Rajasthan map & highlights

Rajasthan’s tigers may be elusive but, just like all of Rajasthan, beauty jumps out to surprise you when you least expect it. The blue buildings of Jodhpur glisten like sapphires in the desert setting. The pilgrims of Pushkar adorning the waterside ghats look like sacred sculptures themselves. An old town market stall selling natural dyes illuminates a smoggy day in modern Jaipur. The coloured saris of women working in the fields pop up like flowers between paddy. And the sight of a peacock displaying and dancing in Ranthambore National Park takes your breath away. Until you see the eye of the tiger that is. Then you’ll be displaying and dancing too.

1. Bundi

Off the main tourist trail, it has a wonderful location on Bundi Lake, which is covered in lotus flowers in September and overlooked by Bundi Palace, where peacocks roam around shabby chic splendor like time never stripped them of any beauty. Taragarh Fort is worth the climb, and you can also descend the 200 steps of the Queen's Step Well, just one of 50 17th century step wells in this small, charming city.

2. Jaipur

Capital and gateway to the rest of the state, but so beautiful it feels like the gateway to heaven. In fact there are seven gates into its old, walled city bursting with flower markets and fortune tellers, artisans and animals. And not one palace, but two: Hawa Mahal and Jal Mahal. Everything pretty in pink, thanks to sandstone and a lot of paint. Amber and Nahargarh forts are also feisty feats of architecture.

3. Jodhpur

A colourful stop on Rajasthan’s multicoloured magic carpet, this time blue. The mammoth Mehrangarh Fort oversees the city like a lion overseeing its pride, the ancient houses all painted blue seeming to worship at its feet. Delve deeper, and you’ll discover markets bursting with every colour of the rainbow. This is the gateway to the Thar Desert, inhabited by contrasting desert dwellers, the Bishnoi and Bhil.
Keoladeo National Park

4. Keoladeo National Park

Unusually for a desert state this park has a stunning wetland, thanks to the Maharaja of Bharatpur who artificially flooded it in the 1700s and created a shooting ground for Maharajas and British viceroys. Luckily today, the only things you will shoot are photos, capturing the stunning array of over 360 bird species including kingfishers, egrets, coots and storks, as well as the elusive fishing cat.
Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary

5. Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary

Believed to be the best place to see leopard in Rajasthan, it is rare to go on a game drive here and not see one. In a beautiful setting among the Aravalli Hills, it is the backdrop for the Kumbhalgarh fortress, a Mewar fort and world heritage site. The natural heritage is what people seek here, however, with other wildlife including wolf, hyena, nilgai, hyena and superb birdlife.
Maharajas Express

6. Maharajas Express

Rajasthan by train is not only ‘slow travel’ it is sumptuously nostalgic travel, capturing the times when bespoke trains were created for Maharajas as toy things. Spend a week on board this beauty, with luxurious cabins, panoramic viewing compartments, bars and fine cuisine, with daily stops at the likes of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Ranthambore. Or go for a tailor made holiday that mixes rail with real life.

7. Pushkar

A sacred town for Hindus, and spectacular, spiritual experience for all travellers. Pushkar Lake is considered holy water and, therefore, surrounded by over 400 temples, including the multi-coloured Brahma temple. There are ghats galore, steps that take worshippers into the waters. Pushkar is a place to be immersed in Rajasthani culture. You’ll be tempted to snap all day. But please respect the spirituality.
Ranthambore National Park

8. Ranthambore National Park

As well as being one of the top habitats for the Bengal tiger, this park is the veritable Jungle Book. Indeed, there are sloth bears (on which Kipling’s Baloo was based), nilgai antelope, sambar deer and jungle cats. Spend a few days on safari feasting your eyes on all of its fauna, tucked in amongst the wild array of tropical forest and ruined temples. It is definitely a ‘bear necessity’ on a visit to Rajasthan.
Sariska National Park

9. Sariska National Park

A national park and also a tiger reserve although numbers are small. However, don’t come here for tigers. Come to see other magnificent wildlife including leopard, jungle cats, hyena, and chowsingha and sambar deer. And take a hike around some of its ancient landscapes, such as up to the ruins of both Kankarwari Fort and the ongoing restoration of a temple complex dating as far back as the 6th century.

10. Shekhawati

This region is like an art gallery in the desert where you will see the historic remains of once magnificent mansions, or havelis, bedecked with murals and all round beautiful imagery. Some fading fast, others being rightly preserved. These are not to be missed. Mandawa is a particularly fine example of one of these towns. In contrast, it’s also an area where you can stay in glamped up mud huts, all eco, all exquisite.
Thar Desert

11. Thar Desert

Think of this not simply as the natural backdrop to the artists’ dream that is Rajasthan, but also as its most beautiful blank canvas. Spend a few days in the sands and dunes to discover desert forts and villages, see black buck running wild across the semi arid zones and camels or cattle being sold at extraordinary vibrant markets. Jaisalmer is the main starting point for safaris into the sands.

12. Udaipur

Udaipur is called ‘Venice of the East’, as its complex lake system winds its way around palaces, temples, ancient waterside dwellings and a wonderful collection of heritage hotels. Stunningly romantic, the Aravali Hills proffer the perfect backdrop reflected in the city’s water, where you can saunter the City Palace on the bank of Lake Pichol or head to Lake Palace and Jag Mandir Palace on offshore islands.

Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Rajasthan or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Sample Rajasthan itineraries

Cultural holiday (16 days):
Jaipur > Pushkar > Khimsar > Thar Desert > Jodhpur > Mehrangarh Fort > Deogarh > Udaipur

Cycling holiday (12 days):
Jaipur > Kishangarh > Pushkar > Aravalli Hills > Fort Khejarla > Jodhpur > Ravla Bhenswara > Kumbhalgarh WildlifeSsanctuary > Kumbhalgarh Fort > Udaipur

Horse riding holiday (13 days):
Royal Marwari horses > Udaipur > Novi > Ranakpur Jain temples > Desert ride > Tribal village of Mera > Bhenswara > Desert horseriding > Rama Valley > Bishnoi villages > Jodhpur

Rajasthan sample travel times

Delhi – Jaisalmer: 18hrs by sleeper train Bikaner – Jaisalmer: 14 days by camel (and people do) Jodhpur – Udaipur: 4.5hrs by car Bundi – Jaipur: 4hrs by car Jodhpur – Jaisalmer: 7hrs by express train
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Nick Kenrick] [Bundi Palace: Arian Zwegers] [Jaipur: Annie Spratt] [Jodhpur: Jyotirmoy Gupta] [Keoladeo NP: Prateek Katyal] [Kumbhalgargh Wildlife Sanctuary: Srikaanth Sekar] [Maharajas Express: Aswin Krishna Poyil] [Pushkar: Jason Rufus] [Ranthambore NP: C Fotografia] [Sariska NP: Nav Nirvana] [Shekhawati: Jean-Pierre Dalbera] [Thar Desert: plusgood] [Udaipur: Palaste von Udaipur] [Udaipur sunrise: Surajit Das]