces, several temples, and some exquisite havelis (mansions), as well as shops and other residences. These top things to do in Jaisalmer cover the best of the city and its surroundings.
Affectionately called the "Blue City" because of its blue painted buildings, Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan. The walled old part of the city is presided over by Mehrangarh Fort, which provides the best outlook across Jodhpur's blue buildings. It's one of the largest and best maintained forts in India. Inside are a number of ornate palaces, a museum, and restaurant. There many inexpensive yet characterful places to stay in Jodhpur with views of the fort. It's great to do nothing but relax on their rooftops and soak up the atmosphere. Here's how to best experience Jodhpur.
For most of the year, Pushkar is a sleepy little holy town that attracts a lot of backpackers and hippie types. However, it really comes alive for a couple of weeks in October or November, when the Pushkar Camel Fair hits town. It's a peculiar sight, and a great opportunity to witness an old traditional Indian festival. Pushkar is worth visiting at any time of year if you want to chill out. Sadly, the town isn't like it used to be though. These days Pushkar is becoming much more westernized and tourist-focused. The priests by the bathing ghats (steps) are very forceful in demanding donations. Avoid that area, and head to the Pushkar market for some great shopping instead!
Ranthambore National Park
Ranthambore National Park is one of the best places in India to spot a tiger in the wild. In contrast to many national parks in India, Ranthambore is also really accessible and easy to get to. This makes it very popular (and, unfortunately, it's been facing a lot of tourist pressure). As well as nature, the park is home to the formidable 10th century Ranthambore Fort. It's a huge structure that contains ruined pavilions, monuments, and three Hindu temples. The park is packed with history, having witnessed many battles played out on its land, and the rise and fall of many rulers. Plan your trip with this Ranthambore National Park travel guide.
If you're an art lover, or even someone who's into architecture and history, the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan is well worth including on your itinerary. This unique region is often referred to as the world's largest open air art gallery, with old havelis (mansions) having walls adorned with intricate painted frescoes. Staying in one is a highlight! Shekhawati is located in the Delhi, Jaipur and Bikaner triangle, and is refreshingly free of tourists! Plan your trip with this comprehensive Shekhawati region travel guide.
The remote and quaint desert town of Bikaner receives less tourists than many other prominent destinations in Rajasthan. It's a less-commercialized place to go on a camel safari, as an alternative to Jaisalmer. The main attractions are the atmospheric walled Old City and fort. Bikaner is also renowned for the infamous Karni Mata rat temple nearby. The Karni Mata Festival, held to worship the rats there, is one of the quirkiest festivals in India. A Camel Fair is also held in Bikaner every January. Stay at the exceptional Narendra Bhawan heritage hotel for an unforgettable trip! It's one of India's most beautifully restored heritage hotels.
Although increasingly popular with travelers, Bundi also often gets overlooked as a tourist destination in Rajasthan due to its off-the-beaten path location between Jaipur and Udaipur. It's a captivating place to visit, with its lakes, temples, markets, miniature paintings, and blue houses similar to Jodhpur. This relatively laid back town is dominated by the extraordinary and imposing Bundi Palace, which protrudes out of the hillside. The ancient, winding lanes of the Old City are fascinating to wander through. Bundi also has around 50 step wells and a ramshackle fort above the palace.
Find out about the top things to do in Bundi.
Mount Abu is the only hill station in Rajasthan. It's situated 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) above sea level near the Gujarat border, about three hours (160km) from Udaipur. The British took a liking to Mount Abu because of its comfortable climate, and they relocated the headquarters of their political Rajputana Agency there from Ajmer in 1857. Mount Abu has a reputation as a honeymooner's haven but Indian families flock to the area as well. However, it remains an offbeat destination for foreigners. These top things to do in Mount Abu are centered around enjoying the great outdoors.
Birding enthusasts will be delighted by Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur. One of India's top bird sanctuaries for birdwatching and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was formerly a duck hunting reserve of the maharajas. More than 370 species of birds can be found there, including a large congregation of non-migratory resident breeding birds.
Interested in more forts and palaces? Alwar can be done on a day trip from Delhi, as it's only three hours south of India's capital. Attractions include an 18th century City Palace complex and government museum (closed Mondays) inside it, which showcases the extravagant lifestyle of the kings. However, it's Lake Sagar and the many chhatris (dome-shaped pavilions) behind the City Palace that are most visually impressive monuments. Above the City Palace sits 16th century Bala Quila, notable for being one of a few forts in Rajasthan to be built before the rise of the Mughals.
Rural tourism is growing in Rajasthan, with Bishnoi and Pali attracting more and more visitors who want to explore Rajasthan beyond its cities. Bishnoi is a community of nature worshippers conveniently only 45 minutes or so from Jodhpur and can be covered in a day trip, while Pali is a bit further out and needs at least an overnight stay. Bishnoi Village Safari organizes trips and also accommodations. Culture Aangan has homestays in the Pali region. Alternatively, luxury travelers will love the evocative Lakshman Sagar heritage hotel in Pali. You'll find village life to be fascinating. You can even attend a shepherds' morning opium meet!