Rajasthan and the Golden Triangle

Sahara Camel Herder
Camel herder

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.

21 Comments

  • Super helpful post! I will be in Goa for a month for yoga training and I have a flight out of Mumbai 10 days after it ends. I haven’t bought any further travel tickets out of Goa yet and I have been recommended to go around the Golden Triangle. I don’t know if it’s crazy to think that I can see Varanasi, Agra, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Mumbai all in 10 days. I think New Delhi will be a necessary stop over along the way since there aren’t any direct flights from Goa to Varanasi.
    Do you think it’s a doable plan? Thanks a bunch!
    Amélie
    Amélie @ mostlyamelie.com recently posted…Vegan Penang Asam Laksa RecipeMy Profile

    • Will Hatton says:

      Hmmm, it’s not crazy but it’s certainly going to be hectic! Varanasi is pretty special but it’s a hell of a long way out of your way… Don’t miss Jodhpur or Udaipur, plan on spending as little time as possible in Agra – with the exception of the Taj it’s a pretty horrible town. Why not consider making a dash to Hampi from Goa, you really shouldn’t miss it. If you get the chance, I would also check out Bundi in Rajahstan, perhaps instead of Varanasi… it’s a very chilled vibe 🙂

  • Kate says:

    Hi! This is indeed a really useful post! Do you think it’s possible to do the Golden Triangle without a tour guide or pre-booking a tour? Would it be possible to just book rooms and trains as you go along? Would be really useful if you cuold let me know your thoughts.

    • Will Hatton says:

      Hey Kate! Yes definitely, you don’t need to book anything – I never did, with the exception of trains – the seats sell out fast, but you can book them yourself online or you can book them through an agent out there for a small charge. Finding rooms is always very easy. You shall have a great trip!! 🙂

  • Alban says:

    Hi. I am planning to visit india from Delhi to Pushkar in july. The tour you propose sounds amazing. Is it realistic to plan this tour in july or is the heat unbearable at that time of the year. I only have my holidays in july and I really want to visit india. Perhaps if my friend and I mentally prepare ourselves, it’s going to be fine? Thanks!

    • Will Hatton says:

      Hey Alban, heck man – anything is possible but it will be REALLY hot, if I was you I would consider going up into the mountains around Ladakh instead, its gorgeous up there and much more bearable than the sweltering deserts of Rajasthan…

  • Hey Will

    Love the article. And being from Mumbai i do understand your hate for delhi. But in the winters it does have its nice side.Apart from the grungy paharganj and touts that want to rip you off, it has beautiful parks (lodhi garden, Humayaun’s tomb), the metro has made things a lot easier, and the history and architecture are quite stunning. But best of all is the food. Karims, Big Chill, Kake de Hatti all are fantastic. Hope you come back for a second taste

  • Grace says:

    Delhi – Khujaraho – Varannasi – Agra – Jaipur – Pushkar – Bundi – Jodhpur – Jaisalmer – Udaipur (3-5 weeks)

    Looking at a map, it seems like an odd route to take these cities in this order…but I obviously don’t know the train/ bus routes or anything. I’m guessing it is planned this way because of that? Do you suggest taking mostly buses or trains? Is there an alternative order you would suggest or is this the best?

    I have the month of March to do this area. I figure four weeks will be enough time? I’m a pretty chill traveller and don’t want to feel rushed. I would spend more time in this area, but I can only start my travels in the month of march and feel I shouldn’t stay longer because of the heat.

    • Will Hatton says:

      I mostly travelled by train, India is so massive that you can do any of it in pretty much any order but this worked well for me – there were some very long travel days but I got to see everything I wanted to see 🙂

      If you enjoy chilling, as I now do, I would cut out the rush to varanasia and simply spend my time hanging in rajahstan.

  • Mariam Abu says:

    I have 2 weeks in India, I wanted to stick to the golden triangle, where would you recommend I focus on?

  • Mariam Abu says:

    Thanks, I’m going in August which I heard is monsoon season. Is the weather more tolerable then? The Taj Mahal is the main reason I’m going to India so regardless it’s a must see for me.

  • mariekarizamas says:

    Hello Will,

    Greetings from the Philippines!

    Very informative and Love this article.
    Any idea how to book online train tickets?

  • Ali says:

    Hey!
    I added you snapchat!Waiting for approval for the past 2 days?Are you alright?Hope you are.
    Secondly,I seriously want a Ind Vs Pak kinda thread,not necessarily stating which is better,but all in brutally honest review in a nutshell of how the other one is better in which respect,improvements that can be done,similarities,pros cons of that particular country,an overall rating out of 10,police,people.Something like this would be viral.
    Be Safe,Be Cool,Enjoy the rest of journey 🙂
    Regards

  • Alexandra says:

    Hey Will,
    I’m travelling with a friend from Goa on New Years Day towards Rishikesh where we start a yoga teacher training course on the 12th January. Ideally we want to take in Udaipur, Jodphur, Pushkar and Jaipur. Is this doable in that amount of time? I feel like maybe we need to strike one off the list… in which case which would you say?
    Thanks so much!
    Ax

    • Aiden says:

      Hi. 12 days isn’t really enough to do all that when you factor in travelling time. I would strike off Jaipur as it is utterly awful and I have no idea why it remains so popular. I would also consider swapping Jodphur for a town called Bundi which has an awesome ruined fortress to explore.

  • Tanya Mangion says:

    Hi! This post was great thanks! We’ll be heading from Sri lanka to India end of July-around mid August (2/3 weeks), flying back home through Mumbai, we were considering visiting: delhi,agra,udaipur,varanasi,jaipur,pushkar,jodhpur – not sure if this is possible or all worth it judging from your comments but it would be great to hear from you 🙂

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