I love road trips! Watching village after village pass by, the changing landscapes, the varying flora and fauna of each region, changing attires of people – and what not! But wait – you’re not gonna get all this if you simply take a short 4-5 hour road trip within the same state! When I say Road trip, I am talking of thousands of kilometers of travel across multiple states and cultures to get a full blast of the experience!
If this prospect interests you, then do read on!
I believe that India is the perfect country for such road trips because the diversity it offers in terms of culture, colours and terrain is unmatched.
I am going to talk about one such road trip I recently did – complete with logistics, stay and food options and the itinerary in case you would like to go yourself.
My trip was from Mumbai to Rajasthan. And since you guys know I am a travel-lover and photography fanatic, it does not take a genius to guess that I didn’t just travel to Rajasthan and back, I explored a multitude of places while I was there J
So here goes:
Mumbai to Ahmedabad, 550 kms, 8 hour drive
First things first – what they say about the roads is true – they are really good!
It’s best to start as early in the morning as possible. It can save you up to an hour of traffic.
On the way to Ahmedabad, we stopped for some Dhaba food at one of the highway places. But in Gujarat, the dhaba food traditionally refers to the Kathiyawadi cuisine which includes the likes of baigan bharta with bajra roti, sev tamatar nu shaak, lasaniya bataka etc. etc. The food is quite tasteful and if you’re unfamiliar with Gujarati cuisine, feel free to ask for recommendations so that you order the right dishes. Remember, some of them can be sweet 😉
Ahmedabad, as you guys know, is in the State of Gujarat and is known for its temples, mosques, kankaria lake and Sabarmati ashram. For all the bird lovers out there, I strongly recommend visiting the Nal Sarovar bird sanctuary if you are travelling between November and February as flocks of huge migratory birds can be seen there in plenty.
Since we took multiple stops on the way, we reached there around sun-down. So we went for a drive to the Riverfront post dinner. We spent some quite moments by the riverfront walking around or just staring at the water. I also chanced on some night photography (of course!):
Where to Eat: One thing we enjoyed eating in Ahmedabad was Patel ice cream! They had such unique flavours and the ice creams were so rich and creamy! My pick from the entire lot was the Thandai flavour – felt like having frozen thandai and the spices tingling in the throat after you swallow the ice cream was the icing! Whenever I go to Gujarat, Patel ice cream is definitely on my list. Another flavor I found interesting was the Orange Almond – subtle favour of orange well blended with Almonds.
There are of course plenty of restaurant options for meals.
Ahmedabad to Nathdwara, 300 kms, 6.5 hour drive
Well yes, the roads here were pretty decent but not as good as Day 1. Hence the difference in duration.
So we left from Ahmedabad around 7 AM and crossed Gandhinagar on the way. It is the capital of Gujarat and a well landscaped city. In a few hours, we were passing the toll plaza and entering Rajasthan.
The minute you enter Rajasthan, there is an unmistakable change in the surroundings. You start noticing the yellowish soil, different vegetation, some cactus etc. One thing you cannot fail to observe is the dressing – the ghagra cholis, the turbans, the dhotis.
You pass several villages and they give you the aura of the Rajasthani life.
We reached Nathwara by lunch time. Nathdwara, for the uninitiated, is a pilgrimage place of Vaishnavas. There is a very famous temple there called Shreenathji Temple. Shreenathji itself is a tiny village where people have settled around the temple and hotels have also come up all around to provide accommodation to tourists. Tourists flock here all year round and there is a considerable rush during festivals.
The darhsan here happen at fixed times and the idol of God is adorned in a different way for each darshan – for eg: the darshan at 5.30 AM signify that God has just woken up and only His mukh is visible. At 7 AM, shringar is done and the idol is fully adorned. At 9 AM, God was said to step out in the village with cattle and hence, along with the shringar, you can also view cattle placed around God’s idol. And so on….
Here are a few pictures of the life at Shreenathji:
Where to Stay: Well, to be honest, there are a lot of hotels in Shreenathji, but all are quite basic. And they are all similar. So while I wouldn’t recommend any one in particular, I would surely say that you should select the one nearest to the temple so that if you wanna go to your room in between darshans, it won’t be too long a walk.
Where to Eat: After early morning darshan, don’t forget to have the kullad wali masala chai. There are several stalls wherever you go – you can pick any.
For breakfast, there are streetside options like poha, fafda, jalebi, samosas etc – again there are many small stalls to choose from.
For lunch, your best bet would be the thalis at Vrinda hotel or Rajbhog Hotel – just opposite Vrinda. They put up the menu outside so you can chose which one you like better.
For dinner, if you cant have the thali again, there are restaurant as well as street food options near the market.
Shopping: Nathdwara is full of shops – from sarees to saree borders to dress materials to jewelry to indian wear for kids to shringar items – you name it! The streets look quite colourful because of all these shops and a walk down here is a must!
Nathdwara to Udaipur, 45 kms, 1 hour
Udaipur is a city full of lakes, palaces, shopping options, forts and what not! From small inns to havelis to luxurious 7 star palaces – the staying options are also numerous and in all budgets!
For all the things you could do at Udaipur, do check out my dedicated post here:
Day 4 & 5:
Udaipur to Jodhpur, 200 kms, 4 hours
Jodhpur or the blue city is one of my favorite cities in Rajathan! Entering Jodhpur brought back memories from my previous visits and I have only strengthened that list in this visit 🙂
I am gonna jump straight to the things to see in Jodhpur:
This is of course the first recommendation for anyone visiting Jodhpur and I did not regret visiting it again even one bit! The splendor of the fort is unparalleled and its turrets and towers were as magnificent as ever!
There are of course myriad stories of the life at the fort and about the King had his 30 queens, the dedicated chowk for playing holi, the rich Sheesh Mahal and so on.
The most precious moment for me came when I saw the blue city from top of the fort at sunset – it was a sight to behold and I will remember it for a long long time! Sharing a few sunset pics here:
And finally a picture of the glittering Jodhpur city by night:
Umaid Bhawan Palace
Another obvious recommendation in Jodhpur. Umaid Bhawan is one of the largest palaces in the world and spells luxury in every corner! Spread over 26 acres, a part of it is accessible to the public and a part has been converted into a lavish Taj hotel.
The story goes that the Maharaja of Jodhpur was impressed by the design work of the Viceroy’s palace in New Delhi by the London based architectural firm Lanchester & Lodge and asked them whether they would be interested in designing a palace for His Highness in Jodhpur.
Umaid Bhawan exuberates royalty and splendor in the true sense of the word. One of my favourite parts is the Vintage Car display in the grounds ranging from Cadilacs to Morris Minor to Rolls Royce Phantom to even a vintage Hummer!!! You can see people ogling at the beauties and for good reason 🙂
Photography Tip: The forts and palaces of Rajasthan are a perfect opportunity for some architecture photography! Look around you and the moments will simply keep presenting themselves. Just remember to be patient.
These tiny lakes adjacent to each other were built in 1459 on orders of the Queens of Mewar.
These lakes are located in Fateh Pole near the back entrance of the Mehrangarh Fort.
What I enjoyed most here were the cormorants chilling by the lakes and the reflection of the fort clearly visible in the lakes.
And the first sightings of the migratory birds!
Oh, and also this mischievous squirrel!
The Blue City
Yes, Jodhpur is known as the blue city due to the blue houses. But remember, the top of Mehrangarh fort is not the only place from where you should see the blue houses. You must go in to the narrow streets and walk by those houses to get the real feel of the blue city!
Now it was quite a task finding out the exact location of these houses as everyone seems to be pointing to the view from Mehrangarh fort. After multiple conversations from a lot of people, we finally identified that these houses are located near Ranisar Padamsar.
What you can do is start walking in the opposite direction to the fort’s back entrance and you will find several narrow (I mean really narrow) by-lanes containing the blue houses.
Do note, the car won’t go into these tiny lanes. You will need to take a local rickshaw or a horse cart to exit from the place.
Photography tip: There is a whole lot of creativity you can use with these blue walls and streets in the background. So go prepared!
This is a man-made lake built by Pratap Singh in 1872.
It offers boating options for tourists and can be seen from top of the hill as well. I recommend the drive upwards.
Try to plan a visit here just before sunset as you can see the sun disappearing behind the Mehrangarh fort on your way up and the lake surrounded by a pink and orange sky after sunset also makes for a great view!
You would wonder why am I talking about gardens in Jodhpur? Well, Mandore Garden is a garden unlike any other that I have ever seen! Mandore was the ancient capital of Marwar and the garden houses cenotaphs of the former rulers of Jodhpur built as early as in the 1400s.
Clock tower is another structure built just by the Sardar Market.
Where to Eat: Eating a Rajasthani Thali at Gypsy Restaurant is a must. They offer 31 items in their thali and each of them is worth relishing. Priced at Rs. 349/- plus taxes, it will not even burn a hole in your pocket.
You must also visit Chaudhary’s for the local favourites – Mirchi wada, samosas and pyaaz kachoris. Another local gem is Chaturbhuj for its Gulab Jamuns (yumm!).
If you’re in the mood for international cuisine, Rigveda is a good option.
Where to Stay: Jodhpur is amazing in terms of the stay options too! And the best part is the hotels are quite reasonably priced. We stayed at Polo Heritage – a beautiful, clean hotel with big enough rooms, a pool and a lot of much needed calm and quiet! You could get havelis and palaces at reasonable rates too. There are of course the standard business hotels as well.
Day 6 & 7:
Jodhpur to Jaipur, 330 kms, 5.5 hours
Jaipur, also termed the pink city, is the capital of Rajasthan and there are unbelievable number of things you can do here! For all the details, refer to my dedicated post on Jaipur here:
Jaipur to Chittorgarh, 310 kms, 5 hours
The Chittor fort or Chittorgarh is one of the largest forts in India and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are several structures in the fort having their own significance like the Vijay Stambha or the Victory tower, the Kirti Stambha or the tower of fame, Meera Temple dedicated to Meerabai, Kalika Mata Temple, Padmini Palace, Rana Kumbha Palace, Fateh Prakash Palace and so on.
Just a trip around the boundary of the fort is 13 kilometers long! So be prepared for a long walk if you wanna see the entire fort. Hiring a guide would be recommended here considering the deep history and many stories surrounding this fort.
Remember to catch the sunset and the light and sound show in the evening. They are both worth it 🙂 But the light and sound show happens only 2 times a week and the arrangements are not very well organised. From the ticketing line to the entry, there is a lot of running around and crowd chaos.
Where to stay: The Amrit Manthan Luxury Resort is a great option for spending the night here.
Chittorgarh to Vadodra, 420 kms, 8 hours
Well, we chose Vadodara only to split the way back to Mumbai as it would be a very long drive to go directly. The drive was quite pleasant and my favourite moment was when we spotted some peacocks strutting away in an adjacent field. We stopped the car and ran towards the field to capture the beauties!
There were other birds we captured on the way too:
We reached Vadodara late evening and spent the evening catching up with some friends over dinner.
Where to Stay: Hotel Regenta Inn is a great stay option. Located right across the railway station and bus stand, this hotel belong to the Royal Orchid group and has cozy rooms and courteous staff.
Where to Eat: While we ate at the hotel only, our local friends strongly recommend a thali place called ‘Sasuma’.
Vadodara to Mumbai, 420 kms, 7.5 hours
Well, I wouldn’t really vouch for the number of hours mentioned here. It goes all smooth till you near Mumbai, but the minute you get caught up in Mumbai’s traffic, there is no control over time. We took nearly 3 hours to navigate the last 50 kms of our trip!!
So that was the end of a splendid, joyous, experience-rich road trip to Rajasthan!! A few road-trip tips here:
- Be prepared for a lot of driving (obviously). Its important to enjoy the drive. Preferable to travel with someone who also knows driving so that it doesn’t get too much for one person
- If you’re planning to do a similar trip but want to cut down on the days or the places, you could customize this itinerary by skipping either Nathdwara or Udaipur. You can also skip Jaipur and go to Chittorgarh directly from Jodhpur. On the way back, you could do a halt at Indore instead of Vadodara and the distances will be similar.
- Remember, journeys are often more beautiful than the destination. Remember to stop the car once in a while and get off to enjoy the beauty of nature.
- Plan well. For such long road trips, planning is everything. Always keep a buffer in your plan as traffic is not something which is under our control.
- Remember to keep food and some other basic supplies in the car so that in case you do get stuck somewhere for long hours, it would be easy to cope.
- Petrol pumps may be few and far between in some areas. Keep your tank full whenever there is an opportunity.
Do let me know what you think about the idea of this road trip and share your road trip experiences on any trips that you may have undertaken!