If you've never experienced traditional Hinduism and the oh-so-charming hippie culture swaying in harmony with each other, you must visit the holy city Pushkar. Striking a perfect balance between conventional aesthetics and modern-day bohemian vibe, the city has grown into a spiritual and cultural hub. Just to give you a little background on how it came into being - Pushkar gets its name from a legend that narrates how a bird carrying holy water dropped five drops on land, of which one fell on the spot where the sacred Pushkar lake is located.
Around November, each year Pushkar plays host to thousands of tourists who visit the city to attend the world's largest camel fair, and we couldn't have missed the sight of it. It's not just a congregation of traders who travel from across India with their camels and livestock but also a hub for tons of cultural activities. Camels are dressed up in colorful pompoms and beautiful pieces of cloth adding to the ambiance and leaving the visitors in awe. Camel safari, mouth relishing food, touristy souvenirs, there's so much competing for your attention.
Getting around Pushkar
We boarded a bus from Delhi late in the night that dropped us in Pushkar early morning. There are autorickshaws easily available for commuting within the city but, charge a hefty amount, clearly establishing their monopoly. Insiders tip: Ola will be your savior, it's a cheaper way of covering shorter distance within the city. However, if you don't mind a little cardio, getting around on foot will be a real treat. Not only will you soak in the city vibes, you'll also discover cool places and streets you barely knew existed. We also saw a lot of tourists commuting rented Enfileds, so if you like to explore places on two wheels, you can rent a bike.
Where To Stay
November is the time of the month when Pushkar is flooded with tourists. We suggest you plan your trip well in advance and book your stay by September to get good accommodations at cheaper prices. We stayed at Pushkar Bagh Resort nestled between amazing nature views and plenty of alma trees (yes you get your daily dose of vitamin C complimentary with the stay :p). It offers spacious rooms, decent food and a grand pool for your early morning dips.
What To Do
Make no list, Pushkar is all about getting lost in the charm of the city, hopping from one street to another and enjoying the sunset at one of the ghats on the lake. However, if you must tick something off your list here's what you should be doing:
1. Pay homage to the Brahma Temple located amidst the busy market lanes. It is the only temple in the world dedicated to Lord Brahma. You can hire a guide to know the legends behind how this temple came into being, it does make for an interesting story! No camera and other equipments are allowed inside the temple. You will have to deposit it in the safe box facility provided outside the temple.
2. Visit the Savitri Temple, located not top of a hill, dedicated to Brahma's first wife. You can either climb up to the temple or take a trolley ride that costs around 100 per person. The temple offers a panoramic view of the lake surrounded by the enchantingly small Pushkar city.
3. Experience sunset at Pushkar Lake. The sky is full of vivid colours, the ghats of the lake are lit up with gleaming lights from the diyas, and the sound of aarti from surrounding temples is pure music to the ears. We were lucky enough to experience this breathtaking view marking the commencement of the Pushkar Mela.
4. Although we are strictly against this, Pushkar is known for its camel safaris. We were honesty distressed looking at the condition of these camels loaded with heavy carts and people riding on their back. It's highly disappointing to see how people use these poor animals for the sake of earning money in the name of tourism. We urge all to avoid such engagements. After all this we did, however, want to make a native friend, so we hired a camel and walked with it through our safari exploring the city and witnessing the many shades of Pushkar.
5. If you are someone who cherishes exploring on foot you're in for a treat. The streets are your home and you can't get enough of it. Every turn you take will have a surprise to unfold, number of steps won't matter because you wouldn't want to stop wandering. It's mystical and trust us no exaggerations here. Of all our favorite has to be the Sunset Lane, it has a charm of its own like no other street in Pushkar. It has some of the best stores to shop from and some really good cafes.
6. Shop till you drop, literally. Pushkar has some of the best shops to unload your wallet at. Besides the usual souvenirs, it is the place to buy leather products, quirky silver jewelry, and home decor products. If you want to take back some real Rajasthani vibes home, shop at Raj Handicrafts, a small shop located in the Sunset Lane offering beautiful handmade products.
Where To Eat
Pushkar is loaded with cafes and restaurants for a traveler with any budget. There are a number of rooftop cafes with the most amazing views and good food. On one of our errands, we stopped by the Sixth Sense and it was love at first sight. Even though we couldn't manage to get a room here, it's rooftop cafe is pure delight. It's a beautifully done cafe with lip-smacking food and the ambiance will instantly help you unwind. You can experience the alluring sunset at the Sunset Cafe sipping a cup of tea or your favorite mocktail. It offers an uninterrupted lake view and perfect Pushkar feels. Yearning a little Italy in Pushkar? Head straight to the Il Fornaio Pizzeria. It offers the best Italian food we've had in so long. From freshly baked bases, wood-fired pizzas and heavenly ginger-ale it has everything to satisfy your taste buds. PS - You'll lose your mind when you have a look at the variety the menu has to offer.
During our last few minutes in Pushkar, unfortunately not in time, we came across the Moon Dance Cafe. As the name suggests it's as psychedelic as it can get :p. It definitely tops our list next time we are in Pushkar.
Pushkar has a charisma of its own quite unlike anywhere else in Rajasthan. Even though a two day trip to Pushkar is sufficient, our last few hours there kept us occupied just like our first encounter. It's a small but authentically enchanting and will leave you asking for more.