We firmly believe that any trip to Rajasthan has to include at least one stay in a rural area. Afterall, 70 percent of India’s population lives in rural parts of the country. Stopping by these fascinating towns will break up your journey, allow you some time to relax and gain an insight into rural life. A variety of spectacular accommodations are on offer in these areas; you can spend the night in a beautiful fort or palace, or homestay. Cycle, trek, take a train, jeep or horse ride or do a spot of bird watching. As well, there are some amazing temples, forts and palaces in the area amongst stepwells and abandoned towns scattered through the rural areas away from the main tourist sites.
Ajabgarh is a small village 100km north-east of Jaipur, nestled in the world’s oldest mountain range, the Aravallis, in the desert state of Rajasthan. The village itself was named after Ajab Singh Rajawat, a descendent of Bhangarh’s founding ruler. Today, it’s a lovely, simple town overlooking the Jai Sagar Lake. The Meena tribe populates the surrounding area, well-known for the striking colourful fabrics and ornate jewellery they wear.
Forts and temples are scattered over the landscape, many requiring formidable climbs to reach them, but worth it for the spectacular views. A trip to the majestic 17th century temple and fort is well worthwhile: here, much of the marble façade and courtyard pillars remain intact. You can access the fort and temple by foot or jeep.
Bhangarh is a mysterious 17th century town located close to Ajabgarh, abandoned overnight not long after its completion. Today it’s a fascinating heritage site and a worthwhile day trip. To the south, Neelkanth is home to over 80 ancient temples in a sweeping valley, and Sariska National Park is just a short drive north-east from Ajabgarh, where you can spot jaguar, tiger, and sambar deer.
In arid Rajasthan, the village of Barli sits halfway between Jodhpur and Jaipur. Agriculture prospers here, and it’s a wonderful place to get up close and personal with rural Rajasthani life. The town is full of narrow streets, and local vendors sell pottery, jewellery, sesame oil, and woven carpets. The surrounding landscape is made up of rolling hills and dotted with local temples, an imposing fort, and ancient ruins. Nearby, Lake Dev Sagar is a peaceful body of water, the perfect destination for hiking and bird spotting.
It’s possible to interact directly with some of the villagers in Barli, who are happy to welcome you into their homes or share a meal. Close to Barli, Pushkar is a mystical Hindu pilgrimage town set around a holy lake, and Ajmer is a large and thriving Rajasthani city full of Islamic heritage and historical sites. Bhilwara, the city of textiles, is well worth a day trip, and a couple of hours south of Barli, Chittorgarh hosts the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage listed fort, one of the largest in the country.
In backcountry Rajasthan, Bhainsrorgarh Fort sits dramatically on a jagged cliff top overlooking the River Chambal, an ancient 18th century fortified outpost that has inspired photographers and artists for generations. Surrounded by landscaped gardens, the fort occupies a truly beautiful place in the Rajasthani countryside and was converted into a heritage hotel ten years ago.
The legendary Chambal River is a sacred and special part of life in Bhainsrorgarh. Boating safaris, rowing, and cruises along the Chambal are all popular pastimes, and you might spot the rare gharial, an endangered species of crocodile native to the area. Fishing for Mahseer (the mighty Indian “gold fish”) is a fascinating way to while away a few hours.
The nearby temple site at Badoli offer a terrific hike through the forest. Here, you can witness tenth century architectural genius, constructed by Hun leaders. Bundi and its magnificent fort is a short drive north of Bhainsrorgarh, a worthy day trip. Admire the step well and carved sculptures at Hinglajgarh Fort deep in the forest, and venture on a jungle safari in Mukundara Hills National Park, where you may spot the elusive panther if the timing is right.
Nestled in the Vindhyachal Hills, Castle Bijaipur is a heritage listed royal residence built in the sixteenth century, now a boutique hotel managed by the ruling family, dominating the small village it sits in. The surrounding countryside is spectacular: farmlands, valleys, and verdant forests full of jacaranda. This is a paradise for nature enthusiasts, and there are plenty of ways to get into the thick of it.
Explore the castle grounds and surrounding countryside on horseback with the beautiful Marwari horses. There are plenty of bird watching opportunities, which are particularly rewarding at dawn and dusk where you can spot kingfisher, parakeet, and over 100 other rare and beautiful species. The mystical Chambal River flows close by, the perfect opportunity to take a cruise or fish for Mahseer or Snakehead Murrel.
Fascinating half-day and day trips from Bijaipur include the mighty UNESCO World Heritage listed Chittorgarh Fort, the waterfall and temple at Menal, lovely Lotus Lake, and a visit to Athana, famous for carpet weaving and hand block printing. Rajasthan’s countryside is ever-changing, and Bijaipur is a wonderful vantage point for exploration.
We don’t understand why Bundi isn’t more widely visited and think there should be throngs of people, but we’re also glad they aren’t aware of this gem just yet! Bundi is admired for its magnificent temples, lovely lakes, and a truly spectacular 17th century palace. In comparison to bustling Jaipur or Jodhpur, Bundi is a breath of fresh air – you can admire the beauty and charisma of the Rajasthan region without dodging buses and fighting through crowds. A two-night stay here is ideal.
Bundi is in Southeast Rajasthan, just a short distance from Kota. Its 50 odd stepwells, or “baori” in Hindi, are quite famous. The most popular step well for visitors is the Queen’s Stepwell, constructed in 1699 with 200 steps.
The 16th century Taragarh Fort overlooks the city from the hilltop, an imposing and fascinating monument. Adjacent to the fort, the Garh (Bundi) Palace and Chitrashala - Ummed Mahal is a steep climb to reach but worth every step. The Garh Palace was described aptly by Rudyard Kipling as “the work of goblins and not of men.” It is home to magnificent Indian murals and paintings in truly vivid colours.
In the Rajasthani countryside between Jodhpur and Udaipur, Chanoud is nestled in the Pali district at the foot of the Aravalli hills. This is an off the beaten track destination with a small village, a lovely lake, and a rather grand and glorious 300 year old palace. Chanoud Garh is ornamented with delicate filigree work and surrounded by regal courtyards and walls painted with coloured murals.
A morning on the banks of the tranquil lake at Chanoud is a great way to relax, and you can explore the salt-pans and vast open fields in the distance. Interact with the village folk, or take a safari by jeep or camel.
The white marble Jain temple at Ranakpur is a couple of hours away by road, a wonderful day trip from Chanoud. A trip to Chanoud is easily coordinated on a tour with other fascinating Rajasthani destinations, such as Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Chittorgarh.
Just 28 kilometres from Udaipur, Delwara is a small and beautiful gem of a hill top village full of northern Indian Jain style temples. At one time, there were over one thousand of them. Today, there is at least one temple on each and every narrow street. The former dukedom has seen a lot of positive social change over recent years resulting in improved quality of life for the people in the village, while a strong focus has been placed on religion and community. This is a great place to visit if you want to witness Rajasthan village life in beautiful surroundings.
Delwara is home to the magnificent Devi Garh Fort Palace, an 18th century monument constructed with local marble and semi-precious stonework. Today, the palace itself is used as a 39-suite luxury hotel. Jain temples in Delwara include the white marble Rishabhdev Jain Temple and the Parshwanath Jain Temple with its artisan sculptures and underground chamber.
At Delwara’s entrance, Palera Talab is a large and tranquil lake constructed in 1875, with lovely domed pavilions. This is the town’s primary source of water. Delwara’s social development is largely due to the work by a non-profit organisation, Seva Mandir, and today you can visit the Sadhna Workshop to support women’s empowerment by purchasing quality women’s clothing made locally. This is a great place to find out about the caste system, women’s rights, sanitation, and many other aspects of ancient and modern village life in India.
Jawai is unique place in the Pali district of Rajasthan, between Jodhpur and Udaipur. The wild grasslands, granite outcrops, and sand-covered plains punctuated by bodies of water are home to leopards, flamingos, and hundreds of beautiful bird species. Most visitors to the Sujan Jawai Leopard Camp are thrilled to observe the elusive feline up close and personal on more than one occasion. Close to the camp, there are local temples in abundance and Rabari herdsmen going about their daily routine. Castle Bera is a more affordable option still in the original family of Bera.
Day trips from Jawai include the UNESCO World Heritage listed fort at Kumbhalgarh, and the striking Ranakpur temples. Udaipur is a couple of hours away by road, where lakeside tranquillity, flamboyant white marble, and plenty of romance attract thousands of visitors.
A small and friendly village in the Pali district of Rajasthan, Jojawar is a taste of authentic Rajasthani rural life. To the east, the Aravalli hills and scrub forests are dotted with small farms. You’ll come across plenty of rabaris, the indigenous camel herders and shepherds who have settled in the landscape surrounding Jojawar, going about their daily routines.
The train safari between Jodhpur and Udaipur is a real highlight for anyone visiting the Pali district, especially as it travels through the Kambli Ghat Pass. Take a horse ride through the landscape or do a horse trek over several days if you’re feeling adventurous. Alternatively, join a jeep safari through the centre of Jojawar and take some time to admire the colourful saris and wares at the bustling market.
Bond film fanatics might fondly recall the scene in the 1983 film Octopussy where Bond is chased through the tiger-infested Indian countryside. The idyllic setting for the scene was the Kumbhalgarh Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site with the second longest continuous wall in Asia (the first being the Great Wall of China). The Ranakpur / Kumbhalgarh region is somewhat remote, nestled in the Aravali Hills between Jodhpur and Udaipur. Two monuments make this region worth a detailed visit (we’d recommend two nights), the Kumbhalgarh Fort itself, and the magnificent Ranakpur Temples, just an hour away by car.
If ancient relics of past battles fascinate you, the Kumbhalgarh Fort is simply not to be missed. The fort itself is heavily guarded: thirteen mountain peaks surround it, and then there is a 36-kilometre long perimeter wall with seven great gates and seven mighty ramparts. Fortifying bastions and watchtowers complete the picture, and the fort saw many a battle in its day.
The area surrounding Kumbhalgarh is a wildlife sanctuary, although you won’t see tigers anymore, you can still spot deer, bear, leopard, plenty of birds, and the rarely sighted Indian wolf. Starting at Kumbhalgarh, take a wonderful four-hour trek through the nature reserve, ending at the stunning Ranakpur Temples.
Manvar is right in the heart of the unforgiving Thar Desert in the Shergarh region of Rajasthan. This is where to come if you want to experience the timeless rugged beauty of desert life in India. There isn’t so much to do here except to take it all in: watch Indian gazelle, greet herds of sheep and cattle passing by, spot village children making their way to school, and witness some truly stunning desert sunsets.
In the sand dunes of Shergarh there are a number of small villages, mostly inhabited by Rajput families that have called this part of the world home for generations. You can take a desert safari by jeep, ride a camel, spot cranes, or visit the villages.
At the base of a rugged hillock in Rajasthan’s Pali district, Narlai is a tiny and very special village. It’s quiet and rural here, but don’t be fooled into thinking there’s nothing to see. Narlai is full of hidden gems: cave and rock temples, a magnificent 1,000 year old stepwell, and a sizeable former hunting lodge that’s been converted into a grand heritage hotel.
In Narlai’s diverse and beautiful countryside, you can stroll by the lake, take a Marwari horse trek, visit village houses and connect with the locals, contemplate the view atop an enormous white elephant sculpture on Narlai Hill, or visit the extraordinary Sage Shri Narad cave temple. Seli Bandh is a beautiful dam nearby that doubles as a prized bird spotting location, and the glorious Ranakpur temples are less than 40 kilometres away. The Jain temple at Ghanerao was dedicated to Lord Mahavir, perfect for a half-day trip, and Kumbhalgarh is just 45 kilometres away, home to the UNESCO World Heritage listed fort.
Nimaj is remote and extremely beautiful, located in Rajasthan’s Pali district. Nestled in the Aravalli hills between Jaipur and Jodhpur, the landscapes of Nimaj are made up of grasslands, scrub forests, and wetlands. The heart of the region is Chhatra Sagar, a vast and plentiful reservoir created by Thakur Chhatra Singh in the late nineteenth century. His aim was to harvest the monsoon rains, and the reservoir quickly became the main source of agricultural opportunities for local farmers, and a popular entertainment spot for visiting dignitaries and VIPs. Nowadays, the area is lush and green, and produce is plentiful. The reservoir also attracts hundreds of beautiful bird species and plenty of wildlife. A luxury tented camp was added to the reservoir, and it continues to host visitors to Nimaj today.
Farmers and shepherds occupy the countryside and life is simple and peaceful here. A visit to Nimaj is a great way to get a feel for rural Rajasthani life, and the villagers are usually happy to tell stories. Bird watching in this region is spectacular, with more than 200 species calling the area home.
There are plenty of age-old temples and mosques for wandering through in Nimaj and its surroundings. A half-day trip highlight is the temple complex at Ranakpur, and the world’s only Brahma Temple is located in the holy city of Pushkar, just 100 odd kilometres away. To get a feel for authentic rural living, you can visit the tribal settlements of shepherds and snake charmers in the region.
A rural village in Indian terms, Raipur is situated on the banks of the Luni river and it has a locally famous Ganesha temple. Raipur is well off the tourist trail and is a charming representation of Rajasthani rural life. It is also set amidst pretty natural surroundings and is the location of Lakshman Sagar.
Ramathra is a scenic fort nestled in the hilltops between Sawai Madhopur and Bharatpur, privately owned by descendants of the original fort founders. This somewhat remote area is surrounded by wildlife reserves, picturesque countryside, and scenic Kaila Devi National Park. Visitors come to Ramathra Fort seeking tranquillity or a nature and wildlife adventure. In any case, the fort offers a relaxing and luxurious place to put your feet up in the evenings after day tours through the Rajasthan desert dunes and surrounding forests.
Ramathra Fort is a great place to come for a detailed look into rural life and for trekking through winding nature trails. Watch out for Indian wolves, deer, jackal, hyenas, and the occasional leopard. Enjoy delicious traditional Indian home cooking, watch local farmers tend to crops, and chat to the local children who will be very curious about your family and country.
Nearby, the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve and the Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary give you the chance to get up close and personal with the forest residents. At the edge of the Chambal River valley, admire the 12th century Udgir Fort. Travel across the Daang Plateau by Jeep Safari and visit the cave temples of Kurka and Ghanteshvar.
Just one hour away from Kumbhalgarh Fort, Ranakpur is the proud home of a breathtaking collection of marble Jain temples. Nestled in the shelter of the Aravalli Hills between Udaipur and Jodhpur, Ranakpur is often overlooked in favour of the Kumbhalgarh Fort, but we’d like to see more visitors get the chance to witness the incredible monuments here.
The temples are perched elegantly on the green hilltop near the banks of the Magai River, featuring more than 1,000 marble pillars, with no two alike. Created in the 15th century and dedicated to Lord Adinath, the first Teerthkar; they are awe-inspiring examples of northern Indian Jain architecture. They tower three storeys high with 27 magnificent domes and halls supported by the thousand odd marble pillars, all individually adorned.
The main temple houses gorgeous tall statues of frolicking nymphs, and the enormous chamber below was once used to protect the statues from raiders. Two subsidiary temples stand nearby, and the older “Sun Temple” is full of erotically charged carvings.
If you have some time to spare and want to avoid the hectic tourist to-do trip, we’d recommend a relaxed two-night stay with day tours to both the Kumbhalgarh Fort and the Ranakpur Temples, instead of the usual rushed day trip between Jodhpur or Udaipur. Indeed, it is also possible to take a gentle and peaceful 3 to 4 hour walk between the two. There are comfortable heritage hotels, opulent lodges, or glamping sites to choose from, and the team at Experience Travel Group know them all.
The sleepy village of Rohet is a short, scenic drive from Jodhpur. Travellers have long stopped here to recuperate and enjoy its simple and peaceful pleasures. It is something of a gateway into rural Rajasthan and home to the Bishnoi people, a community deeply embedded in the land.
Rohet works as a base from which to explore the area, whilst still affording travellers a break from the hectic pace of the larger Indian cities.
Nestled in the golden desert sands between Jaipur and Udaipur, Shahpura is abundant with life, water, and activity. Lakes, fields, wetlands and forest surround this working farm estate, the satisfying result of over a century’s work by Rajadhiraj Nahar Singh and Shahpura’s ruling family.
Popular pastimes in Shahpura include boating on the lakes, picnics in the countryside, sunset drinks, and some fabulous bird watching. Rare and endemic birds call this region home, along with blue bull, jackal, and plenty of peacocks. There are forts, ruins, and temples to explore in the surrounding countryside. Village life in Shahpura is peaceful; you can join an excursion to see the local artists working or take a jeep safari through the desert.