Rajasthan’s Deserts, Castles and Palaces
It is the extreme contrasts and diversity of experiences that place Rajasthan amongst the world’s most incredible destinations. Set in India’s northwest, Rajasthan or the “Land of the Kings” is an incomparable diverse hodgepodge of contrasts. Explosions of colour collide here with the pulsing sounds of city life making your head spin. Just a few miles away in the countryside tranquility abounds, where you will find life continuing as it has for centuries, at a leisurely pace. In narrow city streets, people face a continuous stream of wandering cows, noisy motorbikes, colourful markets and bazaars, vendors hawking goods and traffic heeding no rules. In contrast, an overnight stay in the quiet of the Great Indian Desert brings you back to a peaceful place of serenity.
Highlights are many in this wonderful land. Massive forts, opulent palaces and majestic castles overshadow the chaos of the bazaar. In fabled Udaipur, a cruise on romantic Lake Pichola stops at Jag Mandir, the beautiful Lake palace. Enjoy a royal rumble journey to Deogarh in special off-road vehicles as we explore the natural countryside and through farms as people tend their fields and cattle. Visit a private home where the family might just offer you an opium tea and graciously allow you to roam their property. Ride elephants at the beautiful Amber Palace in Jaipur and camels across the Thar Desert to enjoy a magnificent sunset over the sands.
In Jaipur, enjoy dinner at the lovely home of Smriti Singh, with her husband and eight beautiful, adopted daughters. This experience showcases life in a modern Indian home with delicious Rajastani cuisine. Because girls in India are less likely to be adopted, Smriti and her husband (a Minister in the Indian government) decided to adopt girls. Smriti’s husband insisted they stop at eight! It will be a magical evening as all of the girls ages 7 to 18 speak excellent English and will join in the evening, even performing a song and dance.
Rajasthan, the “Land of Palaces and Forts”, is exactly that, overflowing with alluring palaces, castles and magnificent forts. While many are visited, we have the enviable pleasure of staying in several heritage properties, which have been restored into elegant yet comfortable hotels. Each property offers a different experience retaining the old world charm of a bygone era. The old world splendor of the Laxmi Niwas Palace, the calm oasis of Rang Mahal in Jaisalmer, the fortress city that rises from the desert, and the Khayyam Deogarh Hotel, one of Rajasthan’s most magnificent medieval castles.
A special treat is an overnight at Manvar Desert Camp, a deluxe and truly magical experience! Built in the style of a village settlement against the backdrop of a desert landscape, beautiful, spacious white tents feature comfortable beds, a private bathroom and a lovely outdoor patio with loungers. In the evening, once the sun sets, we can sit on blankets on the sand and enjoy a wonderful folkloric show of Rajasthani music and dances under the light of the moon. Simply magical!
No journey to Rajasthan would be complete without a visit to Agra and the splendour of the Taj Mahal, built by Shah Jahan as a memorial to his queen. During the Full Moon, the Taj is open for evening visits a few days a month. A definite highlight, this journey is timed with this special evening excursion in mind.
There is nothing quite like a festival in India and one of the best is the Camel Fair in Pushkar. Planned around the full moon in late October or early November, the weeklong event combines a massive country fair, animal trade and a most important religious festival dedicated to Brahma. The small village was built around one of the only temples dedicated to this all-powerful God. The highlight for most spectators are the thousands of locals from across northern India. For them it is a time to show off their best clothing and their animals, to meet family and friends and to celebrate this annual event. Staying in Jodhana Heritage Royal Tent Camp, overlooking the fair, we have the opportunity to experience everything this wonderful fair has to offer.
Be sure to add Rajasthan to your bucket list, an incredible destination that assaults the senses in an exciting, colourful, mysterious, and fascinating way unlike anywhere else on earth.