What better way to start the new year with Rajasthan, one of the brightest jewels in India´s tourism crown. And it so happens that this is the best time to visit this otherwise uncomfortably hot state. If Kerala is God’s own country, Rajasthan is the kingly state and undoubtedly one of the best tourist places in India.
Jaipur being the capital and virtual gateway to Rajasthan is probably the most visited city in the state. The city is at its sunshine best at this time. While you are here don’t miss out on the majestic Amer fort and the regal City Palace. When your feet need resting after all the sightseeing, you could park yourself for a traditional meal at Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar (lovingly known as LMB by foodies) – the vibrant Choki Dhani is on the outskirts of the city, so reserve it for later.
And ladies, some good news for you – right near LMB you will find a shopping paradise full of vibrant bandhini works, traditional jewellery and jootis. You are unlikely to regret it!
January also brings the much celebrated glam Jaipur Literary festival. Those in love with their books and their authors cannot miss this. Go if you want to rub shoulders with celebrities, sight some high fashion, and catch performances by talented musicians.
- Check out the beautiful blue pottery items on display throughout Jaipur.
- Try the elephant ride to the entrance of Amer Fort instead of the usual walk up.
Lakeside in Udaipur
This ‘lake city’ of Rajasthan is truly breathtaking. Perhaps one of the most iconic images of Udaipur is the sight of the calm waters of Lake Pichola with the imposing Lake Palace at its heart. We needn’t even say how romantic the sight is.
During the daytime do check out the City Palace. It is filled with tiny passageways that open onto beautiful courtyards and enclosures. Other places of interest here are the spectacular Jain temple of Ranakpur and the Fateh Bagh Palace which is now a heritage hotel. During the nights pick a rooftop restaurant here (almost all of them around the City Palace are rooftop) and enjoy the views of the city.
- The evening cultural show at Bagore-ki-Haveli showcases dances and artists from all over Rajasthan. Don’t miss it!
- At a nominal fee you can check out the vintage car collection of the current Maharaja of Udaipur.
The Blue Gem: Jodhpur
The imposing Mehrangarh Fort forms the perfect backdrop for this sprawling city. The views of the city’s blue-hued houses are best enjoyed from the turrets of this opulent 15th-century fortress. You can visit the Umaid Bhawan Palace which is now partly a heritage hotel—it is a hotspot for royal weddings so if you have somehow managed to bag an invite to a Rajasthan wedding, jump with joy. Also, do not miss the beautiful marble memorial of Maharaja Jaswant Singh, the Jaswant Thada.
- Try your hand at zip wiring over the Mehrangarh fort with Flying Fox.
- Head to Sojati Gate to get a taste of some authentic Jodhpuri onion kachoris!
The Desert Threshold: Jaisalmer
Since you are at the gateway to the Thar, a camel safari into the desert through the sand dunes forms part of the quintessential Jaisalmer experience. A number of adventure travel companies offer camping trips into the desert at this of the year… it would be wonderful to welcome the year with a star-laden sky and a cozy bonfire in the brisk desert air.Jaisalmer is truly the threshold of the great Thar Desert. The Jaisalmer fort crowns the town with its sand-coloured walls which house an old museum telling stories of the royalty. Jaisalmer is also peppered with beautiful and intricate Havelis built by wealthy merchants. The most famous of these Havelis is definitely the Patwon-ki-haveli which is a must-see.
It´s time to feel the [ahem] ´buzz´; try some bhang at The Lassi Shop (originally The Bhang Shop) near the Jaisalmer Fort.
Soul Satisfaction at Ajmer/Pushkar
Start your new year by washing away the sins of the past year and praying for a prosperous and peaceful 2014 at Ajmer and Pushkar. Ajmer is home to the mystical Dargah Sharif of the Sufi saint Moinuidduin Chisti. It is believed that the great Mughal King Akbar would travel on foot to the Dargah from Agra to offer his prayers. Ajmer also serves as a base for the nearby temple town of Pushkar. Among the many famous temples in Pushkar, you can find the only temple in the world dedicated to Lord Bramha. The Pushkar Lake has huge religious significance, as it is supposed to have been created when Bramha dropped a lotus on earth. Ajmer and Pushkar are both places of worship and if one is religiously inclined, can prove to be perfect sites to begin an auspicious year.
Tejasvi Hari Krishna
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