Rajasthan, the land of the Kings, is one of the biggest states in India. Comprising primarily of the Thar Desert and the Aravalli Mountain Range, the sheer size of Rajasthan makes it more time consuming and expensive to travel than most other states in India. Yet, the beauty of the desert and other diverse landscape (the hills and the forests), the culture and heritage in Rajasthan and variety of architectural magnificence across the state will make your trip to Rajasthan as memorable as visiting any of the Indian states.
Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, also know as the Pink City, is where I would recommend that one starts their trip. A day in Jaipur at the beginning and another day at the end of your trip should be enough to absorb the city of Jaipur although it definitely has enough to see in case you would plan to spend an extra day here. I would recommend driving through the old city (where the houses are painted pink), visit the famous Hawa Mahal, City Palace and Johari Bazaar (where you must get yourself a cup of tea), all in a couple of hours in the morning (9am - 1pm) before proceeding to the outskirts of the city to visit the famous forts (Amer and Jaigarh would be the only forts I recommend visiting considering you're going to see quite a few forts over the next week). A traditional Rajasthani lunch at 1135 AD within the walls of the Amer fort is costly but definitely worth every penny. The lamb starter, mutton biryani, lal maas and thali's are all recommended. After a couple of hours at the forts I would recommend leaving Jaipur for Ranthambore.
Ranthambore national park, definitely the most important national park in Rajasthan, located in the south east corner of the state is a 3.5 to 4 hour drive from Jaipur. Target to get their late in the evening after a tiring day 1 sight seeing in Jaipur and then try getting 5 safari rides over the next 3 days (3 morning safaris and 2 evening safaris). Check out of your hotel on day 4 and after your last morning safari ride, head west towards Ajmer.
Ajmer is a 4.5 - 5 hour drive from Ranthambore and 2 - 2.5 hour drive from Jaipur (incase you decide to skip the Ranthambore stint). Although Ajmer is a relatively large city in Rajasthan, the only thing making it worth a stop is the world-famous Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. Hobble through the local markets and spend an hour or two in Ajmer before proceeding to Pushkar which is less than an hours drive away (and en route your next stop, Jodhpur).
The annual Pushkar Camel Fair, held during the eighth lunar month of Hindu calendar, Kartika, gets the entire city of Pushkar bustling during the festival period and draws participants and visitors from across the country. If you aren't lucky enough to be in Pushkar during the time of the fair the only reason making it worth a stop is to visit the 14th century temple dedicated to the Hindu God - Brahma. Legend has it that the creator-God, Brahma was cursed by his wife Savitri Devi, permitting his worship only in Pushkar. Thus, the 2000 year old Pushkar temple is regarded as the only temple dedicated to Brahma. After visiting the temple, be sure to walk around the nearby markets and note amongst the cottage industry, the distinction from the Muslim influenced markets of Ajmer as compared to the more Hindu influenced markets of Pushkar in spite of their proximity. From Pushkar, keep heading west until you reach Jodhpur sometime close to midnight assuming you spend a couple of hours at both Ajmer and Pushkar.
If staying in a palace was on your bucket list during your trip to Rajasthan, Jodhpur would be the place to tick that off (considering Udaipur is not a part of this itinerary). For comparatively reasonable prices (of palace hotels) you can spend the night at Bal Samand Lake Palace (in the outskirts of Jodhpur) or Ranbanka Palace. Live like a king, enjoy an early morning stroll in the palace gardens or mount your horse and trot around your fort, and after a late check out I would recommend a late lunch at Indique, a rooftop restaurant in the blue city with a great view of Mehrangarh Fort, the Jodhpur clock tower and Umaid Bhavan. The view from the rooftop restaurants during sunset is quite spectacular and it's definitely worth not visiting the inside of Mehrangarh Fort for the sunset experience. If you decide not to stay in one of the palaces and spend half your day pampering yourself, I would recommend quickly visiting Umaid Bhavan Palace (the royal palace of Jodhpur and now a hotel) and Mehrangarh Fort. Post sunset, I would suggest continuing west to Jaisalmer which is a 4 - 4.5 hour drive away. When in Jodhpur, gaining a few calories at one of the more famous sweet shops, courtesy of the multiple sweet delicacies of the state, is a must. Be sure to grab a bite at one of the dhabas on the way as Jaisalmer is quite a ghost town post 11pm (around the time you will arrive).
In Jaisalmer I would certainly recommend staying within the walls of the Jaisalmer Fort, which is the only functional fort in India. Waking up in your hotel inside the fort with spectacular views of the Golden City before you is exhilarating. Spend day 6 sightseeing in Jaisalmer, which includes exploring the fort, visiting the havelis and bada Bagh and lastly spending sunset at the Gadisar lake. On day 7, I would suggest heading further west from Jaisalmer to Sam, a village in the middle of the Thar Desert famous for its sand dune experience. Around an hours drive from Jaisalmer when at Sam one is barely 50 km away from the Indo-Pak border. At Sam experience adventure activities like zip lining, zorbing, and ATV riding on the dunes. Take the camel safari at sunset and spend the rest of the evening in Sam staying in a tent village where the locals will put up cultural shows and dances and you can enjoy an authentic Rajasthani meal. Be warned that the winter months in Sam can get terribly cold.
On day 8 you leave Jaisalmer and proceed back, east, across the state towards Jaipur. The Jaipur - Jaisalmer drive has been rated amongst one of the top 20 inter city drives in India. Be sure to spot deer and camel for most of the way. Also, your drive from Jaisalmer to Jaipur is around 8 - 9 hours. Stopping for lunch at Bikaner, en route, is a must. Lakshmi Nivas Palace is a beautiful place to visit and serves excellent lunch. Don't forget to try the famous Bikaner rasagulla amongst other local sweet delicacies.
From Bikaner I continued east past Jaipur to the little town of Alsisar for the Magnetic Fields festival that is held at the Alsisar Mahal, annually. Magnetic Fields is a multiple stage music festival held at the palace of Alsisar and is supported by a tent village created for the guests of the festival. Magnetic Fields takes place in December every year and is an excellent way to experience living in a tent, in the middle of a desert with incredible views, great weather and stunning sunsets coupled with an on going party, good food and lots of music!