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Chaotic and intense; are two words that seem to wind up in almost every description of India.
And rightfully so, that’s the allure of India and without that chaos and intensity, an adventure to this country simply wouldn’t be as life-changing as is normally the case.
But after a while, it can get exhausting, so if you’re looking for somewhere more relaxed and off-the-beaten-path, consider visiting Bundi.
Wandering Earl spent two and a half years traveling around the subcontinent, and shares with us his experience of visiting Bundi and what there is to do there.
- Where is Bundi, India?
- How Many Days in Bundi Should You Spend?
- Things to Do in Bundi
- Final Thoughts on Visiting Bundi
- More India Travel Tips
Where is Bundi, India?
After spending a few days in Mumbai, we had no idea where else we would visit. This is most likely why nobody objected when I randomly suggested we travel to Bundi, which, apart from a text message I had received from a friend recommending it, I had never heard of.
In fact, none of us had heard of Bundi in India before and none of us even knew where it was located within this vast country.
As it happens, Bundi is a small village in the Hadoti region of the Rajasthan state. It’s located in the northwest of India.
For those who are a bit more clued up on India’s geography, it lies roughly in the middle of Udaipur and Jaipur.
How to Get to Bundi
The closest airport to Bundi is Jaipur. You can get a direct bus from Jaipur which takes 3.5 hours. You can also find buses from Jodhpur, Ajmer, and Kota.
The best and cheapest way to get to Bundi is by train. Most travelers start their India trips in New Delhi or Mumbai. If you arrive in New Dehli, you will be much closer to Bundi since it’s only 463.7 km away (about 6.5 hours drive).
There is a direct train from New Dehli to Bundi and it takes 7 hours.
We started in Mumbai, so we boarded the Firozpur-Janta Express at Mumbai’s insanely crowded Mumbai Central train station.
We were bound for Kota, the closest transportation hub to Bundi, which we now knew was situated on the eastern edge of the culturally-rich state of Rajasthan. Nineteen hours later we arrived.
How Many Days in Bundi Should You Spend?
To put it simply, we ended up spending 10 days in Bundi, finding it harder and harder to leave as the days passed.
It took barely an hour for us all to become far too captivated by Bundi’s unlike-any-other-place-in-India charm to even consider heading somewhere else.
Chaotic and intense do not apply in this town, with words such as tranquil, laid-back, enchanting, and extraordinary much more appropriate instead.
Picture a large desert hill, with a small town nestled into its base, a town with hundreds of narrow lanes creating a maze of homes, shops, and temples, most of which are painted a mesmerizing shade of pastel blue (a sign of royalty).
However, if you are not blessed with time, then you can spend 2 days in Bundi and be able to see all the highlights.
Things to Do in Bundi
If you’re not sure what to do in Bundi, below I share my top recommendations for sites to see and attractions to visit.
1. Visit the Bundi Palace (Garh Palace)
From almost any vantage point, the impressive Bundi Palace looms overhead from its location halfway up the hill, representing one of the most well-preserved palaces I’d ever seen in India.
Bundi Palace is an intriguing place and was once home to the rulers of Bundi. It was built between 1607 AD and 1631 AD by Rao Raja Ratan Singh Hada, and contains the most prestigious painting school in India.
It’s most recognizable for its intricate art and architecture, with many courtyards and chambers that tell tales of the days when royalty lived in regal luxury here.
Highlights of the palace include the Chhatra Mahal, Phool Mahal and Badal Mahal, which feature many colorful and fine murals and frescoes.
Don’t miss the Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate), which marks the entrance to the palace, as well as The Hall of Public Audience which has an amazing coronation throne made of white marble. There is also an art gallery inside the palace (Chitrashala)
Visiting this majestic palace gives visitors a peek into the grandeur of bygone eras. The walls, turrets, and surroundings of Bundi Palace serve as an apt reminder of how beautiful and resplendent a royal residence can be.
2. Visit the Taragarh Fortress
Glance even further toward the sky and your eyes will meet the grand Taragarh Fortress, whose ancient outer walls line the entire summit of the hill, encompassing various hilltop shrines that are still used by locals to make daily offerings to the Hindu gods.
A short 30-minute walk up the hill brings you straight to the fortress, where you can climb onto the top of the fortress wall.
The fortress was built in the 8th century by Ajayaraja Chauhan. It’s famous for its strength, having defended the region from many attacks.
From here, the never-ending view is addicting, especially before sunset when the colorful town below appears as majestic as those found in the wildest of fairy tales.
3. Mingle with the Locals
Bundi’s population, which consists of an interesting mix of Hindus, Muslims, and Jains, all of whom live in complete harmony, are clearly proud of the peaceful atmosphere they’ve created.
Smiling locals, many of whom extend their hand in greeting to all strangers who pass them by, are the norm and two minutes will rarely pass without a group of children leading you off for a personal tour of their neighborhood.
Incredibly, the usual fears associated with traveling in India – pickpockets, being ripped off, endless scams – are nothing to worry about at all here.
The biggest problem travelers face in Bundi is the potential lack of sleep due to being invited to participate in one of the frequent, all-night religious ceremonies that take place in the streets.
And if you tire from all of the celebrations, chances are you’ll have a cheerful room to return to as Bundi offers a small, but sufficient variety of excellent budget accommodation, typically in buildings full of history and character.
As a result, it’s quite easy to understand why the handful of other travelers I met during my visit all ended up rearranging their itineraries in order to accommodate a much longer stay in Bundi than they had originally planned.
4. Take A Rickshaw to The Surrounding Villages
One morning, a few days into our stay, my friends and I decided to test the surrounding area, to see if the countryside beyond Bundi had a similar, serene feel to it.
We hired an auto rickshaw for the day, paying 300 rupees ($7 USD) to a driver who we somehow convinced to hand us his keys and stay at home while we drove his rickshaw, even though none of us had ever driven a rickshaw at any point in our lives.
Sure, we ended up having to pull ourselves out of small roadside ditches on a few occasions and we were nearly run over by the occasional truck or camel cart, but apart from those minor challenges, we ended up discovering a region of India that not only lived up to the high expectations set by Bundi, but that very few travelers have a chance to explore.
From the kindest, most generous local villagers (especially this tea stall owner in the photo whom I will never forget) to the ever-changing landscape of sparkling lakes, stretches of desert, lush forest, and impressive karst formations, we found ourselves increasingly enthralled by the region with every passing kilometer.
One of the villages I recommend you visit nearby is Thikarda, which is known for its pottery production.
After nine hours of exploring, we eventually returned to Bundi, barely able to contain our excitement over the day’s excursion.
5. Visit the Stepwells
One of the most unique things about Bundi is its step wells, which are an architectural marvel that is quite unique to India.
If you’re not sure what a stepwell is, they are small wells or ponds, that have a series of steps that lead down to the water. In Bundi, there are around 50 or so.
In many towns and villages, and in Bundi in particular, they are places of worship, gathering, and hanging out.
They are also architecturally beautiful and ornate, so photographers will love exploring them.
Raniji-ki-Baori, also known as the Queen’s Stepwell, is the most popular stepwell in Bundi and was constructed in 1699 by Queen Nathavati, the younger queen of king Rao Raja Anirudh Singh.
It’s where you will find many locals hanging out and enjoying the beauty of this historic monument.
If you’re a fan of architecture, then you should check out the Dhabhai Kund step well in the Raniji ki Baori district. It was built in the 16th century and is famous for its geometric shape.
6. Marvel at the 84-Pillared Cenotaph
On the outskirts of town is the 84 pillared cenotaph, a monument built by the Maharaja of Bundi in 1683 in memory of his foster brother Deva.
It’s a beautiful structure that’s made up of an ornately decorated roof supported by 84 pillars (hence the name).
7. Sukh Mahal
Located on the banks of Jait Sagar is the summer palace, Sukh Mahal. This once-picturesque palace is now in a state of disrepair and may not look like a pretty site, but it’s worth checking out for one reason.
it is believed that this palace is where Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book and Kin.
8. Relax by Nawal Sagar Lake
The Nawal Sagar lake is an artificial lake in the heart of the town of Bundi. It’s best known for capturing incredible reflections of the town’s skyline, and photographers will enjoy trying to get a great reflective shot here.
It also has a half-submerged temple in its center which is dedicated to Lord Varuna, the Hindu God of Water.
Around the lake are some step wells, where people enjoy sitting and taking in the ambiance of the area.
9. Shop at Sadar Bazaar
For those tourists looking to pick up souvenirs, you should venture over to the Sadar Bazaar. Here you can pick up many unique items such as miniature paintings, Kota sarees, carpets, and gifts.
This market is known for its carpets and artwork, but you can also find other pieces that are common in India such as lac bangles, silver jewellery, and more
10. Visit A Bundi Festival
Visiting Bundi during a festival is one of the best ways to see the place come alive. Whether you’re planning your trip around Holi, the festival of color that welcomes the start of Spring, or the Teej Festival (also known as the monsoon festival) that welcomes the rainy season.
These festivals bring out the most vivid parades, celebrations, and spirit of India. And I personally think they are best experienced in a small town like Bundi.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Bundi
One night, during dinner at a local rooftop restaurant, my friends and I began contemplating whether or not we should move to Bundi for good.
Of course, that was mostly talk, but we carried on eating our meals, drinking our beers, and talking about Bundi well into the night, barely even noticing the frequent power outages that darkened this sleepy community.
I simply didn’t want to leave that rooftop, as any time that I find myself sitting in the middle of a peaceful town built for royalty, at the foot of a palace, under the protection of a fortress and surrounded by the golden desert, I am as happy a traveler as can be.
And the fact that this location was in the middle of chaotic and intense India made my experience here even more rewarding.
If you have the chance to visit Bundi, I highly recommend it, but be warned – you may never want to leave.
Bio: Earl left home in 1999 for a 3-month backpacking trip that has still yet to end. Addicted to the first-hand education that world travel provides, he focuses on the human interactions and lessons learned along the way, while trying to prove that a life of extended travel is not some crazy fantasy
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