Rajasthan: Land of many colours

There's nowhere quite like Rajasthan and now is the perfect time to visit. So get ready for cities of pink, white and blue, for dazzling Indian festivals, and for deserts, palaces and luxury trains

What's the attraction?

Glorious palaces, spectacular forts, dramatic desert – the mix is compelling. And right now, cooler weather makes this an optimum period to visit. Rajasthan exudes flamboyant character: until becoming part of the Republic of India in 1949, the region was known as Rajputana, "Land of Princes", and was an affiliation of small kingdoms.

 The Rajput clans were legendary for their sense of honour, while many of their leaders claimed descent from sun, moon and fire. Although the maharajahs no longer hold political power, they have huge paternalistic influence and are greatly revered – accounting to a large degree for Rajasthan's particularly colourful customs.

In the pink for starters

It's with good reason that first-timers to India often start with the "Golden Triangle", a road trip taking in Delhi, Agra and the Taj Mahal, and the Rajasthani capital, Jaipur. Known as the pink city because of its rosy-coloured buildings, Jaipur glories in exuberant architecture. Sights include the City Palace, the remarkable façade of the Palace of the Winds, the astronomical park of Jantar Mantar, and, just out of town, superb Amber Fort. Voyage Jules Verne (0845 166 7035; vjv.com) offers a good-value Golden Triangle nine-night group trip from £1,349 per person (based on two sharing, as are all other prices shown). The price includes flights from Heathrow.

Visions of white

Head south to enjoy the fabled romance of Udaipur. Shining with whitewashed havelis (mansions) and domed palaces, the city fringes the shimmering waters of Lake Pichola. Take in the maze of the old town, the brilliantly decorated City Palace and enjoy a drink at the dreamy Lake Palace Hotel (00 91 294 2428800; tajhotels.com), which appears to float in the middle of the lake. Udaipur features on the Classic India itinerary of Bales Worldwide (0845 057 0600; balesworldwide.com). The 13-day group holiday also visits Delhi and Varanasi and costs from £2,345 per person including flights from Heathrow.

Who said that?

"Rajasthan was and always will be more Indian than anywhere else, if only because it never was anything else; this had never technically been British India at all." James Cameron, An Indian Summer

"The work of angels, fairies and giants… built by titans and coloured by the morning sun… he who walks through it loses sense of being among buildings. It is as though he walked through mountain gorges." Rudyard Kipling's description of Mehrangarh Fort

Tiger turmoil

In July, tiger tourism was banned in India. With a census indicating there may be less than 1,700 of the endangered animals left in the subcontinent, visitors are no longer allowed into "core tiger areas", including Rajasthan's Ranthambore reserve. The ban, however, is an interim measure and the Supreme Court is due to review the situation this week. In the meantime, it is still possible to stay in resorts such as Sher Bagh (00 91 11 4606 7608; sherbagh.com) and Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge (00 91 7462 22 0541; vivantabytaj.com) on the park's periphery and take walks in buffer areas to enjoy the vibrant bird life there (woodpeckers, hornbills, bee-eaters and more).

Sheer exuberance

There's nowhere quite like Rajasthan for vibrant festivals. Between 26 and 30 October this year you'll be dazzled by the activities in Jodhpur. Timed to coincide with the brightest full moon in north India, the Rajasthani International Folk Festival (jodhpurfolk festival.org) takes place at Mehrangarh Fort. India specialist Greaves Travel (020-7487 9111; greavesindia.co.uk) offers a seven-day trip costing from £1,599pp including flights from Heathrow. Or aim for the next full moon: the Pushkar Camel Fair (rajasthantourism.gov.in) takes place from 20 to 28 November. Pushkar Resort (00 91 11 26494531; sewara.com) has doubles from R7,954 (£90), room only.

On track

Capture a flavour of old-time splendour in the Palace on Wheels. Launched in 1982, this is a train kitted out to recreate the luxury of royal coaches. It toots its way slowly around Rajasthan, stopping for sightseeing excursions at Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur and more. The train service was refurbished and relaunched in 2009 with a new decor, itinerary and cuisine. Great Rail Journeys (01904 521936; greatrail.com) presents a 15-day package from the UK with seven days in the Palace on Wheels and additional trips to Agra and Shimla. The price of £3,395 per person, includes flights from Heathrow.

Insider information

"Udaipur's House of Mewar is the oldest unbroken dynasty in the world. Although the princely privileges of the maharajas of Rajasthan were removed in 1971, the spirit of custodianship is upheld even today by the House of Mewar. It is all encompassing – it comprises the passionate preservation of rich music traditions, art, and historical records. It involves unstinted support to infrastructure and tourism." – His Highness Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar of Udaipur

Into the blue

Move west to one of Rajasthan's mightiest sights. Dubbed the "blue city" because of the colour of its houses, Jodhpur is set at the edge of the Thar Desert and is dominated by Mehrangarh Fort, a majestic edifice that appears to have evolved from the sandstone crags on which it was built in the 1500s. Jodhpur is a highlight of the Boutique Rajasthan package offered by Ampersand (020-7289 6100; ampersandtravel.com). The 10-night trip costs from £2,360 per person including flights from Heathrow.

Desert beauty

Desert towns don't come more spectacular than Jaisalmer, in the remote west. With bastions rising out of the desert scrub, the 12th-century fort here looks as if it has swept in from a sensational fairy tale. To this, add bazaars and striking havelis with intricate latticework. Peregrine Adventures (0845 863 9667; peregrineadventures.com) presents Jaisalmer as a highlight of its "Land of the Kings" 20-day tour. The holiday costs from £1,570 per person, excluding international flights.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: MI Developer

    £35 - 45k: Guru Careers: An MI Developer is needed to join the leading provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitness Manager

    £20000 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leisure organisation manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Manager

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Delivering an inspiring, engagi...

    Recruitment Genius: Learning Team Administrator

    £17500 - £20500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for a great te...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions