A very special Experience: Pushkar is the place of Pilgrimage, where in autumn the biggest religious festival of Rajasthan takes place. On the Full Moon in the Hindu month Kartik, thousands of believers make a pilgrimage to Pushkar, to take a holy bath there in the sacred lake and to pay homage to God Brahma, the Creator of the world. It is during this time that Pushkar attracts over a whopping 50,000 camels and 200,000 people. The tradition has continued for generations where the farmers of Rajasthan get together to trade camels, horses and cattle. However, Pushkar Fair India is more than a mere exchange of livestock and is a celebration of life with its many colors and sounds. The fair plays host to several competitions and festivities. Watch with amazement as the men of Rajasthan flaunt their mustache in a competition. There are also going to be traditional sporting events and even dance competitions. Don’t shy away from a camel ride. You’ll enjoy watching the camels which chew away their fodder unbeknownst to the commotion surrounding them.
Along with the charm of Pushkar Camel Fair, our tour takes you into the realm of the Rajput kings. You will see splendid palaces, impressive forts and legendary temples. You will experience the iridescent, everyday life in villages and cities and stay mostly in so-called “Heritage Hotels” in which the reminiscence of history is ubiquitous, but also in luxury tent camps. Experience the highlights of Rajasthan: the pink city of Jaipur with the Palace of Winds, Udaipur-the city of lakes, the desert city of Khimsar, blue city of Jodhpur and Agra with its magnificent Taj Mahal and gigantic Red Fort, including the important and significant sites of Old and New Delhi.
You arrive at the Delhi International Airport where you will be greeted by our representative and escorted to your hotel. Delhi is the capital of India and is a metropolis of the country that is second only to Mumbai in magnitude. In its history that spans over 3000 years, Delhi has seen the rise of 7 great cities which have left behind a wealth of cultural heritage and architectural wonders. The magnificent structures here – apart from having their own charm – draw inspiration from ancient Istanbul, Rome and Athens. Enjoy the distinct character of Delhi that brings you a perfect blend of the old and the new with its teeming bazaars and medieval spots. Overnight in Delhi!
On the first day of your tour, we bring you both Old and New Delhi. We introduce you to the city by a visit to the Red Fort, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. You’ll be greeted by the 100-foot red sandstone wall of this 17th century fort first. The fort remains in pristine condition and houses palaces made of marble, huge pavilions and courtyards apart from a museum that chronicles the history of the city. Right opposite this magnificent structure is the revered Jama Masjid mosque that dates back to 1656. The mosque has been constructed through a unique combination of marble and red sandstone. It has the distinction of being the largest of its kind in the nation and has the capacity to host over 20,000 people at one go.
There is no better way to know a country than exploring its streets and this is exactly what we bring you next as we explore Old Delhi through a combination of bicycle rickshaw ride and guided walk. We traverse the narrow lanes that lie between the historic Jama Masjid and traditional Chandni Chowk Bazaar. Watch with bewilderment as your bicycle rickshaw man courses through spaces that are virtually nonexistent. Watch him make way by simply replacing honks with his shouts to alert people on his path, while taking time to explain the different sights that you come across. That’s true multi-tasking on the streets of India for you!
Watch the streets getting progressively narrower as we enter the busier parts of the market. Enjoy the commotion of the bazaar that sells fruits, vegetables, ornate goods, and everything else under the sun. You’ll find each inch of the market covered by vendors and buyers who are constantly arguing over the price. You’ll find these vendors even displaying their goods on the floor, literally devoid of any kiosk or shop. Look over your head and you’ll find a mangle of wires from the power poles as if to say that even the electricity is working as hard as the people below it. The entire experience can seem intimidating to you but it is completely harmless. Open your mind and enjoy the sounds of those vendors inviting you for some shopping. The scene is reminiscent of almost all old markets in India.
Moving from traditions to modernity, we visit New Delhi that nurtures the legacy left behind by the British Raj. This is the modern face of the city. We begin with a sightseeing activity at the India Gate that was built to honor the fallen soldiers of India during World War I and Afghan War as they fought by the side of the British. We then pass by the President’s House or the Rastrapathi Bhavan and the Parliament Building. The credit of designing and building these beautiful structures goes to British architect Edwin Lutyens.
We continue our exploration with Qutub Minar which is a 234-foot minaret made entirely of sandstone. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is counted among the seven wonders of India. The minaret is the tallest of its kind in the country and is a prime example of Indo-Islamic architectural style with its terra-cotta frills. Just by the minaret is the 12th century Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid, which is believed to be the first Islamic Mosque in the country. The mosque stands on a demolished Hindu temple and is believed to have built using the remnants of 27 Jain and Hindu temples that were destroyed by the ruling Moghul emperor of the time.
The day ends by paying our respects to the revered Lord Vishnu, a revered Hindu deity, at the aesthetic Laxmi Narayan Temple. The shrine is also known as the Birla Temple or Birla Mandir, recognizing the famous industrialist family of India that built it. The temple has the distinction of being among the first temples that breached the caste barrier in India. This happened as Mahatma Gandhi, when inaugurating the temple, took along a Harijan (a lower caste Indian). Gandhi had set this as a precondition if he were to inaugurate the shrine. Overnight in Delhi!
After breakfast, we head to Shekhawati region to explore Mandawa and its many old mansions with beautifully painted walls. This day of our Pushkar India Trip is going to be relaxed and beautiful. We head straight to our hotel once we reach Mandawa and resume sightseeing post lunch.
We begin with the town of Mandawa which is most famous for its Havelis (mansions) that are over 150 to 200 years old. These mansions are a testament to the wealth of the merchants of Shekhawati region. These merchants made their fortune by trading opium and spices that fueled their extravagant lifestyles and these huge mansions were a part of it. Engulfed in the security of high walls, you find huge courtyards in these fortified trading houses of the past. The Shekhawati merchants had a penchant for beauty, which is evident by the beautifully painted walls that depict characters from ancient Hindu mythology. There is floral décor that is representative of Moghul style. The arrival of British with their modern gadgets is also depicted and you’ll spot cars and bicycles in these murals. In essence, these murals created using natural paints, chronicle their time beautifully. The prominent of these Havelis are Ladia Haveli, Dedraj Turmal Haveli, Ladhuram Tarkesva and the Goenka Haveli.
After the Havelis, we move towards the Mandawa Fort. Every corner of this fort has something unique that you’ve never seen before. Enjoy the uninhibited view of the beautiful town below from the battle ramparts. Admire the attention to detail even in the weather vane with peacock design and the beautifully arched windows. As your guide will tell you, observe that each room here is unique from the other. Explore the rooms once occupied by the beautiful women of nobility. You’ll see that while one sports a fountain made of marble the other plays host to murals that will take your breath away. Visit the turret with its walls that are seven-foot thick. Watch the villagers go by their life from here.
We stay in the beautiful Mandawa Castle this day. The castle itself dates back to 1755 and has been turned into a hotel today. Spend leisurely time here as you explore the many murals and collection of antiquities that include armor, royal costumes, and cannons dating back to 1820. If curries interest you, take a look at the ancient numismatic collection on display. It’s going to be a truly royal stay in Mandawa complete with folk dances and songs in the evening as you relish your dinner.
Nothing can prepare you for the beauty of Thar Desert where the true rural India resides unadulterated. The 16th century Khimsar Fort is like the oasis of beauty in the dry desert with its magnificent turrets, ramparts, domes and towers surrounded by rough walls that tell the story of wars they have seen. The Khimsar Fort today is a heritage hotel after being with the same family for over 21 generations. The journey to the fort itself is quite fascinating with the many sand dunes that are adorned by the rural life comprising of oxen-driven carts and huge flocks of sheep. The sight of women clad in colorful saris ferrying water for kilometers together under the hot sun is a scene right out of a mural.
Upon arrival, we make ourselves comfortable in the Heritage Hotel Khimsar Fort. The 450-year-old fort is in suprisingly supreme condition even today and remains the abode of the royal family that once reined over the region. You will enjoy the huge courtyards and open spaces that surround the rooms that you stay in. Live like a royal, surrounded by ornate windows, arches and exteriors with exquisite stone carvings.
Much of the original structure of the rooms that you stay in is well-retained. Enjoy relaxing in the antique furniture that is almost a century old. Dining in the fort tower is a unique experience that you’ll surely enjoy. The hotel is flush with amenities such as swimming pool, tennis court, health club, sauna and steam bath. There is also a multi-cuisine restaurant and bar within the property. Pay a visit to the Khimsar garage to encounter the royal auto collection where vintage cars are on display.
In the afternoon, you’re free to explore the locale. Opt for a jeep drive that we bring you. Come equipped with the camera to shoot the beautiful black buck and spotted deers which are native to the region – these belong to the antelope family. We also visit the colorful village nearby before returning to the hotel. The hotel itself serves as an excellent option for a relaxed sightseeing with its beautiful architecture complete with well-maintained gardens with peacocks frolicking around. Sipping tea in the veranda of Khimsar Fort has a charm of its own.
The rustic charm of the Khimsar Village will not go unnoticed by you. The never-ending rough sand landscape is best enjoyed through a camel ride in early evening when the heat from the sun is not at its peak. Watch the evening sun hide behind the crimson sand dunes at dusk as the colorful women of the desert look like mere shadows on the distant mounds of sand. Late evening, enjoy the traditional Rajasthani puppet show complete with traditional music by Kalbelia Troupe. You’ll spend this night in the abode of kings at Heritage Hotel Khimsar Fort.
After breakfast, continuing on our Pushkar Camel Tour India, we’re off to Jodhpur about 90 kilometers away. The journey will take us under two hours. Jodhpur was once the capital of Marwar and at present is the second largest city in Rajasthan after Jaipur. In its days of glory during the 16th century, Jodhpur was a vital center for trading en route Gujarat to China. As you enter Jodhpur, a massive city wall that runs 10 kilometers across the city greets you along with the Meherangarh Fort.Once we settle down and freshen up in the hotel, we visit the Meherangarh Fort. The splendorous fort seems to emanate from the top of the hill on which it stands. This huge 110-foot fort made of stone was established in the year 1459 and legend has it that, despite innumerable attempts by enemies, the fort was never ever captured. Stand on the defense embankments atop the fort and you will find that the homes of the priests and other old houses are painted blue and for this reason, the town is also known as “Blue City.” The fort also houses an impressive museum that has a wealth of artifacts belonging to the Rajput and the Moghul kings. Akbar’s sword, octagonal throne, elephant saddles made of ivory, silver litters and palanquins, princely cradles, howdahs, and a huge collection of weapons are just some of them.We then move to Jaswant Thada which is a marble Cenotaph dedicated to Maharajah Jaswant Singh II and was built in 1899. Umaid Bhawan Palace is next on our list. This present-day 5 Star Heritage Hotel was originally built as a shelter for the 3000 odd farms of the kingdom who were famine-stricken. It was built in the 20th century. By now, it’s time for lunch and we resume our sightseeing in Jodhpur with a jeep safari to a village inhabited by the Bishnoi tribe. Our safari is marked by khejri trees and dunes as we move along until we finally start spotting blackbucks and Indian gazelle (chinkara). The Bishnois venerate the khejri trees and animal life, so much so that they bury dead gazelles and even mark their graves. The word Bishnoi when literally translated means twenty-niners signifying their affinity to the 29 principles that they live by. These principles lead them to aggressively protect Mother Nature that nurtures them. The two major principles of the Bishnoi tell them to protect animals and trees around them. The tribe traces its origins to the 15th century, perhaps making them the earliest environmentalists the world has ever seen. We pay a visit to one of the tribal homes here and enjoy a cup of tea. The tribesmen are primarily farmers and strict vegetarians. You might be invited for an opium ceremony here. Overnight stay in Jodhpur!
Continuing with the Pushkar Fair Tour, we head east to Aravali Hills. Watch as the landscape transforms into bare hilltops with occasional dense green valleys. It is in one such valley that Ranakpur lies in. Here is one of the most revered Jain temples. Comprised of 1444 columns with skilfully intricate carvings, you will find that each of the columns is unique. The temple itself is entirely made of marble. We enjoy our lunch in this area and then continue our journey towards Udaipur.
The word, Udaipur, when translated in English means the City of Sunrise. It is set amidst rich natural landscape comprising of hills and lakes. The founder of this beautiful city is Maharana Udai Singh. The town is located idyllically by the artificially created Pichola Lake which is 12-mile long and 9-mile wide. Right in the middle of the calm waters of Pichola are two palace islands – Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir. Jag Mandir is a great mix of Rajput and Moghul architecture. It is believed that the design of Jag Mandir was among the inspirations for the design of the beautiful Taj Mahal. Jag Niwas is a yesteryear royal summer retreat and was built in 1740. In the year 1963, it was converted into a hotel, arguably one of the finest in India. Today, it is known as the Lake Palace Hotel and is managed by the prestigious Taj Group of Hotels. It is famed for being the shooting location of international hits like Der Tiger von Eschnapur and Octopussy. You will enjoy a two-night stay in the beautiful Udaipur. Overnight stay in Udaipur!
This is the last day before the actual Pushkar Camel Tour begins but promises to be a day of superb sightseeing. We begin our day at the City Palace which is the largest of its kind in the state and was once the abode of Maharana. It stands on a huge strip of land adjoining the Pichola Lake. This humongous architectural wonder is, today, home to four divisions, three of which are hotels and one is a museum. The hotels are Jagdish Niwas, Fateh Sagar, and Shiv Nivas. A portion of the palace is still the home of Maharana of Udaipur Royal Family. The high points of the palace bring you uninhibited view of all the architectural beauty that Udaipur has to offer. The view of Lake Palace Hotel and Pichola Lake will take your breath away. You will also enjoy the artifacts once used by the Maharanas of Udaipur as well as miniature paintings in the palace museum.
We step out to pay our respects to Lord Vishnu at Jagdish Temple. The temple is highly revered by Hindus. It is usually teeming with devotees during the early morning and late evening hours when the religious rituals are held. The outer area of the temple is full of vendors who sell flowers and other items of worship. You are allowed to explore the inner temple, although you might find the outer structure more inviting with its intricate carvings. We then proceed to Sahelion-ki-Bari or the garden of beautiful lady friends. Before we retire to the hotel, we explore the Pichola Lake on a boat, taking a look at the people across the ghats and the Lake Palace Hotel in a new light. We finally head back to the Palace.
Evening is spent on the Sunset Terrace of Fateh Prakash Palace Hotel, perhaps the most romantic spot in Udaipur to sip on a drink and bond with your loved one. The Sunset Terrace forms the core of the hotel and is quite popular among people who have a taste for good life. Watch Lake Pichola infect itself with the changing hues under the evening sun. You will love the sight of City Palace Complex that is slowly engulfed by the darkness of the evening. Enjoy a wide spread of delicacies on the Sunset Terrace as you enjoy live music.
Pushkar is among the oldest and the holiest sites of pilgrimage for Hindus in India. The normally indistinct Pushkar comes to life during the annual cattle fair with celebrations of all sorts at every step. It’s an amazing amalgamation of religion, commerce and pure entertainment. The fair is held either in October or November depending on the positioning of the moon, as this is considered to be an auspicious time. People from all walks of life come here. While some come purely out of curiosity, others come with a purpose. Ascetics, snake charmers, farmers, nomads, showmen, musicians, fortune-tellers and of course, the all-important cattle traders flock Pushkar. It’s as if the camels erupt in thousands out of nowhere on the otherwise quiet sand dunes. Devotees gather at the Brahma Temple, praying and hoping for ultimate salvation from their worldly woes. They also take a dip in the holy waters of Pushkar Lake.
Once we arrive in Pushkar, we make ourselves comfortable in the “luxurious” tents that await us. It is going to be an accommodation with a difference for sure. Once we settle down, we embark on an exploration of the grounds where the great Pushkar Fair is held. A guide would accompany you at all times. You’ll be surprised to see the diversity that reflects in the people who visit the fair. The way they worship the gods, their attire, and even language differs from each other. This is one place where people regardless of their cast, creed, and tribe freely mingle to fulfill the purpose of their visit. You’ll find numerous makeshift stalls that sell items like silver artifacts, bells, goods made of hide, beads, bells, paintings, embroidery, printed textiles and so on; the list is simply never-ending. You’ll find Ferris wheel entertaining the overly enthusiastic crowd queuing for a ride, while traditional folk artists seem to dance away in a state of nonstop trance. The fun continues beyond dusk and you’ll enjoy your dinner as you watch people dance away to folk tunes.
A few points to note about your Pushkar Camel Tour:
Right after the breakfast, we venture out on the back of a camel into the Pushkar Fair grounds, where something exciting would be happening everywhere, almost everything related to camels. You’ll find some of the contests involving camels quite amusing like the camel dance, camel with best haircut, camel beauty pageant and of course, the camel race. The fair also witnesses numerous traditional dance and music shows as well as political speeches.
You’ll not feel left out in the Pushkar Fair as the native participants would heartily welcome you for foreigners versus Indians tug-of-war or kabaddi matches. There is also an exclusive turban-tying competition exclusively meant for foreign tourists visiting Pushkar. Other interesting competitions include “breaking the mud pot with your eyes closed” (Matka Phod), bridal competition and mustache exhibition. Don’t feel paranoid if you find a few sadhus or gypsies following you constantly. They just believe that you have a strong desire to photograph yourself with them; of course, they’d expect you to be generous with your purse for the pleasure.
Several temples and hermitages surround the Pushkar Lake and this becomes food for our exploration in the evening. There are 52 ghats (set of steps leading to the water body) in Pushkar. You’ll find a sea of devotees and ascetics constantly thronging the ghats to offer prayers. The ambiance is one of spirituality that brings together the murmurs of Vedic chants and the sound of musical instruments being played at a distance. Observe the devotees as they seem lost in their pleads to gods. Watch as they perform rituals that are aimed at pleasing the gods. The lake takes a spectacular “avatar” in the evening as the custom demands that devotees float oil lamps over leaf plates in the lake. The hundreds of oil lamps that float during dusk make for a scene that will remain etched in your memory for the rest of your life. Pushkar is also home to the only Brahma Temple in the entire country. Hindus believe that Brahma is the creator of our universe. The evening marks the end of our stay in Pushkar Fair India. Overnight stay in luxury tented accommodation in Pushkar!
We take one last look at Pushkar early in the morning. If you love your morning walks, then you should not miss this opportunity. We take you on a walk to Ratnagiri Hill and visit the Savitri Temple at dawn. You’ll love the 360-degree view of the lake, the desert, the city and the fair. We return from the walk for our morning fill and then, we’re off to Jaipur, the “Pink City.” When translated in English, Jaipur means the City of Victory. This ancient city has a vast collection of architectural wonders which are preserved in pristine condition. Forts on hilltops, busy bazaars, royal accommodation and mouth-watering delicacies await you in Jaipur. You’ll find yesteryear bazaars functioning in their full glory as well as modern glass-clad malls that stand tall in Jaipur. You’ll love shopping Rajasthani gems, textiles, crafts, and other astounding artifacts.
We reach Jaipur late in the morning or early afternoon, and set out on a half-day tour of the city. We begin with the Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds. Hawa Mahal is nothing like you’ve ever encountered before. This 18th century, 5-storey structure sports a whopping 953 windows. It is believed that the noble women would watch the city processions from the windows of Hawa Mahal, away from the preying eyes of the commoners.
We move to the City Palace next in the heart of Jaipur. Built in 1734, the City Palace is a testimonial to the architectural prowess of the Maharajas of Jaipur. This palace complex is full of intricate decorative art and paintings all over. The gardens, intricately carved doorways, huge courtyards and the palaces will sweep you off your feet. The City Palace also has a museum that chronicles the historic glory of the region through armory, manuscripts, miniature paintings, carpets and several royal artifacts. We then visit the early-18th-century observatory, Jantar Mantar. Maharaja Jai Singh had commissioned the observatory for construction and was built in 1720s. It is believed that Maharaja Jai Singh was a great astronomer and Jantar Mantar was one among five of his astronomical marvels. Most of the huge tools in the observatory do their jobs seamlessly even today.
Jaipur is akin to the capital Delhi where the old meets the new with zero conflict. You’ll find every modern gadget being sold in the bazaars besides the traditional ones. On the other hand, you’ll see that modern means of transport coexist with the “outdated” ones which are very much in use today. You will find that the flavor of the old world is still preserved well between the city walls that form the stage for acrobatics for the monkey population of the city. The walk has been designed such that you get a great insight into the best that old and new Jaipur has to offer. You’ll find that every street that you pass through has something unique for you. We end the walk with a masala chai (tea with ground spices) at a popular local joint. You could also treat yourself to a few local snacks here. This marks the end of another eventful day of your Pushkar Fair Tour. Overnight in Jaipur!
Your morning in the royal city of Jaipur begins with a visit to Amber Fort. Like most of the forts of Rajasthan, Amber Fort too is located at a hilltop. However, reaching the fort promises to be an exciting affair as you go on an elephant ride just like the great kings of yore did. The elephant itself dons a royal look complete with saddle and ornate coverings. The location of this 18th century fort is quite scenic and offers a great view of the city below. The pathways that take you to the inner parts of the fort themselves are quite detailed in their construction. The ancient structure gets grander as you venture further in. The archways and the ramparts, all give you a glimpse of the lavishness that once existed in Jaipur. The architecture is a mix of Rajput and Hindu styles.
Sukh Mandir or the Palace of Pleasure located within the fort complex stands true to its name. You suddenly feel the cool winds ruffling your senses. Sukh Mandir is another engineering marvel of Jaipur. The cool climate is an artificial creation that emanates from the cool winds that blow through the cascading waters in the fort. You’ll love the intricate work on the ivory-sandalwood door of Sukh Mandir. A visit to Mirror Palace and you’ll be swept away by the Rajput sense of aesthetics. Several beautiful paintings and flowers made of glass decorate the Mirror Palace in entirety. A single lamp lit in the center of the chamber appears like a thousand stars in this beautiful palace made of reflective glass.
We then set out to admire the Jal Mahal or the Water Palace that gives you the impression as if this piece of beauty made of red sandstone is floating on the beautiful Man Sagar Lake. It’s going to be one of the many instances where you can’t help but marvel at the architectural creativity of the Rajputs.
It’s time to visit the Albert Hall Museum now, the oldest of its kind in the city. This 19th century structure made of the red sandstone-marble is worth exhibiting and sports Indo-Saracenic-style. The credit of designing the museum goes to Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob who ventured into combining Indian and Victorian architecture for the first time in history. He is also famed for the construction of Rambagh Palace which is now a hotel that belongs to the Taj Hotels. The museum has been named after Prince Albert, who later came to be known as Edward VII. The structure was built to honor the Prince during his visit to New Jaipur that came into existence in the late 1880s. The museum hides in its womb miniature paintings, folk arts, traditional attires, pottery, textiles, musical instruments, artifacts made of ivory and marbles, and several items that relate to the traditions and culture of India.
The time post noon is at your disposal for leisurely activities like lazing by the pool and shopping. It’s almost unbelievable that you’ve already spend 12 days of your Pushkar Camel Tour India. Time is just flying by!