Dubbed the ‘Blue City’ due to the sky-hued Brahmin-owned houses which line the fortified old town, Jodhpur is a maze of alleys that wind their way past palaces, temples, multi-level houses of all shades, and bustling bazaars. The city is overlooked by the mighty Mehrangarh Fort, sitting serenely atop a sheer sandstone outcrop, and surrounded by the harsh, scrubby Thar Desert. Whilst Rajasthan’s second-largest city doesn’t always capture the same level of attention as the state's other colourful offerings, its strategic location means it's impeccably connected. A perfect stop on the way to rural Rajasthan, en-route to lakeside Udaipur, or before heading further into the desert.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
Jodhpur’s imposing Mehrangarh Fort is unmissable; an essential sight in the daytime, and dramatically lit at night. What’s the best way to appreciate views of the fort and the twinkling lights of the Blue City below? Dinner at Chokelao Mahal. Set on an open-air rooftop terrace inside the fort walls, the food is based around the traditional thali, offering the six tastes of sweet, salt, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy (but not necessarily too spicy - the knowledgeable staff are happy to advise). However, the food isn’t really the main attraction, just a welcome addition as you take in the view from your candlelit table. Take an extra layer to ward off the twilight chill as you settle down for an unforgettable evening.
You’ll still need to navigate the usual distractions of a large Indian city, but Jodhpur does feel eminently walkable. The central hub of the ornate, domed Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower) is the perfect place from which to branch out into streets leading everywhere and nowhere. Hundreds of alleys are ripe for discovery. Stumble across puppet makers, chai wallahs, dozens of diverse handicraft shops, and photogenic markets. For those looking to go deeper into the blue, turn away from the buzz to the quieter nooks and crannies where Jodhpur’s residents make their homes. Even relatively ordinary buildings are ornamented with carvings and latticed windows, and washed in shades of blue from vivid sky to palest turquoise.
In Rajasthan, you often come across distinctive stepwells built to guard against water shortages, but few are as lovely or well restored as Toorji Ka Jhalra. Dating from the 1740s, and also known as Toorji’s Stepwell, it’s made from rose-red sandstone and boasts intricate carvings of dancing elephants, lions and cows in gratifying symmetry. The steps leading down to the pool give it the air of an optical illusion. This restored stepwell is still regularly used by local people who gather to sit, chat and even swim, children often squealing with delight as they jump into the cool water. Perch by the steps for a few moments of peace away from the hustle, or retreat to the Stepwell Cafe rising loftily above the scene.
Take your best shot at spotting wildlife with an itinerary that includes not one but three different parks, all located in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. This allows you to explore some surprisingly diverse scenery, see myriad bird and animal species, and hugely increase your chances of spotting one of these elusive big cats.