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Rajasthan Color Wheel

A Primer on the Land of Kings
  • The Farm

    Jaipur’s rose-hued City Palace

  • The Farm

    Rickshaws parked outside of the City Palace

  • The Farm

    Hot Pink, a fashion and homeware boutique in Jaipur(Photo: Courtesy of Nomadic Songlines

  • The Farm

    The guest rooms at The Farm, scattered around the pool

  • The Farm

    The Farm’s young owners (left) and some of the eclectic décor they’ve collected(right)

  • The Farm

    The Farm’s outdoor kitchen area and a garden nook

  • Raas

    The Blue City of Jodhpur seen from the Mehrangarh Fort

  • Raas

    Inside the fort: a man enjoying a smoke (left) and ancient battle scars on a fortified wall (right)

  • Raas

    A narrow street in Jodhpur’s indigo-colored Old City

  • Raas

    The Sardar Bazaar, Jodhpur’s main market

  • Raas

    Shahi Samosa sells thousands of samosas each day, and there’s always a crowd out front

  • Raas

    The zip-line at the fort, an unexpectedly pleasant way to enjoy the Blue City’s sunset

  • Raas

    Most of the guest rooms at Raas come with views of the fort

  • Taj Lake Palace

    The marble Jain temple in Ranakpur, a must-see en route to Udaipur

  • Taj Lake Palace

    Taj Lake Palace, set on an island in Udaipur’s Lake Pichola

  • Taj Lake Palace

    Many of the White City’s havelis were built in the 18th and 19th centuries

  • Taj Lake Palace

    The Jagdish Temple in Udaipur

  • Taj Lake Palace

    An evening performance by the dancers at Bagore Ki Haveli

CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

Jutting out from the bottom of the Asian continent, India occupies some 1.3m square miles from the Himalayan foothills in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south.

WHY GO

Home to an incredible diversity of cultures, a continent’s worth of spectacular landscapes and an incredibly rich history and mythology, India is one of the world’s great, classic travel destinations — and one that you can go back to again and again without even scratching the surface.

HOW

The international airports in Mumbai and Delhi are among the largest Asian hubs, well serviced with flights from practically everywhere within range of a jet.

TABLET TIP

India’s most visited spots — the Taj Mahal, Rajasthan, Delhi, Mumbai — are well worth seeing, but India is also a country that rewards getting off the beaten track. Consider heading south to the backwaters of Kerala or north to the Himalayan foothills.

Rajasthan, October, 2013

Four hours west of New Delhi by road, the rose-hued town of Jaipur emerges from the haze of a dusty highway. Known for centuries as a shopping mecca, dripping in jewels and the finest textiles, it remains one of India’s most visited cities. Make a pilgrimage to the Taj Mahal before or after Jaipur and you’ll have completed the Golden Triangle, the old India 101 itinerary. But to get beyond the basics and add some more personality to the voyage, squeeze a couple more days into your schedule and travel a bit farther into the Land of Kings — the history-drenched desert state of Rajasthan.

Pretty in Pink — Jaipur
From the Jantar Mantar to the Amer Fort, there are many historic sites to wander about in Jaipur, but let’s be honest — it’s the dazzling bazaars and finery shops that exert the most pull, just as they have for generations. While the Old City’s ancient markets are charming enough, those who are ready to spend some cash on something that won’t look too out of place back home should head to the city center, where stylish, subtly modern designs abound. The celebrity-magnet Gem Palace carries original jewelry that combines traditional artistry and a contemporary sensibility; while at Hot Pink, the French designer Marie-Hélène de Taillac offers brightly colored accessories for both the wardrobe and home, all inspired by and produced in Jaipur.

When you’re ready to call it a day, retreat from the action and check in at The Farm, a seven-room inn run by a charming young couple. After a long day of treasure-hunting and haggling, you’ll appreciate their attentive staffers, ready to offer a fresh pot of tea with cookies as soon as you arrive.

In addition to the eclectic guest rooms, there are relaxing public spaces aplenty — like the rec room filled with oversized pillows and board games, or the elegant garden nooks designed for socializing. Best of all is the dining area by the poolside kitchen. There you can compare the day’s finds while noshing on a hearty meal; and it’s not unusual to see the owners delightedly chatting it up among the travelers well into the night.

Royal Blue — Jodhpur
Another five-hour drive (or train ride) westward takes you to the Blue City of Jodhpur, the gateway into the vast Thar Desert. Though first impressions of Jodhpur tend to be underwhelming after Jaipur, a closer look reveals why many Rajasthanis consider this the proudest and most dramatic city in the whole state. Take a stroll through the narrow, labyrinthine roads of the Old City painted in varying shades of indigo, and you’ll feel as if you’ve just stepped into the pages of a storybook. If you’d prefer to lose yourself in this romantic setting without actually getting lost, ask a concierge to book a heritage tour guide. Be sure to include the Sardar Bazaar on the itinerary, stopping along the way at Shahi Samosa, which sells literally thousands of delicious samosas every day. An exploration here inevitably leads to the stately Mehrangarh Fort, where the flamboyant chambers, impressive courtyards and walls bearing ancient battle scars all conjure scenes from times past. And if there’s a dreamy, hard-to-place familiarity about it all, perhaps it’s because Wes Anderson chose Jodhpur as a backdrop for The Darjeeling Limited.

After soaking in the historic atmosphere, return to your soothing modern room at Raas, a beautifully renovated 18th-century haveli at the foot of the fort. Unwinding with an Ayurvedic treatment at the hotel’s spa may be just what you need after an unexpectedly rewarding zip-line tour (the best way to enjoy the city’s sunset). Or simply admire the brightly lit Mehrangarh from the comfort of your own balcony with a bottle of wine. Either way, an indulgent end to the day only feels proper at this glamorous hotel.

A Wash of White — Udaipur
When the dry desert heat has you feeling ready for some waterside breezes, it’s time to get to Udaipur. (If you can, stop en route at Ranakpur to visit the elaborate marble Jain temples.) With the cream-colored city’s silvery lakes reflecting the morning sun, the surrounding greenery and the city lights at night, Udaipur feels much more serene than the lofty Blue City. Of the town’s various lakes, all built between the 14th and 16th centuries, the most iconic is the centrally located Lake Pichola. Naturally, the Taj Lake Palace, set on an island in the lake, is the choice hotel if you want to indulge in a regal experience. Originally built in the 18th century as a summer residence for the Mewar royals who ruled this region of Rajasthan, the palace continued over the years to host a fashionable clientele, including Vivien Leigh and Jackie Kennedy, before reopening after a thorough renovation in 2000.

A short jetty ride between the hotel and the shoreside City Palace offers a romantic view of the town. It’s easy to see why this is one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in India. Once ashore, you can visit the Jagdish Mandir, a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu. There’s also a smattering of small, worthwhile craft shops, as well as the Bagore Ki Haveli, an unassuming-looking lakeside museum that puts on a full hour of folk dance and live music every night in the courtyard. If you’re staying at the Lake Palace, though, you can simply do as the old summering royals would have done and let the entertainment come to you. The hotel hosts its own performances on site, and for something more personal, there’s also an in-house astrologer. Perhaps a kingly life is in the stars — and if not, at least for now you can indulge the fantasy.

Aiko Ishikawa

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CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

Jutting out from the bottom of the Asian continent, India occupies some 1.3m square miles from the Himalayan foothills in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south.

WHY GO

Home to an incredible diversity of cultures, a continent’s worth of spectacular landscapes and an incredibly rich history and mythology, India is one of the world’s great, classic travel destinations — and one that you can go back to again and again without even scratching the surface.

HOW

The international airports in Mumbai and Delhi are among the largest Asian hubs, well serviced with flights from practically everywhere within range of a jet.

TABLET TIP

India’s most visited spots — the Taj Mahal, Rajasthan, Delhi, Mumbai — are well worth seeing, but India is also a country that rewards getting off the beaten track. Consider heading south to the backwaters of Kerala or north to the Himalayan foothills.

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