Join us on a Rajput Extravaganza – the ultimate trip through the Land of the Rajput Kings with the unique opportunity to experience the exciting spectacle of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival. As the drums of Rajasthan beat out aloud brightly adorned elephants with their mahouts and tassel laden camels and riders, colourful floats, singers, dancers and marching bands will waltz on by in the city’s annual street parade.
The Desert Festival or the Jaisalmer Desert Festival as it is more popularly known, is an annual event organized every year in February at the beautiful desert city with the Golden Fortress of Jaisalmer – Rajasthan, India. This three day Desert festival and cultural extravaganza showcases the rich and colourful heritage of Rajasthan and its folk culture. During the Jaisalmer Desert Festival, the folk artists from around Rajasthan sing and dance eloquently to the triumphs and the tragedies of this land steeped in history, other major attractions at the desert festival include the traditional acrobatics by Local nomadic performers & gymnasts called Kalabaz or Nat’s, Snake charmers, entertaining puppet shows and captivating folk music recitals and Ballads by the Bhopa’s, Manganiars & Langhas under the canopy of the twinkling stars & winter desert sky.
Situated in the state of Rajasthan, Bikaner was founded in 1486 as a link in the overland trading route by Bika, one of 14 sons of Rao Jodha, the Rathore king who founded Jodhpur. A 7 km wall with five entrances was built to protect the city. The fort and palace built of the same reddish-pink sandstone as many of Jaipur’s famous buildings are beyond the city walls. Once an important staging post on the great caravan trade routes, Bikaner flourished and an unbroken line of descendants of Rao Bika ruled Bikaner until India’s Independence.
Jaisalmer, exotic, remote, and beautiful is a bit of a paradox. Set so deep in the heart of the Thar Desert that one would expect barren near-desolation, this frontier town is today one of Rajasthan's best-loved tourist destinations. Local colour and warmth prevail over the inhospitable and forbidding terrain, imbuing the medieval walled sandstone town that perches dramatically on a flat-topped hill with a special magic. Camel safaris in the close and surrounding desert are a popular activity. In January/ February, the Jaisalmer Desert Festival has camel races, folk music, dancing and singing and attracts hoards of colourfully dressed Rajasthanis.
Sunday 09 February 2014. Once you arrive into Delhi. The remainder of the day is free to relax or start exploring vibrant Delhi.
This morning, our Welcome Meeting takes place. We’ll then enjoy a full day sightseeing tour of Delhi, visiting Jama Masjid – India’s oldest and largest mosque, Raj Ghat – the site of Gandhi’s cremation, government buildings, the tallest minaret in India Qutab Minar, Humayun’s Tomb and more. Tonight, we enjoy a group Namaste Dinner at a restaurant specialising in classic Indian cuisine.
Delhi – Shekhawati. Departing Delhi, we journey to Shekhawati, a fascinating historical region in northern Rajasthan. Upon arrival check-in at the hotel and then head out on an afternoon village walk and enjoy free time to explore the local area or simply sit back and relax. In the 18th and 19th centuries these small towns were important trading posts, and still today boast beautiful painted mansions that were built by the wealthy merchants who lived in the town at the time
Shekhawati – Bikaner. Today we head to Bikaner, a fortified city that bears testimony to a bygone era with imposing forts and palaces, beautiful mansions and temples, and wonderful camels and dunes. Upon arrival check-in to the hotel and later enjoy an afternoon tour taking in the best of the city. Explore the impressive red sandstone and marble Junagarh Fort, see camel calves at the unique Camel Breeding Farm – the largest of its kind in Asia, and browse the colourful bazaars of downtown Bikaner.
Bikaner – Jaisalmer. This morning we drive through the Rajasthani Thar desert from Bikaner to Jaisalmer, a charming sandstone city scattered with exquisite wood and yellow sandstone buildings and within Jaisalmer Fort are homes, hotels and shops hidden in ancient lane ways. En route to our destination we stop in at the Karni Mata Rat Temple and as the name suggests this sacred site is swarming with rats, which are treated like royalty following the belief that they are reincarnations of ancestors.
Upon arrival in Jaisalmer check-in to the hotel and then depart on an afternoon tour of the city. Marvel at the spectacular Jaisalmer Fort, a monumental yellow sand stone fortification that takes on a golden lustrous glow in the afternoon sun, giving the city the nickname the Golden City; visit one of the largest and most elaborate mansions in the city, Patwon ki Haveli, which stands five stories tall and features beautiful carvings; browse the Maharaja Palace Museum, set within the Jaisalmer Fort’s main square; and discover the seven yellow sandstone Jain temples.
Fri 14 Feb 2014. Today we have a wonderful opportunity to experience the exciting spectacle of the golden city’s grand parade. As the drums of Rajasthan beat out aloud brightly adorned elephants with their mahouts and tassel laden camels and riders, colourful floats, singers, dancers and marching bands will waltz on by in the city’s annual street parade. Bright and early this morning we take a guided tour of the Jaisalmer Fort. Afterward we’ll wait in readiness at the First Gate of mammoth stone fort. Here, with the honey coloured fortress as a backdrop there will be plenty of photo opportunities as the procession marches by. Then, together we can walk alongside the festival and street parade as it weaves its way through the city streets of the Rajputs to gates of the town stadium.
We too will enter the stadium (scheduled to arrive at 12 noon) and watch the festival events for an hour or so before continue with our city sightseeing tour (time permitting). It is worth finding out where the longest moustache and turban tying competitions are being held. A fascinating and enjoyable part of the festive activities. Later in the afternoon after time to freshen up and have some lunch we enjoy a camel ride across the vast, rolling sand dunes of the desert.
Jaisalmer – Jodhpur. Today an interesting drive through increasingly varied scenery takes us to Jodhpur, a town at the edge of the mighty Thar Desert. Dominated by Meherangarh Fort which sits majestically atop a hill, Jodhpur is known as the Blue City. This is because of the coloured houses in the old town, painted indigo. We’ll enjoy some touring in this colourful Rajasthani city, taking in the mighty fort and bazaars of the old city which are gathered around the city’s tall clock tower
Jodphur – Pushkar. This morning we make our way towards Pushkar, where we will enjoy a pleasant afternoon exploring this tiny tranquil town and important pilgrimage site. Visit the revered Pushkar Lake; explore the Braham Temple and browse the town bazaar; enjoy the rest of the day at your own leisure.
Pushkar – Jaipur. Today drive to Jaipur for a day of free time. This city is the place to shop until you drop, so if you fancy a bit of retail therapy, be sure to do it here. Shop for jootis (traditional Rajasthani curled shoes) Jaipur’s famous blue pottery, textiles and handicrafts around the City Palace or Hawa Mahal. Be sure to explore the Johari Bazaar in the Old Pink City which are great for shopping. In 1876, Maharaja Ram Singh had the entire old city swathed in pink paint! Not as mad as it seems, as pink is a colour in India associated with hospitality. The new paint job was completed in time for a regal visit by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), a tradition that has been maintained.
An early start takes us to the Amber Fort, located just outside the city limits. Once the ancient capital of Jaipur State, construction of the fort/palace was started in 1592 by Maharaja Man Singh, the Rajput commander of Akbar’s army. The fort is stunningly situated atop a hill. We’ll ascend the road leading to the palace in princely style, aboard Indian elephants – subject to regulations/availability as the elephants are limited to the number of trips that can make up the fort each day. We explore the richly decorated palace admiring how kings and queens once lived.
En route to the City Palace, we’ll pass Hawa Mahal – the Palace of the Winds. Although little more than an impressive façade it is one of the city’s landmarks. The 5-storey building which overlooks the main street of the bustling old city is a stunning example of Rajput architecture with it’s pink, delicately honeycombed sandstone windows.
We visit the City Palace, a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. If the flag is flying, the Maharaja is in residence. A part of the palace has been converted into a museum, which has an impressive collection of arts, carpets, enamelware and weaponry. Just over the road,(look out for the snake charmers that dot our route) from the City Palace is Jantar Mantar, an observatory of astronomy built by Jai Singh in 1728. Of the five observatories he built, this is the largest and best preserved. At first glance, Jantar Mantar resembles a sculpture park, though in fact, each construction has a specific scientific purpose. Some measure the positions of stars, whilst others calculate eclipses, the lunar calendar and simply the time of day. Even today, most of the constructions remain accurate!
Jaipur – Agra – Delhi. Departing Jaipur, we drive to Agra, once India’s Mughal capital. En route visit the the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri and see the elegant building of Jama Masjid, the Tomb of Salim Chishti, the Panch Mahal Palace and more.
The Taj Mahal, described as the most extravagant monument ever constructed for love, is a fine example of Mughal architecture built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved second wife-Mumtaz Mahal, who died tragically during childbirth. Built entirely of white marble, construction began in 1631, the year in which Mumtaz died, and was not completed until 1653. A staggering total of 20,000 workers contributed their skills, in the construction of this unique mausoleum.
After our visit to the Taj Mahal, we head to Agra Fort for a short tour. Behind its colossal walls are some of the finest Mughal buildings in India. Construction of the fort was commenced during the reign of Emperor Akbar and additions were made until the rule of his grandson Shah Jahan. During Akbar’s time, it was primarily a military fort though later the focus shifted and it partially became a palace. After our touring there is a visit to a visit a marble craftshop before time to relax back at the hotel. In the evening head back to the Taj Mahal for a wonderful sunset view. On day 12 in the early hours of the morning there will be an optional visit to the Taj Mahal to marvel at the beauty of the palace at sunrise. After we drive to Delhi and upon arrival, we’ll enjoy a guided tour of Delhi’s impressive Red Fort. You can opt to join us on this tour or spend the afternoon relaxing at our hotel. Evening at leisure.
Saying goodbye to our new found friends, our tour ends.