In addition to being known as the Land of Kings, it is the Land of Colors, an appropriate description considering the state’s rich history, varied topography (which includes mountains and desert), and its reputation for producing vividly decorated arts and crafts. Below, India and Subcontinent travel specialist, Susan Geringer, shares her thoughts and advice for travel to Rajasthan, India's biggest state.
FarewellTravels: With India being such an enormous country, with so many places to visit, why Rajasthan?
Susan Geringer: There are many reasons to put Rajasthan on an itinerary. In fact, I could write a book about this area alone. For starts, its history—of Maharajas and their palaces—is exciting and romantic. All over the region, there are palaces, majestic forts, havelis (mansions), intricately carved temples and step wells. Not only do you find these sorts of historical and architectural attractions, but you can explore them in unusual ways such as by horse and camel safaris.
FarewellTravels: Tell us a bit about the villages you find in Rajasthan.
Susan Geringer: While Indian cities teem with humanity, a good seventy percent of Indians live in rural areas. I believe the heart and soul of India really lies in the villages, where life recalls another era. People live and work the land as they did hundreds of years ago. The air is clean and the land is beautiful. I love seeing the fields blanketed with the yellow flowers of the mustard seed plants and the colorful saris of the women working them.
FarewellTravels: Where do you stay when you visit this area?
Susan Geringer: Rural Rajasthan has several heritage properties and tented camps.
One of the most memorable experiences I had was at the Rawlai Narlai in the village of Narlai near Johdpur on the Jodhpur – Udaipur route. A former fortress owned by the royal family for three generations, it is full of exquisite details including original paintings still on the walls of two of the rooms. While there, I participated in a step well dinner. We reclined in a bull cart as we were pulled by a camel to the spectacular Narlai step well which was illuminated by hundreds of oil lamps. There we had a delicious thali dinner under the stars while listening to Rajasthani music.
Another exquisite place to stay is Lakshman Sagar (pictured here), which is located on the tourist route in the Manwar region. It is set on 32 acres on the fringe of the Badlands of India and was originally built as a hunting Lodge for the Thakur of Raipur. There are 12 to-die-for mud-and-stone cottages each with its own plunge pool overlooking the lake.
And then there’s Chhatra Sagar, a family-run luxury tented camp located on the edge of a water reservoir in Nimaj. In the late 19th century, Thakur Chhatra Singh of Nimaj built a dam through his estate, transforming dry land into an oasis for farmers. In the early 20th century, Thakur used this property for sporting parties, high teas and exotic dinners. Guests would stay in luxury tents for the gatherings. Today, that original “Camp Chhatra Sagar” has been recreated by his great grandchildren with eleven luxury tents. Activities include a morning visit to a farm and village and an afternoon walk around the dam to observe the different species of birds.
FarewellTravels: This all sounds so incredible, but also remote and hard to get to. How do you reach this rural region?
Susan Geringer: It is not difficult to reach. It’s about a five-hour drive from Delhi to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. I would suggest staying in Jaipur as part of an itinerary and then traveling to different locations in Rajasthan. There are also flights between cities. When we plan an itinerary, we provide a car and driver for our guests.
FarewellTravels: How much time would you allow to visit the region?
Susan Geringer: At the very least, seven to nine days. Ideally, I would recommend spending 15 days in the region to really see as much as possible.
FarewellTravels: When is the best time to visit?
Susan Geringer: The ideal time to visit Rajasthan is from early October to late March. That’s when the weather is not too hot and it's not the monsoon season. However, I was in Rajasthan the beginning of August last year and it was fine to travel. The weather was in the high 90s and 100s with a few showers. If you don't mind this weather, rates are low this time of year.
Photo credits: Susan Geringer