Rajasthan

Rajasthan is a province in north-west India that is often referred to as “The Land of Kings” due to its historic royal associations. It is the largest state in India, occupying an area of approximately 343,000 sq km, and its capital city is Jaipur.

Summertime temperatures can often reach 45oC, so it is advisable for people accustomed to cooler climates to visit Rajasthan during the winter months of October to March. This is also the best time to enjoy local festivals and traditional fairs.

The region is served by the Sanganer international airport in Jaipur, as well as several domestic airports. The major towns and cities are also linked by road and rail networks, making it easy to explore.

Not surprisingly, given its size, Rajasthan is very diverse. The Thar Desert is the seventh largest in the world, and has a rich animal and bird population, including a number of rare species that are not found anywhere else in the world, such as the Blackbuck and the Indian Buzzard, which live under the protection of the Desert National Park. The best way of exploring this region is by camel safari, following ancient trade trails and experiencing the simple lifestyle of the rural Rajasthan villages.

In contrast, there are areas of lush deciduous forest, grassy meadows, lakes and rivers, and the freshwater wetlands of the Bharatpur Sanctuary. The variety of the topography is matched only by the multiplicity of flora and fauna that flourishes in the state. Rajasthan is a haven for endangered species, with numerous wildlife reserves and sanctuaries. One of the largest of these is the Darrah Sanctuary, which was once the hunting ground of maharajas, and is now the home of tigers, leopards, sloths and chinkaras.  Numerous wildlife tours are available around the state, including jeep safaris and horse treks.

For those of a more cultural bent, Rajasthan positively bristles with temples, forts, palaces and monuments. The magnificent palaces are a reminder of the grandeur and splendour that epitomised the lifestyle of the maharajas, with beautiful gardens, breath-taking architecture and exquisite decorations. Today, many have been turned into hotels or museums, although the current royal family still lives in a wing of the City Palace in Jaipur.

Almost every major town had a fort to protect the Rajput rulers, and there are a number that merit a visit, notably the imposing Mehrangarth Fort in Jodhpur, which dates back to the 15th century.

Hinduism is the region’s predominant religion, and the ubiquitous temples and holy shrines are not only places of worship and pilgrimage, but meeting grounds for celebrating local festivals and traditions. It is difficult to pick out any one of these inspired works of architectural design in particular, but the 14th century Brahma Temple in Pushkar is unique in the whole world in being dedicated to the Creator, Lord Brahma.

Rajasthan is one of the most colourful, vibrant and diverse regions in India, and has something to appeal to almost everyone: beautiful architecture, culture, spectacular scenery, rare wildlife and – of course -  authentic Indian cuisine!