Rightly known as the Oasis of Rajasthan, Mount Abu is blessed with a cool climate which provides relief from the soaring high temperatures of the neighborhing cities. Situated in the Aravalli hills, Mount Abu is the only hill station in the desert state of Rajasthan. Home to lush green forests, rivers, lakes and a number of shrines, it is a famous destination amongst tourists and also holds great religious importance for Hindus.
Dilwara Temples: Built around the 11th and 13th century A.D., the Dilwara temples are an outstanding example of fine Jain architecture and intricate sculpting on marble stone. It is a complex of five temples, which is dedicated to the founders of Jainism. It is considered as one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Jains across the world. The five temples inside the complex are the Shree Mahavir Swami temple, Shree Adinath temple, Shree Parshavnath temple, Shree Rishabh Deoji temple and Shree Neminath Ji temple. The temple complex is open to Jain devotees from 6 A.M. to noon and from noon to 6 P.M. for tourists. The temple is around 2.5 K.M.s from Mount Abu.
Nakki Lake: At a short distance from most hotels, Nakki lake is the centre of attraction in Mount Abu. The lake is said to be dug overnight by a sage with his nails. Hence, Nakki Lake. It is also the only artificial lake in india at an altitude of 1100 mtrs. You can either take a boat ride or unwind by the lake side with your loved ones. You can choose between paddle boats and the traditional row boats which look like the shikharas in Kashmir. Cost for boating here is Rs 50 to Rs 100 for a 30 minute boatride. The lake is open to visitors from 9 A.M. to 6:30 P.M. One can spend their evenings around Nakki lake sampling the various street foods in the area. Try and get to the lake early in the morning when there aren’t many people around to disrupt the peace and calm of the area. Do climb up the adjoining Toad rock, overlooking the lake when you’re here. It is a rock in the shape of a toad and is well known for rock climbing amongst adventure enthusiasts.
Gurushikar: The highest peak in Mount Abu and the whole Aravalli range, Gurushikar greets you with wide aerial views of Mount Abu and the Aravalli range. Once you reach the peak, you can visit the shrine of Guru Dattatreya which is a major tourist attraction here. The nearby shrine of Ahilya, the mother of Dattatreya is also visited by tourists while at Gurushikar. It's 15kms from Nakki Lake and can be reached by local transport via Gurushikhar road.
Sunset Point: 3 K.M.s from Nakki Lake, the sunset Point offers breathtaking views during the goldenhour. This place has fallen prey to the hoardes of people that visit here and the hawkers. The crowd and the noise is a huge put off and makes you think twice before spending much time here. You need to hike a short distance to reach the point.
Trevor's Tank: It is a sanctuary and crocodile breeding area 5K.M.s from the main town. From the gate it is an hour's walk to the tank. The trek is even better when the weather is on your side. The route winding up the hill through forests is a pleasant walk. If you are patient and willing to spend time here, you can spot the many varieties of birds that reside in the area and if you're lucky, a sloth bear sighting might make your day. The tank here has a couple of crocs.
Achalgarh Fort: Built in 1452 by Rana Kumbha, the Achalgarh Fort is a fine example of the Medieval Mewar architecture; though most parts of the forts are in ruins now. The fort is surrounded by bastions to allow defensive fire in case of enemy invasions. The fort is on a steep hill and offers scenic view of the outskirts, proving to be an excellent vantage point for keeping a watch. The Achaleshwar temple at the foothill of the Fort claims to be built around a footprint of Lord Shiva. Further up from the Fort, lies the Jain temples which again are a masterpiece of Jain architecture with their attention to detail.
Champa caves: At walkable distance from Nakki Lake garden and toad rock, the champa caves happens to the be the place where Swami Vivekananda meditated for a month. He was a renowned monk and an intellectual. After Shree Ramakrishna's death, Narendra(widely known as Swami Vivekananda) and a few other disciples vowed to become monks. This is one of the most interesting places in Abu for those who knew the teachings and preachings of the great Swami.
Owing to its location, there are also a number of treks around Mount Abu which you can undertake under the guidance of goverenment certified guides or travel agencies who offer a mix of trekking and adventure activities like caving, rock climbing and rappelling in the area. Going on a village trek is a memorable camping experience in the wilderness of the Aravalli. It is also one of the best ways to gain insights on the local areas, the culture and life of the villagers there.
Bailey's Walk(Nakki Lake to Sunset point), Craig's Walk (Neemdi to Hanuman point),Rishikesh Trail(Aarna village to Rishikesh temple), Tiger trail(St. Mary's school to Aarna village), Bhajra Trail(Oriyan to Bhajra village) and Bridal Path are the six nature trails in Mount Abu.
Salgaonkar Watch tower: Around 3K.M.s from Nakki Lake, the Salgaonkar Watch tower overlooks a watering hole surrounded by forests of the Aravalli. It is a great spot to catch a glimpse of the animals that come to visit to drink water and for birdwatching. Patience and silence is the key here. Carrying a pair of binoculars and a DSLR paired with a telephoto lens or any compact cameras with decent zoom is useful if you wish to photograph the animals.
Accommodation: If you're doing one of the nature trails that lead to Aarna Village, you might like the Aarna wild campsite. Mount Abu offers a variety of stay options for travellers ranging from hotels with sprawling properties to guesthouses and wilderness camps.
Where and what to eat: Do try out the Daal-Baati-churma when you're in Mount Abu. Majority of the restaurants here serve veg food North Indian cuisine is also available at various multi-cuisine restaurants. Most visited restaurants include the Dawat restaurant, Cafe Shikibo, The Mulberry Tree, Kings food, Kanak Dining Hall and Cha-cha Cafe.
How to get-around: Local cabs and busses ply in the city regularly. But, hiring two wheelers are the best way to move around and exlplore.
Cover picture: Antoine Gady