Rajasthan- the land of kings, proudly boasts the rich heritage and architecture of India . The colorful streets, charming villages and majestic forts are the highlights of this culturally vibrant state. It is the largest state in India and it is almost impossible to explore it in one go. In December 2020, we visited the western part of Rajasthan which attracts visitors from all over the world for its golden sands of the Thar desert. If you’re planning to witness it in 2021, here’s my Rajasthan road trip itinerary from Delhi to get you started.
You might find a lot of itineraries for Rajasthan online, which cover a lot more places like Pushkar, Ajmer and Udaipur. We deliberately restricted our trip to- Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Jaipur given the long distances we needed to cover, driving ourselves. This also helped us spend more time in the cities and also get adequate rest. Driving for so long can be exhausting, and I would highly recommend taking restful stops and refrain from covering more places in a short period of time.
Delhi —-> Bikaner —-> Jaisalmer —-> Jodhpur —-> Jaipur —-> Delhi
Total Distance- 1675 KMs
Day 1 | Drive from Delhi to Bikaner
This was our longest drive in a single day (420 kms) and took us 8 hours to reach Bikaner. This route crosses the entire breadth of Haryana by-passing Rohtak and Bhiwani towns and entering Rajasthan through National Highway (NH-11) . Be ready for a bumpy ride as the internal roads in Haryana are pretty narrow and you will mostly encounter a number of slow moving trucks and large vehicles. Once you cross the border through to Rajasthan, the route gets a lot smoother and you can enjoy the drive. As you head closer to the desert region, the vehicles nearly disappear and suddenly you find yourself driving all alone in the ochre landscape with little to no trees around. Welcome to the desert!
If you leave Delhi by 6 am, you will reach Bikaner by 2 to 3 PM. Rest the entire day after the really long drive.
Tip: You wouldn’t find restaurants or dhabas on your way, especially once you enter Rajasthan. So do not miss packing enough food and water for your journey. Dress in layers as it gets hotter in the day and colder during the night.
Day 2 | Explore Bikaner
Next morning, we started with exploring Junagarah fort and easily spent two hours marvelling at the intricate carvings and beautiful glass work across the different darbars and pavilions. A guide was mandatorily assigned to a group of 30 people by the fort authorities, who took us across the fort and gave us a glimpse of the lives of the royal family. Do not miss taking pictures at Anup mahal, Badal mahal and at the central courtyard of the fort.
You can also visit the museum inside the fort which houses the furniture, costumes, textiles and crockery used by the royal family. The museum is very well maintained and is definitely worth a visit for all heritage lovers.
Next stop at the Rampuria haveli, a group of seven grand havelis from the 15th century. Every inch of the facade is covered with immaculate stone carvings and breath-taking glass work.
Stop for lunch and leave for Jaisalmer which is another 330 kms from Bikaner. We left at around 2 PM and reached by 7 PM, checked-in at our hotel and retired for the night.
Day 3 | Explore Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer looks like an ancient town encircling the stunning Jaisalmer fort. All structures in the city, be it the latest hotels, buildings or any monument, are designed artistically with yellow sandstone giving them a palace like look.
The Jaisalmer fort is perched high above the desert plains and is a UNESCO world heritage site. If you’re in Jaisalmer, you cannot miss this living fort which is home to almost 3000 people. Yes, a city within a city. We came across shops, temples and crisscrossed lanes with people living in their old honeycombed houses. You can get a great panoramic view of the entire city from the fort cafes. The alleys are full of shops & colorful textiles and the restaurants serve excellent local dishes.
Maharawal’s Palace is a prominent tourist spot inside the fort. It’s a beautiful carved palace depicting an insight into the history and heritage of Jaisalmer. When we visited the fort it was shut due to the sad demise of the king of Jaisalmer.
Other popular tourist spots include- the Lakshminath Temple (a group of 7 Jain temples built of golden sandstone) and numerous havelis inside the fort.
Apart from the fort, the popular and must-visit tourist spots in Jaisalmer are:
Patwon ki Haveli
Unfortunately, Bada bagh was closed during our visit as few staff members tested positive for Covid.
Day 4 | Desert safari
The highlight of every Rajasthan trip- spending the night under the stars in the roaring sands of the Thar desert. Many hotels and agencies in Jaisalmer offer desert safari services in groups of 25- 30 people. We booked ours through Moustache hostels.
We left Jaisalmer post lunch on a jeep along with the rest of the group and reached our first stop- Kuldhara village. Kuldhara is an abandoned village and according to legends, it was cursed in the 1800s. To this day, Kuldhara is considered haunted and locals claim to hear the voices of dead villagers among the ruins.
We then commenced our journey towards the desert, with the road running through the vast wasteland with clumps of desert shrubs and wind farms. We arrived on time to watch the Sun slip beneath the golden horizon while enjoying the warmth of chai and pakoras. I don’t remember the last time I stood still to watch a sunset like this without any distraction, the vast desert made it look heavenly.
We camped at the desert and enjoyed the bonfire with the rest of the group. Mobile networks don’t work at the desert safari, so it’s actually a great time to get that digital detox. Even though sleeping under the stars sounds fun, it became a nightmare when the desert turned freezing cold at night. We were staying in mobile tents which had mattresses on the floor and the blankets weren’t warm enough for the freezing night. As much fun as it looks, camping in the desert is not everyone’s cup of tea.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed and comfortable experience at the desert, I would recommend going for Sam Sand Dunes or any bigger resort in town to get access to proper washrooms and comfortable beds inside the tents.
Day 5 | Leave for Jodhpur
Next morning, we had tea and breakfast at the camp and left for the city. We freshened up at Moustache hostel, ate our lunch and then left for Jodhpur.
The drive to Jodhpur was pretty smooth and took us approx 4.5 hours (280 kms) to reach our hotel. We were pretty exhausted after the desert safari and the long drive, so we decided to call it a day.
If you’re all charged up and in the mood to explore, you may head out to explore the old city. With its narrow lanes, chai and pakora stalls and the famed blue walled houses, the chaos and the charm of the old city is hard to ignore. Head over to Sadar market near the clock tower for some shopping and amazing food. Also, do not miss out pyaaz ki kachori and mirchi bada at Janta sweet house in Sadar market. You can also get namkeens and Gajak packed for your folks from here. It is one of the oldest and most popular shops in town.
Just to mention, driving and finding parking in the old city is very challenging due to the narrow alleys. Please take an Uber or a local rickshaw to reach here.
Day 6 | Mehrangarh Fort & Jaswant Thada
The magnificent Mehrangarh Fort looms above the city and is one of the largest forts in Rajasthan. It’s impossible to not be awed by the grandeur of Mehrangarh fort which dominates the skyline of Jodhpur. The entry costs about INR 150 (for Indian visitors) & INR 600 (for International visitors) and you can hire a guide as well. The museums and galleries are some of the most well preserved in the country. We were greeted with Rajasthani folk artists at the entrance, singing the songs of the land. The Sheesh mahal, phool mahal and the moti mahal are some wonders of the fort with intricate jaali work, jharokhas, colourful mirrors and beautiful glass work, some typical characteristics of Rajputana architecture. You can get the most epic view of the blue city from Mehrangarh fort.
We then marched towards Jaswant Thada, which is at a walking distance from the fort. A white marble cenotaph built in the memory of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, also called the Taj Mahal of Rajasthan. Apart from the marble structure, it also houses a beautiful garden where you can simply sit back and relax.
Day 7 | Mandore garden
We celebrated the new year in Jodhpur itself. We visited Umaid Bhavan palace and explored the cafes in Jodhpur in the afternoon and Mandore garden in the evening. Mandore garden is on the outskirts of the main city but I bet it has the most astonishing stone work, artistic cenotaphs and beautiful ruins I have ever come across. Also, the garden and the monuments are very well maintained by the authorities and definitely worth a visit.
Day 8 | Leave for Jaipur
We checked out from our hotel post breakfast and left for Jaipur. The early you leave the better it is as it’s going to be a long 350km drive and will take almost 6 hours.
We checked-in at the hotel and took an uber to head to the old city for our evening tea. Like Jodhpur, the old city of Jaipur is very congested and one should avoid driving here by themselves. We took an Uber which dropped us near the old city from where we walked around to explore the market.
Since we’ve been to Jaipur in the past, we didn’t spend an extra day here but if that’s not the case with you, then you need to spend at least two days here because it’s the administrative capital of Rajasthan. Check out 23 Awesome things to do in Jaipur for the weekend and plan your stay in the city accordingly.
As I mentioned earlier, Rajasthan is huge and it’s not possible to cover everything in one go. I tried my best to share my experience of visiting the western parts of the state. Hope my Rajasthan road trip itinerary from Delhi motivated you to visit this colourful state and explore the best of it in 2021.
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