Impressions of Rajasthan itinerary


Day 1: New Delhi

Welcome to India! Depending on what time everyone arrives, I will be leading an afternoon mission out to the atmospheric streets of Old Delhi and the spice market. In the evening, we will have our welcome meeting, and then head out for an optional dinner.

Delhi is a really interesting city, and if you haven't been here before, then I would suggest having a couple of extra days to look around - whether you choose to do this at the beginning or end of the trip. There are a number of historic sites in the city, some thriving nightlife. You can also do one of the Intrepid Urban Adventures.

Standard Check in time at the hotel is 1400 Hrs.

Accommodation: Jaypee Siddharth Hotel or similar


Day 2: New Delhi – Jaipur (by day train)

Today we will have an early start to experience one of India's express air-conditioned train as you travel to the pink city of Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan. We will be catching the Ajmer Shatabdi Express: Delhi – Jaipur (0605 /1040 Hours)

In the early afternoon, we will visit the Panna Meena Kund Stepwell and the stunning medieval Amber Fort. Maharaja Mansingh, Mughal Emperor Akbar’s most successful General, started the construction of the Fort in the 17th century. This marvel is a great example of Rajput architecture. Take your time, as you'll need several hours to explore this massive fortification. We will finish up with a sunset location, before heading back to the hotel and then out to dinner.

Included activities:
Ajmer Shatabdi train
Amber Fort and Panna Meena Stepwell visit

Accommodation: Lemon Tree Premier or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 3: Jaipur – Pushkar (by surface)

If anyone is up for an optional sunrise excursion, we can make our way to the Jal Mahal - an ancient palace in the middle of a lake, just outside of town.

After breakfast, we will take an excursion to the sights of Jaipur. Firstly, we will visit the Hawa Mahal, also known as “Palace of Winds”. Built in 1799, it was an extension to the Royal City Palace of Jaipur, which allowed the royal ladies who at the time strictly observed 'purdah', and so were able to watch any processions and activities on the street without being seen by the public.

Afterwards, we will visit the City Palace, now converted into a museum, except a small portion that is still used by the royal family of Jaipur. Built in the fortified campus style, the palace covers almost one-seventh of the city. We can also visit the fascinating and photogenic Jantar Mantar, an observatory with a collection of astronomical instruments built in order to denote time.

In the afternoon, we will transfer by road to Pushkar (approximately 3 hours’ drive). Depending on arrival time, we can spend time exploring the mela ground.

Included activities:
City Palace
Hawa Mahal
Jantar Mantar

Accommodation: Gulaab Niwas Palace or similar

Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner


Day 4: Pushkar Mela

Today we will explore the Pushkar Mela - more commonly known as the Pushkar Camel Fair.

There are a number of melas that happen around Rajasthan around this time, but the Pushkar Mela is the largest, bringing almost 50,000 animals together camp grounds on the outskirts of town. In the unique Indian way, the melas are a blend of religious bathing, and trading of animals.

The Pushkar Mela lasts for around ten days, culminating in the religious bathing on the full moon night of the Kartik Poornima full moon. We have time our visit for the beginning of the festival, as this gives us a much greater chance of seeing large number of camels. By the end of the festival, there will be even more tourists, and most of the camels will have left. They will have been replaced by pilgrims who flock to the holy lake in the centre of town, but as Pushkar Lake is considered one of the holiest places of Hinduism, photography is resolutely banned on the ghats - the bathing steps that lead down to the lake.

This on the full moon of the Kartik Purnima it is believed that the waters of the lake are particularly auspicious, and it is believed that if someone takes a holy bath then that person receives special blessings.

There is also a vast fairground for local pilgrims, including ferris wheels, walls of death (where motorbikes and sometimes even cars are driven around a wall) and numerous sideshow attractions. This is also a perfect place to shoot portraits - and camels, lots and lots of camels.

Accommodation: Gulaab Niwas Palace or similar

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 5: Pushkar

Today we have another full day exploring the Pushkar Mela. If people wish, there is the (optional) chance to go up in a hot air balloon. This would also be a good day to climb to the Savitri Mata Temple, on a hill outside of town - or if you are feeling lazy, you can take the cable car!

The Rajasthan Tourist Department offers a number of slightly cheesy, but still very entertaining events during the more touristy days of the mela. These include cultural performances, exhibitions, a moustache competition, kite flying, turban tying and much more. They usually hold a camel beauty competition and a tourists versus locals tug of war! This is fairly amusing, but the best shots will be had walking around.

There are a number of ashrams around the lake, where sadhus (Hindu holy men) will spend their time meditating and praying. Some of these will be completely naked, and covered in the ash from fires. They can be somewhat scary, but also are approachable if you go about it in the right way. I will be holding a special lesson on sadhus and photographing them in time for you to make the most out of this special opportunity!

Accommodation: Gulaab Niwas Palace or similar

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner


Day 6: Pushkar – Nawalgarh

This morning you will have the chance for a final walk around the mela in the morning, before we get ready to head off on the next phase of our adventure. By now, the tourist numbers will be even higher, and you will be forgiven for feeling a little smug that you have seen the mela at its best!

Later early afternoon, head deeper into the princely state of Rajasthan to Nawalgarh, leaving the city behind for a more relaxed village vibe (approximately 5 hours’ drive). Catch glimpses of life in the most colourful of India’s regions – sari-clad women carrying terracotta pots of water, bangles tinkling as they walk. If the sun’s still up, take a walk around the village, meet the locals and interact with them.

Accommodation: Roop Niwas Kothi or similar

Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner


Day 7: Nawalgarh

Enjoy a day of exploring this amazing town and further out into the Shekhawati region. Nawalgarh is often referred to as largest open art gallery of Rajasthan, with many old old frescos that can be seen throughout the town in buildings and local houses. This will be a great place for a photography stop, not least because this is a much less visited part of Rajasthan, and a great place to simply explore and soak in the atmosphere. We will visit the local market (bazaar) and see the colorful town as well as exploring the famous ornate havelis, frescos and learning about the history this small town has to offer.

You also have the option to explore the city on camel cart, taking a farm walk, and trying Mehndi (Indian Tattoo) a form of body art.

Included Activities:
Visit of Haveli’s and Walking Tour

Accommodation: Roop Niwas Kothi or similar

Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner


Day 8: Nawalgarh - Bikaner

Today we travel deeper into the Thar Desert to the fortified town of Bikaner (approximately 6 hours’ drive). Bikaner was an important staging post on some of the great caravan routes, and thus houses a multitude of bazaars along with an impressive fort and palace. We continue to Junagarh Fort which despite appearances, was built at the beginning of the 20th century.

We also visit the Camel Breeding Farm (National Research Centre on Camel), established by the Central government, and explore the Museum available to learn about the developmental and research aspects of Camels in the desert ecosystem.

Included Activities:
Bikaner – Junagarh Fort
Camel Breeding Centre

Accommodation: Gajner Palace or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 9: Kolayat Mela

A day to visit Kolayat mela and explore the festivities. Leave your hotel in the morning and visit the Ghats to see the different types of rituals performed by the devotees. The 51 Ghats surrounded by the Kolyat Lake is similar to the Ghats of Varanasi and is one of the biggest fairs of this region.

There is a belief if this festival that a Great Sage Kapil Muni once performed meditation in order to achieve salvation at the lake, which makes it an important site for the locals and they perform prayers and rituals at the Ghats.

In the evening, the Ghats are lit by earthen lamps and there is an evening Aarti ceremony.

We have checked locally, and have been assured that, unlike Pushkar, there should be no problems taking pictures of the lake. However, things can change, so there are no guarantees. There are always many things around these large melas, and as well as photographing the bathing by the lake, we will be able to roam the surrounding area, photographing the pilgrims and the other things associated with the fair.

Accommodation: Gajner Palace or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 10: Bikaner

Today is officially the main day of the Kolayat Mela. The full moon is sometime on the early morning of the following day, but tradition dictates that people will want to bathe today, and through the night. More and more people will be flocking to the mela and the crowds will be building all day. Today we will check-out of our hotel early, and move to a different hotel, closer to the Mela. We have tried to get two nights here, but they are booked. It will be a nice change though, and it is a stunning property.

For those who are keen, this would be a great day to return to the mela. For those who are feeling tired, they have the option of relaxing at this hotel, or part relaxing and coming into the mela later.

Accommodation: Gajner Palace or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 11: Bikaner – Jaisalmer

Today we will wind along a remote desert road to the yellow sandstone citadel of Jaisalmer (approximately 6 hours’ drive). Watch as it rears its head in the arid, flat desert like a scene from 'One Thousand and One Nights'. Explore the snaking alleyways of Jaisalmer which are filled with markets and intricately carved houses. Located on the banks of Gadisar Lake in the Mehar Bagh Garden is the Jaisalmer Folklore Museum, which is well worth a visit. Also visit the Shiv temple close to Gadisar Lake.

Included activities:
Jaisalmer – City tour
Folklore Museum
Shiv Temple near Gadisar Lake

Accommodation: Mandir Palace or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 12: Jaisalmer

This morning visit the Jaisalmer Fort. Within the fort itself is a maze of houses, temples, shops and restaurants, not to mention some 3,000 permanent residents. Track down some dazzling Rajasthani fabrics, marvel at the spectacular facades of the Patwa ki Haveli and Salim Singh-ki-Haveli. Or you may wish to simply wander the labyrinthine paths and soak up the atmosphere.

Afternoon drive to the dunes for a desert experience. We will take you to a picturesque location where you can spend time taking snaps during the sunset. You have the option to choose between the jeep ride/camel ride to reach the dunes.

We have the option of spending an evening having a Dinner on the dunes with a traditional Rajasthani cuisine followed by a local folk performance.

Included activities:
Jaisalmer Fort
Haveli visit
Jeep/Camel Ride on the Dunes

Optional Activity:
Dinner on Dunes – INR 4000 per person

Accommodation: Mandir Palace or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 13: Jaisalmer – Jodhpur

Today you drive across the desert to discover Rajasthan's second-largest city, the frenetic Jodhpur (approximately 6 hours’ drive). Jodhpur abounds with antique shops and, according to many a traveller, has the best lassi in India. It's also where the famous Jodhpur trousers originated. Explore the Sadar Bazar and the clock tower in the city. The local markets are here famous for its colorful jootis (footwear), turbans and handicrafts.

In the afternoon, we will find a convenient rooftop where we can photograph the fort at sunset, and also in the early evening, as it is lit up for the night.

Accommodation: Mandore Guest House or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 14: Jodhpur

A day in Jodhpur to explore the blue city visit the colossal Mehrangarh Fort sits atop a sheer rocky ridge in the middle of town. We’ll explore the looming fortress and the series of palaces within it which narrate a saga of hard sandstone yielding to the chisels of many skilled sculptors. The Jodhpur museum located within the fort is known for its exceptional collection of palanquins, howdahs (decorated riding seats for camels and elephants) and other interesting artefacts.

Afternoon take an excursion to Bishnoi village famous for its local tribal people. Meet and interact with the villagers and take a walk through the local streets, these community believes in worshipping nature. They have a unique turban which classifies them different from the other nearby communities. Here you will get a chance to sight migratory birds like domicile cranes, blackbucks and chinkaras.

Later visit a nearby Dhurrie making unit where you will see the traditional art of Dhurrie making (thin flat woven rug) mostly used as carpets, table mats.

Included activities:
Mehrangarh Fort
Bishnoi village visit

Accommodation: Mandore Guest House or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 15: Departure Day

There are no activities planned for the final day and you can depart the accommodation at the designated time of check-out. Hotel check out 1200 hours.

Meals included: Breakfast


We have arranged this tour to finish in Jodhpur, to give people the chance to explore further in Rajasthan, head to Agra to see the Taj Mahal or simply spend an extra couple of days in this stunning city. There are flights from as little as $35, and these can easily be incorporated into many international flights giving you the ultimate flexibility. Once you have booked, myself or Intrepid Travel will be able to advise you about any onward arrangements.

Our visit to the Kolayat Mela is something of an exploratory phase of the trip. I have been to Pushkar, and a number of other November fairs in the country, but never to Kolayat. As one of the least touristy melas in Rajasthan, we are somewhat feeling our way. We have researched this as much as possible, and have been assured that photography is possible by the lake, but as with anything in India, things can change due to local conditions. Rest assured though, in a country as fascinating as India, we have a plan 'b', and indeed a plan 'c' in place.

In essence, this is the basis of all of our trips: it is not just the things that are listed on the itinerary that are the things that people remember, we are always seeking out local markets, villages, temples and people working in fields to stop for, engage and photograph. There are a number of times when we have built in time to be flexible. We are assisted in this by having the best local leader that Intrepid Travel have on their books - the incomparable Chetan. Chetan is a great friend and I have been working with him since 2008. He is great at suggesting and finding photo-opportunities along the way.