From where to stay and things to do, here's your guide to a child-friendly break in India's most magical, historic destination
There is no place in India for a family-friendly holiday quite like Rajasthan, a majestic state with history by the gallon, breathtaking desert scenery, magical maharaja palaces straight out of a storybook, and camels and elephants galore. What’s more, the cities are colour-coded – Jaipur, The Pink City and Jodhpur, The Blue City – making all the photographs of your travels really pop. It’s not all an oriental fairytale and visiting with children can present challenges but, but with the right tips on what to see, things to do and which opulent hotels to stay in, the sensory overload will win you over!
Aptly nicknamed ‘The Land of the Kings, little ones can feel like princesses and maharajas as they explore majestic forts and lavish palaces. The distance between them can be vast though, so avoid being overwhelmed and unplanned with these pointers from Lightfoot Travel. If you book with Lightfoot Travel they will also provide you with a Leap&Hop Rajasthan guide book so your trip is as educational as it is colourful.
When to go:
The best time to visit Rajasthan is from late September to mid-April when the weather is warm and dry during the daytime, with little humidity, and cooler in the evenings. It can actually get quite cold in the evenings (especially in the desert) so don’t forgot to pack a jumper, jacket and trousers.
What to see and where to stay:
A camel safari in the Thar Desert is also bound to be an unforgettable experience. The best place to experience this is in Jaisalmer, also known as the ‘Golden City’. If you’re headed there in January or February, take part in the region’s Desert Festival during which time the native Jaisalmer show off their customs with dances, shows and camel rides. Don’t forget to visit Jaisalmer Fort – a massive sandcastle riding from the plains which seems to come straight out of an Arabian Nights tale.
After your camel ride around Jaisalmer Fort, relax at The Serai Jaisalmer, a luxurious desert camp to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. You will truly feel like you are part of a re-enactment of the Arabian Nights when the sun sets and the camp is lit up with hundreds of torches and candles. Parents, why not indulge in a much deserved massage whilst at The Serai Jaisalmer?
Jaipur is home to Amber Fort, which is a must-see when you are in ‘The Pink City’. The main tourist attraction in the region is the Amber Fort with its spectacular red sandstone and marble structure. Within the Fort, visit the The Sheesh Mahal (the Mirror Palace) where thousands of tiny, glittering mirrors reflect light. You can challenge your kids to sketch the intricate carvings around the fort or take photos of the brilliantly painted and decorated elephants. Another great way to admire this fantastic Fort and appreciate its scale is to board a hot air balloon and make for the skies. The views are amazing!
A contemporary option for Jaipur is Lebua Resort. Located on the outskirts of the city, the hotel has a children’s activity centre to entertain them whilst mom and dad indulge in a massage at L’Occitane Spa. Try your hand at kiting on the roof terrace, a traditional Indian sport, or maybe rent bikes and explore the scenic beauty of the area.
Jodphur is the gateway to Mehrangarh Fort, an architectural masterpiece which towers majestically over the city. Mehrangarh Fort is one of the largest in Rajasthan with exquisite palaces and numerous relics of Indian courtly life. Pick up one of the Children’s Activity Book available there that contains games to make the visit more fun and educational. Stop and admire the view too – from up there, you can easily understand why Jodphur is nicknamed the ‘Blue City’ – the locals will probably tell you that the colour is routinely painted on houses and structures to keep the mozzies at bay but we’re sceptics! Whatever the reason, it makes for a stunning result.
The Raasis our go-to hotel when travelling to Jodhpur with the family as it is one of the rare boutique options which offers connecting rooms! Its prime location, with views over Meherangarh Fort is also another of its main draws as is the charming architecture.
This is one of our favourite cities. The shimmering Lake Pichola is surrounded by beautiful palaces, temples and havelis and if you nab a place to stay along the shoreline, it feels like you’re in a fairytale. The best way to experience the beauty of the lake is by a boat cruise. During your cruise, stop by the City Palace complex, known for its lush gardens and numerous courtyards and admire the Taj Lake Palace Hotel, an impressive floating marble hotel. The Take Lake Palace is also a great place from which to enjoy sundowners as well as dinner.
Taj Lake Palace, rising royally from the middle of Lake Pichola is a unique property in Udaipur. The former home of his highness Maharana Jagat Singh II, the entire property retains its regal aura for the delight of all if you’ve got the cash to splash. In addition to organising cruises of Lake Pichola, Taj Lake Palace has an in-house astrologer to read your fortune and an entertaining shadow dance show.
Also located in Udaipur, the Oberoi Udaivilas lies on the banks of Lake Pichola, boasting gorgeous courtyards and a historic palace. Here, the entire family can enjoy cooking lessons and show off their skills when they return home! Kids are also invited on an exclusive tour of the property to explore the world of hotel operations.
Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve
Animal lovers rejoice, Rajasthan is a haven for tigers and numerous other exotic creatures. Ranthambhore National Park is a 392sq km sanctuary where you it can be fairly easy to spot a tiger.
Located a stone’s throw from Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, step back in time at Sher Bagh, a luxurious and eco-friendly tented camp which is bound to make kids feel like true adventurers. The main pull is obviously the game drives where you will be able to spot tigers and other wildlife, but also camel rides. For a bit more cultural fun, let them try their hand at block printing lessons.
More sights worth considering:
If you’re travelling in November, the Pushkar Camel Fair should be high on your list of things to see! This yearly event is a spectacle of epic proportions with 11,000 camels, horses and cattle flocking in for the 14 day fair. Aside from livestock, which the kids will thoroughly enjoy, the Pushkar Camel Fair organises performances featuring musicians and dancers from the Thar Desert each night. Kids will delight in the traditional puppet shows and magician performances as well!
Not technically part of Rajasthan but close by – no trip to Indiawould be complete without a visit to the mother of all temples, the Taj Mahal. A testament of love, this famed Wonder of the World, the Taj was built by Shah Jahan as a mausoleum to his third wife. Built over 22 years, it is also the epitome of Mughal art. Don’t forget to visit the Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri (both UNESCO World Heritage site) which are located in the region.
Souvenirs to bring back:
A handmande Rajasthani string puppet is a great souvenir as it truly represents the culture of Rajasthan. It makes for great home decoration or for re-enacting the puppet shows you enjoyed during your trip.
Bindis, bangles, traditional footwear (mojaris) and pint-size saris are all great buys. You can also collect beautiful linen using hanblocked, appliqued and contrast stitching techniques. We particularly love the great jewellery which can be custom-made in real silver, so come with designs at the ready!
Whilst in Jaipur, don’t forget to purchase blue pottery, a flourishing craft in the city that was introduced by the Persians. A unique gift and beautiful home decoration.
Finally, the best souvenirs are the photos you’ll capture (with many a wandering holy cow in the background!)
This article was brought to you by Lightfoot Travel, a Singapore-based luxury tour operator offering expert travel advice & inspiration, tailor-made itineraries & full booking services.
All Images: Lightfoot Travel