A classic trip through Rajasthan offers the pink, blue, white and golden cities. What’s this all about you may ask? Well join us and find out, staying in a selection of beautiful and often historic, hotels. Discover this land of forts, temples and palaces, this land of vibrant colours and people… painted elephants and nonchalant camels minding their own business and holding up traffic - totally oblivious to a cacophony of horns - with their carefree ambling!
Our scheduled drive times include lunch, photo and toilet stops, but please remember that this is genuine adventure travel, so these should be used as a guide only. You will need to remain open-minded and flexible in order to let us show you the best trip possible.
Day 1: Namaste and welcome to India. You will be personally greeted by our staff at the Indira Ghandi International Airport and driven to the five star Claridges Hotel, just a few minutes walk from Connaught Place in central New Delhi.
New Delhi is the capital of India and arguably the second largest city in the country; it is also the industrial hub of North India. The city is spacious and open with beautiful government buildings and embassies, many designed by Edward Lutyens. Old Delhi's monuments, mosques and forts show its long and varied history. It is a major travel gateway and is one of the busiest entry points for overseas travellers. Overnight New Delhi.
Day 02: Delhi City tour. Visit the Bahia Lotus Temple, Delhi’s Mughal Red Fort, Jama Masjid (which is the country’s largest mosque), Raj Ghat - where Mahatma Ghandi was cremated, Humayun’s Tomb - which inspired the Taj Mahal, Sansad Bhavan (Parliament House), India Gate and the 72.5m high Qutb Minar, built by a Muslim king in 1199AD. Overnight New Delhi.
Day 03: It is impossible to beat Delhi's traffic unless we leave very early indeed! The morning traffic rush transcends into an all day traffic jam and then the inevitable evening chaos. Safely out of Delhi's complicated network of roads, things calm down as we head south for Agra, driving through flat, rural farming communities until we reach Agra in the afternoon. Drive time four to six hours. Overnight Agra.
Day 04: Sunrise at the Taj Mahal is one of life’s truly unforgettable moments. The Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his wife Muntaz Mahal who died in 1631. The building was not completed until 1653 and approximately 20,000 people were involved in it’s construction, it is thought to have cost about US$60 million to build. Regardless of the facts, it remains one of the world's great wonders.
After a late breakfast back at the hotel, we visit the impressive red sandstone Agra Fort. This massive fort was begun in 1565 by Emperor Akbar and continuously added to by successive rulers… up to his grandson, Shah Jahan. During Shah Jahan’s rule it was finally upgraded to a palace, but he was then deposed by his son Aurangzeb and imprisoned there, to spend the rest of his years overlooking the resting place of his wife, the Taj Mahal.
On the opposite bank of the Yamuna River is the Moon Garden where Shah Jahan had planned to build a black marble Taj, but this never came to fruition. There are many other attractive buildings to see in Agra, plus markets and craft areas. Overnight Agra.
Day 05: Approximately 40 kms from Agra, we’ll arrive at Fatephur Sikri where we’ll have time to wander around this old abandoned ghost city, a marvel of Mughal architecture. Fatephur Sikri was the capital of the Mughal Empire between 1571 and 1585 when Akbar was Emperor and was called the ‘perfect city’. Unfortunately it was built far from a decent water supply and was plagued by water shortages and was abanoned shortly after Akbar died. From Fatehpur Sikri, we continue to Jaipur.
Jaipur is known as the pink city after Maharaja Ram Singh had the old walled city painted pink in 1876 to welcome the Prince of Wales. We enter through one of the wall's seven gates and through the wide avenues on a grid system divide the city into rectangles. Drive time five to seven hours. Overnight Jaipur.
Day 06: Jaipur city tour. Mr Eugene Pram has been synonymous with Jaipur and tourism for generations now and we will hope to undertake our Jaipur city tour with one of the ‘Pram clan’.
An important landmark is Iswari Minar Swarga Sal (Heaven Piercing Minaret), and close by is the iconic Hawa Mahal (the Palace of the Winds), a pink facade five stories high, built in 1799 to enable the women of the Royal household to watch everyday life and processions in the main thoroughfare of the old city. The City Palace is close by and is a large complex of beautiful Mughal and Rajasthani buildings, courtyards and gardens. The son of the last Maharaja still lives in part of the palace with his family.
Jai Singh II built five Jantar Mantar astronomical observatories. The Jaipur Jantar Mantar was built in 1728 and it is the best preserved of them all. The huge structures look extraordinary - the Samrat Yantra (sun dial) is 27 metres high - but it remains amazingly accurate and absolutely fascinating! Overnight Jaipur.
Day 07: We drive 11 kms north of Jaipur, past the Jal Mahal (Water Palace) sitting in the middle of Man Sagar Lake, to take an elephant ride up to the imposing and fabulous Amber Fort and Palace. Construction of the fort began in 1592 and it is well known for its unique style, blending both Hindu and Mughal features. The fort used to be the ancient citadel of the ruling Kachhawha clan of Amber, before the capital moved to what is now Jaipur. It borders Maota Lake, which had been bone dry for a number of years but is now fully replenished thanks to the seasonal monsoons. We will have time to wander around this beautiful monument before heading back through Jaipur and on to Pushkar.
We arrive in Pushkar late in the afternoon after winding our way through Ajmer, in the Aravali hills. Drive time three to five hours. Overnight Pushkar.
Day 08: Pushkar is a holy city, so alcohol, meat and eggs are banned. It sits on the banks of Pushkar Lake and is a very important pilgrimage centre. Pushkar translates to ‘born due to a flower’. Hindus believe the gods released a swan with a lotus in its beak and let it fall on earth where Brahma would perform a grand yagna. The place where the lotus fell was called Pushkar.
Pushkar's holiest temple is the Brahma Temple. It is one of the very few in the world dedicated to the Hindu god, Brahma. A trek to the Saraswati Temple on top of the hill is best done early in the morning for amazing views; there is also a closer temple, Pap Mochani, also with good views. Overnight Pushkar.
Day 09: After leaving Pushkar, we backtrack through Ajmer again. Keep a lookout for the impressive Muslim architecture in this city amidst the more modern sprawl.
We have a good highway most of the way between Pushkar and Udaipur; with an early start we will have time to have lunch and visit Deogarh (Castle of the Gods) which is located north east of Udaipur. The town is surrounded by rugged countryside and lakes and is famous for it’s school of miniature paintings. Deogarh Mahal stands proudly on a hilltop presiding over town with it’s crumbling battlements, domes, turrets, jharokhas and huge gateways. Also of note is Dashavatar Temple, which has been dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Manastambha, which is a group of 31 Jain temples. We will arrive in Udaipur late afternoon. Drive time five to seven hours. Overnight Udaipur.
Days 10 and 11: Udaipur is a very romantic city whose palaces and havelis are all reflected in the waters of Lake Pichola which lies at its heart. it has been referred to as the Venice of the east but is more commonly known as the White City, full of Mughal creations, including the famous Lake Palace. The old city is surrounded on three sides by the crumbling city wall; the fourth side is Lake Pichola. This lake was enlarged by the founder of the city and the City Palace was then built on the eastern shore and the Lake Palace was built on Jag Niwas Island as a royal Summer Palace, but it is now a luxury hotel.
The City Palace is clad with white marble and is the largest palace complex in Rajasthan. A museum is attached to the complex and is worth visiting with its collections of mosaics, glasswork, mirror work, miniatures, and ornamental tiles. There is also an armoury section. The Fateh Prakash Palace Hotel has an amazing Crystal Gallery overlooking the Grand Durbar Hall with its massive chandeliers and portraits of former Maharajas. There are other museums, a craft village and many shops selling a wide range of goods.
Sajjan Garh (Monsoon Palace) is on a nearby mountain range, there are incredible views of the structure at sunset and the palace is illuminated at night giving it an amazing appearance from the distance. Overnight Udaipur.
Day 12: We leave Udaipur and drive the back roads to Jodhpur via Ranakpur to visit one of the largest and most important Jain temples in India. Chaumukha Mandir (Four Faced Temple) is very beautiful. It was built of marble in 1439 with 29 halls supported by 1444 wooden pillars of which no two are the same. Here we have the opportunity to eat lunch side by side with local pilgrims at Ranakpur before continuing our drive to Jodhpur. Drive time six to eight hours. Overnight Jodhpur.
Day 13: Jodhpur is known as the blue city and is located on the edge of the Grand Thar Desert. It was founded by Rao Jodha in 1459 and is the second largest city in Rajasthan after Jaipur.
Meherangarh (the Majestic Fort) is a massive complex of courtyards and palaces which sits on a 125m tall rocky outcrop. It dominates the city; the view from here is spectacular, overlooking the blue buildings of the old city and is surrounded by a 10 km wall with numerous gates. These palaces are now museums which have a vast collection of items used by past Indian Royalty.
The old city has a marble monument which has magnificent jail (lattice) work and the clock tower, which is near the Sardar Market, is wonderful for browsing. A huge palace, Umaid Bhawan or Chhittar Palace, built of marble and pink sandstone was begun in 1929 and not finished until 1944. It was the last Maharaja's palace to be completed in India before partition. The descendants of Maharaja Umaid Singh still live in part of the palace, the remainder has been turned into a luxury hotel with any interesting museum nearby. Overnight Jodhpur.
Day 14: Drive day to Jaisalmer. Leaving Jodhpur, we drive into very dry desert with proper sand dunes! We pass through Fort Pokaran, the 14th century citadel also known as “Balagarh” and a well-known landmark in the area. We arrive in Jaisalmer in the late afternoon, but long before we arrive there, we’ll see the sandstone fort sitting on the horizon, easily visible for miles as the afternoon sun gradually turns its honey coloured walls into a beautiful shade of gold. Drive time four to six hours. Overnight Jaisalmer.
Day 15: Jaisalmer, the golden city, was founded around 1156 when Jaisalmer Fort was built on Trikuta (Three Peaked) Hill. For centuries Jaisalmer was the hub of camel train routes between India and Central Asia and wealthy merchants built magnificent, beautifully crafted homes from timber and sandstone, known as ‘Havelis’. The magnificent fort rises above the city and is a jumble of winding streets, temples, hotels and palaces. Two Jain temples are open to the public and the Laxminath Hindu Temple is in the centre of the fort. Jaisalmer also has many exquisite Havelis, which are open to the public or have been converted to hotels and museums, which are worth visiting. Embroidery, mirror work, rugs, blankets, antiques and decorated fabrics are all available from the numerous handicraft shops. Overnight Jaisalmer.
Day 16:In the morning, we take a short drive to a luxury-tented camp in the Thar Desert. We visit charming local desert villages and enjoy the typical friendly Rajasthan warmth from the villagers there - this is real India. Just before dusk we mount camels and ride out into the desert and experience the amazing changing colours of the dunes as the sun sets… a beautiful and unforgettable sight. We dine in an open-air restaurant as the camp comes alive with musicians, dancers and cultural entertainment. After a sumptuous meal and some wonderful entertainment, we sleep beneath the star studded sky in beautiful tents with crisp clean sheets and plenty of blankets for the cool night! Drive time one to two hours. Overnight Thar Desert.
Day 17: After our night in the great Thar desert, we head east for 100 or so kms until we reach the Pokaran road junction then divert to the north, continuing through desert, until we arrive in Bikaner. Drive time four to six hours. Overnight Bikaner.
Day 18: Bikaner is a desert town with a magnificent fort, Junagarh Fort. The palace within the fort has exquisite stone carvings and there is also a museum that houses a WWI biplane and a bed of nails! There are also some superb Jain temples that are definitely worth a visit – Bhandasar and Sandeshwar Temples and the Hindu Lakshminath Temple.
After lunch we will drive to a small town approximately 35kms from Bikaner called Deshnok where there is a temple called Karni Mata with huge silver doors, dedicated to holy rats (kabas) which are considered to be sacred. According to legend, they are all reincarnated storytellers. If one of the rats is killed, it must be replaced with one made of solid gold! Sighting a white rat amidst hordes of black rats is considered especially auspicious and eating any of the food (prasad) that the rats have already nibbled on is considered to bring good luck! As with all Hindu temples, entry is not permitted with shoes. We drive back to Bikaner in the afternoon. A good scrub in the shower will feel great! Drive time two to three hours. Overnight Bikaner.
Day 19: Most of the day is spent in the comfort of our Mercedes Benz all terrain coach style vehicle as we drive through vast desert scenery including some amazing sand dunes. We’ll arrive in Jaipur again late in the afternoon… just in time for an afternoon drink before dinner. Drive time five to seven hours. Overnight Jaipur.
Day 20: As you will know from our earlier stop, Jaipur is a treasure trove of shops and temples, monuments and mosques and well worth another day of independent exploration or souvenir hunting. You can unwind by yourself or join the Prams to discover even more of Jaipur's secrets. Either way, it is a great chance to consolidate your experience of Rajasthan in this bustling walled city before you leave. Overnight Jaipur.
Day 21: From Jaipur to Delhi the drive is through quite undulating; dry country and, as we get closer to Delhi, it becomes flatter and greener until we hit the edges of Delhi where we will come to a grinding halt as we are greeted by the chaotic Delhi traffic! Tonight we have our last group meal together. Drive time four to six hours. Overnight Delhi.
Day 22: Farewell and end of trip. We personally bid you farewell and arrange transport to get you to the airport.
We thank you for choosing to travel with us. Best Of Asia Overland, the specialists in ‘Adventure in Comfort’, welcome you anytime.
Crew: One permanent western leader/driver plus local guides.
To find out what is included on our trips, please go to the 'TRAVEL THE BOA WAY' tab and click on 'what is provided'.