When we sent our lovely travel consultant Charlotte to India with her sister, she wondered whether the experience would live up to her dreams of a real-life Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (her favourite film).

In this, her first-hand account of their India trip (a slightly abridged version of Wonders of Rajasthan) you’ll find out – and discover just about everything else you could experience here besides.

Charlotte Hamilton in India - posing in front of Taj Mahal

Striking a pose at the Taj Mahal

Delhi – “Fast, furious but fascinating”

Old Delhi as dusk - India with kids itinerary

Delhi is buzzing, day and night

I admit, that this feeling of ‘home’ didn’t happen all-at-once. For starters, although my sister and I are seasoned travellers, I do admit that I found Delhi overwhelming; it’s noise, the smells, the chaos: when you’re told that the city is an assault on the senses, nothing can prepare you for it. But do you know, this is EXACTLY why you should visit. There is simply nowhere else like it on earth.

On our first full day there, we saw some amazing historical sites, particularly in the Old Quarter, from the Mughal Tombs, ancient forts and colonial-era mansions through to chaotic spice bazaars and food stalls aplenty to keep your appetite satiated. One of my favourite spots was the Sikh Temple of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib where, in true Stubborn Mule style, we got stuck in with the locals and helped to make chapattis in the temple kitchens to feed the staggering 50,000 people who come to eat a free meal here – TWICE – daily. I also really enjoyed wandering through the Khan Market area, picking from which restaurant or stall I fancied eating from.

And so, almost as soon as it began, it was time to leave and hop on the overnight train to Jodhpur, an adventure in itself…

Overnight train to Jodhpur

Post cards from India - overnight train to Jodhpur

Bunking up on the night train to Jodhpur was a lot of fun and something I think many kids will love

Despite my misgivings on seeing so many people jam packed into the carriage (what you’ve seen on the television is true!), there was such a friendly atmosphere of camaraderie. We got chatting away to lots of different families exchanging stories about where they were off to and what our plans were for the remainder of the trip.

At 11pm somebody decide that it was “lights out” and everyone naturally fell in sync, making their beds with the provided sheets, blankets and pillows and settling down for the night. I slept surprisingly well and woke at around 6am when we had just an hour and a half left to go before arriving Jodhpur for the next part of the journey. Looking out of the windows I was pleased to notice the changing scenery as rural India came into view with farms and scrubland whizzing past, I even managed to spot several deer aside from the obligatory cows which you can’t go more than 10 yards without bumping into!

Jodhpur & the Rajasthan Camel Safari

Charlotte's post cards from India - Camel cart

Here we are on our transfer from the gate into Osian Camel Camp

The contrast between the metropolitan streets of Delhi and Rajasthan’s second largest city is huge, typical of a trip to India, undoubtedly a country of huge contrasts. It’s perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the desert, the many blue buildings, again a contrast to the desert beyond the fortress walls which surround the city.

It was here we met Raj who immediately made us feel at ease and who took on the role of being our Indian ‘Dad’ for the remainder of the trip.

Raj drove us an hour further into the countryside from Jodhpur out to Osian where once again I got that slight feeling of dread having been driving down unmade bumpy tracks for around 15 minutes we arrived at our destination The Camel Camp which seemed at first glance to be home to a camel race track and some very basic tents and not much else. I later discovered that this was the local centre for camel racing and that they had a big festival coming up and were getting the tents ready for the hundreds of local visitors that were expected to watch this exhilarating sport.

The camel camp itself was only a physical 5 minutes further away but felt a million miles away in terms of style and comfort when we actually arrived after a very pleasant ride by camel cart. Behind a large red brick compound and heavy dark wooden gates lay a really beautiful camp, with tented buildings and extensive grounds all designed to offer a unique experience in the desert surroundings

Chandelao - eating lunch al fresco

Dining al fresco at Osian

We enjoyed a pleasant night’s stay at The Camel Camp and were even able to make use of the beautiful pool for a quick afternoon swim before heading out into the desert on our camel ride complete with G&T sundowners atop one of the dunes – it’s a hard life for us Stubborn Mule researchers you know! The camel ride was around 45 minutes in duration and took us through local farmland and dunes which ranged from scrub covered to more sandy peaks, we saw a whole host of wildlife including deer, eagles and peacocks – India’s national bird. Longer camel safaris are available for those who want to see the more remote dunes and the oasis village of Khetasar.

Postcards from India - photo of Jodhpur showing blue building

There’s lots to do in the ‘blue city’, from forts to markets and village visits.

The following morning, we headed into Jodhpur itself to visit the Mehrenengarh Fort and the market around the clock-tower where there were bargains galore to be found and we bought some obligatory gifts of tea and spices for the family. There are some fantastic heritage hotels in Jodhpur itself although it is easily visited from some of the more rural villages on the outskirts, so you can choose whichever option suits your family best really. I personally liked being able to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and have a relaxing evening in the peaceful countryside as the sightseeing can be quite full-on at times.

Heritage homestay in rural Rajasthan

Village home stay - village jeep drive

Setting off on a jeep excursion at Chandelao

Leaving Jodhpur behind we headed east to another rural location and the fantastic home of Chandelao Garh which is a heritage residence that has been converted into a charming hotel complete with pool and where the only sound you’ll hear is that of the local birdlife – there are a huge amount of different species to be found here from parakeets to kingfishers and the cutest spotted owlets which sat resident in a tree outside my window every day.

Here at Chandelao we also had some of the best food on our trip, the freshly made garlic Naan bread was the best I’ve ever tasted! There are jeep safaris on offer in the surrounding villages and you can choose from a variety of different options depending upon your interests. For example, seeing pottery, traditional block-printing, markets and bird watching on the nearby lake. I opted for the village excursion taking in the local pottery centre and where we also drove “off road” into the bush spotting many different species of antelope and birdlife.

Charlotte trying out pot making on a village tour

I loved having a go at pot making myself

After the rural delights of both Osian and Chandelao I was somewhat hesitant to leave this side of Rajasthan behind and head off once again to a city – this time Pushkar however once again I was to be pleasantly surprised – I’m not really learning here am I!

Pushkar

Exploring Pushkar by foot - Postcards from India

Exploring Pushkar on foot

Pushkar is really unique, unlike any other city that I visited. It’s a holy place, sacred to Hindu’s who come to bathe in the lakeside Ghats and also a pilgrimage site where Gandhi’s ashes were scatted but couple all of this with a huge hippy presence and you get a really fascinating mix of people, sights and experiences to be had. The scenery is stunning too with mountains surrounding the lake and little temples dotted in the hills nearby. The market is phenomenal – one long street that is filled with stall after stall offering souvenirs, clothes, incense, spices, tea, handicrafts, anything you could possibly want to buy and all at rock bottom prices.

Pushkar Ghat - Postcards from India blog

Pushkar’s lakeside Ghats are a great place to people watch

In the evening there is a wonderful atmosphere at the lakeside cafes where you can sit and watch the sunset whilst listening to the somewhat out of place soundtrack of Pink Floyd that was on repeat and seemed randomly hugely popular here!

Because of the hippy culture in Pushkar there are also lots of more western-style eateries and cafes here so if you have tired of curry (not me!) then you could easily indulge the kids (and grown-ups) with the extensive menus of toasted sandwiches, French fries, pizza, pasta, ice creams etc on offer. Pushkar feels like a lighter version of a Rajasthani city really and it’s a very pleasant place to spend a couple of days. Excursions on offer from Pushkar include camel safaris and horse riding in the surrounding hills.

Jaipur (and the best way to see it)

Jaipur's Amber Fort - Postcards from India

Jaipur’s famous Amber Fort

After Pushkar we were back into quintessential Rajasthan territory with a visit to Jaipur and the magnificent Amber Fort. These need little introduction and are very bit as majestic as the glossy travel brochures would have you believe. A lesser seen side of Jaipur however was that which I saw very early in the morning when undertaking a cycle tour through the city. This was one of my real highlights of the trip, it felt so adventurous and so exhilarating cycling through the backstreets, markets and artisan quarters of the city, seeing the people go about the daily life whilst all the while trying to dodge those blessed cows! The bikes were actually of an excellent quality and helmets and kids’ bikes are available too although I would say that due to the chaos of the traffic it would really only be suitable for older children or those that are very confident and have some experience of cycling in towns and traffic too.

The stops we made on our cycling tour were a photographer’s dream and you’ve never seen colours quite like those in the wholesale fruit and vegetable market which was rammed full of customers, ladies carrying sacks of produce on their heads, monkeys stealing fruit and chai vendors stirring pots of sweet milky tea. I wish I could have bottled the scent of the coriander stalls, laden with bunches of bunches of vibrant green herbs to bring home and let everyone smell as there are no words to describe how intense it was.

Brightly coloured Jaipur market scene - Postcards from India

We loved the cycling tour and our visit to the colourful fruit and veg market

The tour also includes breakfast in a local home and whilst some of these experiences can be less than authentic, this could not have been more so. After negotiating our way past a couple of very large cows in the passageway (the family keep them and sell the milk), we then made our way up the concrete stairs in the pitch black to the family home which consisted of two rooms, a kitchen and a sitting area plus a rooftop area where cow pats where drying to be used as fuel and which also appeared to double up as the bedroom. Here we were served with some delicious dhal (lentil broth) and some steaming hot mini buns to dunk in it – truly delicious!

Find out more beyond ‘Postcards from India’ 

If you enjoyed Charlotte’s Postcards from India and are considering a family trip to India, do ring us or get in touch via our contact form. We’d love to hear from you.

You can also visit our India family holidays section and see example India itineraries. Or read our India with kids top 10 activities blog. For more about the weather and when to visit, check out When to go to India.

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