A Magical Land of Maharajas
A magical land of Maharajas, palaces, tigers and errr……walking! (seriously!)
“A walking holiday in Rajasthan is daft….its 40C there!!”… is a common refrain, one we would have subscribed to as well. Until we did the homework and recce’d this vast state in the north western corner of India. And what we saw there helped us put together a rather unique walking holiday.
Our tour begins in Delhi, India’s sprawling capital. The very comfortable rooms at the Le Meridien are perfect to rest for a bit and recover after the long-haul flight, before an afternoon visit to the Qutb Minar. Dating back to 1193AD, it is the world’s tallest brick minaret – an afternoon stroll around the Qutb complex is a great way to stretch one’s legs before dinner.
The next day sees us in Agra – home to the Taj Mahal and seat of the Mughal empire that once ruled over a quarter of the world’s population and contributed more than a quarter of the world’s GDP. There isn’t much that hasn’t been said about the Taj – and everyone should absolutely see it at least once in their lives. Fact: The Taj is taller than the Qutb Minar.
From Agra, we proceed to the Bharatpur wildlife sanctuary – one of the best birding locations in the world. The 3 hour morning walk through the sanctuary offers a fantastic opportunity to get up and close with the fauna, and Rana, our experienced naturalist, will ensure you don’t miss a thing. Next up is Ranthambore…..to see tigers (hopefully)! The two game drives we have scheduled do give us a pretty good chance, but no matter what…..exploring the jungle in a 4x4 is exciting!!! Sitting bundled up in the jeep, peering through the morning jungle mist, and then….catching that first flash of burnt gold is just unforgettable. You will be reliving that moment with your grandkids long after, we promise you.
The little hike through the Aravalli hills from Jaigarh fort to Amer fort immediately below on the outskirts of Jaipur is an easy introduction to Rajasthan’s military past – one that is interwoven liberally with science, religion and political drama. The esoteric stone instruments at the Jantar Mantar astronomical observatory are inscrutable to most, though our guide usually makes a valiant attempt – astronomy played an important role in people’s lives (and still does!) because of its close association with Hindu religious rituals.
The next day’s walk through the Rao Jodha Park in Jodhpur is a great, guided introduction to desert flora and fauna. This ends at the gates of Mehrangarh fort – probably the most awe-inspiring fort complex you have ever seen. Even the bravest medieval warrior would have been intimidated by the sight of the imposing battlements and sheer walls that soar up a hundred feet and more with nary the tiniest opening. Thankfully this bastion of the Marwari clan is open to visitors today and we will spend a good couple of hours ambling through. The late afternoon walk through the Thar desert is quite unique – hopefully you will remember the lessons from the morning walk…
The next couple of days will see us in Mount Abu – about as different from the typical images of Rajasthan as you can imagine. Mount Abu is green and verdant, nestled as it is among the highest parts of the Aravallis, and offers some superb hill walking, ably led by Charlie, our guide. The two walks planned here are completely different from the others in the trip, and are an interesting commentary on the diversity of this state. Our final stop is Udaipur – city of lakes and palaces inside a bowl of hills. The Udaipur palace was home to the Mewars and is probably one of the best preserved in India, while the winding narrow streets around offer a fascinating glimpse into a market where time seems to have stood still.
Come to think of it, we haven’t said anything about the food or a lot of other things, but words can only do so much….come and experience Rajasthan with HF and our experienced leader Pradeep.
p.s. it won’t be 40C when we are there. Temperatures in Feb and Oct are in the low to mid 20s and we recommend fleeces.