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Nagaur

On the edge of the Thar Desert, halfway between the mighty Rajput cities of Jodhpur and BikanerNagaur in rural Rajasthan is not on the main tourist route but it is an interesting addition to a trip, free from large crowds. With the opening of the boutique hotel Ranvas, set in Nagaur’s historic Ahhichatragarh Fort, it is well worth a night or two to take in the beautiful views over the city and eat the delicious Mughal Sufi inspired cuisine out in the open air with a backdrop of oil lamps. There are some interesting cultural sights in the local area, although if you're staying at Ranvas your bedroom is already part of the main attraction, set within the fort itself! Gaze down on this busy town and wander through history; take a personalised tour of the palace and museum complex, stroll around the perimeter of the fort’s ramparts at sundown and head into town during the day to visit local markets and shrines.

Dating back to the 4th century when Nagaur was established as a mud fort, the fort has evolved through the ages and transformed in the 18th century by the ruling Maharaja, Bakhat Singh, into the extraordinary pleasure palace complex that exists today. The geometric Mughal gardens, elaborately frescoed halls and elegant colonnades have been painstakingly restored to their former glory through the efforts of the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Gaj Singh II along with the Getty Foundation and the Helen Hamlyn Trust. Within the boundaries of the fort there are several palaces including Hadi Rani Mahal, Deepak Mahal and Amar Singh Mahal, as well as two temples, the Krishna Mandir and the Ganesh Mandir, and the Shah Jahani mosque.

Other important sites in Nagaur include its Jain temple, which is beautifully carved out of glass, and beside it, the sacred Sufi shrine of Tarkeen Dargah. Nagaur is also host to the incredible World Sufi Festival each February when it transforms into a thronging tented village buzzing with music and dance. The town also hosts the Nagaur Cattle Fair (usually in January or February), which is the second largest camel fair in Rajasthan after Pushkar and boasts a colourful array of decorated desert animals and local crafts. Enjoy camel, horse or jeep safaris into the Thar Desert, then take high tea amongst the sand dunes.

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