This is what I followed and if you are planning to visit Rajasthan in the future, you can always modify it to suit your plan. I have shared below a sheet that I use to plan my travels. Feel free to download it.
Day 1: Ahmedabad – Bhuj (340km)
Ahmedabad was supposed to be the ‘base camp’ for me. I received my motorcycle from the railways parcel office and spent most of the morning preparing for the ride ahead. I left for Bhuj by noon and reached late afternoon.
Bhuj is the ideal abode to visit some places of absolute natural beauty and villages in the Kutch region, especially in the vicinity of the Great Rann.
Things to do in Bhuj
Bhuj although a small city, has a couple of attractions. Located near the Hamirsar lake and very easy to miss, are the Royal Cenotaphs or ‘Royal Chattris’. These umbrella shaped structures are a series of highly ornate royal memorials. Best time to visit would be during sunset or sunrise when the rays from the sun paint the structures golden.
Other attractions include the Aina Mahal and Prag Mahal that are located next to each other, Sharad Baug Palace, Kutch Museum and Bhujia hill/fort. The city itself is named after this hill and I visited this at sunrise. There is a trek involved which is mostly rocky steps but the effort is worth the view from the top.
Day 2: Dhordo/Rann of Kutch (80km)
One of the primary reasons for people to visit Kutch is to see the White desert or the Rann Utsav or both. Although you can access the White desert from a couple of places in Kutch, Dhordo offers you the best of both. The Rann Utsav is held between November and February (dates change every year)
Things to do in Dhordo
The Great Rann of Kutch is obviously on top of the list. The Great Rann is a magical place, even more so on a full moon night (unfortunately I couldn’t plan my visit to coincide with it). Although camel rides are on offer, walking is probably the best way to explore this place. Sunset is a great time to visit the desert when you can witness the sun dive into the desert as the sky paints itself red, however sunrise is an even better time as the tourists are at a minimum.
Note: Permit is required to enter the Great Rann and can be availed easily at the Permit office near Bhirandiara village
Another major attraction is the Kalo Dungar, which is around 60 km from Dhordo. This is the highest point in the Kutch region and provides a great view of the Rann of Kutch Lake, which almost looks like an ocean. Around 20 km away is the India Bridge, which is the last point where civilians are allowed to go, considering the proximity of the region to the international border. Photography isn’t allowed on the India Bridge and there is a BSF post at the entrance and exit of the bridge. Special permit is needed to go beyond the bridge towards the border and I was informed that the permit can be obtained from the DSP-Bhuj and has to be applied at least a week in advance. The permit is not guaranteed but worth a shot. The permit can only be applied for on weekdays. However some mention it can be applied at the BSF headquarters in Bhuj. I can’t comment on which of the two is accurate.
Aside the tourist spots, there are couple of small villages between Dhordo and Bhuj that are worth a visit, especially if you are interested in Handicrafts. Some of them include Nirona, Hodka, Bhirandiara. Nirona is closer to Bhuj, a 10 km detour while heading towards Dhordo and is known for the art of ‘Rogan Painting’ which is exclusive only to this village. Unfortunately I had to skip the village tour being short on time, as I had one of my days cut-short even before the trip had started.
Day 3: Dholavira (280 km)
One of the seven Indus Vallye Civilzation sites in the world (Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Kalibangan, Lothal, Rupnagar, Ganeriwala, Rakhigarhi) and the largest in India, Dholavira is located on the Khadir island in Kutch. The region is cut-off from mainland Gujurat during monsoon as the sea comes in. Post monsoon, the water recedes leaving behind a white sea of salt.
Things to do in Dholavira
Dholavira is primarily known for the archaeological site of the Indus Valley civilization. It’s best to get a guide to have a deeper understanding of the site, in terms of the town planning and history. There is a museum and office of Archaeological Survey of India near the entrance, which I recommend to visit before going to the actual site location. You can avail the guides from the museum office. Some of the prominent things I observed where the water reservoirs used to store water. Other things include some granaries, water-ways, seal making workshops etc. The site is a must visit for anyone interested or fascinated by archaeology and history.
Aside this is a Fossil park located at the end of the island. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a guide to provide me information but the view from the fossil park alone is worth the visit. The Rann of Kutch Lake is visible in all its glory and the best time to visit would be sunset.
Where to stay
There are two resorts, Dholavira Tourism resort which is close to the excavation site and Flamingo resort. However, the latter is 20km away from the site. Note that both of them are expensive if you visit during peak season (November – February) and I was quoted INR 7200/night by the former including all meals.
Aside the resorts, there are a couple of homestays which I recommend and I myself stayed in one. It’s called the Dholavira Rajal homestay, run by a couple and is absolutely perfect for a solo traveler or couple. I was charged INR 1500 for a night including all meals and it was well worth it considering the room and hospitality shown. I was surprised to find they had a website and the link is shared below. You could inquire what arrangement is available if there are more than 3 travelers.
Day 4: Abu (350km)
Well, Rajasthan is not only about deserts and palaces. Aravalli hills run diagonally across Rajasthan practically separating the desert region of the state from the rest. Sometimes referred as the ‘Oasis in the desert’, Mt.Abu is the only hill station in the state and the temperature easily hits single digits in winter.
Things to do in Abu
The biggest tourist attraction is definitely the Nakki Lake. It is believed that the lake was dug out overnight from Nails (Nakh) by Rasia Balam in order to complete the King’s challenge, so he can marry the king’s daughter. Needless to say, the sunset view is mesmerizing and boating is available as well. South of the Nakki Lake is the Toad rock. There is a climb involved of about 150 steps and the view from the top is worth the effort.
Situated 3km from the town is the Arbuda Devi temple, dedicated to Goddess Durga. Another 2km away are the Dilwara Jain temples. The architecture and intricate marble carvings are extraordinary. It seems fairly basic from outside but the temple interior showcases human craftsmanship at its best. The lush green hills surrounding the temples provides for a fitting backdrop. The temple complex consists of five temples devoted to the five jain trithankaras or saints. Photography is prohibited inside the premises.
Located around 15km from the town is the Guru Shikhar which is the highest point in the Aravalli range at a height of 5650 feet. It offers an amazing view of the town. There’s also a temple at the top of the hill. Other attractions include the Sunset point, Trevor’s tanks and Achal Gadh.
Day 5, 6: Udaipur (350km)
Some say this is India’s most romantic city. Now, that is debatable but what isn’t that it definitely is the ‘City of lakes’. Udaipur is home to many lakes: Pichola, Badi, Fatehsagar, Swaroopsagar. From a tourist perspective, this definitely is the most chilled out city in Rajasthan. Udaipur has every ingredient to suit anyone’s taste: Forts, palaces, museums, temples, hills, gardens, lakes. Although I stayed for 2 days, you could very easily stay an extra day considering how much the city has to offer.
Things to do in Udaipur
City palace is first on the list for anyone who visits Udaipur and rightly so. Built over a period of 400 years with a rich history of the Mewar kingdom, it’s a paradise for any history lover. The palace is built on the banks of the Pichola Lake and offers some spectacular views of the lake and the city. There are two ways to enter the palace complex: Badi Pol and Shitala Mata Mandir gate. Also, you need to buy the Museum ticket in order to explore the palace which costs around INR 300, unless you want to explore just the complex. One tip, visit the palace in the morning to avoid the tourist crowd, especially if you are a photographer.
Right next to the City palace is the Lake Pichola. It would be a crime to miss the sunset view from the lake. The lake is artificial and houses four islands namely Jag Niwas, Jag Mandir, Mohan Mandir, and Arsi Vilas. The famous Lake Palace hotel is located in the middle of the lake and is only accessible via boat. Ambrai Ghat is definitely the best place to witness the beauty of the lake during sunset, as the sun paints not just the sky, but also the walls of the City palace golden. There’s also the Dharohar folk dance event that happens at the Gangaur Ghat at 7pm everyday, however the tickets need to be booked in advance unless you want to try your luck at on-spot booking.
Next on the list would be a visit to the Karni Mata temple, situated on the top of the Machla Magra hill. Although there is a stairway to reach the top, the more preferred option is the ropeway. The tickets are available at the base and are cheap (around INR 100 to and fro).
Situated around 10km from Pichola Lake is the Badi Lake. This is the less touristy alternative to both Pichola and Fatehsagar lakes and is best visited early morning. Next to the lake are the Bahuballi hills. There is a 15min trek involved to reach the top and is fairly easy. The best time to visit is sunrise if you prefer some solitude and want some stunning photographs. If you are looking at off-beat locations for your pre-wedding photo-shoot, this should be top of the list!
Like mentioned earlier, there are way too many places worth visiting as a tourist: Fatehsagar Lake, Jagdish temple, Saheliyon ki Badi, Doodh Talai Lake, Maharana Pratap Memorial to name a few.
There’s a place called Shilpgram, about 5km west of Udaipur and close to the Fatehsagar Lake. Shilpgram literally means ‘The village of artisans’ and is a museum of traditional Rajasthani arts and crafts. Also on showcase are traditional village houses from Rajasthan, Gujurat, Maharashtra and Goa. The best thing here is to witness the performances by traditional dancers and artisans, which are held every alternate hour. Since the performances are organized by the tourism department, the cost is included in the entrance ticket which by itself is dirt cheap. There is also a festival held here in the last 10 days of December and is worth a visit if you are in Udaipur during that time.
Around 90km north of Udaipur, a slight detour en-route Jodhpur takes you to the Kumbhalgarh. The fort is of immense sentimental significance for the people in Rajasthan, being the birthplace of Mewar's legendary king Maharana Pratap. It’s a must visit if you can squeeze in an extra day.
Day 7, 8: Jodhpur (250km)
Enter Jodhpur and you realise it’s completely different from Udaipur. The city is basically a maze of tiny alleys with rickshaws, motorcycles, bicycles, cows all trying to go through at the same time. Known as the ‘Blue city’, honestly there isn’t much blue left anymore aside a small portion of the old city. Although it may not be as expansive as Udaipur, Jodhpur has an aura around it that made me promise I would visit again in the near future. It’s extremely small, that even if you get lost, you are confident that your destination is just a 2km autorickshaw ride away. I would even say, rather than worrying about getting lost, just let go into the maze of the blue houses and treat yourself to the amazing sights of the street life.
Things to do in Jodhpur
If you are on a road trip, you would notice Jodhpur once you are within a few kilometres, thanks to the sight of Mehrangarh fort. It’s enormous and overlooks the city from atop a hill. Almost every guest house in the city provides a view of the fort from their rooftops and it’s especially amazing at night, when the fort lights up. The fort is equally enormous on its inside and would need a separate blog of its own to describe it. The entry to the fort complex is free but you would need a ticket to enter the museum which is INR 120 for Indians.
About a km away from the fort is the Jaswant Thada, aka the ‘White palace’. It’s completely carved out of marble and is an architecture marvel. Words wouldn’t do enough justice and unfortunately, I have no photographs of it either.
There’s the Rao Jodha Desert Rock park on the road to the fort. The former wasteland now transformed into a desert garden, is home to plant species native to the region. There are couple of trails one can wander along once inside and it offers an amazing view of the Mehrangarh fort with the Ranisar Lake in the foreground.
Other attractions include the Stepwell or ‘Toorji ka Jhalra’ which is a great place to photograph or just relax, Umaid Bhawan palace, Mandore garden and Ghanta ghar (Clock tower). Both, Umaid Bhawan Palace and Mandore garden are situated outside the city, around 8km away in different directions. You could also go for a walking tour of the ‘Blue city’ which is a small part on the south-western side of the fort. The landmark for the area is called ‘Mataji ka Pol’ and every local is aware of it. Also while in Jodhpur, don’t miss out on the local street food which includes the ‘Rajasthani Kachori’ and ‘Makkhaniya Lassi’. I personally didn’t enjoy the Lassi but everyone has different taste buds, so it’s worth a shot. The area around Ghanta Ghar is great for a walk in the evening, especially to feast on the street food and shopping, or even just for some fresh air.
Day 9, 10: Jaisalmer (280km)
Jaisalmer is often known as the ‘Golden city’ as it’s built on the foundation of yellow sandstone. Even the houses here are mostly painted yellow. Jaisalmer has a lot to offer from golden forts & palaces, deserted towns to the actual desert. The entire city glittering in the sunlight at sunrise or sunset is sight to behold. The city’s landscape is dominated by the Jaisalmer fort, which is not just a monument but a town in itself, as it is inhabited by hundreds of local families.
Although I stayed for only 2 nights, I would recommend staying for 3 nights and if you want to have a real immersive experience of the desert, 4 nights are a must. You can plan your visit to coincide with the Desert festival that is held annually in February at the Sam dunes, during the 3 days prior to the full moon night. I managed to reach Jaisalmer on the last day of the festival, completely unaware of its existence.
Things to do in Jaisalmer
A desert camel safari is sure on the bucket list of many people and Jaisalmer offers you that a plenty. Situated close to the international border, Jaisalmer is a part of Thar desert. The actual desert however is a 40km drive from the city and there are two options: Sam and Khuri. Both have their pros and cons but Sam is the more touristy one. Khuri is the preferred option if you prefer less crowded places. There are a couple of options to explore the desert and would need a separate blog to explain everything in detail.
Another major attraction is the fort itself. It’s also called as the ‘Sonar Quilla’ or ‘Golden Fort’. Once home to the royals now houses the locals. As breathtaking the fort is from outside, the internals of the fort are in a poor shape courtesy the inhabitation and tourism. The fort also has a lot of hotels and restaurants and unfortunately, it’s too much for the fort to handle. I would highly recommend to not book accommodation inside the fort, for its own sake. Inside the fort, there are a couple of attractions that include the Jain temples, Baa ri haveli, Jaisalmer palace which is where the King & Queen used to stay, Jaisal Art gallery and Bronze Cannon which offers a view of the city. The Jain temples are a must visit for their exquisitely done architecture.
Jaisalmer has lot of havelis and the most well-known is the Patwon ki Haveli. However, what is not known is that it is a cluster of five havelis built by the rich trader Guman Chand Patwa for each of his five sons. Entry isn’t allowed to all five of them but two, of which one has been converted by the Government into a museum and the other has fortunately been preserved in its original form. Entry ticket to both of them is separate and costs INR 100.
Situated just on the outskirts of the city is the Gadisar Lake. The area surrounding the lake has many temples and there’s boating as well. During winter, the lake attracts a lot of migratory birds and sunset is a great time to visit the lake. Other attractions include the Bada Bagh which is a shutterbug’s delight and is located 5km north of the city, ‘Kuldhara abandoned village’ which along with 82 other villages was home to the Paliwal Bhrahmins and was abandoned overnight in 1825 under mysterious circumstances, Salam Singh ki Haveli, Khaba fort, Thar Heritage museum and Vyas Chhatri.
Located 120km away northwest of the city is the Longewala border town. There’s a war memorial and definitely worth a visit, provided you have an extra day.
Day 11: Bikaner (330km)
Bikaner was supposed to be a rest stop for me en-route Jaipur, considering it is almost 600km away from Jaisalmer. Unlike Jaisalmer and Jodhpur that make you feel like a big city has been cramped into a small space, Bikaner seems like a proper city with its wide roads and an order to the chaos.
It does have a couple of attractions including the Junagarh fort, Tanot Mata temple, Devi Kund Sagar, Kote gate, Bhandasar Jain temple and Rampuria Havelis. Moreover, this was the first place on my trip where I easily found authentic Rajasthani food without having to pay a fortune for it. Bikaner is also a great alternative to Jaisalmer to experience the desert without the crowd of tourists.
Day 12, 13: Jaipur (340km)
The largest city in Rajasthan and its capital, the ‘pink city’ Jaipur was last on my list of destinations. If you are visiting Jaipur for the first time and especially solo, it can be overwhelming. Aside its rich history and the pink-red buildings, the city has an old world charm to it. The streets are as chaotic as it could get, surrounded by the colourful markets. However just like Jodhpur, the entire city isn’t pink and it’s a specific part of the city which is literally called the ‘Pink city’. Needless to say, this is the place to stay during your visit and the best area would be close to Subash Chowk circle, considering its vicinity to all major tourist spots.
Things to do in Jaipur
Top of the list without a doubt, is a visit to the Hawa Mahal. However, as opposed to expectations, the Hawa Mahal is only spectacular from outside. The best time to visit is early morning as the sun lights up the palace as you watch its intricately carved windows. All you have to is wake up early and stand on the opposite side of the road as the chaos unfurls. There is an INR 50 entry ticket if you wish to go inside. Camera is prohibited inside the palace, however you can use your mobile phone to capture photos.
Situated close to the Hawa Mahal is the City Palace. It honestly isn’t anything spectacular relative to the one in Udaipur unless you shell out INR 3000 for a special tour of the palace. The standard entry ticket is INR 200 or you could take a combo ticket which allows you entry to couple other tourist spots, for INR 300. Jantar Mantar is next to the City Palace which is the world’s largest stone sundial.
A 10km drive north of the city takes you to Amer Fort. The first thing you notice upon reaching the base of the fort are the elephants. Elephant safari is offered that takes you to the top of the hill, inside the fort. Kindly avoid the elephant ride and take the stairs. There is also a road that directly takes you to the top of the hill if you have your own vehicle. The fort is huge on the inside and it’s recommended to take the audio guide. The standard entry ticket is INR 50.
En-route to the Amer fort is the famous Jal Mahal. This beautiful palace floating in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake can only be observed from the other side of the lake. It is at its best at sunset. Next to the Amer Fort is the Jaigarh Fort, which was built to keep a watch over the Amer Fort and the city. Other places to visit include the Nahagarh fort, Gaitor ki Chhatriyan, Ajmeri Gate and Panna Meena ka Kund. This is a stepwell similar to the one in Jodhpur and is a photographer’s delight.
You could also visit Chokhi Dhani. Chokhi Dhani is a well-known tourist attraction and a resort. The aim of the resort is to give tourists an experience of the Rajasthani culture, through its village setting and the cultural activities. The entry fee starts at INR 700 and the resort is open in the evening post 5pm.
However if you are a photographer, just skip all the tourist spots except Amer fort and immerse yourself in street photography. Jaipur was the best city in my opinion to capture the streets during my trip. The area around Hawa Mahal is a gold mine if you know how to dig. The street food here is amazing as well and some of the best I had. Mawa Kachori and Kulhad Lassi are a must try.
Day 14: Delhi (250km)
The last day of the trip was the return leg via Delhi, as I bid adieu to Rajasthan. Rajasthan is vast and two weeks don’t really do justice to this beautiful state. Aside the cities mentioned above, other places worth visiting include Pushkar, Ajmer, Chittorgarh and Ranthambore National Park.