India (Rajasthan) - Jan 2010
Trip Highlights:


Delhi, the capital of India, is divided into old and new. Old Delhi
was the capital of Mughal India from 12th-19th centuries. Here you
can find many mosques, monuments and forts relating to this
period of India's history. The medieval atmosphere of the bazaars
of Old Delhi contrasts sharply with the open, spacious streets of
New Delhi - the imperial city created as the capital of India by the
British Raj.


The Taj Mahal is one of the most fascinating and beautiful
monuments of the world. Built in the 17th century by the Mughal
emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb and memorial for his wife Mumtaz
Mahal, it is a spellbinding sight that never disappoints. No picture
or description of this magnificent white marble mausoleum can ever
do it justice, and it is worth spending many hours in the gardens
that surround the building, to see it from different angles and in
different lights. About 20,000 workers were employed in its
construction and it was completed after some 20 years. So perfect
are the proportions of the Taj and so exquisite its workmanship that
this is really one of the world's most marvellous buildings.
Alongside the Yamuna River is the impressive Red Fort, from
where there are fantastic views of the Taj Mahal. The Red Fort
was the capital of the Mughal Empire and thus of India during the
16th and 17th centuries.


Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan. With its faded pink buildings,
many palaces and vibrant bazaars, Jaipur is one of the most exotic
cities in India. Unlike most cities in India, which have developed in
a haphazard way, this city was a planned one. Though it is rapidly
expanding and has long ago outgrown the confines of its ancient
walls, the Old City of Jaipur is still a fascinating and unique place.
Known as the 'Pink City' because of the colour of these city walls,
the street life has to be seen to be believed. With a chaotic mix of
pedestrians, bicycles, cars, buses, trucks, camels and everything
else besides, it is best experienced by taking a ride on a cycle
rickshaw. Taking an excursion to the splendid Amber Fort, located
11 kilometres north of Jaipur is highly recommended.


Pushkar has a magnetism all of its own, and is quite unlike
anywhere else in Rajasthan. It's a prominent Hindu pilgrimage town
and devout Hindus should visit here at least once in their lifetime.
The town curls around a holy lake, said to have appeared when
Brahma dropped a lotus flower.


The famous lake city of Udaipur is one of the most romantic in the
world. Set around the vast Pichola Lake and dominated by
dramatic palaces, this is surely Rajasthan's most picturesque city.
High whitewashed houses and narrow, winding alleys gives it an
almost medieval charm. The huge City Palace, still the residence of
the Maharana, is carved out of yellow sandstone and stands on the
banks of Lake Pichola. From there you can enjoy fabulous views
over the lake and the famous Lake Palace Hotel. The main part of
the City Palace is now preserved as a museum with a large and
varied collection of mosaics, glass and porcelain figures, miniatures
and paintings.


Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan, after Jaipur. The
city is dominated by the massive Meherangarh Fort that sits atop a
sheer rocky ridge right in the middle of town. The Old City is still
surrounded by a 10-kilometre-long wall, built about a century after
Jodhpur was founded in 1459 by the Rajput chief Rao Jodha. The
clock tower is a popular landmark in the Old City. Narrow alleys
lead from here to bazaars for textiles, silver and handicrafts.


Jaisalmer is an ancient trading town that resembles a scene from
the classic story, 'One Thousand and One Nights'. Its inhabitants
still live in the narrow paved streets and alleyways within the town's
ancient fort. Jaisalmer is a great place to simply wander round and
absorb its surreal ambience. The merchants and wealthy families
of Rajasthan built magnificent homes or 'havelis' and some of the
finest examples can be found here.


Bikaner is a desert outpost that was also a major trading centre on
the old caravan route from central Asia. The city grew up around
the fabulous Junagarh Fort, which is at its centre. The old city of
Bikaner has a maze of narrow lanes and some beautifully-carved
havelis in red sandstone.

Karni Mata Temple (Rat Temple) at Deshnok

The Karni Mata Temple (temple of rats) is one India's more
challenging temples for Westerners - its resident mass of holy
rodents is not for the squeamish. What may seem unusual to
Western eyes is devoutly believed by pilgrims - remember that this
isn't a sideshow but as place of worship. And don't conveniently
forget to remove your shoes!