Winters for our family means a self-drive holiday to the warmer states/regions in India. This year we did a 9-day long road trip through Rajasthan travelling through Marwar region of Rajasthan covering Ajmer, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and also visiting Mandawa which falls in Shekhawati region of Rajasthan.
Our previous annual family roads trips through Rajasthan were (1) driving holiday through Shekhawati region of Rajasthan, (2) Driving through Mewar region of Rajasthan.
We travelled for 9 days in the month of November to the Marwar region of Rajasthan, choosing destinations which were both on my and the husband’s travel wish list for a long time (our toddler 4.5 years old so she doesn’t have any destination preferences yet). It turned out to be a mixed bag of interesting experiences, disappointments and some exciting moments of adrenalin rush. Sharing our Rajasthan family road trip with all readers, hopefully you will find our journey as interesting as we experienced it.
The itinerary and route we took for travelling through Marwar region of Rajasthan : Delhi – Ajmer – Jodhpur – Jaisalmer – Bikaner – Mandawa – Delhi
Day 1 – Delhi to Ajmer
Day 2 & 3 – Jodhpur
Day 4,5 & 6 – Jaisalmer / Sam Sand Dunes in Jaisalmer
Day 7 – Bikaner
Day 8 & 9 – Mandawa ( and driving back to Delhi)
Total Distance Driven : 1833 Kms in theory (i.e Google Maps) but our Car clocked 1879.5 Kms to be exact!!
Delhi to Ajmer: We started off pretty early in the morning (at 5:30 am), as the distance from Delhi to Ajmer is around 400 kilometers with travel time of approx 6 hours. We encountered fog almost all along the way from Gurgaon till Behror on NH 8. The route goes via NH 8, NH 48/79 (on google maps it showed NH 48 but the boards show NH 79). We reached Ajmer at late afternoon, freshened up and took a nap. The Ajmer Sharif Dargah opens in the evening at 4 pm and we visited it as soon as it in evening around 6 pm; the crowds were crazy!! and it’s the most crowded we came across in all our trips to the Ajmer Dargah till dare!! Therefore, pro tip for Ajmer Shairf Dargah is – Visit it closer to evening opening hours or early morning (we have done that too on our previous visits).
Recommended Read : Long weekend holidays Guide for Alwar, Rajasthan
Ajmer to Jodhpur : We started our drive from Ajmer at around 7 am to avoid traffic. In fact, we always try to start a drive early morning to avoid traffic as well as give us advantage of driving through major of day light so as to have safer driving conditions (which include avoiding driving after sunset, or at night). The distance from Ajmer to Jodhpur is approximately 205 kms and it took us around 4.5 hours (including pit stop breaks) to reach our home stay in Jodhpur. For pit stop on Ajmer to Jodhpur drive, I will recommend stopping at RTDC run motel Barr located in Barr – its sevice is quick, no frills and good parking space for cars.
We had booked Rudraneel Villa in Jodhpur – a spacious bungalow converted into homestay in the posh area of Jodhpur. It cost us 4000 INR plus taxes for 2 night stay and the room we booked was neat & clean, though a bit small in size. However, the villa had many common spaces and it was relaxing to lounge around in mornings & evenings in the common areas with family.
Sightseeing in Jodhpur: Jodhpur is quite a popular tourist destination and most of the attractions here are quite well known. On our first day, we visited the Old Clock Tower area and watched the sunset from a café overlooking Toorji Ka Jhalra – an old step well recently renovated. On day 2, we visited Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada and Umaid Bhawan Palace. Being the peak of tourist season, all these places were quite crowded, however managed well. In the evening of Day 2, we opted to experience Rajasthani food with ‘Incredible Krishna Cooking Class’ by Rekha & Rishi – this was something highly recommended to me by a British couple on a flight couple of years ago. It was quite fun and interesting time we spent at the home of Rekha & Rishi, learning the Rajasthani staple dishes and some new ones which we didn’t know earlier; the grand finale of the experience was a delightful homemade Rajasthani dinner. It was definitely one of our unique experiences in Jodhpur and I would be writing a detailed post on it soon.
Jodhpur to Jaisalmer: The drive from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer is around 280 kms, however, we had planned to spend our first evening in Jaisalmer at Sam Sand dunes, which is around another 150 kms away from the main Jaisalmer city. The drive from Jodhpur to Sam Sand Dunes, Jaisalmer is quite interesting with the changing landscape, lots of diverse kind of vehicles and motorists on the highway (from bikers to army convoys) and the excellent condition of the highway itself. We thoroughly enjoyed our almost 6-hour drive to reach our desert resort camp at Sam Sand Dunes.
Overnight Stay at Sam Sand Dunes: The Sam Sand dunes (in Sam near Jaisalmer) are part of the Desert National Park, and the desert safaris are mostly located just outside the boundary area of the national park. Our Desert Resort was completely touristy filled with Gujrati & Bengali domestic tourists and other than the sand dunes ride with family in evening and morning, there was nothing I enjoyed at this place. In fact, I wasn’t much impressed by my first experience of Thar Desert at Sam Sand Dunes as I had a much better visual experience at Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan earlier this year in April on my self-planned holiday to Jordan. However, it was nice to have ticked off two deserts (Wadi Rum, Jordan and Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India) in one year on my travel list.
Sightseeing in Jaisalmer : The next morning, driving back from Sam Sand Dunes, we made a detour to visit Kuldhera – an ancient abandoned village since19th Century. We spent our next two days in Jaislamer exploring the city. Like Jodhpur, the golden city of Jaislamer is a popular tourist attraction in Rajasthan, especially during the winter season. Its most famed for its Jaisalmer Fort (also called golden fort)– Sonar Kella, made famous in popular culture by Oscar winning director Satyajit Ray’s movie by same name – Sonar Kella. The Jaisalmer Fort does look golden in the bright sunlight, glimmering like polished yellow gold. The other interesting places in Jaisalmer is the old city, which has many interesting old havelis and lake – Gadisar lake.
We stayed at Hotel Mystic Jaisalmer which was a mid-budget hotel located around 500 meters from the Jaisalmer Fort and central to most of the other attractions. We absolutely loved the hospitality of the staff and how well they guided us to avoid the tourist traps in Jaisalmer. The rooms were neat & clean.
Jaisalmer To Bikaner: After spending 3 days in Jaisalmer, we headed to Bikaner. The drive from Jaislamer to Bikaner turned out quite a bad experience due to bad road sections for around 1-2 hours of the drive. We reached Bikaner around early noon and after a quick refreshing up, went sightseeing.
Sightseeing in Bikaner : The most famous attractions in Bikaner are actually located some distance away from Bikaner city – (1) Karni Mata Temple – dedicated to Karni Mata deity and revered for rats, this temple has numerous rats which roam around freely inside the temple. It’s quite an experience to visit this temple and apparently its internationally renowned! This temple is located around 30 kms away from Bikaner city and, (2) Camel Research Centre at Jorbir – This Camel Research centre is quite interesting attraction where one can see camels roaming around freely in their pens and the best time to visit is in afternoon when the camels return from their pasture to the sheds, we also tried camel milk ice cream and camel milk kulfi here. This centre is located around 10 kms away from Bikaner city.
Pro-tip : Visit Karni Mata Temple first and then on way back visit the Camel research centre; since the centre opens at afternoon (at 1:30 pm). If you want to catch the sight of camels in hordes coming back from pastures then be there by 2 pm.
In the evening, we visited old Jain temples in Bikaner city as well as Rampuria Havelis; I am going to write separate posts on my Bikaner city sightseeing experience.
Bikaner to Mandawa: We headed to Mandawa the next morning and this was going to be our last leg of our road trip Journey. Mandawa town lies in Shekhawati region of Rajasthan and having missed visiting this last time on our Rajasthan family road trip through shekhawati region, I was quite excited to visit Mandawa. We had a very lovely experience visiting the havelis with their pretty frescos in Mandawa and my detailed post on Mandawa is here. We stayed at Hotel Shekhawati in Mandawa and it was quite pleasant stay with excellent hospitality by its Manager and staff, though its budget hotel but the rooms are quite exquisite (painted in shekhawati style).
After spending 9 days on the road, it was quite a happy journey back home from Mandawa to Delhi, with tons of memories of our Marwar region road trip in Rajasthan. Overall, I would say that though the Marwar region, especially Jodhpur and Jaisalmer are quite touristy but there’s a certain charm to visiting this region, especially on a self-driving holiday. Our best memories were the beautiful sunrises we saw on the road, the rugged landscapes we drove through in the desert and the hospitality of the Marwari people.
If you found this travel guide useful, you might find my other travel posts here interesting too: