The First Timer's Guide to Exploring India | Guest Blog by Sian Warren

Guest Blog by Sian Warren - Owner of South Asia Uncovered

Having admired Sian's colourful and inspiring Instagram account for some time, I was thrilled when she agreed to write this fascinating & helpful guide for intrepid explorers who might be keen to embark on their first, exciting trip to India. With her unrivalled experience of travelling Asia and over 20 years' experience in the travel industry, there is no one better placed to offer some insights and thoughtful advice than Sian. Be sure to check out her tailor made trips and bespoke, small group tours here.
Sian Warren - South Asia Uncovered
The First Timers Guide to Exploring India: Unraveling the Wonders of Rajasthan

Welcome to an enchanting journey through the vibrant tapestry of one of India's most famous states, where every corner tells a story of ancient traditions, majestic palaces, and inspiring landscapes.

In this article, I'll unravel the wonders of Rajasthan and guide you through the must-see highlights, cultural experiences, and other delights of this captivating region. From the bustling streets of Jaipur, the Pink City, to the romantic lakes of Udaipur and the imposing forts of Jodhpur, get ready to embark on a virtual adventure to inspire you for your first exploration of India.

Where to begin?

India, a land of unparalleled diversity and cultural richness, beckons travellers with its myriad wonders and enchanting stories. As one of the most populous and culturally diverse countries in the world, India is a melting pot of traditions, languages, and cuisines. Beyond its borders, the country is renowned for its iconic landmarks that captivate visitors from around the globe. From the ethereal beauty of the Taj Mahal in Agra, a testament to timeless love, to the tranquil backwaters of Kerala, where emerald-green waters weave through lush coconut groves. There is also the spiritual aura of Varanasi, the oldest inhabited city in the world, where the sacred Ganges River flows. Each destination offers a glimpse into India's rich and long history, spirituality, and natural beauty, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking an unforgettable adventure. However, many say it can take more than a lifetime to explore India in its entirety, therefore we will focus this post on Rajasthan, and how first-timers to the country can make the most of their visit.


Discovering Rajasthan

Rajasthan stands as India's quintessential realm of maharajas and medieval forts, where palaces and tigers coexist amidst colourful and fervent festivals. For a first time visitor, the iconic cities of the state are good starting points when planning an Indian adventure, where you can fly directly from the UK to Delhi and travel out from there.

Jaipur, the Pink City, and the global city of the moment is a symphony of colours and chaos, where ancient palaces and bazaars can sweep you into a heady mix that overtakes your senses. Dive into the rich history of the city by visiting the majestic Amber Fort, perched atop a hill overlooking the city, or explore the intricately carved Hawa Mahal, a marvel of Rajput architecture. The City Palace, home to the royals, is also a must visit, with its four beautifully adorned gates known as the 'Pols' - each with its own unique significance and intricate artwork. Also, don't forget to wander through the labyrinthine lanes of the old city, where every corner reveals a hidden story waiting to be discovered. One such lane worth exploring is the 'Maniharon ka Rasta', where a vibrant display of lac bangles can be found, all handcrafted by skilled artisans using traditional techniques passed down through generations. For further artisan discovery, a must visit for textile lovers would be to one of the neighbouring block print communities in Sanganer or Bagru. Visitors to Sanganer can explore traditional workshops where artisans meticulously hand-block intricate designs onto fabrics, creating beautiful textiles coveted worldwide. Meanwhile, Bagru, is famous for its centuries-old tradition of natural dyeing alongside its block printing. For lovers of block print apparel and homeware, must-visits include the flagship Anokhi store, Soma and PDKF.

Where to sleep - Samode Haveli, The Johri, Dileep Kothi 

Where to eat - Bar Palladio, Jaipur Modern, Peacock Restaurant


Block Printing in Jaipur

Jaipur City Palace Gate


Jodhpur, the Blue City, exudes an aura of timeless grandeur, with its towering fort and winding alleys painted in shades of blue. You can explore the imposing Mehrangarh Fort, which offers panoramic views of the city below, or lose yourself in the bustling markets of the old town, where vintage textiles and unique antiques can be hunted for. The lively Sadar Bazaar around the clock tower is also worth strolling through, where you can find a diverse array of items including second-hand sari's and material, handicrafts, jewellery and spices - with MV Spices aka 'The Spice Girls' being the best spice store in the city! After a day of exploration, savour the flavours of Rajasthan at the rooftop restaurant of Indique, which boasts incredible views of the fort lit up at night.

Where to sleep - RAAS, Rohet House, Ratan Vilas 

Where to eat - Indique Restaurant & Bar, Stepwell Cafe, Sam's Art Cafe


Blue Lanes in Jodhpur

Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur


Udaipur, the city of lakes, enchants visitors with its romantic ambiance and picturesque lakes. Here you can take a boat ride on the serene waters of Lake Pichola, with the majestic City Palace as a backdrop, or stroll through the atmospheric streets of the old town, where time seems to stand still. At the heart of the city lies the imposing City Palace, a huge sprawling complex of palaces, courtyards, and gardens offering panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding Aravalli hills. The intricate carvings of Jagdish Temple and the picturesque charm of Fateh Sagar Lake further add to the city's allure. For those that love to shop, don't miss a visit to the treasure trove at Ganesh Emporium, where you can go on a search for a myriad of textiles and antiquities. With its rich cultural heritage and breathtaking landscapes, Udaipur captivates the hearts of all who visit, earning its place as one of India's most romantic and enchanting destinations.

Hotels to stay in - Bujera Fort, Jagat Niwas Palace, Taj Lake Palace

Where to eat - Ambrai at Amet Haveli, Pizzeria by the Lake, The Sunset Terrace

....And for anyone that wishes to step away from the usual well-trodden route, there are many wonderful rural locations to enjoy in Rajasthan which can complement an itinerary alongside the big cities. Some of my top favourite places to retreat to are: 

Fort Barli, Chanoud Garh, Rawla Bisalpur and Ranvas Nagaur 


Practical tips for Travel

For travellers planning a journey to India, it's essential to consider practical advice to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. One of the first things to remember is that a visa is required to enter India, which can be done online for most passport holders without the need to visit the High Commission or send your passport in the post. An important tip to remember is that your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of entry into India! Be sure to read up about culture etiquette before you go, ensuring you dress appropriately, especially when visiting religious sites. Also, please don't forget to ask permission before taking photographs of people - this is especially true for anyone wishing to take a portrait photo of a stranger.
To get around, hiring a car and an experienced driver is one of the easiest ways to enjoy a multi-stop itinerary. This allows you to travel to all sorts of locations throughout the state, at a pace that suits you. Alternatively, the train network across Rajasthan is extensive and well-developed, connecting the major cities and towns across the region with efficient and affordable rail fares. Booking train tickets in advance can seem a little complex, therefore a great resource to use is 'The Man in Seat61' who has an excellent beginners guide to train travel in India. 
Given the intricacies and vastness of India, conducting thorough research before you travel is essential. Engage and chat with people who are familiar with the destinations, especially those who have firsthand experience. Having a decent in-depth guidebook is also a good introduction to the basics. 
No matter where you choose to explore in India, approach your journey with an open mind and an open heart. India is the land of serendipitous moments, many of which cannot be planned for, but you will come away greatly rewarded with a lifetime of special memories. 

1 comment

  • Lulu Hampson

    A perfect introduction to Rajasthan! Having travelled several times with Siân’s company, I can’t recommend her highly enough as one of the best travel experts on India

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