Hidden Rajasthan and the Holi Festival

Temples, Palaces, and a Traditional Festival

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $8795  
Length: 19 days
Arrive: Delhi, India
Depart: Delhi, India
Lodging: 18 nights hotels
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Walking
Trip Level: Overland travel with walking tours, cultural explorations


  • Experience the rich traditions of Rajasthan's more remote towns, with their legacy of ancient temples, palaces, havelis (mansions), and imposing fortresses
  • Attend the Holi Festival in Siana, a spirited affair with singing and dancing
  • Explore the grand cities and palaces of Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, and Udaipur, with a stay at the legendary Lake Palace Hotel on Lake Pichola

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Choosing the Right Trip

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Departure Notes

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Join Trip Leaders extraordinaire Hashmat Singh and his wife, Priya, for an incredible journey that explores not only the rich traditions of Rajasthan’s celebrated walled cities of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, with their grand forts and bustling bazaars, but also the region’s smaller towns, where the sumptuous palaces of erstwhile princely families, their empires lost to the Indian union, have been transformed into atmospheric “heritage hotels.” From the painted havelis at Mandawa and the Jain temples of Ranakpur to the traditional villages near Siana and the romance of Udaipur, Rajasthan’s glorious culture comes alive in our interactions with the people and in the arts and tribal music we have a chance to experience. The highlight of our adventure is the Holi Festival in Siana, where we mingle with the locals in a wildly exuberant event heralding the approach of spring, complete with singing, dancing, and the enthusiastic flinging of vividly colored powder and water on participants (everyone is fair game, but don’t worry—we’ll provide you with the proper  clothes!).

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-2
Delhi, India / Neemrana, Rajasthan

After meeting in Delhi, we begin our journey with a drive to the historical town of Neemrana, set just at the edge of Rajasthan. Here we visit the local village and the baori, a 17th century step-well that goes down nine levels into the ground with pillared hallways and verandas. Overnight is at the Neemrana Fort-Palace, a former 15th century fort converted into a heritage hotel.

Days 3-4
Mandawa, Shekhawati Region of Rajasthan

The towns of Shekhawati, a semi-desert region in north Rajasthan, are a virtual open-air art gallery, famous for the breathtaking frescoes depicting mythological, historical, and folk themes that appear on the walls of numerous forts, palaces, and havelis (mansions). Our base is in Mandawa, a fairytale town right in the heart of the Shekhawati area and the perfect place for exploring many of the nearby towns. Overnights are at the Castle Mandawa, a former historic fortress renovated and modernized into a luxury hotel.

Days 5-9
Bikaner / Nagaur / Phalodi

In Bikaner, we explore Jain and Hindu temples and stroll the narrow streets of this beautiful town. Heading to Nagaur, our explorations include a walk through the old quarter of town to visit many of its mosques and temples, the colorful market, and the palaces of Ahhichatragarh Fort (also known as Nagaur Fort), famous for its wall paintings and the layout of its now empty water system of aqueducts, wells, and cisterns. In Phalodi, an old caravan town and a center of trade for camels, sheep, and salt, we explore the town’s narrow lanes, havelis, and Jain and Hindu temples.

Days 10-11

Remote and desert-bound, the golden city of Jaisalmer lies on the ancient trade route that linked India with the trading centers of Central Asia. The narrow streets of the walled city preserve a traditional way of life as craftsmen still work in ancient arts, including stone carving and silver jewelry. Our explorations include the traditional merchants’ havelis and the hilltop Golden Fort, which contains a seven-story palace with its Megh Durbar, or Hall of Clouds. Overnights at a former princely home set on the outskirts of town.

Days 12-13

In Jodhpur, we see the vibrancy of Rajasthan on a princely scale. Seven massive gateways lead into the walled city, with its temples and palaces, gardens and lakes, and its bustling lanes and bazaars. We visit the great Mehrangarh Fort and enter a series of palaces and courtyards that house a royal collection of rare miniature paintings, silver howdahs, palanquins, armor, and royal cradles. Overnights at a boutique hotel set in the middle of the colorful old town and market, with absolutely spectacular views of Mehrangarh Fort.

Days 14-15
Siana / Holi Festival

The wildlife of the region around Siana includes the chinkara, Indian striped hyena, desert fox, civet cat, and leopard. We enjoy a leopard-tracking safari by 4WD vehicle and visit the local village, with its potters and woodworkers. Our arrival in Siana is timed for the first day of the Holi festival and this evening we’ll attend the lighting ceremonies. We spend the following day (called Dhuleti) visiting local villages and celebrating this wildly colorful and riotous festival with them. Overnights at a simple but comfortable lodge.

Days 16-19
Ranakpur Jain Temples / Udaipur

We head to Ranakpur, famous for its marvelous complex of finely ornamented Jain temples set in a beautiful forest where peacocks and langur monkeys roam. Our fascinating journey ends with a flourish in Udaipur, one of the most romantic cities in the world, with its oasis of palaces, traditional havelis, parks, fortresses, and temples. We stay at the legendary Lake Palace, the 250-year-old former summer palace of the Maharaja of Udaipur, one of the world’s most breathtaking heritage hotels, set on an island in tranquil Lake Pichola. Depart on Day 19 via Delhi.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

What the Trip is Like

This trip is Level 2, Easy to Moderate. The emphasis of our trip is on India’s culture—its markets, villages, and people—along with some wildlife and bird viewing and exploring historical temples, palaces, and forts. There are simple walks in archaeological sites and through market areas of towns. While this trip is not expected to be physically strenuous, our travel days can be demanding, including drives of at least four hours every second day over rough village roads by private bus.

Along this adventure, we enjoy a unique collection of accommodations, including several palaces, fortresses, and havelis (private mansions) now converted into fine heritage hotels. We’ve selected our hotels for character and comfort as well as location, as in Nagaur, where we stay at a stunning heritage hotel built in the heart of an ancient fort on the edge of the Thar Desert, and Jodhpur, where we overnight at the only boutique hotel within the city walls. Our lodging also includes more remote properties like Ranakpur’s Maharani Bagh Orchard, a casual nature retreat with Jain temples nearby, and a very simple lodge in Siana, base for our Holi celebrations. Highlighting our hotel list is our grand finale stay at the legendary Lake Palace Hotel, former summer palace of the Maharaja of Udaipur.

Please note: Rajasthan is a popular destination and we will see other travelers almost everywhere we visit, especially in the famed fort cities. However, much of the trip visits areas that are not frequent tourist destinations (in fact, few non-Indians venture into the areas like Phalodi and Siana). As with any trip to India, this is an expedition designed for those who are adventurous in body and spirit, and have a sense of humor, curiosity, and enthusiasm about new peoples and places, and an openness to the unexpected.

We may encounter delays in airports and while traveling by land. It is important to remember that we are in an area of the world where transportation doesn't always run on strict schedules. While our trips generally operate smoothly, we should be prepared for occasional delays. We can usually make up the time, or amend our schedule to adjust to these changes.

Explanation of Trip Levels



Future dates have not been set for this itinerary. Please contact us if you would like to be notified of trip dates once they are available.

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2015
$8795 (14-16 members)
$9195 (11-13 members)
$9495 (8-10 members)
Single supplement: $2745
Forced single supplement: $2745
Internal airfare: $340 (subject to change)
more on pricing

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20% of trip cost
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

More than 90 days prior to departure: No charge!
90-46 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leaders and local guides
  • Accommodations
  • All meals included
  • Ground transportation, entrance fees and service charges, baggage handling
  • Airport transfers for trip members

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, internal airfare, meals not specified after each itinerary day, airport departure taxes, optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff, hotels en route to or on return from Delhi or additional hotel nights that may be necessitated by airline schedule changes or other factors, visa fees, cost of medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).