Desert Festival Revisited | India | Guest Blog Post by Pink Escapes. On this journey in early 2014, travel beyond the Golden Triangle, into the heart of the ancient lands. Visit the cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur and explore colorful cities of Rajasthan, visiting its many iconic sights. See Jaisalmer at the threshold of the great Thar Desert, where color and life blooms in winters; blue city of Jodhpur; fairy tale city of Udaipur; and benefit from a visit to the largest Camel breeding farm in Asia, in Bikaner. Submerge in the essence of India on this pulsating sojourn with the Desert Festival – experience the rich and vivacious Rajasthani folk culture, which is on display here for a few days. Rajasthani men and tall beautiful women dressed in their bright costumes dance and sing lingering ballads of valor, romance and tragedy. Snake charmers, puppeteers, acrobats and folk performers are the high point of the festival. Camels, the lifeline of the desert, play a major role.
Start the tour of Delhi with a visit to Birla House, where Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, lived before his assassination. Then view India Gate, the Houses of Parliament and the Presidential Palace. Visit Red Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and later go to see Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque. End with a Rickshaw ride through Chandni Chowk, the busiest bazaar in Old Delhi. Savor lunch at one of the oldest Delhi restaurant. Continue to Humayun’s Tomb, the first garden-tomb in the Indian subcontinent, finished in 1572. Visit Qutab Minar and the monuments surrounding it. Built in the 12th century the red sandstone tower is 72.5 m high. This evening attend a welcome cocktail dinner party.
Delhi – Shekhawati
After breakfast, drive from Delhi to Mandawa in the Shekhawati district of Rajasthan. Mandawa was settled in the 18th century and boasts a fort dating from that period. The architecture of the havelis focuses on the interior courtyard, to ensure the safety and security of the womenfolk, and to protect the wealthy merchants living there from the heat of the desert. On arrival, check-in to the hotel and enjoy lunch before spending leisure time. Later, explore the town with the guide and see the beautiful work on the exteriors of the houses, which is why it is often referred to as the ‘Open Air Gallery’. Return to the hotel for dinner.
Shekhawati – Bikaner
After breakfast, drive to Bikaner. Bikaner city has a 16th century fort that includes old palaces, temples and a mosque. Founded by Rao Bika, the fort features 37 pavilions, several balconies and windows of varying designs. The old walled city itself includes dark red sandstone havelis and exquisitely painted Jain temples. Check in at the hotel on arrival. Lalgarh palace, built of red stone by Maharaja Ganga Singh (1881-1942) is a memorial to his father Maharaja Lal Singh. It is an imposing building, with overhanging balconies and delicate latticework. Then view the Junagadh fort, constructed between 1588 and 1593 by Raja Rai Singh, who was a general in Akbar’s army. End with a visit to the largest Camel breeding farm in Asia!!
Bikaner – Jaisalmer
Early morning take a rickshaw tour of Bikaner and visit some rare sites. Return to hotel for breakfast and then drive to Jaisalmer. Time permitting, en-route visit Deshnok – popularly called the Rat Temple, dedicated to Mother Goddess. Check in at the hotel on arrival. In the afternoon, attend the Desert Festival, which is a three-day extravaganza of color, music and festivity. Enjoy watching Gair and Fire dancers swaying to traditional tunes; witness various competitions that are held from time to time. Return to the hotel and savor dinner.
In the morning, tour the city of Jaisalmer, visiting the fort built by Maharawal (Maharaja) Jaisal in 1156 AD, one of the oldest and living forts in Rajasthan. Go to Gadisar Tank, a scenic rainwater lake and also view the 11th century Jain temples. Savor lunch at a local restaurant. Enjoy the afternoon at the Desert Festival, exploring the activities of the day or choose to spend leisure time at the hotel. This evening go for a sunset viewing of the Royal Cenotaphs before enjoying local cuisine for dinner at the hotel.
In the morning, visit the Patwon ki Haveli, Salim Singh ki Haveli and Nathmalji ki Haveli. Later, attend the Desert Festival to explore more of its many wonders before enjoying lunch at a city restaurant. This evening, visit the sand dunes and enjoy the pleasure of a camel ride and even watch the folk dancers and musicians perform. Spend a night in a tent at the dunes – A real Desert Experience!!
Jaisalmer – Jodhpur
After breakfast, drive to Jodhpur. Founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha of the Rathore clan, Jodhpur prospered from trade in opium, sandalwood, dates and copper. Check-in at the hotel on arrival before proceeding for sightseeing. Visit Mehrangarh fort, built in 1459 by Rao Jodha. The fort consists of several palaces designed around courtyards, which are decorated with terracotta lattice work. The fort houses a museum, with a splendid collection of elephant howdahs, miniature paintings and the inevitable Rajput armory. After lunch at the fort, visit Jaswant Thada, a memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, a peaceful array of domes, about 1 Km from the fort. Continue to the museum at the Umaid Bhawan Palace before arriving in the colorful markets of Jodhpur – famous for their textiles, handicrafts and spices. Return for dinner at the hotel.
Jodhpur – Ranakpur – Udaipur
After breakfast, drive to Udaipur via Ranakpur. Ranakpur, known for its marvelously carved Jain temples, is amongst the five holiest places of pilgrimage for the Jain community. These temples, constructed in 15th century, have over 1444 marble pillars, carved in exquisite detail, no two alike. Enjoy lunch at a scenic resort before continuing to Udaipur. On arrival, enjoy a boat ride on Lake Pichola. Check-in at the hotel and enjoy leisure time before a delightful culinary experience this evening.
Visit the City Palace, known for the Mor Chowk and its stunning peacock mosaic and the Bhim Vilas Palace with its lovely wall paintings. View the Lake Palace in the water of Lake Pichola from a distance. Visit the Jagdish Temple, Fateh Sagar Lake and Saheliyon Ki Bari, the Garden of Maids. Enjoy lunch at a city restaurant. End the tour at Crystal Galley at Fateh Prakash Palace followed by tea. Return to the hotel and enjoy leisure time before dinner.
Udaipur – Jaipur
Start early, after breakfast and drive to Jaipur and on arrival, check-in at the hotel, enjoy lunch en-route. Early evening, go shopping in the bazaars, Jaipur is known for its Textiles, Jewelry and Blue Pottery. Continue for dinner with a local Rajput family that organizes elephant, horse and camel safaris in the jungle, using their beautiful home and camp as base. Enjoy dinner around the bonfire, savoring the most authentic Rajasthani delicacies in a personalized environment while the elaborate bar serves the most exotic cocktails in a rustic yet luxurious atmosphere.
Enjoy an elephant ride to Amber Fort, located in a valley formed by the Aravali Range known as Kalikho hills. The palace and fort are located on top of the hill with the city on its slopes. This palace fortress, which was never invaded, features gardens, courtyards, and palatial spaces, many of which illustrate the influence of Mughal architecture. Also stop at Artchill, a gallery that displays Indian Art! Enjoy lunch at a Haveli (old mansion) that serves home-like food. Continue to visit the majestic City Palace, which houses rare collections from the past. See Jantar Mantar, an astronomical observatory built in the early 18th century that includes a set of fixed instruments designed for the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye. Glimpse the Hawa Mahal or the Palace of the winds, one of the most photographed facades in Jaipur and the country before returning to the hotel for leisure time and dinner.
Jaipur – Fatehpur Sikri – Agra
After an early breakfast, drive to Agra, visiting Fatehpur Sikri en route. Built in the second half of the 16th century by the Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri was the capital of the Mughal Empire for over a decade. The complex of buildings, all in a uniform architectural style, includes one of the largest mosques in India and the artistically designed mausoleum of the revered Sufi saint, Salim Chisti. Enjoy lunch at a wayside garden restaurant before continuing to Agra. Check in at the hotel on arrival. After a short rest, visit the Taj Mahal, known for its beauty, grace and exquisite workmanship. Mughal Emperor Shahjahan built this magnificent monument as a memorial to his beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal. Later proceed to the demonstration of the marble inlay work and learn about the complex art of inlaying precious and semiprecious stones on the marble from the Makrana Mines. Enjoy the ‘Saga of the Taj’, a musical performance, before returning to the hotel for dinner.
Agra – Delhi
After breakfast, drive to ‘Mehtab Bagh’ for a distant viewing of the Taj Mahal in the rising light of the Sun. Visit Agra Fort, where Shahjahan was imprisoned by his son in the later years of his life. After lunch at a city restaurant, drive to Delhi. On arrival in Delhi spend an hour in an upscale mall before enjoying a farewell cocktail dinner at an authentic Indian restaurant. Proceed to the airport to catch the flight back home reminiscing the memorable journey through incredible India. Guest Blog Post by Pink Escapes.
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