With a rough idea of what I wanted to see in Rajasthan I emailed off my itinerary to a couple of the companies recommended in TA and Sanjay India Tours, a company that my good friend in Brisbane had recently travelled with. The quotes were not too different but what impressed me was how prompt were Sanjay’s replies and how helpful he was at helping me customise my final itinerary to suit my interests and budget. On arrival in Delhi I was met by my driver and companion Ramesh. I was pleasantly surprised at his high standard of English and of course the way he smoothly navigated thru the chaotic delhi traffic to reach my hotel in Karol Bagh. He was fantastic driver and companion for the entire trip. Always waiting on time for me in the mornings with one of the cities experienxed guides. He always seemed to anticipate when I was getting tired or frazzled and would find the best cafes to rest Sanjay the owner had everything booked and planned, the hoteks were mainly havelis or heritage which added to the feeling of rajasthan history. The quality was good and at a good price (average $45). Sanjay spoke to me and the driver every day to make sure all was going well and was more than willing to make changes to the itinerary if there was a place that I had researched the night before and wanted to visit. I was so glad local guides are employed by Sanjay in every city as I learnt so much more having them on hand to explain things. His website is sanjayindiatours.com and email is firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a rough report on my tour.
Day 1: Arrival and overnight in Hotel Sunstar Grand in Karol Bagh. Loved the market here at night. The hotel location was good, close to market and metro station. The room was clean and nicely decorated. Especially love the large spa style baths. The service was friendly and the buffet style breakfasts were great, serving both European and indian food.
Day 2: Delhi sightseeing. Met early by driver and specialist delhi guide at hotel. Packed in a full day seeing Lodhi Gardens, Laxmi Narayan Temple, Red Fort, Humayun's Tomb, India Gate, Parliament House, Qutab Minar, Bahai Temple.
Day 3: Early morning drive to Jhunjunu. Arrived lunchtime at the Jamuna resort hotel. The traditional frescos throughout this hotel give a great atmosphere. Large garden areas with dining very relaxing. The food was varied and of high quality. The room had its own courtyard and was furnished in traditonal style and the walls painted with exotic scenes from 18th century. Adding to the atmosphere are the traditional musicians often playing in the courtyard
Spent full afternoon sightseeing. Nearby visited the Rani Sati Dadi Temple. Inside the temple, the interiors, adorned with exquisite murals and fascinating rich glass mosaics depicting the entire history of the place, are eye-catching. Next to admire was the intricate architecture of the Khetri Mahal or Wind Palace.
Day 4; Morning drive thru desert to Bikaner. Late afternoon visist to the camel and breeding farm. Spent nice evening relaxing at the hotel Sagar. I was very impressed with the design and decor of this hotel. I felt I had been transported back in the time of the maharajas. The rooms were also traditionally furnished and very clean, Dinner in the courtyard was quite romantic with indian live music.
Day 5: Full morning spent exploring the impressive Junagarh Fort with a local guide who made my head swim with his knowledge. The fort consists of an amazing network of havelis with courtyards and balconies, watch towers, armory, halls. The Jain temples were also well worth the visit. The intricate marble carvings and colourful frescos were breathtaking.
Felt unwell after lunch, so decided to spend relaxing afternoon in hotel..
Day 6: Early morming drive thru Thar desert to Jaiselmer. Long drive(6 Hrs) but Ramesh stopped at great roadside café to refresh for lunch. Late afternoon boat ride on the beautiful Gadisar lake. Stunning architecture of the chatris surrounding the lake and the holy temple built in the middle. Again a great hotel for 2 nights called Fifu after the owner. The traditional decor and stunning views of the fort created a very romantic atmosphere to our stay. The food and service at the roodtop restaurant were very good. Loved the traditional furnishings in the clean rooms. The service was much better than at more expensive hotels that i have stayed in in Inida. The location is great too, only 15 min walk to the fort.
Day 7:Set off with Jaiselmer guide to explore the famous fort next morning. Inside the fort is a mini city, with narrow cobblestoned lanes.shops and havelis. The palace museum was very interesting and the jain temples stunning. Then visited the Patwon ki haveli, situated right in the city, near the market. The outer walls of Haveli are carved with Intricate Rajasthani designs and carvings and the entire haveli shines as if carved in gold. The view is simply magnificient and takes your breath away. In the afternoon we visited the Bada Bagh, about 5km from the city, contains cenotaphs of the Jaisalmer royalty. It has peaceful and serene atmosphere. The architecture is stunning and seems to be popluar amongst locals for wedding photos.We Then drove to the Sam sand dunes, for a camel ride in. the sunset and viewing the vast expanse of the desert all around.
Day 8 : Left early morning for drive to Jodhpur. Met guide at the incredible Meherangarh Fort in the afternoon The Meherangarh is one of the best maintained forts in Rajasthan. It's got a great mix of wonderful architecture, great views of the city, well-kept palaces It even has an elevator which I really appreciated to get to top of fort. Spent evening at the Kuchaman Haveli, This is a renovated haveli in the old city of johdpur offers a traditional rajasthani experience with clean modern facilities. I loved the central dining courtyard with excellent indian and european food. the rooftop restuarant has stunning views of the fort. Our room was large with great traditional decor. The owner was very hospitable, I often saw him talking to the guests about their needs.
Day 9: Morning drive to Jaipur (about 5 hrs). Checked in to the Khandela Haveli, The furnishings were exotic and I loved the big courtyard complete with marigolds. The restaurant served great indian and european meals. The rooftop swimming pool was a great way to refresh from the heat of the day. Our room was large and furnished like a little palace, felt like a queen...
With our city guide we spent afternoon visiting the city palace and the wind palace in this beautiful “pink city”. In the evening we had a traditonal Rajasthani dinner at Chowkki Dhanni.
Day 10: In the morning we visited the magnificent Amer Fort. It is like something out of a fairy tale, Amer Fort is set on a hill top overlooking Maota Lake.We took an elephant ride to get to the top from the car park. It was the original home of Rajput royalty until Jaipur city was constructed, and contains a number of breathtaking palaces, halls, gardens, and temples. Inside, the elaborate mirror work is stunning. After lunch we visited the monkey temple. I love monkeys, so I thoroughly enjoyed this place. However, even without the monkeys, the walk up the hill and back down again to the Galtaji Temple was well worth a visit. You get outstanding views of Jaipur, Before going back to our hotel we toured the ancient observatory Jantar Mantar.
Day 11: Return to Delhi.
Thanks again Ramesh and Sanjay for such a good trip.