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Top 10 Places to Visit in Rajasthan for First-timers

By CarolUpdated Apr. 22, 2021

Rajasthan is one of the most visited states in India due to its incredible arid landscape, multitude of royal palaces and forts, and unique desert culture. Here you can explore forts that have been carved directly from stone or those that contain entire cities.

You can also dive deeper into the local culture by learning to cook their cuisine, spending time in street markets, or exploring the vastness of the Thar Desert.

In this article, we will explain the top 10 places to travel to in Rajasthan as well as the incredible things to experience and do while you are visiting it for the first time.

1. Jaipur—The Pink City

Sunset views of Hawa Mahal palace Sunset views of Hawa Mahal palace

Jaipur is probably the most visited city in Rajasthan as it is part of the Golden Triangle travel route that includes the cities of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. Jaipur is often called the "Pink City" because the majority of its buildings are painted light dusty pink.

If you can only see one city in Rajasthan, then Jaipur is your best bet. Jaipur is easy to reach and contains all the incredible culture and heritage that Rajasthan is famous for.

Top Things to Do in Jaipur

Recognize spices in a cooking class Recognize spices in a cooking class

You could find lots of things to do no matter how many times you've been there.

For the first-time visit, you'll enjoy yourselves in exploring the decadent City Palace, walking through the Amber Fort, learning about ancient astronomy at Jantar Mantar, and spending time with elephants at the ethical Elephantasic Elephant Sanctuary.

For a return trip, you might be more interested in taking a cooking class. Rajasthani cuisine is unique in India as it was highly influenced by the surrounding desert and lack of fresh ingredients. Head to the home of a local chef to learn more about how to make these regional Indian dishes.

In Jaipur, you can also stay in a heritage hotel to get first-hand experience with what it was like to be a maharaja (local king). We love the Samode and Chomu Palaces for their comfort and luxurious style.

Jaipur is full of historic markets and if you want to learn more about the life of locals, then there is nothing better than exploring local bazaars in search of crafts, textiles, and jewelry. Johari Bazaar is the best jewelry market in the city and Bapu Bazaar is the best place to go to buy authentic camel-leather goods. Read more about How to Plan a Jaipur Itinerary 2024>>> and the best time to travel to Jaipur>>>

2. Jodhpur—The Blue City

Jodhpur A narrow alley among the old town's blue houses

Jodhpur is the second-largest city in Rajasthan and is often called the "Blue City" because many of the houses in the old walled town are painted blue. The houses were originally painted to signify that the people who lived there were Brahmins and belonged to the highest section of the caste system.

Today, the blue houses are a symbol of Jodhpuri identity for all people regardless of historic caste.

Top Things to Do in Jodhpur

Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur

One of the top things to do in Jodhpur is to explore the Mehrangarh Fort. Here, you can explore the ancient walls and this large stone structure, check out one of the daily cultural performances, or get a bird"s eye view of the Blue City at sunset.

The fort also includes the Chokelao Mahal Terrace Restaurant where travelers can eat traditional Rajasthani cuisine with the entire city of Jodhpur as the backdrop.

Like many other cities in Rajasthan, Jodhpur is full of decadent and luxurious palaces. The most incredible palace in this city is the Umaid Bhawan Palace. The royal family who built the castle still lives there today in one section of it. The other two sections are a museum and a luxury heritage hotel.

If you want to explore the local street life of the city, there's no better way than to check out the famous Clock Tower and walk through the many bazaars and markets that surround it.

People who are interested in exploring the local arid terrain can head to Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park which is a wildlife preserve meant to protect the area's natural desert plants and critters.

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3. Udaipur—City of Palaces

Sunset view of Lake Pichola Sunset view of Lake Pichola

Udaipur is a beautiful oasis city in the middle of the desert state of Rajasthan.

While many of the other cities are located in or near desert and are dusty and dry, Udaipur is full of gorgeous lakes that are lined with opulent fairytale-like palaces.

Top Things to Do in Udaipur

Meet locals in Udaipur Meet locals in Udaipur

Udaipur is the perfect place to go for people who want to relax with beautiful views. One of the top things to do in this city is to take a boat ride on Lake Pichola where you can see the City Palace complex from over the water or visit one of the floating temples at the lake"s center.

You can also explore the City Palace complex which is one of the top attractions in the city and contains many unique palaces, a museum, and a few luxury hotels.

If you are interested in photography, there is no spot more photogenic than the Ambrai Ghat at sunrise. The Ambrai Ghat is a set of stairs that lead down to Lake Pichola and offer some of the best views of the lake and surrounding palaces in the area.

For a panoramic view of the entire city, head to the Monsoon Palace which is located on a hilltop just outside the city. This palace got its name because the local Indian royals used to vacation there during the monsoons. This is a great place to visit at sunset.

The best way to explore the city and learn more about the local people is to take a heritage walking tour. The tour will lead you through streets where you will see goldsmiths, local temples, street food stalls, and people going about their day.

4. Jaisalmer—Gateway to the Thar Desert

camel safaris in Jaisalmer camel safaris in Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer is sometimes called the "Golden City" due to its location in the Thar Desert and the fact that many historic buildings in the city are made from yellow sandstone.

Jaisalmer is a smaller city in Rajasthan that is the perfect starting point to explore the rugged desert and learn more about ancient trade routes and the culture of desert tribes.

Top Things to Do in Jaisalmer

desert camping in Jaisalmer desert camping in Jaisalmer

When visiting Jaisalmer, you have to check out the Jaisalmer Fort which is one of the largest forts in the world and used to contain the entire city until it grew beyond the ancient walls.

Today, many people and families still live in traditional mansions or Havelis inside the fort. You can walk through the ancient streets and explore the Havelis or Jain Temples inside.

Jaisalmer is the gateway to the Thar Desert and one of the best things to do here is to take a camel safari. Camel safaris start in the city and take guests out into the surrounding desert for a sunrise or sunset tour.

It is also possible to take a longer tour and spend a night in the desert under the stars.

5. Ranthambhore National Park—Search for Wild Tigers

Tiger safari in Ranthambore Tiger safari in Ranthambore

Ranthambhore National Park is located in southwestern Rajasthan around 158 kilometers from Jaipur. The park is a wildlife preserve that contains around 60 Bengal tigers and many other unique Indian animals.

Ranthambhore is the biggest national park in northern India and is one of the best places in the world to go on a tiger safari.

Top Things to Do at Ranthambhore

Ranthambhore is an absolute treat for nature lovers and a great place to take a jeep safari through the jungle in search of wild tigers. The safari will be lead by one of the park"s naturalists who will explain the many unique animals and plants that you see along the way.

Besides tigers, the park also contains leopards, jungle cats, sloth bears, jackals, striped hyenas, desert foxes, and even crocodiles.

On your jeep safari, you will most likely pass by Ranthambhore Fort which was built in the year 944 and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its historical importance in the region.

Inside Ranthambhore Fort, you can explore the Jogi Mahal which was once where the royalty of Jaipur stayed when they took hunting excursions to the area. The banyan tree near the palace is the second-largest in the entire country.

While exploring the fort, also make sure to check out the Tinetra Ganesha Temple.

There are many options for interesting accommodation near Ranthambhore. One of our favorites is the Oberoi Vanyavilas Wildlife Resort where guests can stay in luxury tents that were inspired by caravans of royal hunters who used to frequent the reserve.

6. Bikaner—Ride a Camel into the Desert

Street corner of Bikaner Street corner of Bikaner

Bikaner is a smaller city located in the middle of the Thar Desert. This is a great place to visit for people who love Indian sweets or those who are interested in the culture of the desert people and their camels.

The city is known as the "camel country" because it has historically bred some of the best riding camels in the world.

Top Things to Do in Bikaner

Bikaner is one of the most popular places in Rajasthan to take a camel safari out into the Thar Desert and explore the dunes. Before taking a desert safari, travelers can also head to the city"s Camel Research Center to learn more about these incredible animals and their impact on the region.

One of the reasons that Bikaner is world-famous among travelers is that every year it hosts the photogenic international Camel Festival with draws visitors from all over the world. The festival often takes place in January and includes local art, dance, camel races, and camel performances.

While in Bikaner, also make sure to check out the Junagarh Fort which is one of the oldest in India and one of the few that were never defeated in battle. This fort also contains a museum for those who want to learn more about the local history.

7. Pushkar—Celebrate the Camel Fair

Locals in Pushkar Locals in Pushkar

Pushkar is another desert city in Rajasthan that is famous for its Camel Festival.

This city is one of the oldest in India and is a popular pilgrimage site for Hindus across the country who come to see the Brahma Temple.

Top Things to Do in Pushkar

Pushkar is a holy city in Hinduism and most of the worship centers around the sacred Pushkar Lake. Surrounding the lake there are more than 52 ghats and 400 temples to see and explore. Every year thousands of people come to the lake to bathe in the holy waters in order to purify their body and soul.

At the lake, you can also watch the evening aarti or Hindu ritual if you want to learn more about the region's religion and spirituality.

If you are in India from late October to early November then you can't miss the Pushkar Camel Fair. This fair is the most popular in the country and includes cultural performances and competitions, folk dances, camel and horse races, the most beautiful camel competition, and more.

8. Mount Abu—A Desert Oasis

Mount Abu, the beautiful hill station Mount Abu, the beautiful hill station

If you want to escape the dry heat of the rest of Rajasthan, then Mount Abu is a great place to visit. Mount Abu is the only hill station in the state and is located in the Aravalli Range.

This mountain town sits at 1,220 meters (4000 feet) above sea level and was set up by the British who chose it for its cool and comfortable weather.

Top Things to Do at Mount Abu

Monkeys in Mount Abu Monkeys in Mount Abu

One of the top attractions in Mount Abu is Nakki Lake. Visitors can take a tour of the lake by boat to view the surrounding green hills from over the water. It is also possible to go horseback riding around the lake.

If you love outdoor adventure, then Mount Abu is a great place to go hiking. You can hike around the local area or hike up Guru Sikhar, the highest peak in the Aravalli Range standing at 1,722 meters (around 5,600 feet).

Nature lovers can also check out the Mount Abu Wildlife Sanctuary which is a great place to go birdwatching or even take a jungle trek in search of bear sloths, wolves, jackals, or the nearly extinct grey jungle fowl.

9. Ajmer—The Holy City

A beautiful lake in Ajmer A beautiful lake in Ajmer

Ajmer is a unique city in Rajasthan because it is surrounded by mountains of the Aravalli and Naag Pathar ranges which protect it from the harshness of the Thar Desert.

Ajmer has a lot of significance in Islam and many people across the country make pilgrimages here to seek blessings.

Top Things to Do in Ajmer

Ajmer is a city that is full of beautiful lakes. Ana Sagar Lake is a man-made and very peaceful body of water that provides boaters with gorgeous views of the city. The lake was built by the Mughal rulers as a place to relax in peace after visiting the local mosques and shrines.

The most important religious site in Ajmer is without a doubt the Ajmer Dargah. This tomb contains the body of the Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti and was built by the first emperor of the Mughal empire. The Ajmer Dargah is sometimes called the Mecca of South Asia and is an architectural marvel made from white marble and silver.

Another great place to check out in this city is the Soniji Ki Nasiyan or Red Temple which is a beautiful Jain temple that is unlike any other in Rajasthan and is full of gold, silver, and precious stones.

10. Chittorgarh—Rajasthan's Ancient City

Temple in Chittorgarh Temple in Chittorgarh

Chittorgarh was founded in the year 734 and is full of ancient history, monuments, and legends. The city is the birthplace of multiple historical figures and was once the capital of the ancient Mewar Kingdom.

Top Things to Do in Chittorgarh

One of the top things to see in Chittorgarh is the Chittorgarh Fort. This fort is also called the Water Fort as it contains 22 bodies of water as well as many palaces, towers, and temples inside its 700 acres. This fort has been through many ancient battles and is one of the largest in India.

The fort also has a sound and light show that happens every night at 7 pm.

While at the fort, make sure to climb up to the top of Kirti Stambh memorial tower if you want to get panoramic views of the city below.

Other great things to do in Chittorgarh include visiting the Rana Kumbha Palace which is said to be haunted, birdwatching at Bassi Wildlife Sanctuary, and hanging out in local markets to listen to legends and fables from ancient times.

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