Backpacking Rajasthan – India Travel Guide

rajasthan travel map
Rajasthan Travel Map. My trip started in a) Mumbai, north to Rajasthan, B) Udaupur C) Jodhpur C) Jaisalmer D) Jaipur from where I took a train out of Rajasthan to Varanasi.

India, Travel Rajasthan guide, accommodation, transport, food and activities in Udaiphur, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Jaisalmer. Travel map and itinerary. A month in this amazing and cheap backpacking country.  The unreal Holy Festival, a Camel Safari in the Thar desert and falling in love with the desert food!

Where to go in India

My India trip started in Mumbai since the flight to Mumbai was the cheapest option to get to India for me. From Mumbai I took a night bus north to Udaipur, see all about transport later in this article. I travelled north and finished my backpack Rajastan trip in Jaipur. From here I took a train to Varanasi, which was a must see in India.

A good way to travel Rajasthan is by flying to Delhi and to travel south. Go see the Taj Mahal in Agra, then take a short train from Agra to Jaipur. Travel my trip in reverse. From Udaipur you can go south towards Goa and explore the beach party scene here or dive the Andaman islands.

rajasthan travel map
Travel Rajasthan Map. My trip started in A) Mumbai, north to Rajasthan, B) Udaupur C) Jodhpur C) Jaisalmer D) Jaipur from where I took a train out of Rajasthan to Varanasi.

INDIA – A MUST TRAVEL DESTINATION FOR ALL REAL NOMADS

India is one of those countries that all real nomads should try and visit. It is not as overrun by tourists like South East Asia. The country is rich in history and the culture is very different and interesting.

I loved the food, the street food here was some of the best and cheapest that I have ever tasted. Everything in India felt real, it was not just a show for tourists. I never had stomach problems traveling in India. The impeccable dress sense of the men is something we are not used to, nobody wears t-shirts or shorts always long shirts and pants even in unbearable heat.

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Cows are everywhere when you travel Rajasthan! Unfortunately that means cow dung is everywhere as well.

IS INDIA DIRTY?

Sure, India it is a dirty place with about 600 million people being without toilets and many of them squatting outside. I could never get used to the constant spitting and accompanying noises. Combine that with thousands of cows sleeping on the street and shitting everywhere does not make for very hygienic conditions. Try to see it as part of the country’s charm, wash your hands and be a little street wise when buying food.

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Cows grazing on a field of rubbish in the city. This picture taken in Mumbai is unfortunately not an uncommon seen.

Backpacking in Rajasthan

Rajasthan is India’s largest state. It is located on the western side of the country and comprises most of the  Thar Desert also known Great Indian Desert. With a lot to do and see, excellent street food and cheap prices this is a very popular state for backpackers to travel. There is a well treated tourist route, but finding cool of the beaten track places to explore is not to hard.

Rajasthan is very colorful state being home to Jodhpur the blue city, Jaisalmer  the yellow city and Jaipur the pink city.

TRAVEL UDAIPUR

The city is often referred to as the most romantic city of India with its three lakes Fateh Sagar Lake, Lake Pichhola and  Swaroop Sagar Lake. There are beautiful forts, palaces, temples, gardens and mountains. The narrow lanes lined with stalls in the medieval historic center is an excellent place to shop for paintings and souvenirs.

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Udaipur, maybe you recognize this famous city in Rajasthan from the James Bond movie Octopussy?

Don’t Miss:

Octopussy! The city is also well known as the site were the James Bond movie, Octopussy, was filmed. This movie shows daily at most restaurants and hostels.

Some of the great sites not to miss are the beautiful Udaipur City Palace built entirely in granite and marble and the impressive Jagdish temple.

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The Udaipur City Palace

I loved walking around Udaipur, discovering little shops and restaurants in the alleys. The big Hindu temple in the centre of the city was impressive with unreal marble pillars and statues.

A good day trip from Udaipur is Kumbhalgarh Fort and the Ranakpur Jain Temple, both about an hour outside of Udaipur. The wall at The Kumbhalgarh Fort is the second longest wall in the world, after the Great Wall of China.

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The unreal carvings covering the Hindu temple in the centre of Udaipur.

Accomodation

I stayed in the Lalghat guesthouse. Dormitories in Udaipur start at $3 for a bed in a nice hostel and double rooms at $7. There are many tourists in Udaipur and the hostels were a great place to meet travelers.

TRAVEL JODHPUR

The famous blue city is a place not to miss on most Rajasthan itineraries for good reason. Impressive fords, picturesque lakes and a unique view of the blue city makes Jodhpur a feast for the eye. I arrived here by night bus, but the exiting sights, sounds and smells of Jodhpur had me up and exploring this city without even taking a nap!

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Jodhpur ‘The Blue City’.

Things to do in Jodhpur

The Sardar Market

Explore the Sardar Market, a labyrinthine of bazaars surrounding the Clock Tower in the centre of the city.This market spreads out in all directions from the clock tower with persistent hawkers selling street food, silk, cashmere, spices, sweets, jewelry and everything you can imagine!

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Exploring the colorful Sardar market was a great experience!

Jodhpur is a foodie’s paradise!

A number of famous sweets and dishes have their origin in Jodhpur. Wandering around the colorful streets I loved tasting the streetfood!

The city is well known for Mirchi bada  and that made by the small shop, Chaudhary Namkeen, is not to miss! Mirchi bada  is a spicy snack with potato and chilli stuffing, served hot with tomato sauce or  with mint and tamarind chutney.

Pyaz ki kachori is a  delicious, spicy,  circular fried dish that originated in Jodhpur. It can be found at all the Namkeen shops, but the most famous shop is Surya Shahi Namkeen located at the Jalori Gate Circle. You can actually smell this delicious dish as you walk past the store!

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The spicy Mirhi Bada found in Jodhpur is a treat!

Mehrangarh Fort

Explore one of the largest forts India. Follow the winding road leading to the massive fort towering 125m above the city. Buy a cup of coffee at one of the little shops on the way and take some photos of the blue city below. The museum in the Mehrangarh fort is one of the most well-stocked museums in Rajasthan. I did a audio tour of the fort. It was on a awesome treasure hunt for about 3 hours investigating the history, jewels and weapons in this amazing fortress.

Mehrangarh Fort  rastahan travel (3)
The impressive Mehrangarh Fort  towering above Jodhpur.

I was lucky to be in Jodhpur for the 2 days leading up to the Holy, the festival of colors. Preparation for the festival resulted in a very festive atmosphere in the colorful streets.

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Festivities in front of the clock tower of Jodhpur.

Accommodation

I stayed in Kuku Guesthouse, on Booking.com there are many hostels with beds starting at $3 and double rooms for $7.

TRAVEL JAISALMER

From Jodhpur I went Jaisalmer to celebrate the festival of colors. Moving to Jaisalmer was a great decision. I came here by local public bus, which was an interesting and very hot trip. I had an amazing time here and Jaisalmer is one of my favorite places in India!

The city is a former medieval trading center located in the heart of the Thar Desert, close to Pakistan. It is also known as the “Golden City,” named after it’s yellow sandstone architecture. The magnificent Jaisalmer Fort overlooks the city. Behind its massive walls stand the ornate Maharaja’s Palace and beautiful Jain temples. This is a living fort not a museum with more than a hundred people still living inside.

Things to do in Jaisalmer

Visit the Jaisalmer Fort

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Dominating the skyline is the awesome yellow sandstone Jaisalmer Fort.

This magnificent fort is one of the largest fully preserved fortified cities in the world. It is situated above the city of Jaisalmer and is a World Heritage Site. The name is derived from the Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal that built the fort in 1156 AD. It is unreal that such an old structure is still home to people.

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The city of Jaisalmer with the fort in the background.

Explore Kuldhara the Ghost Town

Kuldhara is an abandoned village located about 18km outside Jaisalmer. In the 13th century it was once a prosperous village inhabited by Paliwal Brahmins.  It was abandoned by the early 19th century for unknown reasons. There are various stories as to why an entire town was abandoned overnight not be inhabited ever  again. A popular legend is that Salim Singh, the minister of Jaisalmer, fell in love with a beautiful girl from the village and wanted to marry her, threatening the locals if this was denied. The girl’s father was the chief of the village. He abandoned the town and all the inhabitants followed him. The local legend claims that the Paliwals set a curse while deserting the village that no one would be able to re-occupy the village.

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The ruins of the ghost town Kuldhara, located outside Jaisalmer.

Another possibility is that most of the wells in the village had dried up and people left because there was no water left.

 

Gradually Kulkhara aquired a reputation as a haunted site, and the Government of Rajasthan  develop it as a tourist spot.

Walk around the Gadisar Lake

Gadisar lake is a man-made water reservoir and was once the only source of water in Jaisalmer. It was constructed by the first ruler of Jaisalmer, Raja Rawal Jaisal. The lake is located about a km from the fort and is popular picnic place.

travel rajasthan Gadisar Lake, Jaisalmer
Gadisar Lake, Jaisalmer

The sunset at the lake is beautiful. There are thousands of Cat fish in the lake. Locals call them Rajistan fishes because they have a mustache like most Rajistan men. In the shallows there are so many of these  fish the y crawl out of the water!

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These catfish are called ‘Rajistan fish’, locals say they have mustache like local men.

Experience the Desert

Sleeping in the desert under a full moon, seeing the sun rise over the dunes with a cup of chai and chilling next to my camel after a long day in the hot sun was fantastic. We are not big fans of organised tours, but this camel safari in the Thar desert was awesome.

camel safari travel rajasthan
Riding on a camel through the Thar desert.

The food was awesome. We had some amazing opportunities for taking photos. Be careful, sitting on a camel is far from the ground, I was bouncing around like a sack of potatoes. I have heard some scary stories of travelers getting badly injured falling off. The camel safaris are not cheap, expect to pay between $50-$120 depending on your package.

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Taking a break with my new friend, he has been doing all the work!

Holy Festival

I was very lucky to be in Jaisalmer for ‘Holy‘, the festival of colors. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter and the biggest color fight in the world. Loud music, paint of all colors, people from all countries and ages dancing and singing. The image of this huge ancient ford covered in a massive multi colored cloud is one of my most treasured travel memories!

travel rajasthan Holy Festival, the biggest color fight in the world!
Holy Festival, the biggest color fight in the world!

Accommodation

I stayed in the Mystic Jaisalmer, a great hostel. They sent a porter to come and pick me up at the bus station, even though I stayed in a dorm bed.

JAIPUR

Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan state, the city is also known as ‘the pink city’. The city got this title because all the buildings in the city was painted pink in the year 1876. This year the prince of the Wales and queen Victoria, came to visit the city. The king of Jaipur Maharaja Ram Singh  painted the whole city in pink color to welcome them. This was my last destination in Rajastan. I stayed  with a friend for a night or two.

To do in Jaipur

The Jaipur City Palace and Hawa Mahal are two of the city’s most iconic buildings and  probably the most famous pinkish buildings in the city. Dont miss the Nahargarh Fort on the edge of the Aravalli Hill. The Jantar Mantar has the largest sundial of the world and is something interesting to see.

Food in Rajasthan

India is a foodie’s paradise! Each of the colorful cities of Rajasthan state  is known for some spectacular dishes. In this arid province dried lentils, beans, buttermilk and oil is used in many dishes, red chillies help preserve the food.

Eat in Udaipur

Udiapur is well known for it’s excellent street food. Kachori is a deep-fried, crispy snack usually stuffed with dal (pulses) and spices, and served with chutney. Can also be stuffed with pea and potato.

Eat in Jodhpur

Mirchi bada  is a spicy snack with potato and chilli stuffing, served hot with tomato sauce or  with mint and tamarind chutney, buy at Chaudhary Namkeen!

Eat in Jaisalmer

Don’t miss the Dal baati in the Thar desert! It is an Indian dish comprising dal (lentils) and baati (hard wheat rolls).

Laal Maans was a favorite! It is spicy mutton gravy, cooked in yogurt and red chilly paste. It can be very spicy and is eaten with roti.

Eat in Jaipur

Laal Maas A spicy mutton curry you have to try!

Traveling around India I lived on Dahl fried and Mashala Dosa. Dahl is a thick lentil soup/paste eaten with chapati/roti (Indian flatbread baked in a pan when you order).  Mashala Dosa is fermented rice batter pancake served with chutney, chilli and Dahl. Both dishes are very tasty and very cheap.

Transport in India

Traveling by train in India is a must. Other travelers told me to book AC class 3 tickets online in advance. Many long boring stories, but this did not work out very well for me. I traveled mostly in sleeper class (the cheap way) and I bought Tat Cal tickets on the day of departure. You can read all about train travel ticket in our India Train Travel Guide.

Some times the train did not work out and I traveled by bus. Tickets can be bought at most hotels/travel agents. The bus is sometimes faster than the train, you also have AC non-AC options. The AC bus was very nice, I had a big sleeper booth just for me with curtains. The no AC bus was not bad, but sometimes bit hot and smelly. Just set an alarm about an hour before estimated arrival, you can miss your stop!

Taking a normal local daytime bus was also a crazy experience. These buses are very full and squeezing into a seat with my backpack was an interesting struggle and long, uncomfortable, slow ride. Just by a ticket at a local bus station.

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Looking down at my down stairs neighbor on a sleeper bus. Starting to travel Rajasthan.

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Holy Festival, enjoyed by people of all ages!
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Not my favorite way of transport, but a great experience.

Good local food was prepared by our guides on the fire. The camels looked very tired just lying around in the sand at our camp site. Sleeping out side the night sky was truly spectacular.

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Experiencing the desert when travel Rajasthan. The food was simple but excellent!
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Our camels waiting for us to head into the desert.

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