After recovering from New Delhi and Agra, we’re on to Rajasthan, the royal state in northwest India, to see forts on elephant back, sleep in the beds of maharajas, and marvel at the spectacular deserts and mountains where emperors played.
The Pink City was one of the first planned cities (grid layout, wide intersections), which hasn’t helped the traffic. Watch out for cars, scooters, buses, bikes, and, yes, camels.
Just out of town, the golden Oberoi Rajvilas was modeled after an ancient Rajput fort. Visit the famous Polo Bar at the large and imposing Taj Rambagh Palace to catch sight of the former rajmata, who still lives on the grounds.
Splurge at Surya Mahal, the restaurant at Rajvilas, where you dine in a courtyard under a bright moon while traditional dancers wheel and dip to the tabla, sitar, and drums.
Don’t leave without buying a custom piece, like a salwar kameez (long tunic and leggings). Sodhi’s Textiles & Home Furnishings (Golimar Garden, Amer Road; +91-141-267-1272) has endless bolts of fabric — and they’ll deliver your outfit by evening.
Jaipur is famous for semiprecious stones, particularly amethysts. We buy from Sanjay Kasliwa at Gem Palace (Mirza Ismail Road; +91-141-237-4175 or firstname.lastname@example.org). He’s spendy but negotiable. Across the street, Gems Paradise (Gulab Niwas, Mi Road; +91-141-237-0307) has more rings in contemporary and classic styles. Surajpol Bazaarin the Muslim neighborhood is where you’ll get the best deals on loose stones.
Take an elephant to the amazing Amber Fort, and don’t miss the stadium-size astronomical devices at the stunning Jantar Mantar observatory across from the City Palace (home of the maharaja of Jaipur).
The magical city at the edge of the desert rests between a palace and a fort. Why are all the buildings incandescent blue? The locals think the color keeps insects away.
It’s more sleeping with royalty at Umaid Bhawan Palace, an art deco masterpiece that’s still inhabited by the maharaja and his family. For a less grandiose (but still royal) experience, bunk down at the Ajit Bhawan Hotel.
The rooftop of the 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort might be the spot for the world’s most romantic dinner. The lights and sounds of the city float up from below; the desert stars blaze overhead.
In the crowded center of the city, you can shop for drool-worthy handmade rugs, shawls, and other textiles. (Tip: Confirm prices before you buy.)
The walls of Mehrangarh Fort still bear cannon scars of attackers who tried to invade. The breathtaking interiors are decorated with Venetian glass. Our favorite cheap thrill? The palm reader ($14 for two) who’s tucked away near the Moti Mahal.
It’s not called India’s most romantic city for nothing. Set in a bowl in the green Aravalli Hills, Udaipur rings the edge of Lake Pichola, giving new meaning to picturesque.
Sitting like a wedding cake in the in the middle of the lake, the gleaming Lake Palace hotel ferries guests by boat — just like the maharajas did when they summered here.
Grab a cozy window seat at the Jagat Niwas Palace restaurant for the best views of the lake, the City Palace, and the distant hills.
The streets leading to the Jagdish Temple are filled with stalls selling handmade paper pressed with still-scented jasmine flowers. Udaipur artists are known for their magnificently detailed miniature paintings. For sensory overload, walk through the vibrant vegetable and spice market.
See Udaipur from the lake on a boat tour from the City Palace jetty to Jagmandir Island, home to a maharaja’s pleasure palace. A whole island only for parties and good times?
We could get used to that.
Want more? Check out DailyCandy Goes to India, Part 1.
Photo credit: Nick Sonderup