Welcome to the Indian Panorama Newsletter for June 2009. Our aim is to keep you up to date with news and places of interest and other information to help you when the time comes to plan your next trip to India.
In this instalment, we are focusing on Rajasthan - the jewel in India's tourism crown for many decades. And while we are including some information on the major and well-known cities, our main aim this month is to draw attention to some of the less-visited parts of this vast state - rural areas, small towns and places which we've visited in recent months which captured our imagination.
If you've visited Rajasthan before we hope you'll find some of our 'new' destinations enough to tempt you back. And if you're thinking of visiting Rajasthan for the first time, we promise it will be one of the most unforgettable trips you will ever take. Wherever you venture in Rajasthan you will met by friendly people, staggeringly beautiful monuments, hints of the region's illustrious past and a riot of colour. You're also sure to take innumerable photographs and to return home with a great treasure trove of memories.
Rajasthan's major cities - Jaipur, Udaipur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur among them, are all well known for their historic monuments and amazing shopping as well as a fascinating but ephemeral sense of otherworldliness.
The frontier town of Jaisalmer offers an experience as close to the romantic mythology of the 'Arabian Nights' as one is likely to find anywhere. And for first time visitors to the state these romantic cities are all must-see places.
The 'other side' of Rajasthan is its small towns, villages and countryside. These offer a quite different impression of the Land of Kings.
Many tourists only get to see Rajasthan's biggest cities and while these are remarkable places in their own right, there are many small towns which have interesting historical elements and thus present quite a different view of the state and its cultural story.
A visit to a smaller town like Bundi or Dausa will open a window onto a much less touristic side of Rajasthan, allow you a great chance to meet local people and, due to the quieter nature of these places, you'll be free to wander around on foot, a great way to experience the atmosphere of these charming towns.
At Kumbhalgarh, now a remote outpost north of Udaipur, you get the chance to explore a remarkable Fort - it becomes obvious very soon after you arrive that this area must once have been a strategic stronghold but it is now all but deserted- better still, this is an area seldom visited by tourists.
The Shekhawati region of northern Rajasthan - famed for its brightly painted homes - is another favourite 'off-the-beaten-track' destination. Small villages rise out of the arid countryside - each has its own charm and slightly different style of fresco painting. Any of these places makes a perfect counterpoint to the big cities and their corresponding 'big sights'.
Ranthambore National Park is famous for its tigers and is one of the best places in the country to see these majestic predators in the wild. The varied topography of the national park is also home to animals such as the jackal, caracal, mongoose, nilgai, sloth bear and leopard.
The park is located less than 3 hours drive south of Jaipur, making it probably the most accessible park to a major city anywhere in India. On top of the great array of wildlife, a combination of superb accommodation, well-organised safaris and dedicated, enthusiastic Forest Department staff and naturalists make Ranthambore a great place to see 'wild India' during your tour of Rajasthan.
Another great option is to combine a visit to Kumbhalgarh Fort, north of Udaipur, with a tour of the neighbouring Wildlife Sanctuary. A semi-arid region, there are no tigers in Kumbhalgarh but a major upside of this (combined with the Sanctuary's location off the main tourist trail) means that it is possible to take either a jeep or walking tour of Kumbhalgarh. This is something of a rarity in India as walking in most parks is strictly prohibited.
To see some more wildlife photos of India, including Ranthambore National Park, click here.
Many fabulous heritage accommodation options are effectively destinations within themselves - ancestral family homes still occupied by descendents of their founders.
From these places you will have a real opportunity to interact with local people, observe traditional lifestyles and gain an understanding of the relationship between the people who live in these areas and the hostile, semi-arid environments which support them.
There is a very special place to stay on the edge of Ranthambore National Park. Nahargarh is a replica of a traditional Rajput Palace and its heritage feel oozes with the grandeur of the royal lifestyle. The huge rooms offer luxury accommodation at affordable prices, and you'll feel like Maharajas and Maharinis!
Among our favourite such places are Shahpura Bagh, an Indian-style country estate, situated between Jaipur and Udaipur.
Also we feature Rohet Garh, a heritage hotel situated 40km from Jodhpur.
(14 days - An overview tour also taking in Delhi and the Taj Mahal)
(21 days - A tour covering all the highlights and many of the off-the-beaten-track places we're covering this month)North Indian Wildlife Spectacular
(17 days - With this itinerary you will have the best chance to see elephant, leopard, tiger and a host of others. You will also visit the Taj Mahal and other manmade wonders)
(18 days - This tour takes in Delhi, the Taj Mahal, Ranthambore National Park and also some wildlife parks in South India.
It's also worth noting that any tour to Rajasthan can easily be combined with a visit to neighbouring Gujarat - one of India's least visited but most fascinating regions. For detailed information about Gujarat, click here.
Through our travels in Rajasthan, our dedicated Jaipur office and our extensive network of partners and contacts, we are able to offer innovative itineraries covering all any aspect of Rajasthan. We welcome you to contact us to discuss a trip to this wonderful part of India.
We look forward to welcoming you back soon. Our next newsletter will be with you in a couple of months - until then we convey our warmest wishes on behalf of all at Indian Panorama.