India is huge. You know it before you go, but still you get there only to realize some time in the first few days that you need to change you plan. There is no way you will be able to do and see what you thought was possible in the time you’ve planned.

If you only have a couple of weeks, one way to explore Indian culture in a short amount of time is to arrive in Mumbai and to go through the state of Rajasthan and then leave from Delhi (or do it the other way around). Rajasthan is a state in India on the Pakistani border that offers beautiful old cities, each one different to the next. Take a bus for five hours and there will be a new language, new food and a different culture. It’s a real Indian culture mecca full of old forts, beautiful handicrafts, photogenic cities and great restaurants –  but at the same time, one or two days are enough for each city.

Through this route you can also do the Golden Triangle that goes from Jaipur in Rajasthan via Agra (Taj Mahal) and ends in Delhi. It is a common route to do for tourists when you cover several important and different experiences of India, within a few hours’ train distance.

Read more: The Ultimate Packing List for India


MUMBAI: Where the rich and the slums meet

Mumbai - where rich meet slum

You don’t need to spend that much time in Mumbai if you are short of time and still will see Delhi and experience a really big Indian city. But one thing you should do in Mumbai is to go on a Mumbai slum tour. The Hindustan Times wrote in October this year that 62% of Mumbai’s population lives in the slum. It  is a big part of the city’s culture at the same time as many of the most wealthy people of India choose to live in Mumbai. A slum tour is a unique experience that you could never do on your own. We went with a local guide to Daravi, the biggest slum in Mumbai and the location where Slumdog Millionaire was filmed. Our guide still lives there and he showed us Daravi from his viewpoint. It was nothing like what I had expected. The slum was not full of sad, poor, drunk people. It didn’t feel dangerous. It was a whole city inside the city. They had tv-halls (instead of cinemas), factories and weddings. It was not like outside the slum, but they had created their own version of the city in the heart of Mumbai and it was an experience I’ll never forget.

Read more: 22 Things to do in Mumbai


UDAIPUR – The Venice of India

Udaipur - Venice of India

While the rest of the journey is easy to do with train or bus, it’s both cheap and quick to fly from Mumbai to Udaipur. When I first arrived in Udaipur I felt luxury in India for the first time. There were beautiful, heritage luxury hotels and amazing romantic restaurants by the water. The city has one of the most famous Taj hotels that is located on the water and where you have to go to by boat. The most luxurious suite costs $3367 for one night and only hotel guests are allowed to eat at their well-known restaurant. Udaipur also has a beautiful City Palace to visit, and many old temples.

PUSHKAR – Camel fairs and a holy lake

Pushkar - camel fair and a holy lake

Pushkar is a hidden secret in Rajasthan. When getting to India everyone you meet will advise you to go there, but it feels like no-one knows about the town before arriving in the country. You get there by a five hour bus ride from Udaipur. It’s a smaller and more quiet town then Udaipur and it’s very holy for Hindus. They come here to bathe in the holy lake, and you are not allowed to eat meat or drink alcoholic drinks anywhere in Pushkar. To find a cozy city in India is not easy, but Pushkar is actually quite cozy. It’s surrounded by hills and the main street is full of small shops. The perfect place to go if you want to buy Indian-inspired clothes and jewelry. In November each year over 400,000 people come to Pushkar for India’s best known camel fair. There are camels everywhere and there’s also a Mustache competition – since Rajasthan is home of the big Indian mustache.

Read more: 6 Reasons to visit Pushkar


JODHPUR – The blue city

Jodhpur - the blue city

After taking a bus for four hours you arrive in Jodhpur. You’ll no doubt have seen this city before, in images on websites and in books. Everything is blue (like in that song by Eiffel 65) – well, in the old city close to the big fort at least, which is where you should stay. Unfortunately, as the city gets richer through tourism, people are starting to renovate their houses – and many are not choosing blue when they re-paint their homes! Perhaps not the best idea when tourists visiting Jodhpur have come to see the blue city… In Jodhpur, the best thing to do is just wander and get lost in the narrow, old little streets. There is also a big fort and beautiful palaces, but it’s the blue streets that make Jodhpur worth a visit. Fun fact: blue is not an aesthetic choice, but is used because it cools down the houses in the summer when it gets over 45°C in Rajasthan.


JAISALMER – The desert city

Jaisalmer - the desert city

Jaisalmer is a small desert city very close to the Pakistani border that you get to with bus or train from Jodhpur. Here people come from all over India to go on Camel Safaris and to camp in the desert. The city is built around a big fort with a beautiful handicraft market inside. A must-do for one night in Jaisalmer is to stay in a tent in the desert. You can choose any comfort level, from really luxurious ones for $600 a night to budget options. From there you go by jeep, camel or whatever you prefer to Sam Sand Dunes and watch the sunset. It’s really a beautiful nature experience. In the evening there is a culture show with Rajasthani dance, music and food.


JAIPUR – The pink city

Jaipur - the pink city

This is the last city of Rajasthan on our tour, but also where we start the golden triangle. Jaipur is a big city, but the important parts of Jaipur are the forts and the ancient pink city. One of the most photographed and famous monuments is the Hava Mahal that was built 1799. It has more than 950 windows, and it was built to let the royal women experience everyday life on the streets below through the windows, without being seen. By Amber Fort – one of the two big forts – there is also a breathtaking famous step wall that you might have seen in the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that was filmed in Jaipur.


AGRA – Taj Mahal

Agra -Taj Mahal

Agra is not a very exciting city on its own but this is where the Taj Mahal is – a must if you’re in India. When I saw it I totally understood the big deal. It really is breathtaking and it’s absolutely massive! Some people do Agra just over one day. They take an early train from Jaipur, arrive in Agra and check the Taj Mahal out, maybe see the fort, and then they take the evening express train to Delhi. To be honest I think that is enough. The only advantage of arriving in Agra one day earlier is that you’ll be able to arrive to Taj Mahal earlier in the morning when there will be less people.

Read more: How to get the most out of the Golden Triangle


DELHI – The capital of chaos

Delhi - the capital of chaos

Everyone is scared of Delhi. Its reputation is one of a city that is hectic, polluted and full of poverty… And it’s true. Delhi is all of these things. But if you want to see the genuine India, you shouldn’t skip Delhi. Instead you should spend a day on Chandni Chowk Market in Old Delhi – the most busy and chaotic part of the city. Jostle with the locals on the street, smell the scents of the spice market and witness the huge tangle of cows, tuk-tuks, cars and people carrying big bags on their heads. I also went to the Red Fort, but to be honest I could have skipped it. I saw so many great forts throughout the whole of Rajasthan that it felt insignificant. What made Delhi for me was definitely the market.

Read more: How Delhi broke my travel spirit

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Are you planning to visit Rajasthan, or have you been already? What were your favorite sights? Share them with us in the comments! 

 

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