How Pushkar blew me away with its splendour and vibe || Pushkar, Rajasthan on a budget

12th Mar 2018
Photo of How Pushkar blew me away with its splendour and vibe || Pushkar, Rajasthan on a budget by Flexcia

Pushkar – a town in Rajasthan that holds utmost importance for Hindu and Sikh pilgrims also has a lot for travellers to explore, which has made it one of the more popular places in Rajasthan among foreign travellers. To explain simply, it’s a great mix between Varanasi (for the ghats), Udaipur (for the pristine lake), Hampi (for the spiritual vibe), Jaisalmer (for the desert) and Arambol (for being the backpackers den). In fact, on my way I met some English women who were staying there for three months, and this was their repeat trip to India just so they could stay in Pushkar, soak in the local culture, learn local-style cooking and learn Hindi. Well, yes, that’s Pushkar for you!

How to get to Pushkar form Jaipur or Ajmer:

Pushkar is located just around 10 kms from the city of Ajmer and can be accessed by auto or bus. However, if you’re on a budget, the bus is your best choice. It takes around 30 minutes to get there and along the way you are treated to some fabulous stories (like the one I told you about). Infact, I met a European travelling musician who spoke to me at length about the difference between the street music scene in Europe and India, and how he can earn enough in the Europe by doing odd-jobs (including that of a waiter or chef) for a few months and travel during the rest of the year. I don’t remember his name as I write this, but he was somebody I’d love to meet again. I also chatted up with a few local ladies (in Hindi – though none of us knew Hindi fluently) and played with some local kids, all during the bumpy hot ride through the desert.

Pushkar lake at sunset

Photo of Pushkar, Rajasthan, India by Flexcia

Trip summary:

That brings me to the fact that – Pushkar does have a thriving camping and safari scene, considering its close proximity to the Thar desert. Since I was supposed to get into it while in Jaisalmer, I skipped exploring the desert (which isn’t as great as the Jaisalmer one anyways) and soaked in the Pushkar vibe! I just spent two nights in Pushkar, but it was enough to refresh my mind and rejuvenate my soul from the mundane.

Pushkar was ‘phenomenal’ and I honestly cant describe it in words or photos – just walked around the crowded bazaar, strolling through the ghats barefeet, dining at rooftop restaurants which offered spectacular views of the Pushkar lake, pigging out on Rajasthani desserts, overdoing the ‘lassi’ part and just chilling – exactly a vacation I had envisioned. Jaipur, to a very great extent disappointed, because (as I told you in my last post), it was too crowded for my taste with the wrong kind of tourists. Pushkar, on the other hand, was more peaceful and had a great sort of crowd – locals and foreign tourists.

At the Ghat during aarti

Photo of Pushkar Lake, Pushkar, Rajasthan by Flexcia

We stayed at Zostel Pushkar, which is at a perfect location – just far enough to be cut-off from the hustle-bustle of the main market, and close enough to walk back! Well, did I mention, the whole of Pushkar is walkable? Let’s get to that later. About Zostel Pushkar for now... it’s one of the most spacious hostel properties I’ve been at till date and it was the only one with a pool! Also, the property manager was really chill and he made sure we had a fabulous time! They have a wonderful rooftop, a great reception area (with a large bookshelf and maps from all over), a wonderful boho-inspired common area and a little pool. In fact, I lost count of the hours spent just chilling around the hostel – in the common area and by the pool.

Such a stunning lobby

Photo of Zostel Pushkar, Panch Kund Road, Choti Basti, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India by Flexcia

People I met:

I met some incredible people in Pushkar, which again, makes it a memory worth cherishing. Out of the three fabulous travellers I met, Cyntia and we (Varshitha and I) clicked and we were inseparable for the rest of our trip. Cyntia is from the Central America (Costa Rica I guess) and stays in Spain (Barcelona, if I remember right) and was travelling India solo. We did quite a few things together while in Pushkar (including trying Spanish food served by a Spanish lady) and watching spectacular sunsets. The other two were French girls travelling India for six months, whom we caught up with for dinner, and they were leaving the next day after having spent a week in Pushkar. If not Zostel Pushkar, Madpackers Pushkar (which is right opposite Zostel Pushkar) is a great option too – more indie and boho vibes. If you fancy staying within the main Pushkar area (around the lake) and want to avoid the walking, Moustache Pushkar is located right in the centre, very close to the lake.

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of our time in Pushkar was just spent chilling and we didn’t really do much. On the evening on our first day there, we strolled in the market and eventually reached the other end of the lake where the Brahma Temple is located. It’s a temple quite popular among Hindu pilgrims and we were told that it’s one of the oldest and most prominent Brahma Temple in the world. Though it is also believed that it’s the first Brahma Temple to be constructed and the creator god himself chose this location to set it up, historically, it was first constructed in the 14th century and the original temple design is still retained though it was demolished the Muslim rulers and rebuilt later.

Things to know before visiting – dress very conservatively, because it’s a Hindu temple and also because it’s a Hindu temple in Rajasthan. Secondly, cameras are not ‘allowed’. The locker room doesn’t look the safest and you can’t enter with a camera even if you aren’t using it! So please be careful. You need to take off your footwear like every other Hindu temple. In fact, almost half of Pushkar is covered with temples. I was told there were hundreds of temples in the vicinity that you could visit. Even as we walked around, we noticed quite a few temples.

The ghats were one of the highlights of my trip to Pushkar. All you need to do is – take your shoes off and walk around the sacred stairs that line the lake. Pilgrims also have a dip in the sacred lake. There are several temples lining the sacred lake, which are just a few meteres apart from each other. They had a festival going on and people had gathered for aartis at the ghats. Pundits and people from every temple that lined the lake emerged with flowers and aartis, which in fact, created a spectacular sight. We asked for permission to watch, and they made us sit, strictly instructing us to not talk. When we asked whether we can take photos, they were more than willing as long as we didn’t disturb them – which we didn’t.

Witnessing the aartis was a indeed a great experience. As we just sat there watching the activities... silently, a sense of calm took over and it felt quite blissful. The sign of the sun setting over the heritage structures on the opposite bank of the sacred Pushkar lake, the chants accompanied by traditional musical instruments, the flickering lights in the distance and the aarti... everything was so perfect, including the March weather (which was supposed to be hot) which was exceptionally cooling and soothing! In that moment, I found my peace. We spent hours there and only moved past sunset, when all we could see was the flickering lights in the distance.

Photo of Brahma Ghat, Badi Basti, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India by Flexcia
Photo of Brahma Ghat, Badi Basti, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India by Flexcia
Photo of Brahma Ghat, Badi Basti, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India by Flexcia

We found a nice spot to chill for a while – which looked more like a ‘hole in the wall’ kinda space. Though it was actually very small, going there indeed was wonderful! We didn’t know what to expect, but we (Cyntia, Varsh and I) met some fabulous world travellers, interacted with them and just chilled as we sipped on tea and gobbled some vegetarian biryani with local cheese! If you’re there, please don’t miss the VIP chai. In fact, when you’re in Pushkar, don’t miss on VIP chai, VIP lassi, VIP anything! It’s the secret code for bhang-infused drinks. Though liquor is prohibited, bhang isn’t. So well, nobody cares how many ‘VIP chais’ you’ve had!

Photo of Honey Dew Café & Restaurant, Badi Basti, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India by Flexcia
Photo of Honey Dew Café & Restaurant, Badi Basti, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India by Flexcia

Post that, we were again loitering around the market – doing pretty much nothing! There are so many stores selling ethnic clothes, jewellery, artefacts and trinkets. Falafel is quite common there, and there are little stalls selling falafel, with cute Isaraeli babies at the counter. (Did I tell you many foreigners stay here for several months?) So are momos and other food – all in vegetarian though. What caught my attention was the lassis and the Rajasthani sweets. We stopped by at one of the sweetmarts called Shree Radhe Mishthan Bhandar and I gobbled down almost everything I could in the limited space in my tummy!

Photo of Pushkar Main Market, Main Market Road, Badi Basti, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India by Flexcia

Considering Pushkar is a sacred town, there’s no place in the whole of Pushkar that serves chicken or meat, liquor or even eggs. All the restaurants are vegetarian, though they have a lot of continental food owing to the fact that a lot of people from all over the world visit. There’s not much to try in local food, and we stuck to the basics, asking for recommendations for good restaurants to eat at (since they were vegetarian) and I wouldn’t eat at a random restaurant in Pushkar! So, for dinner, we joined our hostel mates and the six of us decided to go to Funky Monkey Cafe (one of the very few spots that’s away from the temple and serves beer though it’s not on the menu) and had some nice Italian food!

The next morning, we went to the Ajmer Dargah and returned after a hearty chicken meal. I stopped by at the gurdwara because the force was literally pulling me! And what joy it was. There weren’t any prayers going on, and there were hardly any people. I sat there for quite a bit before I went back to the hostel and chilled by the pool and the common areas! I noticed there were a couple of gurdwaras in the vicinity and what joy it was visiting one!

Photo of Gurudwara Sahib - Pushkar (Ajmer), Pushkar, Rajasthan, India by Flexcia

That evening, we decided to take an auto-rickshaw to the hill top where the Savitri Temple was located. It was some 3 kms away and many people walked up, which we definitely couldn’t do! When we got there, we took the cable car (which was some INR 100 for a return trip I guess) and all the three of us were on top of the hill. Some people didn’t use the ropeway amd actually trekked by the hill. The temple that is located on top of the Ratnagiri hill in Pushkar is believed to be dedicated to Lord Shiva’s wife – Savitri.

The view from the cable car and the hill top are spectacular. That’s what it’s known for and I knew why! We spent hours there (with monkeys for company) – just waiting for the sun to go down and create different scenes in front of us! While you can see the Pushkar town on one side, you get a view of the desert on the other. During sunset, the entire area turned a vibrant crimson, painting our souls with it. We knew it was time to leave only when it was entirely dark and we feared missing the last cable car.

We gazed at the sunset without realising we were making memories

Photo of Savitri Temple Trail, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India by Flexcia

Cable car to the hill top

Photo of Savitri Temple Trail, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India by Flexcia

The town lit up post sunset

Photo of Savitri Temple Trail, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India by Flexcia

Dinner happened at a wonderful rooftop restaurant called Laura’s Cafe, which was recommended by quite a few people and which all of us were keen on tying. They served Spanish food, and the restaurant offered magnificent view of the Pushkar lake. A cool breeze and light music in the background- and we were settled. Some great food, and even better conversations with the best people. That was another ‘perfect’ moment after the spectacular sunset we had just witnessed a while ago. We tried some nice Spanish food (including Paella) on Cyntia’s recommendations, and she said they were pretty much authentic.

The view from Laura's Cafe

Photo of Laura's Café, Main Market Road, Choti Basti, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India by Flexcia

We tried some authentic Paella

Photo of Laura's Café, Main Market Road, Choti Basti, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India by Flexcia

As we walked back to our hostel, we realised the next day we had to say good bye because we were leaving for Jodhpur and Cyntia was leaving later. It was one of those trips you need every now and then – the ones that touch your soul. The place in itself is wonderful and I’d recommend everyone goes here at least once in their life – with a friend or solo (please avoid groups) if you’re planning to soak in the true essence of Pushkar. The people are welcoming and the place will welcome you in all its glory and bathe you with its holiness and good vibes. Overall, one of the best locations I’ve been to in Rajasthan. The lassi I had there will be remembered the lifetime!

Best lassi of my life

Photo of Main Market Road, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India by Flexcia

...bye Cyntia...until we meet again! ❤️

Photo of Main Market Road, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India by Flexcia