India is a country of astonishing diversity. From the breath-taking Himalayas in the north to the cliff-lined beaches in the south. There’s the Thar Desert in the west and the dense forests in the east. You can find explosions of colors in almost everything even the spicy finger-licking curries. It seems like you can never have enough time to even the skim the surface. Add thousands of years of history and the amalgamation diverse cultures, and you will get a truly magical experience. Delhi, Agra, and Rajasthan are the top picks among the tourists visiting India. These regions were the heart of Mughal and Rajput empires, and open a vista into the glorious forts, palaces, and museums. My journey to discover the cultural and historical strip of India started with Agra, then moving to Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Udaipur and finally ending in Jaisalmer.
Agra and even India is synonymous with the great wonder and epitome of love, Taj Mahal. No matter how many times you have seen the pictures of Taj Mahal, it still leaves you spellbound with the intricate marble carvings on such a grand scale. If you want to avoid the crowd, visit in the early hours of the day or still better, on a full-moon night if you get a chance.
Spend the evening in Mehtab Garden which is situated right opposite to the Taj Mahal across the Yamuna River. The Mughal-era garden provides a great view of the Taj and the Yamuna with the sun setting in the background. Agra is much more than just the Taj Mahal. Agra Fort is probably the greatest of all Mughal forts in India. The fort sprawls over 94 acres and houses mosques, private and public audience halls, towers, palaces, and courtyards. Tal Mahal can be at a distance from the terrace and windows of the fort.
A four-hour bus journey took me from the strongholds of Mughals to the strongholds of Rajputs. The Jaipur city was historically built in terracotta pink color which still retains the color while the shops and houses thrive inside the ancient buildings. The outskirts of Jaipur are marked with numerous forts with Amber Fort being the most magnificent one. The Amber Fort is majestic and houses some really interesting items in its museum. The best way to explore the forts is by hiring a guide who would narrate stories and open a vista into the lives of the kings and queens.
Hawa Mahal is another architectural marvel that is worth seeing. It’s a 5-storey sandstone structure with 950 windows which were constructed to allow women of the royal family to view processions on the streets from the windows. Jal Mahal, City Palace, and Jantar Mantar are other places worth visiting in Jaipur. The city has a lot to offer for shopaholics, from ethnic Indian dresses and jewelry to unique handmade souvenirs. During my stay in Jaipur, I got a chance to dine in the famous restaurant, Choki Dhani which serves Indian delicacies accompanied with Indian folk dance in a typical Indian set-up.
From the pink city, I reached the blue city, Jodhpur. Jodhpur is known for the iconic Mehrangarh Fort and got the name “blue city” from a large number of blue houses clustered around the fort. Standing on a megalith, the Mehrangarh Fort with cannon marks on its high walls looks resilient on the outside. With intricate works on glass and marble, it looks alluring in the inside. Jodhpur is a place much more than the palaces and forts. It is a heaven for foodies, history buffs, and street shoppers. It was an amazing experience to walk through the winding paths of the old city with houses unchanged since the medieval era. You may be taken a little aback in the crowded parts as someone is always trying to sell something. But once you overcome this hurdle, it would be a great experience.
Udaipur was the next stop in my journey to explore Indian culture and history. It’s a pleasant city which is home to a multitude of historical monuments, forts, and palaces. Udaipur is located on the banks of three interconnected lakes: Swaroop Sagar Lake, Fateh Sagar Lake, and Pichola Lake. Along with the three lakes, the major tourist attractions in the city include the Antique Cars Museum, the splendid Udaipur Lake Palace, the Monsoon Palace, and the Jagdish Temple. Each place is unique in its own way.
Like other cities of Rajasthan, shopping in Udaipur comes with a lot of options, given the beautiful crafts, colorful lanes, and astonishing intricacy it has to offer. For a better shopping experience, head to Chetak Circle or Bapu Bazaar to pick out ethnic footwear, silk produce, camel leather items, and much more. One must-try dish specific to Udaipur is Diljani, which is a local sweet that is loved all over Rajasthan. If you are visiting Udaipur, don’t forget to visit Mount Abu, a small picturesque town located near to Udaipur and settled in the Aravali Hills. Mount Abu is known for its beautiful sunsets.
Jaisalmer was the final stop of my journey. It’s a city located further into the desert and almost every house is built with golden stones. It’s led to giving it the name, “Golden City”. The city itself is small and can be traversed on foot. Jaisalmer Fort is the only major attraction within the city. It’s not as accessible as the Amer Fort or Agra Fort as there are still families living in it.
The city of Jaisalmer doesn’t offer much activity, but there are certain sites near the city like Sam sand dunes and Khuri where all-night parties are organized in the middle of the desert. Since I am not fond of parties, I chose to stay in a home-stay in the Khuri village. My guide took me on top of a camel to the sand dunes. In the night, we cooked our own dinner and spent the night in the dunes in the middle of the desert under the stars. This was the highlight of my journey and I can’t express the feelings through words. My journey to explore the cultural and historical destinations of India couldn’t have ended in a better way!