For most vacationers, a Rajasthan holiday is usually about the vast deserts of Jaisalmer, the glorious Pink City of Jaipur, or the lake palace of Udaipur, or exploring the wilderness of Ranthambore National Park. But the land of the royals is steeped in history in every corner, every region, waiting to be discovered by the off-beat explorer. Take the ancient town of Bikaner for example. The 500-year old settlement has stories hidden in its palaces, temples, and historic structures, yet less explored. And that is why Bikaner makes for an interesting holiday destination in Rajasthan.
How to reach
The city of Bikaner does not have an airport of its own. Lesser commercialization is probably one of the reasons why this region still retains its antiquated charm. However, you can reach the town by road from its neighboring major cities. Bikaner is about 500 Km from Udaipur and 335 Km from Jaipur. You can hire a taxi service from Udaipur and reach Bikaner in about nine hours.
7 Off-beat Ways to Explore Bikaner
Thankfully, Rajasthan is the only place in India which lets you live like an ancient royal, even today. To experience the luxury of the royals, book a stay at the Narendra Bhawan. The ancient palace of Maharaja Narendra Singh is now turned into an exotic hotel-resort. Tastefully done, while retaining the original architectural elements, this palace surely makes for an indulgent stay.
Take a walk through the ancient trading trail of red sandstone and marble structures like Rampuriya Haveli, Golchha Haveli, Punan Chand Haveli, etc. In the earlier days, Bikaner served as a trading route between the West and the Asian subcontinent. Merchants from neighboring countries and different parts of India used to trade silk, spices, precious stones, metals, and perfumes. What remain of that culture today, are the ornate palaces (haveli), temples, and important monuments built by the affluent merchants.
Take an art tour of some of the prominent historical structures of Bikaner. The 16th-century Junagarh Fort, the Lalgarh Palace, the Laxminath Temple, are a few places reflecting the rich Victorian style architecture with a touch of Rajputana artistry.
Take a trip to the 15th-century Karni Mata Temple. Be ready for a shock-and-awe experience when you see the temple is dedicated to rats. More than 20000 rats roam around the premise, whom the devotees offer food and worship them. Of all, spotting a white rat is believed to bring good luck.
Explore miniature art – a specialty art form originated in Rajasthan. A blend of Mughal artistry elements and Rajputana color palette, this painting style has a rich history. Even today, internationally acclaimed artists like Mahaveer Swami, continue to practice miniature art in Bikaner. You can explore his workshop and witness how everything, from paper to natural dyes, is processed and used for the final painting.
Give in to gastronomic indulgence. After all, how can a trip to Rajasthan be complete if you do not eat like the rajas? Enjoy a luxurious thali (meal) at Laxmi Niwas Palace with a spread of Dal Baati Choorma, Kher Sangri, Govind Gatta, Bajra de Roti, Peshawari Dal, Halwa, Kheer, and more items than you can count.
On another day, sample a hearty serving of the famous Binakeri Ghewar- a sinful, sugary confection made of flour, ghee, dried nuts, and condiments that is sure to give you a food high.
Explore the sand dunes of the Thar Desert. Bikaner, like an oasis, sits right in the middle of the Great Indian Desert. Outside the city limits, there are camping grounds where you can camp from sundown till sunrise, or take a camel ride through the sunset and enjoy the dusk. If you are lucky, you might be able to spot a Chinkara, blackbuck, or stray raptors.
Bikaner gives you an opportunity to go back in time and take a delightful peep into the ancient riches of merchants, noblemen, and royal families, making your holiday a truly special one! If you are travelling in a larger group it is recommended to book an Innova cab in Jaipur for a more confortable journey.