This winter, visit Ajmer and Pushkar for its lakes, shrines and the desert experience
Ajmer, one of Rajasthan’s tourist hotspots, is surrounded by the Aravalli mountains and is famous for the dargah of Moinuddin Chishti.travel Updated: Sep 24, 2017 09:35 IST
Hills on all sides, sunrise and sunset behind a valley and a scenic view of the lake in the middle of the city — I call this picturesque town my home. Ajmer, one of Rajasthan’s tourist hotspots, is surrounded by the Aravalli mountains and is famous for the dargah of Moinuddin Chishti.Here are some places, famous as well as offbeat, that you could explore in and around Ajmer.
This has always been my go-to place for a short getaway. From ghats to cafes, one can never get bored here. Pushkar is 11km from Ajmer, and is separated from it by Nag Pahar (Snake Mountain). It is one of India’s oldest cities. Although the date of its origin is not known, legend associates Brahma (the Hindu god of creation) with its establishment.
Pushkar, on the edge of the Thar desert, is said to have more than 500 temples with the Brahma temple being the most popular one. Although the present structure dates back to the 14th century, locals believe the temple is 2,000 years old. Visit the temple not just because of the legends but because of its old-world charm, beauty and architecture.
The Savitri temple located on a hilltop is another place that you can visit for the scenic views of the valley. Opt for the strenuous uphill climb of over an hour if you are feeling adventurous or take the ropeway costing around Rs 90 per person to reach the place in less than 6 minutes.
Pushkar Lake is, however, the first place I run to as soon as I enter the town. It is surrounded by 52 ghats and a dip in this lake on Kartika Purnima is thought to earn you salvation. Sunset Cafe, located near this lake, offers amazing views and the ambience is perfect to unwind. Watch the sunset and listen to music played by local villagers on ravanahatha (an ancient bowed, stringed instrument) while sipping tea or coffee for a perfect day.
Budha (old) Pushkar, around 5 km from the Pushkar lake, is a great place for a picnic. It once had enormous sand dunes around but concrete structures have taken their place now. Camels, village folk and a few dunes can still be seen though, giving you a taste of the desert experience.
Being a holy city for Hindus, Pushkar has only vegetarian food on offer and no alcohol. Check out the Pink Floyd Café, Doctor Alone Café and La Pizzeria for delicious food and ambience.
The Ajmer Sharif Dargah
This is India’s most important Islamic pilgrimage centre as it is the shrine of Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chishti, who founded India’s prime Sufi order. The dargah consists of several white marble buildings, a massive gate donated by the Nizam of Hyderabad, and the Akbari Mosque built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Apart from the religious point of view, this place is a must-visit if you want to experience heritage and architecture.
However, don’t carry valuables as the place is bustling with people all year round. Small shops outside the tomb offer to keep your valuables safe with them but it is best to avoid them. Try and take public transport when visiting the dargah as parking can be a problem. Ladies, take a scarf to cover your head when inside the shrine.
It is right at the centre of town and a great place for an evening stroll. Go boating, eat the local chaat (snacks) or just click pictures and watch the sunset. By the lake is Daulat Bagh, a garden laid out by Emperor Jahangir, which is another area worth exploring.
The fort which overlooks the whole city was the seat of the Chauhan rulers. Built in 1345, it is one of the oldest hill forts in the world. It’s a steep climb of around two hours which is exciting for those who want to walk in the morning sun. The place is usually deserted with not many people around, so preferably do not go alone.
If you want to experience the city as a traveller instead of being a tourist, visit Lake Foy Sagar, Mayo College, Adhai Din Ka Jhonpda, Soniji Ki Nasiyan and Nareli Jain Temple to soak up the experience.
Some other places around Ajmer that need be on your bucket list are Kishangarh (for Kishangarh style of painting and marbles), Barefoot College, Tilonia and Merta city (birth place of Meera bai, the famous devotee of Lord Krishna).
Grab a bite: In Ajmer, check out Mango Masala or Ambrosia restaurant. Head to Purani Mandi for breakfast — spicy kachoris with curry, jalebis and lassi (a yogurt-based drink). Don’t forget to try the mouthwatering Maalpua (an Indian pancake served as a dessert) in Pushkar.
Spend your money on: Paintings and marble statues from Kishangarh, handmade clothes and accessories from Tilonia, handicrafts, kurtis, sundresses, jewellery and bags from Pushkar, camel trinkets, bangles and antiques from Ajmer.
Stay: Try to stay in Pushkar to experience the local culture. Ananta Resort, Aram Bagh, Village Stays Pushkar, and Pushkar Lake Palace are some of the better options.
When: Monsoon, when the city looks like a hill station. Visit Pushkar between October 28 and November 4 this year to witness the world’s largest camel fair, or Pushkar Mela, when the town transforms into a colourful and vibrant display of exhibitions, competitions and pilgrims.
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