India's lively northern state is brimming with colour, from ancient forts to impresive palaces, national parks and wildlife. Here are some of the things you shouldn't miss on your next visit
Kumbhalgarh Fort (Dreamstime)
Six of Rajasthan’s magnificent hill forts have been jointly declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. These include Kumbhalgarh and the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort, which towers above Jodhpur. Thrillseekers can take to one of the zip-wires that pass over the fort, giving unforgettable views of the city below.
Chittorgarh Fort is one of the oldest and largest in India, with a rich and bloody history. Jaisalmer is often known as the Golden Fort due to its sandstone walls, which turn a deep gold colour as the setting sun bounces off them.
City Palace, Udaipur (Dreamstime)
Jodhpur, the state’s second city, has an old town that’s every shade of blue, from sky through cobalt to indigo, hence its nickname of the Blue City. In the east, Jaipur was founded in the 18th century by Maharajah Jai Singh (visit the observatory he built) and was painted pink in 1876 to welcome the future Edward V.
Naturally, it has since acquired the title of the Pink City. It has numerous palaces, forts and attractions, including ‘Palace of Winds’, the Hawa Mahal. In the south of the state, Udaipur is known as the City of Lakes; it is perhaps Rajasthan’s most romantic city, and has featured in many films and TV series from James Bond to Jewel in the Crown.
A view from the top of Mount Abu (Dreamstime)
The Aravalli range provides some respite from the summer heat, and the state’s only ‘hill station’ is found on the holy rise of Mount Abu. Although touristy in summer, there’s much to see and do, including visiting the Dilwara Jain temples, a wildlife sanctuary with great views.
Pushkar camel fair (Dreamstime)
Camels can still be found in most parts of the state as working animals. For the quintessential desert sands experience (especially if you want a multi-day trip), head to Jaisalmer and explore the Thar desert, but do your research on who to use.
Camel-lovers can also visit the famous Pushkar camel fair (29 Oct - 4 Nov), which is touristy but fun.
Almost as iconic as the camels are Marwari horses, famed for their unusual ears, which curve inwards at the tip.
Tiger in Ranthambhore National Park (Dreamstime)
Ranthambhore National Park is not only one of the easiest places to see tigers in India, but it is also one of the most picturesque (and also busiest), thanks to its backdrop of ancient ruins.
Rajasthan has two more tiger reserves: Sariska, where several tigers have been reintroduced from Ranthambhore, and Mukundara Hills, where there are plans to do the same.
Leopard in Rajasthan (Dreamstime)
The leopard is proving a conservation and tourism success in Rajasthan. The Aravalli range is home to large numbers, ideally suited to the rocky landscapes. Specialist safaris are now available, especially in the Jawai Bandh area, and a Conservation Reserve has been created.
Brahminy starling, Keoladeo Ghana National Park (Dreamstime)
While you’ll see birds anywhere with water in Rajasthan, the jewel in the state’s crown is Keoladeo Ghana NP. A man-made wetland, its diverse habitats are home to some 366 bird species, with thousands of waterfowl migrating here during winter. Explore it by bicycle or cycle-rickshaw.
Main image: Hawa Mahal palace, Jaipur (Dreamstime)