Part 1: Rajasthan the Land

Rajasthan is the largest Indian state by land area and the seventh largest by population. It is the state of princely kingdoms in the great Thar desert of the Indian subcontinent. Rajasthan is an ancient land dating back to days of the Indus Valley civilization. As time rolled on, the region’s history has interwoven with the colorful history of India. The current shape and dimensions of the state are an effect of the States Re-organisation Act, 1956, but it took a lot, I mean a lot of work to get there. In fact, it is said the unification of Rajasthan happened in 7 stages, and 18 kingdoms together united to form the state as we see now.

The biggest cities that we identify with Rajasthan today are remnants of their respective kingdoms or princely states. Each of these big cities have their own culture, architecture, people and lifestyle – and they are beautiful. Huge forts and palaces, beautiful silent lakes and the all engulfing golden sand of the desert – makes anyone want to see this land once in their life. We were no different. ‘We’ are a group of friends who grew up together – some from preschool and some from college – but the friendship is strong and so is the desire to travel and experience the beauty of this diverse land called India.

Mehrangarh Fort

The plan was simple, – scratch that, there are no simple plans. For starters Rajasthan is a huge place and practically every district has a fort or a palace and a beautiful story to tell. How do we pick and choose in our 5 – day long trip? We broke our heads for hours, weekend poker nights ruined in the name of planning, hotels booked, and then cancelled, native Rajasthan friends and contacts pestered and then negated. All this and finally came up with something that was so tight that there were no time for sleep – at least not for the drivers. Come to think of it, we don’t regret it now – so Ill take you through our plans and other things that you can plan based on your time and convenience.

The Thar Desert

Modern day travel has become a lot easier with the availability of internet and capital. I remember the tours we took as a family, we looked for budget accommodations or religious institutions to stay in, read up on the bus and train facilities and always carried a map. Today we still carry maps, just that we aren’t as worried about finding budget hotels or dependent on public transport. We wanted freedom – freedom to accommodate our lazy ass attitudes – hence we decided the best way forward was hiring rental cars and find our own way using google maps.

Plan A

Plan A

Jaipur is the capital and the biggest city in Rajasthan. Naturally most trips start or end at Jaipur. Since we lived quite far from Rajasthan, travelling by air made most sense. We would fly to Jaipur, hire the rental cars, travel around Rajasthan and fly back from Jaipur – only that it didn’t feel right. This plan meant we would have to pass through both Jaipur and Ajmer twice – and we were not in favor of that. Like all middle class Indians we wanted to maximize our travel. Also this plan didn’t work out well because we had only 4 nights and 5 days.

Tigers at Ranthambore

Before going to the plan that we went with, lets take a look at the places in Rajasthan that are worth the visit.

  1. Jaipur – The Pink city: Palaces, forts, museums and the Hawa Mahal
  2. Jodhpur – The Blue city: Palaces and Forts
  3. Jaisalmer – The Golden city: Dunes of the Desert, Patwa haveli, the living Fort
  4. Ajmer – Darga of Khawaja Gharib Nawaz
  5. Udaipur – The White City: Palaces, Forts, Lakes, zip line, lake palace
  6. Pushkar – Temples, ponds, and other places of religious interest
  7. Chittorgarh – Asia’s largest fort, other palaces and forts
  8. Bhilwara – Forts, palaces and religious places of interest
  9. Mt Abu – Hill station in the desert, lakes, view points and temples
  10. Ranthambore National Park – Tiger reserve, animal safari
  11. Bhangarh – Historical ruins, haunted places

The above list is just a ‘top of the head’ categorical mentioning and each of them have so much more to offer. There are other places like Bikaner, Kota, Barmer, Pali, Baltora etc etc that have their own unique architecture and cultural offering for the enthusiastic traveler, but time and money are generally the determinants of how well the middle class travels.

Money

Its not The most important thing in a trip, but money is money, so we wanted to plan this trip at an affordable rate – that is at a max of 20% of the average monthly salary of the group. This needs to include the food, lodging, travel, fuel, shopping and any maintenance we would come across. It is during this discussion on Money that we found Jaipur may not be the best place to start our tip. Ahmadabad, which is the capital city of the neighboring state of Gujarat is a bigger city and offers lucrative deals on flights and rental cars. As per our calculations, it would cost us 2000 rupees less per person – a grand total of 16,000 lesser than the plan starting from Jaipur. Even with the state toll to pay and recalculated distance, we would save a cool 12,000 rupees. Hard to overlook such a delicious discount – hence we reworked our plan.

Plan B

With the new Plan, we had to drive a little longer, but we cut lose a few places on the Plan A. We voted for the following:

  1. Jaisalmer – obvious choice because its the only place that’s right in the middle of the desert and offers camel rides and dune safaris.
  2. Jodhpur – the place has the most famous fort – the Mehrangarh, other associated architecture and a famous Umaid bhawan Palace and a minor point that my cousin served at the Airforce Station in Jodhpur.
  3. Ajmer – the famous Khwaja Garib Nawaz darga that we really wanted to visit
  4. Jaipur – because, well its the capital of Rajasthan and has some of the most famous forts and palaces, including the Hawa mahal
  5. Udaipur – the coolest of all the desert kingdoms, the land of the lakes and palaces, and its just a 5 hour drive to Ahmedabad.
  6. Since we were flying to and from Ahmedabad we also wanted to see a few places in the city – this didn’t happen.

We saved a lot of money by changing the Start and End point from Jaipur to Ahmedabad. We could’ve saved a bit more if the rentals could be hired at Ahmedabad and signed off at Jaipur. Maybe it wasn’t available in 2018 and the times have changed now.

Below is a short video of the trip. We plan to cover all of this on the blog. Enjoy!


Next up:
Part 2: Jaisalmer – The Desert
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