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Rajasthan

Rajasthan really is the crowning jewel of India: a fabulous realm of maharajas, ornate and richly decorated palaces, luxurious hotels, mighty medieval forts, the sand dunes of the Thar Desert, a kaleidoscope of colours and festivals, and India’s most iconic big cat, the tiger.

Located in northern India, bordering Pakistan, Rajasthan is India’s largest, most recognisable and celebrated state. The history of Rajasthan dates back several thousand years, and it is believed the Aryans settled here in around 2000 BC. The medieval history tells a story of the thriving Rajput dynasty, who ruled from 9th century until 1526, when the Mughal dynasty was established following a blood-spattered battle between the Rajput chiefs and the Mughals. From mid-16th century onwards, the Mughals were the undisputed rulers of northern India. The remnants of an ancient past, a combination of Rajput and Mughal influences, is reflected even today in the historical and architectural landscape of the state.

Named after the chivalrous Rajputs, Rajasthan literally means the ‘Land of Kings’, and magnificent palaces and forts, built by the top ranks of this medieval society, scatter the state like precious gems. Many of these impressive structures have been restored to their former glory and converted into sumptuous luxury hotels, like the iconic palaces of Rajasthan Umaid BhawanTaj Lake Palace and Rambagh Palace, or boutique hotels such as RAAS Devigarh, while others remain inhabited or are now museums, such as the city palaces in Udaipur and Jaipur. The Rajput architectural style is most evident in the Lake Palace, built in 1746, whilst Rambagh Palace in the heart of the Pink City (built in 1835) combines Rajput elements of decorated hand-carved marble ‘jalis’, cupolas and ‘chattris’, with elaborate Mughal Gardens. The mighty Umaid Bhawan was built 1928-1943 in an Indo-Gothic style. Today it represents a symbol of new Jodhpur, a magnificent piece of Rajasthan’s heritage.

Every city is a highlight to visit and each one has its own defining character; Jodhpur is known as the Blue City, for the cooling indigo painted walls of the old town, the Pink City of Jaipur, the capital and gateway to Rajasthan and home to some of the most colourful bazaars in India, the ‘Venice of the East’ and possibly the most romantic city in India is Udaipur, and Jaisalmer, or the Golden City, with its fortress rising out of the sand dunes. Explore any one of these cities with a private guide for a fascinating insight into Rajasthani life. Rural Rajasthan is steeped in tradition and ablaze with intensely vibrant colours; the fire engine red turbans of the nomadic Rabari tribe or the canary yellow saris of the ladies who work in the fields is simply dazzling. Rajasthan comes alive during its many festivals which are celebrated across the region in an explosion of colour and sounds, particularly for Diwali (usually celebrated in October or November) and Holi (the festival of spring celebrated in March).

From the iridescent sand dunes and thick forests to the ancient Aravalli hills and the verdant wetlands, Rajasthan has a unique topography and being home to countless endemic bird species, flora and fauna, it is a popular destination for safari holidays. There are several national parks ideal for wildlife spotting and, of course, tiger safaris, but the best-known and most popular ones to note are Ranthambore National Park, home to the elusive tiger, and Bharatpur bird sanctuary which is inhabited by an array of rare and exotic birds (India has 1,263 recorded species of resident and migratory birds).

Rajasthan has three seasons: summer (April – June), monsoon (July – September) and winter (October – March). Most travel guide books herald the arrival of winter as peak season in Rajasthan, and destinations such as JodhpurJaisalmerBikaner and Jaipur become hot favourites on the luxury travel circuit. Festivals during this time include Diwali, Holi and the annual Pushkar Camel Fair held in November, which is one of the major cultural festivals in India. Whilst Rajasthan is beautiful at this time of year, the winter months are often chilly, with temperatures touching lows of 0°C. The summer months are hot and humid, with the mercury reaching up to 45°C, and tailor-made holidays during this time is generally avoided. However, for those who are looking for the best chances to see India’s biggest cat in the wild, May is the best time to visit Ranthambore National Park.

At Ampersand, we have travelled to Rajasthan extensively at varying times of year and interviewed the GMs at our favourite hotels, including AmanbaghTaj Lake Palace and RAAS Devigarh, and have decided that August and September are the best months to travel. Although monsoon season seems a counter intuitive time to travel, the rains soften the dusty landscapes, the temperatures cool and the whole region glistens with shining green shoots. One of the best places to visit Rajasthan during monsoon is Udaipur, cited as the most romantic city in India.

For those looking to combine Rajasthan with a luxury beach holiday, one can combine with luxury villas in Goa in South India or even the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean. From short breaks to luxury tailor-made tours, Rajasthan is perfect for all travellers. Being both incredibly child-friendly and hopelessly romantic it is the perfect destination for family holidays, honeymoons and luxury tours. For more information, or to start planning your luxury Rajasthan tour, contact one of our destination specialists today.

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