Summary : Exotic 'Land of Princes', Rajasthan is a barren desert territory
Exotic ‘Land of Princes’, Rajasthan is a barren desert territory—dotted with battlescarred forts and palaces—whose harsh climate and rough terrain gave birth to a proud, warrior people of legendary courage and valour. Over the centuries, the Rajput chieftains resisted all and any foreign invaders, and whenever faced by certain defeat invariably preferred glorious death to ignoble surrender. But martial traditions coexisted with love of colour, culture and pageantry—and today Rajasthan is just as famous for its gardens and lakes, festivals and handicrafts as for its fortress theatres of war. It’s also the only state where one feels compelled to learn some Hindi—the proud Rajputs often won’t speak to you in English. Once the ice is broken, however, they are among the friendliest and most hospitable people in India. You’ll love them.
The bustling state capital of Jaipur is most often classed as the third city of India’s Golden Triangle but is in fact the entry point to a large and fascinating state. The ‘ towering fort of Jodhpur, with the finest palace museum in the country, leads out to them rolling dunes of the Great Thar Desert, where you can take camel-safaris from k uri village. The medieval mystery of Jaisalmer, a desert city of filigree merchants’ houses, Jain temples and charming bazaars, gives way to cool, refined elegance at Udaipur, a famous ‘lake city’ of charming gardens and palaces. The sole hill station ill the state, Mount Abu, is famous for its sunsets and its Dilwara temples—the most exquisite examples of Jain architecture in the country. Nearby Chittorgarh, ‘City of Valour’, is the fortress site of the Rajputs’ most glorious hour. Finally there’s Pushkar, A peaceful oasis in the desert, with one of the few temples to Brahma in India, and where pilgrims and travellers gather to pray, to relax, to simply hang out.
Season: October to March. Climate: 17° to 45°C (summer); 7° to 32° C (winter). Monsoons: July to September. Route duration: 14 to 21 days (but very easy to stay longer).
Delhi to Jaipur 261 km (164 miles)
Air Two flights daily (1C491/493 ) Rs646.
Rail the Pink City Express leaves Delhi Station at 6 am reaching Jaipur at 11.05 am. Other mains operate throughout the day and take 5-6 hours.
Road Rajasthan State Transport buses leave Bikaner House near India Gate every 1-2 hours from 6 am to 9 pm every day. Other buses operate from New Delhi’s Interstate this Terminal.
Jaipur to Jodhpur 332 km (208 miles)
Air Two flights daily—IC491/493 (Rs767). Both originate in Delhi. At Jodhpur airport, II’s Rs50 by taxi or Rs20 by auto-rickshaw into the city (5 km).
Rail The Jodhpur Mail daily from Delhi-dep 8.30 pm, arr 11.05 am. is quick and reliable. From Jaipur the Mandore Express departs at 11.45 pm (it originates in Delhi at 6 pm) ands arrives the following morning at 6.05 pm.
Jodhpur to Jaisalmer 287 km (179 miles)
Air Three Vayudoot flights a week—Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday—PF117, are scheduled hut seats are rarely available and the flights often cancelled. Vayudoot bookings through Mayur Travels, Kalyan Singh Building, Sojati Gate (tel 20909).
Rail Overnight sleeper—dep 10.45 pm, arr 7 am—is the most comfortable option (day trains very hot, dusty and dull). Essential to reserve tickets as soon as you reach Jodhpur, from the excellent Tourist Assistance Booth (open 5 am to 11 pm daily) on the station platform. It has a tourist quota of tickets. It also has good information, baggage store, easy chairs, air-cooling, free use of fridge, and free high-pressure showers. On the journey to Jaisalmer, watch your belongings-there’s always a thief or two aboard this night train.
Bus One bus daily (dep 1.30 pm, arr 9 pm) from Raika Bagh bus-stand, 3 km (1 3/4 miles) from Jodhpur rail station. It’s something to consider when (and this does happen) the train is cancelled.
Jaisalmer to Khuri 45 km (28 miles)
Road Shared taxi from rail station into Jaisalmer town. Head straight for the Collectorate office (see p. 179) for your Khuri permit. Then catch the 10.30 am bus (11/2 hours) to Khuri, from bus-stand just outside the fort walls, near Trio Restaurant. To ensure a seat on this (one and only) bus, turn up 10 am latest. Later, you can climb on the roof for cool breezes and good views.
Khuri to Jaisalmer 45 km (28 miles)
Road One bus daily, leaving at 4.30 pm. Khuri villagers make sure you catch it.
Jaisalmer to Jodhpur 287 km (179 miles)
Air Three flights a week-Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday—on Vayudoot FF118 . These flights continue on to Jaipur and Delhi. For bookings, contact Vayudoot’s office in Mangla Hotel, near Bank of Baroda, Jaisalmer.
Rail The overnight sleeper—dep 9.15 pm, arr 7 am-is best. Most Jaisalmer landlords handle reservations. Two tips-first, there are no refreshments at stations to Jodhpur, so take lots of oranges, food and water; second, get off at Raika Bagh Palace Junction, 2 km (1 1/2 miles) before Jodhpur Central station, if you want the tourist office, the Tourist Bungalow, or the bus-station (i.e. to advance-book an onward bus to Udaipur).
Road Two buses daily—at 5 am and 4 pm (8 hours). The earlier bus is the cooler, comfier option.
Jodhpur to Udaipur 275 km (172 miles)
Air One flight daily-IC491 (Rs767). Quick, dull. It’s an expensive Rs100 taxi ride from Udaipur airport into town (25 km).
Rail Regular trains daily—but few people take them. They’re 4 hours slower than the bus.
Road One express bus (7 hours), leaving Jodhpur’s Raika Bagh bus-stand (near Tourist Bungalow) at 5.30 am daily. No advance reservations possible—when the bus arrives, simply toss your bags through the window to ‘reserve’ your seat, then buy your ticket.
This early bus makes an unmissable stop at Ranakpur, for some of the biggest and hest Bain temples in India. Do spend some time here. You’ll arrive from Jodhpur at II) am, and can cover Ranakpur’s temples at leisure before catching the 1 pm or 3.15 pm buses on to Udaipur. Still better, stay overnight at Ranakpur (at the budget dhaIharamsala , the mid-range RTDC Tourist Bungalow, or the plush Maharani Bagh )rchard Retreat), and see the sights in the cool of the morning. Later on, when the heat gets up, you’ll have to hot-foot it round the temples-footwear isn’t allowed in ally of them. Ranakpur ‘s temples are beautifully preserved, and compare favourably with Mt Abu’s Dilwara group. See the three temples outside the main complex first. central temple is open to non-Jains from 11 am only. It has 1440 columns, no two the same, and is absolutely fantastic. Admission is free, and you can photograph miything except Jain deities.
There are a few slower buses from Jodhpur to Udaipur at 7.30 am, 3 pm and 10,30 pm. If carrying straight on to Pushkar, there are hourly buses from Jodhpur to Ajmer.
Udaipur to Mt Abu 185 km (116 miles)
Road One deluxe bus daily, dep 8 am, arr 12.30 pm. Book from Taldar Travels (tel 28160), opposite Town Hall, Highway No. 8, Udaipur. Ordinary public buses to Abu (from 1 la ipur’s ST bus-stand) are much slower and give their passengers slipped discs. I ‘ Jaipur to Chittorgarh 98 km (61 miles)
Udaipur to Chittorgarh
Air from Udaipur, 1C492 flies daily to Jodhpur (Rs583), Jaipur (Rs767) and Delhi (Rs 1129).
Road One express bus on to Chittorgarh (dep 8.30 am and 1.30 pm, arr 12.30 pm and 4 II) pm respectively) from Udaipur bus-stand. Journey is both pretty, and pretty uncomfortable.
Chittorgarh to Pushkar 198 km (124 miles)
Road Hourly deluxe buses to Ajmer (4 1/2 hours, from Chittor’s RTC bus-stand, below the Fort; then Rs5 cycle-rickshaw from Ajmer bus-stand to rail station; from here, half-hourly buses up to Pusher (30 minutes). The Chittor /Ajmer run, be warned, is one of the most dangerous stretches of road in India. Pushkar to Delhi 371 km (232 miles)
Pushkar To Delhi 371 km
Road One express bus daily—dep 10.15 am, arr 6.15 pm—from Marwar bus-stand (n Pushkar post office). This is the cheap ‘pilgrim special’, complete with noisy videos delirious passengers, and a holy mission to reach Hardwar (its eventual destination as soon as possible. Have some prayers of your own ready. Or take a slower, more relaxing deluxe bus instead. These leave from the Ajmer bus-stand (nr Pusher Hotel at 7,15 am and 7.45 am daily.
Pusher also has daily buses to Ajmer (30 minutes), to Jaipur (3 hours), to Udaipu (8 hours) and to Jodhpur (8 hours). Ajmer has quick hourly buses to Jodhpur (5 hours), and good rail connections to Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Udaipur All bus/rail timings are posted at the Pushkar Hotel. If stuck in Ajmer overnight stay at the Tourist Bungalow—it’s adequate.
CONTINUATIONS From Udaipur, you can fly to Aurangabad (1C491 daily, Rs1221) for the Maharashtra route. From Mt Abu, there’s a nippy 61/2-hour express bus down to Ahmedabad, for the overnight Gurdinar Express to Veraval/Diu in Gujarat. The 6 am or 7 am bus from Abu is best—make the reservation desk in Ahmedabad station before 2 pm closin g From Pusher /Ajmer, there are many buses and trains to Jaipur.