Rajasthan forts and palaces reflect the glories of the magnificent era gone by. A walk through their palatial courtyards evokes a sense of nostalgia and respect. No wonder, every tourist is enamored by these marvelous pieces of architecture, and visiting them is a high priority on their itinerary.
However, this massive state is more than its forts and palaces. It’s also about its fascinating cuisine, exciting folk dances and its bustling bazaars, which are a repository of rare artifacts and hand-woven items. Whether its dune bashing or a jeep safari, adventure and excitement comes here in many forms. This blog tells you whatto see in Rajasthan apart from Forts & Palaces. Doing so will let you visit a side of Rajasthan you never knew existed.
Thrilling – Dune Bashing
Have you ever heard of dune bashing? It’s one of those thrilling activities where one goes off-roading in a sports vehicle, to explore the fabulous sand dunes far out in the desert. This activity is popularly known by the name, Desert Safari. One of the most popular places for engaging in this sport is The Sam Dunes located about 42km from Jaisalmer. During the desert festival here, a rocking light and sound show is organized by Sam Dunes.
Camel Safari – A rustic tour
How can one come to Rajasthan and not go on a camel safari? Taking a ride on the “ship of the desert” allows you to experience the beauty of the region like never before. The best place for enjoying a camel safari in Rajasthan is undoubtedly Jaisalmer, besides the important locations like Mandawa and Bikaner. The duration as well as the destinations covered with each safari is different from the next. This is the best way of exploring the hidden beauties of the Thar Desert.
Visit Patwon ki Haveli – A Wonder in the Desert
Visiting Patwon ki Haveli is one of the fascinating things to do in Rajasthan. They are considered to be one of the most important havelis in Jaisalmer because not only were they the first ones to be constructed but also because they are a cluster of five small havelis. Also known as the “mansion of brocade merchants”, one finds an impressive amount of paintings and mirror works adorning the walls. The other impressive features are its gateways and arches, with individual depictions and themes decorating every arch.
See the gypsy snake dance – You will forget Shakira
Witnessing the exciting “snake dance” is undoubtedly one of the special things to see in Rajasthan. This highly skilled dance form is based on the traditional folk dance of the Kalbeliyas. In this dance, the women make a circle, and having done so, dance alternately encouraged by the singing of other women. It’s characterized by rapid hand and arm movements on the breast levels accompanied by a continuous opening and closing of the arms and elbows, quick turning movements and light hip movements. Infact, the soaring popularity of this dance form earned it a spot in UNESCO World Intangible List.
Tour Sadar Bazaar in Jodhpur – One for the shopaholics
Another unique experience awaits you at the Sadar Bazaars scattered all over this magnificent state. Every one of these markets, albeit bearing the same name, are unique in their own right. While the Sadar Bazaar in Jaisalmer specializes in “Jooti” (footwear) made of camel leather and silver ornaments, the one in Jodhpur is a great place for procuring a range of items ranging from vegetables, spices, textiles and silver, beside others. Then, there is the one at Chittorgarh, where one comes across products like metal wares, camel leather, toys, jewelry etc.
Elephant ride at Amer Fort, Jaipur – A gigantic experience
One of the unique experiences is Rajasthan is taking an elephant ride at the gorgeous Amer Fort. These majestic beasts, decorated with traditionally painted patterns, transport the visitors to the steep slope of the fort. Normally, it takes 20 to 30 minutes for the elephant to reach the main courtyard. There are around 80 elephants here which carry upto 900 visitors per day. Taking an elephant ride is a thrilling experience. However, to catch a ride, visitors must arrive early.
Take part in Gangaur Mela – A riot of colors
Gangaur Mela, or Festival, is celebrated during the month of late March or Early April, and is characterized by vibrant clothes, mehandi (temporary henna tattoos) designed hands, temple hymns and decorated streets. During this time, the womenfolk decorate the idols of Lord Shiva and Goddess Gauri, while themselves donning vibrant outfits and traditional jewelry. The highlight of the festival is the Gangaur processions taken out by married women in the street, followed by the immersions of the idols in the lake.
Kite flying – reaching for the skies
Kite flying is one of the most famous activities in Rajasthan. In fact, the entire state celebrates the tradition of kite flying in the form of “Makar Sankranti.” On this day, everyone is in a jubilant mood and the skies are flooded with kites of every size, shape and color. Food also plays an important role in this festival, and people partake in various delicacies like Til Ke Laddoo, Dal Pakodi, Gajar Ka Halwa, Fini/ Phini etc. On this day, the tourism department of Rajasthan also organizes a special program at the Jal Mahal, Jaipur for tourists which is marked by decorated kites exhibitions and various cultural performances.
Boating on Lake Pichola – A romantic ride
The many picturesque lakes of Rajasthan captivate tourists with their surreal beauty. However, Pichola Lake, the largest and oldest lake of Udaipur, appears almost surreal. This beautiful lake is surrounded by lofty palaces, wonderful temples, bathing ghats and elevated hills. However, the best way of absorbing the charming beauty of this lake is taking a boat ride. From Bansi Ghat, one can take boats to all the other parts of the lake, including Arsi Vilas Island which is both a bird sanctuary and Sitamata Game Sanctuary.
Jeep Safari in Ranthambore – A wild experience
Ranthambore National Park and Tiger Reserve, once a private game reserve of the royal House of Jaipur, offers a brilliant opportunity of spotting the magnificent tiger in the wild. Apart from the tiger, one can also spot sloth bear, leopard and caracal, beside others. The best way of observing the wildlife is with Ranthambore Jeep Safari. Jeeps with a fixed group of tourists and accompanied by a trained guide are allowed entry into the park during the morning and evening, at fixed times. At any given time, a maximum of four jeeps can travel on a particular road.
Chhatra Sagar Nimaj – A royal camping experience
Camp Chhatra Sagar in Nimaj is built on a 100 hundred year old reservoir and comprises of a 13 beautiful lakes that overlook a picturesque lake. Visitors have the option of choosing 11 traditional Rajasthani tents on the dam and two on top of the hill. Every tent is equipped with comfortable beds, attached bathroom and a sitting area. The best part is, the daily affairs of the camp are managed by the family, who are known as The Singhs. They also organize bird-watching tours, tours to adjoining villages and even walks in surrounding fields. The best part is, one can enjoy dinner in the tent, by the campfire or under the stars – as you like it!
Rajasthani Wedding – A Royal Wedding
Nowhere else will you experience the culture of Rajasthan than at a Rajasthani wedding. The traditional dances accompanied by folk music, gracious wedding attires and wedding rituals simply captivate the onlooker. The main wedding is preceded by certain pre-wedding traditions such as the Tilak ceremony, Griha Shanti and the Janeu. The wedding comprises of an Aarti and Saat Phere, where the couple takes 7 rounds around the fire with the priest chanting mantras. The post-wedding customs involve Bidaai, Griha Pravesh and Pagelagni.
Rajasthani Food – Taste Some of the Best Food of Your Life
The cuisine of Rajasthan has evolved according to the peculiar topography and climatic conditions prevailing in the state. The culinary style has been molded in a way that many of their dishes last for several days and don’t require to be reheated. Although predominantly a vegetarian region, the influence of the Rajputs has played a major role in the evolution of various delicious non-vegetarian dishes like laal maas, jungle maas, khad khargosh and safed maas. Some of the popular Rajasthani dishes are bajre ki roti and leshun ki chutney, daal baati churma and gatte ki sabzi, besides other everyday snacks like pyaaz kachori, kalmi vada etc.
Enjoy Sunset at Pushkar Lake
Pushkar Lake is considered to be the most sacred of the five lakes (Panch Sarovars) by the Hindus. This semi-circular lake consists of 52 ghats, and the water around each ghat is supposed to have special powers. However, to witness this lake in all its glory, visit it during the sunset. One has two options for viewing a sunset over Pushkar Lake. If one can get there early enough, one can sit on the porch of Sunset Café and enjoy a drink while watching the sunset or one can choose to sit on the steps of the ghat, as most other people do, and enjoy the sunset.
Colorful Events and Festivals of Rajasthan
Rajasthan’s colorful events and festivals are a flood of colors and colorful costumes, merrymaking and revelry. Some of the events, like the Teej Festival, celebrate the bounty of nature and the arrival of the monsoon. The Dussehra Festival of Kota is a unique experience, marked by villagers dressing themselves in traditional wear and taking out long processions. The Pushkar Fair, held between the months of October and November, is an annual week long camel and livestock fair, involving competitions like “matka phod”, “longest moustache” and “bridal competition”. Bikaner Camel Festival, organized in the month of January, is a perfect mix of thrill and creativity.
Temples of Ranakpur
Ranakpur, located around 96km north of Udaipur, is one of the major pilgrimage destinations in Rajasthan. This place owes its eminence to its exquisitely carved Jain temples constructed in amber stone around the year 1439 AD. These temples are believed to have been built by Seth Dharna Shah, a Jain businessman with the aid of Rana Kumbha who ruled Mewar in the 15th century. The main temple complex houses various temples like Chaumukha temple, Parsavanath temple, Amba Mata Temple and Surya Temple. Amongst these, the Chaumukha Temple consists of 24 pillared halls with 80 domes that are supported by 400 columns, clearly an architectural wonder.
Cooking Class in Rajasthan
The best part about visiting Rajasthan is that one is not only treated to culinary delights, but also provided an opportunity to learn the art of cooking, the Rajasthani way. One of these is Shashi’s cooking classes in Udaipur. Here, the basic cooking classes are conducted in four to five hour classes a day. Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur recreates the taste of authentic Rajasthani dishes like laal maas, classic chicken curry and butterfly dal. Similarly, the Leela Palace in Udaipur offers a three day itinerary which offers visitors an opportunity to work with the hotel’s head chef.
Photographs with Locals with Colorful Turbans
Rajasthan’s people love decorating their heads with colorful turbans, also known as “Pagadi” in the local language. This turban denotes a person’s culture, caste and profession. A traditional turban is usually 82ft long and 8 inches wide. One can click photographs with the locals with their colorful turbans, after requesting them to do so politely. It’s a great way of capturing the memories of your trip to the wonderful land of Rajasthan.