Intrepid Journey Basic Rajasthan: Small group tour of India
IF YOU’RE VISITING INDIA for the primary time as a vacationer, I extremely suggest taking a small group tour. It’s the proper manner to deal with the (virtually) inevitable tradition shock and the challenges of reserving trains, haggling with autorickshaw drivers, dealing with touts, and coping with the myriad challenges journey in India presents. I additionally suggest Rajasthan — one in all my favorite states, a lot beloved by travellers. So, as a long-time fan of small group journey firm Intrepid Journey, I used to be thrilled to journey with them on their best-selling Intrepid Journey Basic Rajasthan tour from November 26 to December 9, 2019.
Intrepid Journey is my most well-liked small group journey firm due to their philosophy of giving travellers genuine cultural experiences and since they uphold accountable journey practises. They have been one of many first corporations to ban elephant driving on all their excursions, for instance. And the Intrepid Basis helps many worthwhile endeavours in India and elsewhere — comparable to constructing faculty playgrounds.
Intrepid Journey Basic Rajasthan is a 15-day tour that begins in Delhi, stops in Agra for the Taj Mahal, after which travels by Rajasthan by prepare and automobile, hitting some well-known locations comparable to Jaipur, Udaipur, and Pushkar — and a number of other fascinating locations which can be off the crushed path comparable to Madhogarh Fort, Pangarh Lake Resort, and Bijaipur Citadel. Alongside the best way we coated each the first vacationer websites comparable to UNESCO listed Amber Fort, in addition to girls’s cooperatives, rustic villages, artisan workshops, and different distinctive locations. The Intrepid Journey visits assist assist the area people — each with donations from the Intrepid Basis, and thru our lodge stays and buying.
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Prime 5 causes I beloved the Intrepid Journey Basic Rajasthan tour
I beloved the tour for a lot of causes, however listed below are the highest 5:
- Our information, Anjali, was unimaginable. She gained the Intrepid Journey Information of the 12 months final yr, and it’s straightforward to see why. She’s sensible, robust, enjoyable, and educated. On prime of her many presents, she has a deft manner of conserving the group collectively and on monitor whereas making it appear easy.
- The itinerary was very well-designed to supply a mixture of city and rural, touristy and off-beat, lively days and relaxation days. Once more, it appeared easy, however I understand how a lot thought and work will need to have gone into crafting the itinerary.
- The small group dimension (our group had seven travellers plus information Anjali), which meant we have been agile and manageable. We may eat at small eating places, we have been in a position to be versatile concerning the schedule (itinerary allowing), and once we visited artisans, we didn’t overwhelm them.
- Intrepid Journey’s dedication to accountable journey was evident all through the tour. Once we visited Amber Fort in Jaipur, we walked to the highest and completely didn’t take the elephant rides on provide there. Once we went buying — Rajasthan is a client’s paradise! — we went to locations that assist the area people.
- The emphasis on native and genuine cultural experiences. Time and again, we had experiences that have been manner off the vacationer path. We rode an area prepare, on the whole class. We visited native outlets in distant locations to purchase issues like bangles, made by a husband-and-wife staff. We went tenting (glamping, actually) on a distant lake and ate recent, easy, native delicacies. We attended a Bollywood film at one of many world’s most stunning cinema halls. And on and on.
Rajasthan tour itinerary
Rajasthan Tour Itinerary with Intrepid Journey India
The Intrepid Journey Basic Rajasthan small group tour began (and ended) in Delhi. We stayed in a lodge in Karol Bagh and spent two days exploring Delhi. However in fact the VERY very first thing we did was meet ‘n greet. Our information Anjali greeted us and we took turns introducing ourselves. Our group consisted of a pair from France, three Australian girls (two have been sisters) travelling collectively, a solo lady from Belgium, and me. That made a comfortable and ideal eight in whole.
After the meet n’ greet, we went to Kitchen with A Trigger for dinner. This was simply the primary of many actions on the itinerary that supported the area people — and one of many causes I’m so thrilled to be related to Intrepid Journey, an organization identified for being a frontrunner within the accountable tourism motion. Kitchen with a Trigger trains and employs native youth, and the meals is scrumptious.
Whats up Delhi!
The Intrepid Journey Basic Rajasthan tour contains guided walks, and in addition free time, in Delhi. On our first morning we headed out early, earlier than rush hour, to Outdated Delhi. It was good to be out in Delhi within the early morning, I beloved the expertise. We took the Delhi metro and transferred to cycle rickshaws to get to Jama Masjid, one of many largest mosques in India. There, we sat on the steps within the morning solar whereas Anjali gave an informative speak concerning the historical past of India and Delhi. She gave everybody a context for what we have been about to expertise.
Learn my Delhi Journey Information: Issues to do in Delhi, and the way to do Delhi proper right here.
We spent the morning wandering the slim lanes of Outdated Delhi, together with the Chandni Chowk markets, Chawri Bazaar, the attractive Sheesh Ganj Gurudwara, and stops for breakfast at Paranthe Wale and a tiny chai stand that bought excellent masala chai.
Later within the day, I took the City Adventures Delhi Meals Stroll together with the French couple that was a part of our group. Chief Komal guided us by a market close to Delhi College, the place we sampled tasty meals from about 10 totally different eating places and stalls. It was a enjoyable and satisfying expertise for a lot of causes, regardless of a chilly, wet afternoon and an influence minimize — we ate momos at the hours of darkness! I had by no means explored this a part of Delhi, and I beloved the road meals expertise.
TIP: I extremely suggest City Adventures Delhi excursions. I’ve additionally taken the City Adventures Hidden Gems of Delhi and it was sensational.
Agra and the Taj Mahal
The following morning we met early to take taxis by the centre of Delhi to Nizamuddin Railway station to catch the high-speed Gatimaan Categorical Prepare to Agra. We transferred to a mini AC bus, a Tempo, and drove on to Agra Fort the place we met our information Ravi. Agra Fort may be very effectively preserved, and although I’ve been there a number of instances earlier than, it was nonetheless an important expertise to listen to Ravi’s tales — particularly the story of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and the way he was imprisoned within the fort for the final years of his life. The ill-fated emperor was doomed to look throughout the river on the Taj Mahal, the monument to like he constructed for his spouse Mumtaz.
Within the afternoon, we went to the Taj Mahal. I’ve been about six instances, and there’s nothing left to say concerning the Taj Mahal — you may learn my information to the Taj Mahal right here — besides it’s enjoyable to look at individuals as they enter by the large gate and see it for the primary time. It’s so well-known, so iconic … and so stunning, too … that it actually wallops individuals. They’ll’t consider they’re “actually right here!” and I do know the sensation. We got ample free time to expertise the Taj — and take pictures in fact — after which we met outdoors the gates at a restaurant. It began to pour rain, and we have been caught within the cafe, which was really enjoyable and cosy.
Agra is not only the house of the Taj Mahal and different historic monuments, it’s additionally a vibrant, busy metropolis — identified for a number of industries comparable to sneakers, sweets, and carpet making. It’s been an Agra custom for 400 years to make carpets by hand, utilizing two conventional stitches. We stopped for an illustration of carpet making, and drank tea in a showroom whereas a number of individuals purchased carpets to be shipped house.
Introducing the group to native crafts and locations they’ll store for high quality items was a part of the Intrepid Journey Basic Rajasthan itinerary, and we had related experiences in a number of cities. Intrepid is aware of that vacationers prefer to carry house souvenirs, in order that they construct buying into the itinerary — and add an academic part to it. All the locations we shopped additionally assist the area people by using native artisans. In every single place we went, we spent our cash in native eating places and shops; our cash stayed in the area people. One other considerate manner that Intrepid Journey helps accountable journey ideas.
Our dinner in Agra, as in lots of locations on the tour, was at a restaurant fastidiously chosen to supply scrumptious meals, charming atmosphere, and excessive requirements by way of hygiene and infrastructure. I seen many times how fastidiously every thing on the itinerary was chosen. We feasted on thalis and tandoori and wealthy, hearty North Indian delicacies.
The following morning, our Tempo picked us up for the drive to Madhogarh Fort. We travelled by Tempo for 5 days, and I used to be very impressed by our driver Sonu. He was a pleasant individual and a very good driver. He adeptly dealt with all of the craziness of Indian roads — which triggered a few of my fellow travellers, all new to India, a couple of heart-stopping moments.
Tip: Don’t sit on the entrance of the bus except you’re ready for a front-row view of the chaos. I typically suppose it’s higher to not look. There are such a lot of near-misses … nevertheless it all the time seems okay. Like a lot in India, it doesn’t make any sense nevertheless it works.
An actual royal fort in Rajasthan
One of many enjoyable issues concerning the Intrepid Journey Basic Rajasthan tour was the off-beat issues we did. In reality, our very first cease in Rajasthan, after crossing the border out of Delhi, was manner off the crushed path. We left the freeway and drove for an hour or two, manner off the vacationer path, into rural Rajasthan to get to Madhogarh Fort. Driving by village after village, we delighted in waving at children — not used to seeing blonde-haired foreigners.
Lastly we reached the hill-top fort, after driving up a winding highway that circled the hill. Workers in conventional gown greeted us on the large doorways and led us into the courtyard eating space, the place we drank masala chai and met the proprietor, Shiv Pratap. The Prataps are a noble household which have been related to the Jaipur royals for lots of of years. Madhogarh Fort has been in his household for 500 years, and it does carry the romance of age.
I beloved it at first sight — it’s precisely my form of place. Genuine, atmospheric, romantic, and with simply sufficient consolation. They’ve properly not modernized it an excessive amount of. We ate dinner within the courtyard, and the subsequent morning, breakfast on the highest of a turret — with a fowl’s eye view of the encompassing countryside. We additionally dressed up in conventional Rajasthani clothes and had our pictures taken in a fantastically restored historic room.
Whereas at Madhogarh, we walked by the village and stopped at a authorities group to see girls weaving on handlooms, and noticed an outdated man spinning cotton on a charkha — the very image of Gandhi. We additionally stopped to purchase lacquer bangles from an area husband-and-wife staff, who make them in a tiny roadside workshop. These are the sorts of native, genuine experiences that Intrepid Journey builds into their itineraries, and that make their journeys so memorable — and so supportive of the area people and economic system.
Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan
After leaving Madhogarh, it was a brief drive to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, the place we went on to Amber Fort — one of many jewels of this very wealthy metropolis. Amber Fort is huge, effectively preserved, and price visiting — although it’s all the time busy. It’s a hilltop fort and there are 3 ways to rise up to the highest: stroll, pay for a jeep journey, or pay for an elephant journey. Fortunately, Intrepid Journey has a worldwide coverage in opposition to elephant driving, so your complete group opted to stroll. It’s actually not very far, and you’ll see the elephants up shut as you employ the identical ramp in some spots.
I already knew the elephants are in dangerous form — sick, crippled, blind, over-worked, and sad. But it surely’s terrible to see them up shut. I stood by the aspect of the ramp and tried to ship a couple of of them some comforting appears to be like.
As soon as contained in the fort’s large courtyard, we met our information Sanjay Sharma. Sanjay has been a information for 15-20 years, and Anjali advised me she all the time hires him as a result of he teaches each tradition and historical past, and offers guests time to discover and take pictures. He’s a captivating man — one of many many wonderful guides that Anjali hand-picks for her excursions.
In Jaipur for 2 nights, we had private time to discover this nice metropolis, after an orientation stroll by the Pink Metropolis — the historic a part of the town. We additionally went buying at a few emporiums, had a rooftop dinner with a view of one in all Jaipur’s forts, and went to a Bollywood film on the Raj Mandir Cinema. Raj Mandir, inbuilt 1971, is without doubt one of the world’s most stunning cinema halls. This can be very ornate, with an enormous auditorium. A number of the group members advised me the choice to see a Bollywood film in India was one in all their favorite issues on the itinerary — one of many deciding components that led them to e book the Intrepid Journey Basic Rajasthan tour.
Jaipur is a good buying metropolis — one of many perfect in India. Town is known for a wide range of crafts, comparable to block printing, and it’s the centre of the gem commerce and jewellery trade. There are such a lot of stunning issues to purchase in Jaipur — it’s a client’s paradise in India! However … caveat emptor. Purchaser beware. It’s additionally a really difficult place to buy as, sadly, there are plenty of unscrupulous sellers who promote pretend items and rip individuals off with varied scams. Anjali all the time warns her teams concerning the scams. And, on the whole, Intrepid Journey excursions attempt to assist outlets and companies that make use of locals and profit the neighborhood.
Wildlife safari in Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve
I by no means have sufficient time in Jaipur, I like all that the town has to supply, however fortunately we left for an important vacation spot: Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve. It’s the most well-liked tiger reserve in India, as a consequence of its shut proximity to Delhi, photogenic landscapes, and density of tigers. We stayed in close by Sawai Madhopur, and went on a day recreation drive in a canter with different individuals. It was beautiful to drive by Ranthambhore, and we did see numerous animals and birds, however no tiger. We undoubtedly got here shut although, as we heard alarm calls. Our information felt the tiger was hiding within the forest, and will most likely see us!
There was an choice to do a second recreation drive, the next morning, by jeep — and a lot of the group took it and went again to Ranthambhore. Anjali advised me that group members see a tiger about 70% of the time — nevertheless it doesn’t actually matter, it’s nonetheless fantastic to go on a wildlife safari in Ranthambhore. There’s a lot to see and expertise.
Offbeat Bundi and the palace of goblins
From Sawai Madhopur we drove to one in all my favorite off-beat locations in Rajasthan — Bundi. It’s one other cease on the Intrepid Journey Basic Rajasthan itinerary that’s each superb and strange. The small metropolis of Bundi doesn’t get plenty of vacationers, nevertheless it undoubtedly deserves a go to. I used to be in Bundi a number of years in the past and beloved it (right here’s what I wrote about Bundi). I felt I had this historic and evocative city virtually all to myself!
In Bundi, we once more stayed at a heritage property, Ishwari Niwas, and had yet one more nice information, Jogi. This was to be the theme of the journey! Jogi works at Ishwari Niwas and was a enjoyable, relaxed, and informative information to charming Bundi. He was extra like a buddy. Anjali may be very cautious about who she chooses to indicate us round, in truth she books these individuals months prematurely.
First we noticed one of many many step wells in Bundi, Rani ki Baori, after which we went to the Taragarh Fort (also referred to as Bundi Palace) that towers over the town with a gothic presence that may get your backbone tingling. That is the place about which Rudyard Kipling famously mentioned: “…even in broad daylight, is such a palace as males construct for themselves in uneasy goals — the work of goblins quite than of males.”
Strolling again by the market, we stopped at Krishna’s Chai store — proclaimed to be the most effective masala chai in India. We watched Krishna grind every spice on a well-worn stone, after which fortunately and enthusiastically boil it along with the tea and milk. It was superb chai, filled with wealthy, complicated flavours, and really warming.
On to Pangarh Lake Resort by native prepare
The following morning we woke early to catch an area prepare, and journey by basic class, to our subsequent vacation spot. I’ve taken many trains in India during the last 14 years — you may learn my recommendation about taking trains in India right here — however I had by no means earlier than travelled on the whole class. This was probably the most actually genuine experiences of your complete journey.
We bundled into the prepare, which solely stopped for about three minutes, and needed to discover room for us and our baggage, as individuals have been simply waking up and nonetheless stretched out on the bunks (we have been in a sleeper automobile). It was a bit touch-and-go as some individuals didn’t need to rise up to offer us room. However we settled in, and shortly I used to be having my photograph taken with nearly each youngster within the coach.
Once we reached our vacation spot, a railway station in a distant and rural a part of Rajasthan I had by no means been to earlier than, an open jeep picked us up for the drive to Pangarh Lake Resort. Anjali teasingly advised us that we have been tenting, and have been going to be sharing a rest room — she successfully lowered our expectations so once we noticed the resort, we have been very pleasantly stunned. It was not tenting in any respect, however glamping! We every had our personal luxurious tent with spacious connected — and personal — toilet.
I beloved the peace and serenity of this beautiful place, set on the shores of a small lake. We ate within the eating room and the straightforward meals was recent and scrumptious. In reality, it was virtually my favorite meals of your complete journey. For dinner, we gathered outside round a giant fireplace pit close to the lake. We ate snacks and drank wine and beer as Anjali took the ground and defined the caste system and in addition how marriages are organized. Then they workers BBQ-ed rooster, paneer, and veggies for us over an open fireplace, and we ate beneath the celebrities. It was one in all my favorite nights of the journey.
Anjali fastidiously selected quiet instances, whereas we have been travelling or having a drink or snack, to speak about varied subjects associated to Indian tradition. She additionally wove in anecdotes from her private life to make it relatable and to attach with the group. She coated all kinds of topics over the course of her talks, comparable to historical past, faith, and customs. I discovered these talks to be very compelling — she actually is aware of the way to maintain her viewers spellbound!
Stepping again in time at Citadel Bijaipur
The time spent at Pangarh Lake Resort was very stress-free, however the subsequent day we have been off once more — only a quick drive to a different property owned by the identical household — Citadel Bijaipur. I like Citadel Bijaipur, I’ve been there earlier than and was so comfortable to see it on the Intrepid Journey Basic Rajasthan itinerary! I finished for one night time there throughout my Mirabai expedition a number of years in the past.
Staying at Citadel Bijaipur is like stepping again in time. While you enter the magnificent gate, you enter a unique world. The royal household who owns Citadel Bijaipur nonetheless lives in a wing, and I met a number of of them — very charming and hospitable individuals who have properly not upgraded the fort an excessive amount of. It’s comfy however nonetheless retains the ambiance of the previous, when chivalry and romance have been the order of the day. Citadel Bijaipur is a enjoyable place by which to ramble, with numerous secret nooks — and so they have an important swimming pool, too.
Our keep at Citadel Bijaipur mainly warmed us up for the subsequent vacation spot: India’s most romantic metropolis, Udaipur!
India’s most romantic metropolis — Udaipur
Of all of the superb and magical locations on the Intrepid Journey Basic Rajasthan tour, I feel I used to be wanting ahead to Udaipur probably the most. I used to be thrilled we have been in Udaipur for 2 nights, with numerous time to wander out there, and go to a few of the unimaginable inns and historic locations — beginning with a tour of the attractive Metropolis Palace.
We hit the bottom operating, and so did our information CP Bhatt — one other improbable information, who actually introduced the tradition and historical past of Udaipur to life. He’s a captivating man, educated and pleasant — and far way more, because it turned out. After we wandered by the fabulous metropolis palace, CP Bhatt launched us to the wonders of buying in Udaipur.
Udaipur is one other nice buying vacation spot as a result of talent and number of artisans and crafts. Our first cease was a retailer referred to as Lord and Taylor (no, not the identical because the New York one!). Right here, they promote attractive textiles made by native girls. In reality, it’s CP Bhatt himself who excursions the native villages searching for proficient girls who can turn into a part of this girls’s cooperative. That is one retailer I extremely suggest — I beloved the merchandise. Block print, hand-stitched, applique, patchwork — so many stunning issues made by hand. And buying right here helps girls, the native economic system, and contributes to the preservation of native abilities.
However we did way more than store in Udaipur. We took a sundown boat cruise on Lake Pichola, watched a really entertaining dance program, Darodhar, on the extremely evocative Bagore ki Haveli on Gangur Ghat, and ate each our dinners on rooftop eating places overlooking the lake and the world’s most photographed lodge — the Lake Palace Lodge, which was initially constructed as a summer season pleasure palace for the Maharana of Udaipur. We additionally went to a workshop to find out about Udaipur’s long-standing custom of miniature portray.
Nonetheless all good issues should come to an finish, and we received up very early once more for a prepare journey to the final cease on our tour — the sacred city of Pushkar. This time, we had chair automobile seats on an excellent prepare, and loved the consolation and the chance to purchase chai and snacks.
Serene and sacred Pushkar
Our final cease on the Intrepid Journey Basic Rajasthan tour was one other favorite vacation spot of mine, the peaceable, small city of Pushkar. Tiny Pushkar has a giant soul. It has the one Brahma Temple in India and a sacred lake that’s each stunning and serene. It’s a kind of locations in India that vibrates with religious power — in case you are open to feeling it. (Besides maybe when it’s overrun with vacationers through the annual Pushkar Camel Honest.)
We had lunch at our lodge after which Anjali led us on an orientation stroll by the vigorous market that wraps itself across the lake, behind the temples and ghats. By now, our group was working like a well-oiled machine, and I used to be persevering with to understand Anjali and all she delivered to the expertise — in addition to her talent at holding and main the group. Each time she spoke, everybody listened with wrapt consideration.
Pushkar is a sacred metropolis, which implies no meat or alcohol is allowed there. The group made a couple of jokes about the way it was not precisely a enjoyable strategy to finish the journey — nevertheless it turned out to be an ideal strategy to finish the journey. On our final night time, we had one other unimaginable native expertise — we went for dinner at a homestay and ate the native (vegetarian) delicacies. It was scrumptious and it was a perfect strategy to finish the journey, by actually experiencing the genuine tradition and real hospitality of India.
The next day, we had some free time earlier than we boarded a prepare again to Delhi. I received down at Jaipur to discover the town some extra … half two of my Rajasthan odyssey coming quickly!
Abstract of Intrepid Journey Basic Rajasthan tour
Total, I might actually give the Intrepid Journey Basic Rajasthan tour a stable A, largely for the 5 causes I outlined on the prime:
- our information, Anjali
- the well-planned itinerary
- the small group dimension
- Intrepid’s dedication to accountable journey
- all of the genuine and native experiences
I favored virtually every thing about it and might suggest the Intrepid Journey Basic Rajasthan tour with out hesitation. I feel it’s most likely particularly good for first time guests to India, an excellent journey group for solo travellers, and for anybody who needs a tour of Rajasthan. I discovered from private expertise how a lot thought and care Intrepid Journey places into their itineraries and excursions.
All the different individuals on the tour have been visiting India for the primary time, and the itinerary was designed to progressively introduce them to the tradition. Somebody like me, who lives in India and who has travelled for years right here, would clearly really feel extra comfy and be instantly prepared for a deep-dive into native experiences. So, having mentioned that, and from my perspective, listed below are my recommendations for change:
- The lodge in Delhi, the place we began the tour, was very fundamental and uninspiring, and in addition in an space that I don’t love — Karol Bagh. The Delhi experiences have been largely in Karol Bagh and Outdated Delhi. We didn’t enterprise in any respect into all of the areas of Delhi I like, comparable to South Delhi, Lodhi Street, Mehrauli, Hauz Khas and many others. Anybody who solely did this tour and the Meals Stroll would have a really restricted concept of all that Delhi has to supply.
- The buying, eating, and lodge experiences in Jaipur have been underwhelming. I do know Jaipur effectively and I want we had gone to higher outlets and eating places, and stayed in a haveli lodge. Really, there was completely nothing unsuitable with the rooftop restaurant the place we had dinner — besides that it was patronized solely with different overseas journey teams. It was most likely superb for the others, however for me it was a little bit of a letdown. I might have most well-liked a extra native expertise. (Besides having mentioned that, I have to admit the meals and the view have been improbable.)
- We rode many trains and buses, and needed to typically scramble a bit for seats. I’m wondering if a system of rotating seat assignments would assist make this course of simpler.
NOTE: Thanks a lot to Intrepid Journey for internet hosting me on this journey. I’ve lengthy needed to journey with Intrepid, as I do know and respect the corporate, and I used to be thrilled that my expertise lived as much as my expectations. All of my ideas and opinions concerning the tour are my very own, and I wrote this submit with the wants of readers in thoughts.
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