India,Rajasthan 16 Days
11th - 26th January 2024
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"Embark on an unforgettable journey with local Adventure ~ Camel-Man Hiteshwar through the vibrant tapestry of Rajasthan, starting with the lively festivities of the Bikaner Camel Festival.
On this splendid adventure you'll meet our many local friends in what might be best described as a 'behind the scenes' journey through Real India. From awe-inspiring architecture to delightful culinary experiences, carefully crafted to invoke a sensory feast for the discerning traveller in our very favourite locations.
Karen-Jane Ellis ~ CTA Director"
Bikaner Camel Festival, Rajasthan, Bikaner, India
Local Guides & Historic Haveli accommodation
Featuring luxury palaces, monumental forts, exquisite temples, vibrant markets, and more. Experience the warm hospitality of India as we venture off the beaten path. Our itinerary promises unique encounters, from riding and wagon camels accompanied by personal attendants to savouring freshly prepared meals. Immerse yourself in the rich cultural tapestry with visits from local dancers and musicians, creating unforgettable moments around the desert campfire.
Embark on Adventure: Bookings Now Open for International Journeys to India and Mongolia! Contact Us for Pricing and Details.
Tipping everywhere in India is customary, this tour includes all tipping so you can relax at hotels, with guides, at monuments, with drivers, and on safari!
Rajasthan, India - Land of the Kings
Rajasthan is India at its colourful best...the incredible light, the austere and atmospheric landscapes of the desert and ancient Aravali mountains, the romance of Rajasthan’s heritage and chivalry, the hospitality and humour of the people whether from regal lineage or dignified desert-dwellers, and their arts and crafts.
It is also the largest state of the Republic of India, encompassing the Great Indian Desert known as the Thar. The people of this region have filled the plain canvas of
the arid desert with a profusion of vivid colours. The sheer vibrancy and festivities
in their lifestyle leaves no room for anything dull or pale.
Step back in time...India will change your life!
Day 1 - 11th January: ARRIVE Indira Gandhi International Airport
New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport - Hotel ( 5-10 Km / 30 mins )
Plan to email us your flight itinerary. Upon arriving in Delhi on the 11th of January, our representatives will greet you at the airport with a traditional Indian welcome, Namaste. They will transport you to our Delhi hotel and guide you through the check-in process, ensuring a seamless start to your journey. You'll meet fellow travellers at the evening meal, have any questions answered, and receive detailed information about tomorrow's day and the coming days ahead.
Throughout your time in India, you'll be accompanied by bilingual guides and travel in an air-conditioned vehicle, except in Udaipur, where local tuk-tuks will be used for sightseeing. Airport transfers will be arranged in a comfortable, air-conditioned Tempo Traveller or Innova.
Meals Included: Dinner
Accommodation: Radisson BLU Plaza / Holiday Inn aerocity or Hotel equivalent
Day 2 - 12th January: DELHI – MANDAWA ( 265 Kms / 6 hrs)
New Delhi to Mandawa in Rajasthan ~ Known for its architectural marvels!
Departing from the hotel early, we have the opportunity to recover from any flight fatigue and explore India in air-conditioned comfort, with spring water bottles provided and convenient bathroom breaks whenever needed as we journey to Mandawa.
Nestled in the heart of the Jhunjhunu district within the enchanting Shekhawati region in Rajasthan, Mandawa is a architectural getaway. This picturesque town, originally known as Mandu ki dhani, Mandu ka bas, or Manduwas, exudes the timeless charm of its rich history.
Mandawa beckons with the allure of an 'open gallery.' This enchanting city, situated 190km north of Jodhpur, is a canvas painted with splendid frescoes adorning houses that whisper tales of Mewari merchants from the 17th to the 19th century.
Mandawa, founded by the Mandu Jat, is a testament to the artistic brilliance of the 18th-century merchant families who lovingly renovated the town. Located just 190 km from the vibrant pink city of Jaipur, Mandawa is a treasure trove of imposing forts and exquisite havelis.
As we wander through the narrow lanes, you'll discover the architectural wonders of these Havelis, each telling a story of opulence and grandeur. These splendid structures, adorned with intricate frescoes and carvings, have gracefully withstood the test of time, preserving the allure of a bygone era.
Bearing witness to the harsh beauty of the Thar desert, Mandawa stands resilient amid temperatures ranging from 0 to 50 degrees Celsius during the mid-year summer months. As the sun casts its warm glow, narrow streets adorned with tall buildings create shaded passageways, offering a cool respite from the desert's intensity.
The city unfolds like a story, revealing a meticulous plan where public and private spaces dance in harmony. Havelis, each a masterpiece, boast two courtyards—the front, a public stage for business, and the inner, a sanctuary for women's relaxation. The 'zenana,' a private realm, surrounds the inner courtyard, where daily life, religious ceremonies, and social gatherings weave a rich tapestry.
Security and privacy intertwine in the design, with only one entry into the haveli. Walls, built with local stone and lime plaster, stand as resilient sentinels, their thickness offering both thermal mass and cool interiors. The roofs, a symphony of stone slabs and earthen pots, shelter rooms with lofty ceilings that breathe.
In this historical haven, small openings guarded by intricate jharokhas invite the desert breeze, unveiling Mandawa's architectural poetry. It's a place where every stone echoes the romance of centuries past.
This evenings accommodation allows us to discover the enchanting legacy of Shekhawati in the redefined luxury of Castle Mandawa, a fortress transformed into a lavish heritage hotel. This royal haven seamlessly blends medieval elegance with contemporary comfort, featuring turreted towers, palanquin-roofed balconies, and old-world rooms adorned with family portraits and antique artifact's. Castle Mandawa, a jewel in Rajasthan's heritage, that once housed the esteemed Maharajas.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation: Hotel Castle Mandawa or similar
Day 3 - 13th January: MANDAWA / BIKANER (190 Kms / 4 hrs)
Mandawa to Bikaner ~ Renowned for top-tier riding camels and aptly named 'camel country,' it hosts one of the world's most colourful camel festivals. Additionally, Bikaner boasts a distinctive temple devoted to 'Karni Mata' in Deshnok, famously known as the Rats Temple.
Upon reaching Bikaner, we will have lunch at a fine local restaurant, followed by a visit to the famous Junagarh Fort. Afterward, we will proceed to check-in at Hotel.
Bikaner is renowned for its delectable Bikaneri Bhujia and delightful sweets. The city is also recognised for its handicrafts, leather goods, and boasts the largest camel farm in Asia. Notably, Bikaner is celebrated for its finely crafted jharokas adorning the windows of forts and opulent havelis.
Junagarh Fort, constructed between 1588 and 1593 by Raja Rai Singh, a Mughal emperor Akbar's army general, boasts a formidable 968-meter-long rampart adorned with 37 bastions and two entrances. The primary entrance, known as Suraj Pol or Sun Gate, leads the way. Situated to the south, the palaces within the fort create a captivating ensemble of courtyards, balconies, kiosks, towers, and windows.
Junagarh Fort, a masterpiece of Indo-Mughal architecture, is renowned for its opulent palaces that offer a glimpse into the luxurious lives of Bikaner's maharajas. Unlike other forts in Rajasthan, it prioritises luxury over defense with its lower ramparts and towers. The red sandstone, sourced from Jaisalmer, adds to its grandeur. The fort houses palaces like Badal Mahal, Gaj Mandir, Phool Mahal, Anup Mahal, Hawa Mahal, and Vikram Vilas. Anup Mahal features unique usta work, while Badal Mahal's blue walls are adorned with painted white clouds. The Hawa Mahal allows for cool summer winds, and Gaj Mandir showcases exquisite marble inlay work. The Vikram Vilas Palace, inspired by European palaces, served as the Darbar Hall. Noteworthy is the DH9 De Haviland warplane, a gift from the British government to recognise Bikaner's contribution during World War I.
Bikaner Camel Festival - A Glance at History
The camels of Bikaner, known for their strength and beauty, have a rich history. Bikaner's army had the "Ganga Risala" Camel Corps, participating in World Wars and conflicts. This unit evolved into the Indian Army's "Ganga Jaisalmer Risala," active in the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War. Today, the Border Security Force's Bikaner Camel Corps uses camels for border patrolling, a star attraction at the Republic Day Parade.
A Grand Spectacle
Celebrating the 'ship of the desert,' the festival highlights the special bond the region shares with camels, promoting breeding, camel taming, and training traditions.
Camels are adorned in traditional accessories showcasing their splendour. Camel pageants, competitions in milking and adorning, with an eagerly awaited camel dance competition. The day concludes with captivating cultural performances by local artists.
Camel Dance: Witness spectacular camel performances, including captivating camel dances.
Camel Decoration Competitions: Marvel at artistic camel decorations showcasing creativity and skill.
Camel Fur Cutting: Experience camel fur cutting done in a beautiful and artistic manner.
Camel Welcoming the Chief Guest: Be a part of the ceremonial welcome by adorned camels.
Traditional Attire: Immerse yourself in the rich culture as men and women showcase traditional costumes.
Camel Activities: Enjoy various activities performed by camels throughout the event.
Tourist Participation: Engage in interactive games and activities offered during the festival.
Cultural Folk Musicians: Delight in live performances by traditional musicians from Rajasthan.
Cultural Dance Performances: Experience diverse dance forms from different parts of India.
Accommodation in Bikaner will be truly breathtaking, creating lasting memories.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation: Narendra Bhawan Palace or Laxmi Niwas Palace or Similar
Day 4 - 7: 14th - 17th January: BIKANER - DESERT CAMEL SAFARI (110 km / 2hrs)
Old Bikaner City by Bicycle with Hiteswhar - Thar Desert Camel Safari
This early morning 2-hour, 10 km cycle tour starts and ends at your Hotel, followed by Hotel breakfast. In previous years, those who chose to sleep regretted missing out on the experience!
The 530-year-old walled city of Bikaner captivates with its dense urban layout, adorned by narrow streets, defining the city's historic centre. Our bicycle ride aims to delve further into the intricate tapestry of Bikaner, unveiling its diverse architecture, art, religious sites, vibrant crafts, and rich culture.
As dawn breaks, we set out from the Hotel for an early departure from Hiteshwar's Bikaner home. Hiteshwar will choose your modern bicycle, make any adjustments for comfort, and check your fitted helmet. Soon after, we depart, ensuring we witness the Old City's tranquility before the hustle and bustle of daily life begins.
The Old City of Bikaner is a labyrinth of narrow, winding streets concealing fine Havelis and notable Jain temples within its walls. It makes for an interesting ride as no cars or buses can fit down the narrow passageways. To navigate this unique landscape, we'll have a leader, middle rider, and a tail end Charlie, ensuring a guided adventure!
The Old City is encircled by a 7km-long, 18th-century wall with five entrance gates, the main entrance being the triple-arched Kothe Gate. Hiteshwar helps us discover hidden gems that would be easily missed without the guidance of an experienced local. Delight your taste buds with varied, delicious street food offerings, sip chai at a renowned local tea shop, experience the serenity of an ornate Jain Temple, and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of the market.
Bikaner's old city stands out with its lively character, boasting numerous havelis, self-contained prols, bustling squares known as chowks, and charming chabutras, designed for bird feeding — a testament to the city's unique charm.
Breakfast at Hotel - Journey to Camel Safari - Lunch with camels before departure
We depart Bikaner for a closer experience of The Thar Desert, also known as the Great Indian Desert, is a large arid region in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent that covers an area of 200,000 km2 (77,000 square miles) and forms a natural boundary between India and Pakistan. It is the world's 18th largest desert, and the world's 9th largest subtropical desert.
The Thar Desert extends between the Aravalli Hills in the north-east, the Great Rann of Kutch along the coast and the alluvial plains of the Indus River in the west and north-west. Most of the desert is covered by huge shifting sand dunes that receive sediments from the alluvial plains and the coast. The sand is highly mobile due to strong winds occurring before the onset of the monsoon. The Luni River is the only river integrated into the desert
After a few hours drive, we travel with the camels and start on a half day safari, traversing interesting landscapes, reaching remote villages by late afternoon for overnight stays. The safari days in this region will be full of adventure in the company of villagers, local artists, and visiting musicians.
The meals are truly outstanding, a testament to the culinary prowess of the locals who craft fresh delights in their desert pots and pans. Specialised local dishes take center stage, leaving even self-proclaimed Indian food connoisseurs pleasantly surprised by the introduction of delicious, unfamiliar dishes at every breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Each meal is a three-course affair, accompanied by delightful beverages such as masala chai, fresh fruit, and salads, along with hot chapatis, mains, and sweets. The accommodating cooks are eager to please, readily adjusting the spice levels to cater to individual tastes. Plus, there's always an ample supply of clean bottled spring water!
Sheltered toilets are set up at each campsite, clean bedding is provided and placed within clean camp tents that sleep two guests. Every day the camp shift crew packs down the tents and bedding, then collects guests luggage that is transported on a camel wagon arriving each night at the next campsite with us. It's as close to glamping as possible whilst offering a traditional safari experience!
On the final day, we enjoy breakfast at camp, say goodbyes to the camels and camp staff and then drive by road to Jodhpur, the blue city. Check-inn at the Hotel and in the afternoon, visit of the city.
08h00 – 09h00: Breakfast
10h00: Camel Safari for 2 hrs towards
Lunch in the middle of the desert (fresh lunch will be prepared in the desert).
Some free time to relax under a shaded tree.
15h00: Camel Safari for 02 hrs
Arrival in village.
Installation in camp (camp situated near Village).
Dinner & overnight in tents.
Meals Included: All meals during the safari.
Accommodation: Safari tents
Day 7: 17th January: ~ THAR DESERT - JODHPUR (160 Kms / 2 hrs)
Final Camel Safari breakfast - Journey by Road to Jodhpur, The Blue City - Arrival / Check-inn at Hotel. Afternoon, visit of the city and Fort Mehrangarh and in the evening enjoy a tuk tuk ride in the old town of Jodhpur.
After breakfast, we bid farewell to our Camel Safari friends and arrive in Jodhpur to explore Jodhpur and the Mighty Mehrangarh Fort, the formidable fortress that dominates the skyline of the Blue City.
Jodhpur, the second-largest city in Rajasthan, is famously known as the Blue City, a name that perfectly fits its character. Most of its architecture, forts, palaces, temples, havelis, and even houses are adorned in vibrant shades of blue, creating a striking visual experience. The robust forts that grace this splendid city contribute to a truly memorable spectacle.
Mehrangarh Fort, also known as 'Mehran Fort,' is situated in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. The foundation of Mehrangarh Fort was laid on May 12, 1459, by Rao Jodha on a rocky hill 9 km south of Mandore. Rao Jodha, formerly known as Marwar, established Jodhpur in 1459.
Mehrangarh Fort stands as a magnificent architectural masterpiece, rising vertically and impregnable from a rocky hill that soars 120 m above Jodhpur’s skyline. It is one of the most splendid forts in India, with battlements ranging from 6 m to 36 m high. Constructed from the rock on which it stands, the fort seamlessly merges with its base.
Currently managed by the Jodhpur royal family, Mehrangarh Fort is rich in history and legend. Surrounding its base is the old city, a maze of Brahmin-blue cubes extending to the 10 km-long, 16th-century city wall. The Blue City lives up to its name, with a labyrinth of winding, glittering medieval streets scented by incense and roses. Here, shops and bazaars offer a myriad of items, from trumpets and temple decorations to snuff and saris.
In the evening enjoy a tuk tuk ride in the old town of Jodhpur.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation: Marugarh or Similar
Day 8: 18th January: ~ JODHPUR - CAMEL CHARISMA (150 Kms / 2 hrs)
Following breakfast we journey to Camel Charisma, check-in and enjoy a delicious lunch. We meet with Raika Camel Herders, and enjoy a shared evening dinner at Camel Charisma.
We check in with our friends at Camel Charisma farm near Ranakpur village, located in Desuri Tehsil near Sadri town in the Pali district of Rajasthan, western India.
Camel Charisma has emerged from a prolonged struggle – a fight for recognition of the value of camels, Livestock Keepers' rights on a global scale, and acknowledgment of camel milk as a valuable source of nutrition and a nutraceutical.
Camel Charisma pioneered the production of bio-diverse paper from the dung of Kumbhalgarh camels. In their modest factory, local women proudly manufacture the most bio-diverse paper on earth. Their camel milk soaps are handmade from pure camel milk, coconut oil, and various scents. The Raika shear their camels during Holi and traditionally provide the wool to local weavers to craft the traditional baql, a sturdy rug they take on migration. They are working to revive this craft, introducing new designs. On our campus, they have a wool carding unit where the wool is cleaned and separated into fine and coarse fibres. The coarse wool is used for dhurries, while the fine fibers are made into shawls in collaboration with Kullu Karishma. The coarse wool is spun by men using the drop spindle, while women in Jaisalmer spin the fine fibers into yarn on the Gandhi cherka.
Camel Charisma is a social enterprise that aims to develop, promote, and market environmentally friendly products from the camel. Founded in 2010 by two visionaries, Mr. Hanwant Singh Rathore & Dr. Ilse Kohler-Rollefson, Camel Charisma draws inspiration from the experiences and close connection of Lokhit Pashu Palak Sansthan (LPPS) with Rajasthan’s camel pastoralists. It was established as an outcome of an LPPS project to revive Rajasthan’s camel husbandry, creating sustainable rural livelihoods in semi-arid and arid areas while generating job opportunities for local communities.
The purpose of Camel Charisma is to provide economic incentives for camel breeders to continue keeping camels for their livelihoods and to contribute to the sustainable management of the Thar Desert, conserving this biodiversity-rich agro-ecosystem.
Rajasthan is renowned for its rich and prolific art treasures.
After meeting with Raika camel herders we return to Camel Charisma for a delicious homemade evening meal, certain to feature their unique camel milk delicacies!
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation: Camel Charisma