Rajasthan’s famed for its maharajas, palaces and tigers, and boasts two of Northern India’s most vivid cities. But should you see Jaipur, the UNESCO-listed pink city, or dusty blue Jodhpur?
Population: 3.8 million
Total area: 484.6 sq km
Famous for: Being the ‘Pink City,’ a city of palaces and the capital of Rajasthan
Population: 1.87 million
Total area: 78.6 sq km
Famous for: Being the ‘Blue City’ and the majestic Mehrangarh Fort
The capital of courtly drama, Jaipur’s packed with palaces. The pink sandstone façade of Hawa Mahal is a big draw, but Jal Mahal, deserted in Man Sagar Lake, cuts a haunting figure.
Try Amber Fort for city views, or go to City Palace, home to Jaipur’s royals, for its Mughal treasures. One suite is now on Airbnb for $8,000 (£6,208) a night.
Admire the city’s sea of blue-washed homes atop Mehrangarh Fort (pictured), where former royal apartments, such as the gilded ‘pearl palace’ of Moti Mahal, feature walls adorned with plaster and crushed seashells.
Or stay at the Umaid Bhawan palace hotel, styled with Art Deco interiors by a Polish war refugee at the maharaja’s whim.
Find Jaipur’s flavour within its markets, such as Chandpole, where local artisans sculpt marble live. Looking for Rajasthan’s signature jewellery?
Johari bazaar – near Hawa Mahal – is the obvious choice. Then follow the crowds to LMB sweet shop to try paneer ghewar (honeycomb cake) and the best mithai (sweets) in the state.
For authentic encounters with local vendors, ramble around the bustling Sardar market, located in the old city beneath the Ghanta Ghar, the clock tower of Rajasthan.
Spy exquisite handicrafts, clothes and spices lining the stalls, before quenching your thirst with lassi (yoghurt drink) or kulfi (ice cream).
Tiger thrills aren’t hard to come by in Jaipur. At the UNESCO-stamped Ranthambore NP, you may come across the striped predators roaming the former royal hunting ground of Jaipur’s maharajas.
In the early morning – and before sunset – you’ll get the chance to spot a host of wildlife along the edges of Padam Talao Lake, famed for its water lilies.
See the blue city transform into a dusty wilderness with a tour into the Thar Desert.
Hang out with Bishnoi tribes and observe their way of life – along with black bucks, blue bulls and desert foxes if you’re lucky. Or for an oasis in the city, go to Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park, and look out for native birds and butterflies.
Centuries-old temples and hundreds of monkeys go hand in hand at Galta. If you can get past the furry fiends (pictured), explore the shrines of Rama, Krishna and the monkey god, Hanuman.
Stop by the Garh Ganesh Temple, too – or view the elephant god’s statue with binoculars from City Palace’s Chandra Mahal.
Swing by Maha Mandir to spy the yoga murals on its 84 supporting pillars, or go to the Chamundaji temple in Mehrangarh Fort, where huge crowds seek goddess Durga’s divine blessing.
Legend has it she helped protect Jodhpur when hundreds of Pakistani bombs fell on the city during the conflict of 1965.
Jaipur and Jodhpur are both colourful gateways into Rajasthan, with fascinating histories and royal spectacles aplenty. Jaipur’s the clear winner if you’re seeking tigers and palaces, but if you want dusty encounters with desert tribes, Jodhpur might be the answer
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