Historical Places in Rajasthan – A 2-Week Itinerary
Are you thinking about a trip to India? With 29 states to choose from, where should you start? There’s only one place in our opinion and that’s Rajasthan, the Land of the Kings. A state which epitomises bygone regal charm mixed with gritty real life. As its name suggests, there are many fabulous historical places in Rajasthan to visit and we want to show you how to make the most of a 2-week stay.
Follow our 2-week itinerary to take a Rajasthan road trip which will lead you to experience many of the unforgettable places to visit in Rajasthan. Your journey will finish in Agra in Uttar Pradesh because no first visit to northern India is complete without a glimpse of the Taj Mahal!
Our article shares the 2-week itinerary we used for our Rajasthan tour. It gives you the route to explore royal Rajasthan on wheels from city to city, starting and ending in Delhi. For inspiration, we’ve also included detailed information about all the Rajasthan points of interest we saw in each city and on the road. This is an ultimate guide to the best places to visit in Rajasthan.
But first, India. The seventh-largest country by area and the second-most populous country on the planet. There is nowhere like India. It is a country of contrasts with landscape which ranges from deserts to cities, from mountains to beaches.In fact, India can polarize people’s opinions even before they decide to travel here. It’s like Marmite. You either love it or you hate it and for many, India is an acronym for I’ll Never Do It Again.Would we visit again? Without hesitation, yes! India is unique: the colours, the smells, the noise, the dust, the dirt, the livestock and the spirituality.
You cannot be indifferent to India. It tugs at your senses and overwhelms you with its raw energy. India is chaos, it’s vibrant and it makes you feel alive. It’s one of those places that will stay with you long after you’ve returned home.
- Historical Places in Rajasthan – A 2-Week Itinerary
- Which Historical Places in Rajasthan will I visit?
- How to Visit the Historical Places in Rajasthan
- Day 1 – Mandawa
- Day 2 – Bikaner
- Day 3 & 4 – Jaisalmer
- Day 5 – Jodhpur
- Day 6 & 7 – Udaipur
- Day 8 – Pushkar
- Day 9 & 10 – Jaipur
- Day 11 – Ranthambhore National Park
- Day 12 – Agra
- Day 13 – Delhi
Which Historical Places in Rajasthan will I visit?
By following our itinerary, you will visit 10 historical places in Rajasthan:
Mandawa – Bikaner – Jaisalmer – Jodhpur – Udaipur – Pushkar – Jaipur – Ranthambhore – Agra – Delhi
Aiming to get Off the Tourist Treadmill, we challenged ourselves to experience more than India’s Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Certainly, you can’t escape that many of cities have become well-known tourist places in Rajasthan. However, our driver was our local guide and introduced us to some hidden gems during our Rajasthan travels.
To some, this list of cities may look ambitious and, of course, you can build in 2-night stays to enjoy any of these Rajasthan destinations for longer. All we know is that this 2-week itinerary worked for us. We were utterly immersed in the history of Rajasthan and its culture and we returned home with lasting memories from profound experiences and encounters.
Check out our route of some of the best places in Rajasthan on the map below. India is a vast country, so driving between cities does take time. Fortunately, this presents an ideal opportunity to soak up the rugged landscape and Rajasthan beauty. Alternatively, you could travel around this state by train but book ahead if you want first class seats.
How to Visit the Historical Places in Rajasthan
To travel to India, we flew with Kuwait Airways from London Heathrow to Delhi with a stopover in Kuwait City. Not only was this the most economical option, it also enabled us to get an exit visa and visit Kuwait City on the way home. We never shy away from a new adventure! Click here for cheap flights and hotels in India.
To accomplish this 2-week Rajasthan itinerary, we decided to hire a car with a driver from a local company in Delhi. Our decision was based on the distance we wanted to cover in Rajasthan, plus the benefit of having a local as an experienced guide and fixer for our entire journey who could tell us about Rajasthan. The company we chose was extremely helpful and advised us about our itinerary via email. We ended up with a tailor-made experience for our Rajasthan trip.
At the time of our trip there was a money crisis in India. The Indian government suddenly withdrew all 500 and 1000-Rupee bank notes to crack down on the Black Market. Indian Rupees cannot be bought in advance of travelling to India and travellers must always change money on arrival. However, the government’s actions led to severe shortages of bank notes across the country. Queues at ATMs and other money changing facilities became a common sight on our travels around Rajasthan.
So, on arrival at Delhi airport, we had no choice but to join the queue and wait hours to exchange money at the Bureau de Change. Regardless of our concerns, the owner of the company, driver and Suzuki Swift were patiently waiting for us outside the airport! And despite the delay, we were still greeted with genuine smiles and beautiful marigold garlands.
Day 1 – Mandawa
Our first stop was Mandawa, a lesser-known town in the north of Rajasthan in the Shekhawati region. It probably wouldn’t feature on a typical Rajasthan tourist map, but we came here to explore traditional ‘havelis’.
What is a Haveli?
During the 17th to 19th centuries, wealthy merchants built grand ‘havelis’ in this region which are traditional town houses or mansions. In addition to being homes, havelis were also displays of wealth and were richly decorated both inside and out with painted murals.
To experience the havelis in Mandawa, we opted for a walking tour with a guide. Many are being restored as they are falling into decay. Even so, the fading beauty of these havelis is intriguing. Painted murals depict English and Indian culture and are reminiscent of Italian frescoes. The design of these havelis is as well-thought out as the decorative facades. Most had inner courtyards for women and outer ones for men to prevent women from being snatched by the local Maharaja!
Fittingly, our home for the night was the Hotel Shekhawati ($15 per night – approximately £12). This was an ancient haveli covered in faded painted murals which now offers basic but clean and welcoming accommodation. Click here to book cheap hotels in India.
In the early hours of the morning, we were awoken by unfamiliar chanting. First the call to Muslim prayer, then the call to Hindu prayer. Sweet Masala Chai (tea) on the roof is the only solution at this hour of the morning!
Mandawa has an approximate Hindu population of 15,000 and a Muslim population of 10,000. Both communities live respectfully side by side. Quickly, you realise the deep spirituality and tolerance of this country. The dolorous-sounding early morning chants are broadcast by loudspeakers across towns and cities. They soon become a familiar sound and constant companion on your journey around Rajasthan.
Day 2 – Bikaner
The drive to Bikaner was hair-raising at times. Roads in India are like nothing we’ve ever experienced before: roads like rivers, non-existent roads, roads under construction or even roads through construction sites! Regardless of what lay in its path, the Suzuki Swift followed the route!
Bikaner itself is a city situated in the Thar desert. It’s a hectic place full of blaring horns, cars, buses, trucks, tuk-tuks, people and animals jostling for a place on the roads. Off the main street is a bustling labyrinth of bazaars selling anything and everything. Bikaner also boasts a famous Rajasthan fort, Junagarh Fort.
What to experience in Bikaner?
Visiting Junagarh Fort was our first experience of the impressiveness of Rajasthani defensive structures. This red sandstone fort was built for the Royal Family of Bikaner and remained almost unconquered during its history despite not being built on a hilltop. The fort has stunning palaces, courtyards, pavilions and balconies. Its walls are adorned with carved stone, marble, mirrors, paintings and inlaid precious stones.
Laxmi Niwas Palace
In Bikaner, we stayed at the Hotel Sagar ($51 – approximately £40) which was located near to the Laxmi Niwas Palace (now a luxury hotel). A short walk along the road from our hotel, we found the red sandstone palace which used to be the residential palace of the King of the former Bikaner state. Visitors are welcome to stroll around the interior.
Karni Mata Temple (Rat Temple), Deshnoke
If you want a truly unique experience, 30km outside of Bikaner at Deshnoke is the Karni Mata Temple also known as the Rat Temple. This is an extraordinary temple crawling with thousands of sacred rats. It may not be high on your Rajasthan temple list, but it’s a fascinating sight to behold.
This Hindu temple is dedicated to Karni Mata who was believed to be an incarnation of the Hindu warrior Goddess, Durga. Locals worshipping at the temple believe that the rats are kaabe, reincarnations of Karni Mata’s devotees. The rats are fed by descendants of the Depavats family. Worshippers and visitors mingle together in this unusual place.
No shoes are allowed in the temple, so take a spare pair of socks to wear if you are visiting. If a rat runs over your feet or if you see an albino rat, it is considered lucky. However, tread carefully because according to temple law, any rat accidentally killed must be replaced by a rat made of gold or silver!
Day 3 & 4 – Jaisalmer
The journey by car from Bikaner to Jaisalmer is 6 hours. As is customary it seems in this part of India, roads were unfinished, and the route was unremarkable. The outskirts of Jaisalmer are dominated by hundreds of make-shift tents alongside military bases as this city is relatively close to the Pakistani border.
Situated in the Thar desert, Jaisalmer is a World Heritage Site and is also known as ‘The Golden City’. The city has risen from a ridge of yellow sandstone and it is crowned by Jaisalmer Fort which looks uncannily like an impressive sandcastle. Within the confines of the fort’s walls are many palaces, residential dwellings and impressive Jain temples. Jaisalmer was one of our favourite places in Rajasthan.
What to experience in Jaisalmer?
Camel Ride in Thar Desert
On our first evening in Jaisalmer, our driver arranged a sunset camel ride in the Thar Desert. Don’t have visions of being in the Thar Desert on your own. This is a serious commercial operation for Rajasthan tourism. Nevertheless, we had a majestic ride into the desert and our camel guide soon left the train and found us a quiet spot to watch the sunset alone. My camel, Michael Jackson, had a rest while we enjoyed a cold beer (delivered by a runner!) and nature at her finest.
Gadsisar Lake & Tilon-Ki-Pol (Gate of Tilon)
Early in the morning, we visited the incredibly scenic Gadsisar lake. This is an artificial lake made by the Maharaja around 1400 AD. The vast reservoir was built to trap rainwater in this desert area and supply the arid desert city of Jaisalmer.
Access to the lake is through the Tilon-Ki-Pol (gate of Tilon) which was built by a rich royal courtesan, Tilon. Originally, the King refused permission for her to build the gate. He felt it would be beneath his dignity to pass under the gate to reach the lake. Defiantly, she still built the gate with a temple on top to avoid it being demolished. Apparently, today’s Royal Family still refuse to go through Tilon-Ki-Pol.
On this occasion, our driver arranged a guide for us to explore this labyrinthine sandstone structure. Incredibly, the fort is constructed by blocks of sandstone with no cement. There is only one way in and one way out of Jaisalmer Fort and to enter you pass through four gates. Intricate carvings adorn many of the buildings inside. Many of the 4,000 residents of the fort are direct descendants of the city’s former warriors and priests. There is no escaping the history of this place, it’s steeped in the past.
Make sure you don’t miss out on visiting Chandraprabhu, the first Jain temple built in 1509. This stunning temple is the first of seven temples built within Jaisalmer fort in the 15th and 16th centuries. The temple’s intricate carvings, corridors and ceilings are a sight to behold as are the statues of the 24 Jain prophets. These are housed in individual recesses around the temple.
Nathmal-Ji-Ki Haveli was built for the former Prime Minister. The exterior has intricate carvings and both sides are almost identical, with some exceptions thanks to the competitiveness of the two architect brothers who designed this haveli. Entrance is free, but you will be expected to browse the traditional trinkets on sale in several of the rooms.
Bada Bagh (Big Garden)
At the end of the day, we headed to the outskirts of the city to the Royal Cenotaphs or chhatris of the Maharajas of Jaisalmer state. Bada Bagh is set on a hill and was once a garden complex. You can clamber over the hills and sit amongst these domed structures which made for some great sunset photographs.
Our home for two nights in Jaisalmer was the Pleasant Haveli ($37 – approximately £29) which had a rooftop restaurant with a magnificent view of Jaisalmer Fort.
Day 5 – Jodhpur
Jodhpur is the second largest city in the state of Rajasthan and is situated roughly in the middle of this region. This city is also known as ‘the blue city’ because the cube-shaped houses are painted blue. There are many theories about the reasons for the blue colour. Some say it is to keep the houses cool, others believe that it was an order from the founder of the city, Roa Jodha, to show which homes belonged to families of the priestly Brahmins caste.
Another theory is that copper sulphate was added to whitewash to keep termites at bay, whilst others maintain the blue is from indigo dye. To this day, the reason appears to remain mysterious. Jodhpur is certainly one of the intriguing places to see in Rajasthan.
What to experience in Jodhpur?
Dominating the skyline and looking down on the old city of Jodhpur is an impressive stronghold – the mighty Mehrangarh Fort. Constructed by Roa Jodha in 1460, this is one of the largest forts in India spreading across 5 km and is possibly the best fort in Rajasthan. Majestically, the fort’s structure appears to merge completely with the 125 m hill on which it is built above Jodhpur. In some places, the fort’s impenetrable walls are 36 m high.
A winding road leads up to the fort and you enter through 7 gates built by different rulers to mark battle victories. The museum in Mehrangarh Fort is full of Rajasthani treasures including old royal palanquins, elephant howdahs, intricately decorated armoury and paintings.
Not far from Mehrangarh Fort is Jaswant Thada, the serene memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II built in 1899. The cenotaph rests by a small lake and is set in tranquil, lush green gardens. Jaswant Thada is a beautiful example of Rajasthani architecture and is completely constructed of milky-white marble. In places, the marble has been so highly polished and finely carved that its translucent.
This mausoleum offers fantastic views across the fort and city. Of all the monuments of Rajasthan, this place offers a quiet oasis in contrast to the bustling city of Jodhpur.
As dusk settled, we strolled around the maze of tiny backstreets of Jodhpur and explored the night market. We stayed in the Hare Krishna Guesthouse in Jodhpur (£10). This simple hotel was situated right under the Mehrangarh Fort and had a great view from the roof top terrace. It was also very close to the clock tower and market.
Day 6 & 7 – Udaipur
The drive to Udaipur offered a very different landscape. The route became increasingly green with arable land. High in the hills, our driver took us to the incredible Ranakpur Jain temple built in the sides of a valley in the Aravalli mountain range. You will be asked to remove your shoes and any leather goods (including belts) before entering the temple to observe religious beliefs.
Ranakpur Jain Temple
The Ranakpur Jain temple remains an important pilgrimage site for followers of Jainism. Built entirely of marble from 1437, the temple is an architectural marvel. Over 1,444 exquisitely carved pillars support the temple. None of the pillars are the same. Symbolism runs deep in this temple. Its 4-sided structure represents Tirthankara’s conquest of the 4 cardinal points and, therefore, the cosmos. Furthermore, all the statues within the temple face at least one other.
As soon as you enter this temple, you feel at peace and in the presence of a higher order. In fact, the temple has been described as a ‘heavenly plane’ and ‘heaven on earth’. It’s easy to see why. This temple has been designed with beautiful open spaces. These openings allow nature to be at one with the temple by framing views of the lush green valley and allowing visitors to admire the Rajasthani scenery.
United with the magnificent marble structures, the temple transmits an ethereal feel. Any list of Rajasthan beautiful places must include Ranakpur.
What to experience in Udaipur?
Saheliyon-ki-Bari (Courtyard or Garden of the Maidens), Udaipur
Our first experience of Udaipur tourist places was the pretty gardens of Saheliyon-ki-Bari. The gardens are set on the Fateh Sagar Lake and contain beautiful elephant fountains and lotus pools. The gardens were built from 1710 as a green retreat for the Queen and her maids and female companions.
Udaipur City (the City of Lakes)
Udaipur is known as the ‘City of Lakes’ because it has 5 main lakes: Lake Pichola, Fateh Sagar Lake, Udai Sagar Lake, Rajsamand Lake and Jaisamand Lake. It’s hardly surprising that Udaipur has been described as ‘the Venice of the East’ and ‘the most romantic spot in India’. Udaipur is an overwhelmingly beautiful city and ranks among Rajasthan famous places to visit.
For 2-nights we stayed in the Shaharkot By The Lake Hotel ($32 – approximately £25) which was perched on Lake Pichola underneath the City Palace walls. Lake Pichola is an artificial freshwater lake constructed in 1362 and is the oldest lake in Udaipur. Our hotel had an amazing view of Jag Mandir (the Lake Garden Palace) and the Taj Lake Palace (formerly known as Jag Niwas) which appear to magically float on the water. The latter is now a luxury hotel.
City Palace, Udaipur
There are many historical places in Udaipur. City Palace is a a magnificent example of a Rajasthan palace. It’s a sprawling palace complex built over the course of 400 years on the East of Lake Pichola. The palace complex is entirely built of granite and marble and has an amazing façade which is 244 m in length and 30.4 m high. The palaces are connected by chowks or courtyards with zig-zag corridors to avoid surprise attacks. The Mor Chowk or Peacock Courtyard was a favourite of ours. The interior of the palace is stunning as are the artefacts inside, including a decadent display of crystal furniture.
Jag Mandir, Udaipur
Once you’ve visited the City Palace, head towards the lake. From here you can take a boat tour around Lake Pichola which ends at Jag Mandir. Boat trips depart hourly from Rameshwar Ghat within the City Palace complex. A return trip costs around 700 Rupees (approximately £8).
Jag Mandir is a palace built on a natural island in Lake Pichola. It was constructed in 1551 as a summer resort and pleasure island for the Royal Family. Today it is a small hotel which is open to visitors. The entry pavilion next to the landing jetty is lined with enormous elephants carved in stone. Even today, the present Maharana hosts parties here and Jag Mandir can also be rented for private parties.
Alternatively, you can just admire the grounds and flower garden, visit the spa or enjoy the view from the restaurant/bar. Click here to read our full guide of the best places to visit in Udaipur.
Day 8 – Pushkar
Eklingji Temple, Eklingji (Kailashpuri). En route to Pushkar
About 22 km outside of Udaipur is the ancient Hindu temple of Eklingji dedicated to Lord Shiva and built in 734 AD. This temple is definitely Off the Tourist Treadmill. Rather than follow hordes of tourists, we joined lines of local worshippers and pilgrims to this peaceful place. You must remove your socks and shoes before entering the temple, plus photographs inside are prohibited. Lockers are provided to store your possessions.
When you are ready, women and men line up separately to enter the temple past locals making marigold garlands as offerings.In the middle of this temple is a 4-faced idol of Eklingji made of black marble. The statue is 50 ft high and its 4-faces depict four forms of Lord Shiva.
What to experience in Pushkar?
Pushkar is a deeply spiritual and mystical town which is sometimes called tirtha-raj, which means the King of pilgrim sites. The town is set around a sacred lake with 52 bathing ghats. Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes were sprinkled at the Gandi Ghat. The lake is said to have appeared when Brahma dropped lotus petals on the ground. As a result, it is a Hindu pilgrimage town which devout Hindus should visit at least once in their lifetime to bathe in the holy water. No public displays of affection are supposed to be shown here.
Without doubt, this small town is atmospheric and authentic. There are over 400 blue-coloured temples on the banks of the lake. Spontaneously, throughout the day and night, Pushkar comes alive with processions of people chanting and drumming through the streets. By trekking to the top of a hill, you can reach the Saraswati temple and enjoy the panoramic view of the Pushkar Lake. Pushkar’s main street is a long treasure-trove of bazaars, so don’t miss out on shopping and street food.
We stayed at the Hotel Everest ($7 – approximately £6) which was minutes away by foot from Pushkar Lake and the market. It also had an amazing rooftop terrace from which we could watch the local children flying their kites in preparation for Pushkar’s Kite Festival in January.
Day 9 & 10 – Jaipur
Jaipur (or the Pink City) is the capital of Rajasthan and the largest city of the state. There are many places to visit in Jaipur because the city forms part of India’s Golden Triangle and has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Jantar Mantar and the Amber Fort. Other Jaipur attractions include the Hawa Mahal and Jaipur City Palace.
What to experience in Jaipur?
Hawa Mahal, Jaipur
Jaipur’s Hawa Mahal is a red and pink sandstone building which is also know as the ‘Palace of Winds’ or ‘Palace of the Breeze’. The Hawa Mahal is a palace built in 1799 for the royal ladies to watch everyday life and festivals being celebrated on the street without being seen. The extraordinary 5-storey façade looks like a honeycomb and has 953 windows called jharokhas decorated with detailed latticework. These windows were designed to let the wind pass through in the height of the summer.
Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
Other Jaipur points of interest include the Jantar Mantar which is an astronomical observatory built in 1726. They are enormous stone structures which were used to measure the distances and positions of celestial objects with the naked eye. Jaipur’s observatory has 19 instruments. The most significant is the Samrat Yantra which is the largest sundial in India.
Jaipur City Palace
The City Palace or Jaipur Palace is another of the places to see in Jaipur. It is a palace complex built in 1729 and was the seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur. The greatest part of the palace is still a royal residence, but the commanding 7-storied Chandra Mahal palace is a museum.
Amber Fort, Amer
Places to visit near Jaipur include the Amber Fort in Amer. On our second day, we headed off to this imposing fort which is set high above the city with a wall which can be seen for miles. Elephants take tourists up and down the hill to the fort but animal welfare groups are concerned about the well-being of these animals. Construction of this red sandstone and marble palace started in the 1600s. It is an opulent palace which has four storeys, each with a courtyard:
- – 1. Diwan-i-Aam (‘Hall of Public Audience’)
- – 2. Diwan-i-Khas, (‘Hall of Private Audience’)
- – 3. Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), or Jai Mandir
- – 4. Sukh Niwas (where a cool climate is artificially created by winds blowing over a fountain within the palace)
Despite the crowds at the Amber Fort, it offers some beautiful sights and it is fun exploring the labyrinth of corridors and stairs which link parts of the palace complex. If you want to visit historical places in Jaipur, make sure you plan a visit here. No Jaipur trip can be complete without a visit to this Rajasthan tourist spot.
Walking Tour of Jaipur
After visiting Amber Fort, our driver dropped us back in the old part of the city. To get a feel for local life, traditions and customs in Jaipur, we followed one of the Lonely Planet’s walking tours at lonelyplanet. We found the city easy to navigate and if you get lost, just ask a local! Jaipur sightseeing on foot was a great way to soak up the sights and sounds of the various bazaars which circle the old city.
LMB Hotel, Jaipur
When we were hungry, we decided to check out the LMB Hotel (Laxmi Misthan Bandar). This is a popular vegetarian restaurant in the old city which was established in 1954. While you wait for a table, relish the sweet treats on display in the extensive sweet counter.During our time in Jaipur, we stayed at the Crimson Park, The Heritage Jalmahal ($53 – approximately £42). The hotel was quite ostentatious but in a good location for visiting the city. Just 100 yards along the road, you will find the Jal Mahal (Water Palace) in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake.
Day 11 – Ranthambhore National Park
If you want a chance of seeing tigers in their natural habitat, it is worth making the long drive from Jaipur to Ranthambhore National Park. Although numbers of tigers have declined here owing to poaching, Ranthambhore is reputed to be one of the best national parks in the country for spotting tigers. When you visit Rajasthan, you may want to take this opportunity for a chance to see them.
If you book a safari, you have the option of a 20-seater or 6-seater open top vehicle. The tours operate in the morning starting at about 6.30 am or the evening from about 2.30 pm. Our choice was an evening tour in a 6-seater vehicle. We booked through a private company online. Having read many subsequent forum posts, booking with the official government website or through the hotel might have been cheaper and a better experience.
Ranthambhore National Park is divided into zones and vehicles head into one of the zones. The roads in Ranthambhore are rocky so it is a bumpy ride! Take a scarf to cover your mouth and nose as it gets dusty with so many jeeps on the roads. Disappointingly, we saw no tigers and very little other wildlife in the park. Just 2 deer and partridges! However, other guests returning to the hotel from morning trips had seen tigers.
Whilst we still dream of seeing tigers in the wild, this was a memorable experience.Our choice of hotel was the Nahargarh Ranthambhore ($208 – approximately £163) because of its proximity to the National Park (750 yards). This is a stunning hotel surrounded by a 16th century fortress. It resembles an old palace complex and has 3 fabulous outdoor pools. Our only regret was not staying here for two nights to relax after so many days on the road.
Day 12 – Agra
Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh
En route to Agra, we visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fatehpur Sikri. This red sandstone palace sits on a rocky ridge which is 3 km in length and 1 km wide. Surrounding the palace is 6 km walls on 3 sides with the fourth bordered by a lake. It was built in the 16th century and within the complex is an ancient mosque.
In contrast to the historical places in Rajasthan, Fatehpur Sikri in Uttar Pradesh was extremely touristy. Be prepared to say no to a lot of sellers, including young children.
What to experience in Agra?
Taj Mahal, Agra
Of course, no visit to northern India would be complete without visiting another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Taj Mahal. This spectacular marble mausoleum was completed in 1648 in memory of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.Despite the crowds and scaffolding during our visit, the Taj Mahal has an undeniable serene and poignant beauty.
It’s easy to see why poet, Rabindranath Tagore, described this masterpiece as ‘one tear drop … glisten[ing], spotlessly bright on the cheek of time, forever and ever’. Be aware that as foreign tourists pay more to enter the Taj Mahal, you can enter Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb without queueing.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Agra is Agra Fort which was built in 1573. Standing in the shadows of the Taj Mahal, this enormous oval-shaped fort served as the main residence of the Emperors of the Mughal dynasty until 1638. At this point, the capital was moved from Agra to Delhi.
Agra Fort’s double walls tower 20 m above the Yamuna River and measure 2.5 km in circumference. The fort was built in red sandstone brought from Rajasthan but some of the structures were later rebuilt in white marble by Shah Jahan. Originally, it was built for military purposes, but Shah Jahan transformed Agra Fort into a palace. Fatefully, Agra Fort later became his prison.
The Tomb of I’timad-Ud-Daulah (Baby Taj)
Above all, make sure you don’t miss out on visiting the exquisite Baby Taj when you are in Agra. This tomb was completed in 1628 with white marble from Rajasthan. The Baby Taj is often referred to as the ‘jewel box’ and regarded as the inspiration for and first draft of the Taj Mahal. The intricate craftmanship of this mausoleum is something to behold. You can only stand and gaze at the walls in wonder.
Unlike the Taj Mahal, the interior and external marble walls are studded with semi-precious stone decorations in stunning mosaic patterns. In addition to being such a beautiful sight, the Baby Taj also seems to be a well-kept secret as we had the place almost to ourselves.
Whilst in Agra, we stayed at the Hotel Taj Resorts (£29) which was an easy walk to the entrance of the Taj Mahal.
Day 13 – Delhi
Our tour of the historic places in Rajasthan ended in Delhi for the flight home via Kuwait City.
The Land of the Kings certainly lived up to its name. The architectural magnitude and beauty of Rajasthan’s forts, palaces, temples and lakes are overwhelming and awe-inspiring. Instantly, the past is brought back to life. Visitors to this state are transported back to ancient times of bloodshed, bravery, romance and sacrifice. However, Rajasthan’s true treasure is not the opulent displays of wealth or the gold, silver and precious stones.
What stays with you is the people who live around these stunning historical places in Rajasthan, their culture, their deep beliefs, the chaos, the vibrancy and a feeling of being alive. It’s an adventure not to be missed! We certainly saw the best of Rajasthan on our epic road trip.