Rajahstan is a great introduction to India, it is a well visited area and as long as you are there at the right time of year it is awesome to explore. There are plenty of chilled out sites well on the backpacker radar but if you dig a little deeper you can find isolated villages and hidden temples rarely visited by outsiders.
Rajahstan is hot! November through to the beginning of march is the best time to go, after March the heat quickly becomes unbearable. Rajasthan Tourism is quite well established these days so you should meet a few fellow Broke Backpacker around.
Suggested itinerary; Delhi – Khujaraho – Varannasi – Agra – Jaipur – Pushkar – Bundi – Jodhpur – Jaisalmer – Udaipur (3-5 weeks). You can also check out Encounters Travel for some awesome tours of Rajahstan.
Top Things to See and Do
- Delhi: How I hate India’s capital. Its dirty, loud and in general a massive pain in the ass to get around. When you arrive at Delhi’s main airport your shall be met with your first challenge – how to travel in India!? I suggest taking the metro into town if you are alone or a taxi if there’s three or more of you from the pre-paid taxi stand. The metro will drop you off a ten minute walk from the Pataganj area which is where you can find the widest array of backpacker accommodation. Do not trust anyone who approaches you; it will be obvious you are fresh off the plane and people will try to screw you over. If possible have your train out of Delhi booked straight away so you can spend as little time in Delhi as possible. If you do end up staying in Delhi a while check out ‘Karim’s Restaurant’ near the red fort – it is run by former chefs of the royal family and is surprisingly cheap. Hanuman’s tomb is also worth a visit. There is a cinema, The Odeon, fifteen mins walk from Patagan where you can escape the heat.
- Varannasi: If you thought Delhi was crazy your unlikely to get much respite in Varanassi. The city is however pretty amazing and you should make sure to go for both a dawn and sunset boat ride on the Ganges – 100RS a person. Keep an eye out for floating bodies. For a more chilled out pace wander over to Assi ghat (2km) and visit the ‘Open Hand Cafe’. This whole area is much more chilled but you may want to stay on or near Lalita ghat to be close to the action. I recommend staying in Varanasi for about four days. Avoid the ‘Brown Bread Bakery’ (Lonely Planet’s top pick) as it’s a rip off and the staff are unfriendly.
- Khajuraho: From Varanassi you should be able to catch a train directly to Khajuraho. As always you should book your ticket in advance and try to get a night train to save on accommodation. This area is famous for its hilariously erotic temples. The ‘Yogi Sharma Ashram Lodge’ is a lovely place to stay. Hire bicycles as some of the main sights are spread out and it is a great way to explore. Try to catch the temples at sunrise, they are amazing. It is possible to arrange a tuk tuk to take you to a lovely river where you can swim, ask around. Touts are persistent here. I recommend staying for two to three days.
- Agra: There’s only three things worth seeing in Agra. The first and best is ‘Jonie’s Cafe’ – it does the best and cheapest food in all of India. The second is the Taj – it costs 750RS to get in which in my opinion is a rip off. Thirdly; 26km outside of Agra is the ruins of Fatepur Sikhri which is worth seeing if you have time but is unfortunately filled with very pushy touts. From Agra you can catch a train to Jaipur but may have to change at Delhi. Two days in Agra is more than enough.
- Jaipur: My second least favorite city in India is undoubtedly Jaipur. Try to spend just a day here. Ajmer palace, 12km outside of the city, is stunning. Do not miss it. There’s little else worth seeing within the city itself. Jaipur is a great place to be during the festival of Diwali.
- Pushkar: Finally, somewhere to relax. You could happily spend a week here wandering around the lanes and holy lakes. Do not let any one give you stuff to throw in the lake as they will want money. Avoid the priests like the black plague. Climb the hills surrounding the town for fantastic sunsets. Hotel Everest, run by the friendly Bunty, is fantastic although a little pricey. Pushkar has great but very strong Bhang lassis; these will knock you out if you are not careful. The town is a great place to buy souvenirs. To get to Pushkar you must catch a train to Ajmer and from here it’s just a 45 minute bus journey to Pushkar. From Ajmer you can catch a bus to Bundi, a logical next stop. Pushkar is crazy but worth seeing during the annual camel fair – you must book accommodation in advance at this time of the year. Four to five days is about right for a visit to Pushkar although its possible to linger for weeks.
- Bundi: I loved Bundi. It’s well off the tourist radar and definitely worth visiting. I stayed in a lovely little guesthouse called simply ‘The Lake View Guesthouse’. Rooms were cheap, just $6 for a huge double with bathroom. The guesthouse is run by a lovely old man who reminded me of Yoda. Definitely visit the palace atop the hill (take a stick to deter the monkeys), Kiplings house and hire bicycles to go exploring outside the city, you will be utterly alone and this is a great chance to do some real exploring. Stay for at least three days. Note that transport links from Bundi are poor.
- Jodhpur: The only thing worth visiting in Jodhpur is the fortress. That said it’s one of the most amazing fortresses in the world and should not be missed. Take the audio tour. The brightly painted ‘Cosy Guesthouse’ is definitely worth staying in. I would stay for one or two days. There are easy bus links from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer.
- Jaisalmer: If you want to go camel trekking this is the place to do it! Be careful of touts and try to find a tour organizer recommended by someone who has just been. Jaisalmer fort is a must visit but is undeniably touristy and tacky. Find accommodation outside of the fort. The legal Bhang shop sells shakes and cookies – they can get you very high. Visit ‘Kanchan Shree Ice Cream’ for awesome kulfi! Not including time for a camel trek you only need two days here. There are good train links out of Jaisalmer.
- Udaipur: What a truly wonderful place. I lingered here for almost a month. There are wonderful restaurants, interesting cycle rides, captivating lakes and atmospheric temples. Try to stay somewhere near the central Jagdish temple. Shop around for accommodation as it’s possible to find good rooms for $4. ‘Savage Garden’ and ‘Paradise Cafe’ are both worth visiting. Make the most of the surrounding day trips. Five days is a good length of time. From here you can travel back up to Delhi or down to Mumbai and Goa. If doing the latter consider flying. I took a train to Goa via Gujurat, it took nearly 48 hours and I recommend avoiding this.
India is a really easy place to stretch your money; you can haggle for pretty much anything and it’s even possible to find decent deals online; I found some Hotels.com coupons here and was able to treat myself with a stay in a super awesome hotel on the cheap.