Rajasthan is the largest state of the Republic of India in terms of area. It encompasses most of the area of the large, inhospitable Great Indian Desert (Thar Desert), which has an edge paralleling the Sutlej-Indus river valley along its border with Pakistan. The state borders Pakistan to the west, Gujarat to the southwest, Madhya Pradesh to the southeast, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to the northeast and Punjab to the north. Rajasthan covers an area of 132,150 sq mi or 342,269 km².
The state capital is Jaipur. Geographical features include the Thar Desert along north-western Rajasthan and the termination of the Ghaggar River near the archaeological ruins at Kalibanga, which are the oldest in the subcontinent discovered so far.
One of the world’s oldest mountain ranges, the Aravalli Range, cradles the only hill station of Rajasthan, Mount Abu, and its world-famous Dilwara Temples, a sacred pilgrimage for Jains. Eastern Rajasthan has two national tiger reserves, Ranthambore and Sariska, as well as Keoladeo National Park near Bharatpur, once famous for its bird life.
Rajasthan was formed on 30 March 1949, when all erstwhile princely states ruled by Rajputs, known as Rajputana, merged into the Dominion of India. The only difference between erstwhile Rajputana and Rajasthan is that certain portions of what had been British India, in the former province of Ajmer-Merwara, were included. Portions lying geographically outside of Rajputana such as the Sumel-Tappa area were given to Madhya Pradesh
* Jaipur – the state capital
* Bikaner – famous for its sweets
* Bundi – fort city off the beaten track
* Jodhpur – the Blue City, site of the spectacular hilltop Mehrangarh Fort
* Udaipur – Udaipur is well known as “City of Lakes”. Pichola and Fateh sagar lake are two most beautiful lakes in Udaipur. This city was voted as the Best Travellers city of world in 2009, in an online survey conducted by Travel + Leisure magazine.
* Mount Abu
* Ranthambhore National Park
Most people speak Rajasthani dialects, Hindi and sometimes broken English. In tourist places like Jaipur and Jodhpur, you will find trained English and French guides too.
Endowed with natural beauty and a great history, tourism is a flourishing industry in Rajasthan. The palaces of Jaipur, lakes of Udaipur, and desert forts of Jodhpur, Bikaner & Jaisalmer are among the most preferred destination of many tourists, Indian and foreign. Tourism accounts for eight percent of the state’s domestic product. Many old and neglected palaces and forts have been converted into heritage hotels. Tourism has increased employment in the hospitality sector.
Rajasthan is famous for the majestic forts, intricately carved temples and decorated havelis, which were built by Rajput kings in previous ages, they were the soul of pre-Muslim era Rajasthan. Jantar Mantar, Dilwara Temples, Chittorgarh Fort, Lake Palace, City Palaces, Jaisalmer Havelis are part of the true architectural heritage of India. Jaipur, the Pink City, is noted for the ancient houses made of a type of sand stone dominated by a pink hue. At Ajmer, the white marble Bara-dari on the Anasagar lake is exquisite. Jain Temples dot Rajasthan from north to south and east to west. Dilwara Temples of Mount Abu, Ranakpur Temple dedicated to Lord Adinath near Udaipur, Jain temples in the fort complexes of Chittor, Jaisalmer and Kumbhalgarh, Lodarva Jain temples, Bhandasar Temple of Bikaner are some of the best examples.
Rajasthan is often called a shopper’s paradise. Rajasthan is famous for textiles, semi-precious stones and handicrafts. The attractive designs of jewellery and clothes are eye-catching and invite shoppers. Rajasthani furniture has intricate carvings and bright colours. Rajasthani handicrafts are in demand due to the intricate work on them. Above all, Rajasthan’s shopping appeals to both tourists and people from other parts of India due to its cheap prices for quality goods.
Rajasthan is one of the larger Indian states and distances are long, making planes a fairly good option for getting in. Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur all have airports with direct links to many major cities, though if coming from a smaller city, one has to go via Delhi.
Overnight trains from Delhi and Mumbai reach most of Rajasthan’s major cities. For points further out, like Jaisalmer, you’ll be looking at a second day on the train as well. The Shatabdi and Rajdhani express are excellent trains and have excellent service.
Another option is Palace on Wheels which is a week long luxury train ride through Rajasthan.
The National Highway 8 which runs through Rajasthan is excellent and connects Delhi to Mumbai. Though Mumbai may be too far away, this is the most popular way to travel to Jaipur from Delhi as the road is in excellent condition and the drive can easily be completed in under 4hrs.
Rajasthan is one of the most popular tourist destination to observe Indian heritage and royalty closely. A fortnight should suffice to be able to glimpse the splendor of the state. It has a lot of natural and man made tourist destinations, which include:
* Amber Fort in Jaipur
* Camel fair in Pushkar
* Chittorgarh Fort – A massive structure with numerous gateways, the fort is an outstanding example of Mauryan architecture.
* Mehrangarh Fort – Located in Jodhpur. Set on the hill top, Mehrangarh Fort is a humongous royal mansion.
* Junagarh Fort in Bikaner
* Pichola Lake in Udaipur
* Bundi Fort in Bundi
* Jaisalmer Fort – Located in Jaisalmer. This fort is constructed with sand stones and is an important landmark of Jaisalmer city.
* The Desert landscape in Jaisalmer
* Jal Mahal in Jaipur
* The Pink City in Jaipur
* Umaid Bhawan in Jodhpur
* Khejarla Fort in Jodhpur
* Wildlife Sanctuary in Ranthambhore National Park Ranthambore wildlife sanctuary was established in 1957. In 1974 this park came under the campaign of “Tiger Reserve”. Visitors can easily see many water bodies, everywhere inside the park, which is the perfect destination to relax during the summer for the wildlife animals.
* Dilwara Temples in Mount Abu
* Many of the cities and towns in Rajasthan offer a chance to do a camel safari.
* Another great experience is to explore Rajasthan on horseback. Beginners can go on shorter rides while experienced riders can join horseback safaris running from a couple of days up to 3 weeks.
* Lady travelers can get brilliant, intricate henna patterns done on their hands and/or feet.
* Visit the bird sanctuary at Bharatpur and the wildlife park at Ranthambore. Make sure you take the tiger safari at Ranthambore.
* Travel in Palace on Wheels- Palace on wheels is one of most luxurious train in the world, equipped with all sort of luxurious comfort. This train is the most memorable and pleasing way to explore the beauty of Rajasthan. This train has exact replica of almost everything as kings used to have in their palaces. This train covers the area of Jaipur, also known as Pink City, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Ranthambhore National Park, Chittaurgarh, Udaipur, Bharatpur and Agra before ending its Journey to Delhi.
* Shop at the bazaars(local markets) located in most cities in narrow alleys and lanes. You can pick up traditional puppets, tie-and-dye clothes/apparel, kota(also a place) textiles, accessories. Pick up excellent and beautifully done block print textiles from where it originates. The art has been initiated by the villagers of Pipar Village.
* Visit fairs arranged for traditional festivals, where you get to see the locals in traditional finery;watch camel races;enjoy traditional folk music.
* Go on a jeep safari, night safari or a nature hike in the Aravalli Mountains visiting some of the interesting wildlife sanctuaries there such as Sita-Mata, Kumbhalgarh or Jaisamand.
* Hot Air Ballooning, A breath taking experience of hot air ballooning over the heritage sites and seing a totally different perspective of Jaipur.Mesmerising should be the word for the entire 3 hour experience. You just can’t have anything better to than Hot Air Ballooning at Jaipur… A MUST DO !!!
* Explore Camels and Castles in Rajasthan, . Haggle for silks in Jaipur, plod off on a camel in Pushkar, watch the fairytale castle rise out of the desert in Jaisalmer and visit the floating Lake Palace in Udaipur. Explore Rajasthan by private car, travelling to the palaces and spice markets of India’s most iconic cities.
Avoid shopping at outlets guided by the local auto/ricksha drivers or even with the local tour guide you may have hired as these outlets all claim to have some assosiation with the Rajasthan government or the actual artisans which are generaly fabricated claims and you end up paying anywhere between 20-40% above the actual price (including a hefty commission parted by the shopkeeper to the guide/auto driver). The guide is more keen to show you all these shops rather than the places you have travelled to see.
BARGAIN! Bargain is the key word. If you are buying jewelery, artefact’s, handicrafts, etc. definitely bargain. Most tourist shops bargain upto 30 – 50% while some shops (mostly big stores like National Handloom, Bhandari Exports, Jaipur Rugs, India Crafts, Government organizations, etc.) have fixed rates with little or no scope discount on bulk buying.
Food is generally very spicy – to be enjoyed in moderation for first timers. Dairy based sweet products are very popular in this part of the country. Restaurants are mostly vegetarian. Finding restaurants serving good non-vegetarian food could be difficult, and in general, non vegetarian stuff in road side eateries should be avoided. Bread – both leavened and unleavened is readily available.
A typical Rajasthani fare would include daal-baati-churma. Daal is lentil curry;baati is round balls made out of wheat flour and baked in charcoal fire;churma is a dessert made out of crushed wheat balls rolled in jaggery/sugar and topped with ghee.
As always, be careful when traveling alone, and avoid venturing out late at nights and beware of touts. One of the safest way to travel around Rajasthan is by having a driver who know their ways around Rajasthan.
Spitting, urinating and dumping garbbage at public places and streets is very common and you need to watch out for this. Vehicles in India are driven on the left side of the road; therefore be aware of it in the street when walking/driving.
There are many clinics and hospitals in major cities which provide quality treatment at affordable prices. Also health tourism is on the upswing.