Binny’s India Diaries: Kalakho, Agra and Jaipur

Binny’s India Diaries: Kalakho, Agra and Jaipur

As part of my ‘Golden Triangle’ tour with Somak Holidays, we visited Delhi, followed by Agra and Jaipur with an extension in the spiritual city of Varanasi. We were driving from Delhi to Agra, and on the way we stopped by the Umaid Lake Palace in Kalakho, where we had lunch. Here are the highlight of my trip to Kalakho, Agra and Jaipur.

Kalakho

Kalakho is situated amidst the Aravalli Hills in the Dausa District of the state of Rajasthan. It is absolutely stunning, and unspoilt, surrounded by rolling hills and forest. Very picturesque, and ideal to break the journey between Delhi and Agra if you decide to travel by road.
The Umaid Lake Palace uses home grown organic produce for their meals. It was incredible to see the barley fields whilst we had a wander around the property. In India, Barley is one of the most important cereal grain crops after rice, wheat & maize. Needless to say our lunch was also very delicious!

Umaid Palace Kalakho

We also visited the READ India Kalakho Gyan Kendra, which is a joint initiative by Umaid Lake Palace and READ India, a non-for-profit Organisation based in Gurgaon. It empowers women in Kalakho to earn a livelihood by making traditional arts and crafts, along with promoting traditional crafts local to Rajasthan. In this photo a young lady was learning how to sew clothes so she could be empowered with key skills to earn a sustainable living. What an amazing initiative!

Umaid Palace Kalakho READ India

Agra

The historical city of Agra is a wonderful place to visit to see its traces of the glorious golden era, as well as to see one of the wonders of the world in person – the majestic Taj Mahal. Thousands flock to see it in all its splendour and here are my highlights from my visit.

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal, Agra

The Taj Mahal, Agra

The fairy tale monument of The Taj Mahal needs no introduction and stands for true love. Built as an ode to his beloved wife Mumtaz, who sadly passed away during childbirth, the Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan. It later became both his and her resting place.

The Taj Mahal, Agra

The Taj Mahal, Agra

Symmetrical, and identical whichever side you look at it, it took 22 years for this spectacular monument’s construction to be completed.

The best time to visit is either sunrise or sunset. We visited at sunset and it was truly magical. If you are planning to be there for sunset, I advise that you get there by 4pm.

The Taj Mahal, Agra

The Agra Fort 

The Agra Fort

The Agra Fort, made from red sandstone exteriors, is typical of Mughal style architecture, and was originally built as a military structure, but Emperor Shah Jahan transformed it into a palace, which later became his prison for eight years after his son Aurangzeb seized power in 1658.

The Agra Fort

It is so beautiful inside and definitely interesting to wander its grounds and try to picture what it must have been like during its hey day.

Jaipur

Jaipur, popularly known as the Pink City because of the pink walls and buildings of the old city, is a truly stunning place with its magnificent remnants of a bygone era. There are spectacular ancient palaces and forts, each with elaborate architecture to see, which are a stark reminder of their royal heritage.

 Jaipur

Birla Mandir

Birla Mandir, Jaipur

The Birla Mandir is a very famous beautiful temple dedicated to Laxminarayan and  built entirely of marble which is visited by thousands of devotees every day. A visit during the early evening is recommended to have a look at the stunning temple as well as attend the Arti Ceremony, which involves oil lamps being lit and waved, in order to awake and invoke the deity. It looks amazing all lit up!

Amber Fort

Amber Fort, JaipurAmber Fort, JaipurAmber Fort, Jaipur

One of the prettiest forts I have ever seen, The Amber Fort, built in 1592, which is also known as Amer Fort, is a classic romantic Rajasthani fort palace, that has a fairytale feel, and is one of the most popular forts in Rajasthan. It has a fusion of Indian and Mughal styles of architecture.

The views from the fort are stunning and it overlooks Lake Maota. Through the fort there are a variety of stairways, courtyards, gateways, gardens and balconies to explore, all adorned with intricate colourful murals and designs for you to marvel at.

Hawa Mahal

Hawa Mahal

This iconic building is Jaipur’s most recognised, and has an intricate and fascinating facade. It was built in 1799 and has five floors that contain rows of small windows and screens. It inherited the name Palace of the Winds as wind used to flow through the openings of the building.

It is thought that the palace was originally built for the women of the royal household to watch the streets discreetly below without being observed.

A cooking demonstration at Ikaki Niwas

Ikaki Nivas

A cooking demonstration at Ikaki Niwas, a fabulous homestay in Jaipur is highly recommended, where you can learn how to make a traditional Rajasthani meal led by the lovely Chandrika. We learned how to make Rajasthani Papad Sabzi, Chapatis and a wheat flour Halwa for dessert.

You will also enjoy a sumptuous dinner and be able to mingle with the friendly host family that run the homestay.

Shopping

Bapu Bazaar

Shopping is superb in Jaipur, particularly for gold and silver jewellery, gemstones pottery, tie-dye materials, silk, saris, wooden handicrafts and carpets.

I visited Bapu Bazaar, which is fun, chaotic and makes for a good walk as it has the quintessential pink rustic buildings on both sides of the road that give you the true essence of Jaipur.

Read my other India diaries here:

Delhi

Varanasi

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If you are inspired to to visit Incredible India after reading my experience, you can find out more about Somak’s ‘Golden Triangle’ Itinerary here:

The Golden Triangle

Alternatively, they have an 11-night Classical India tour that takes you on a journey to see all the highlights of northern India, as featured in The Golden Triangle tour, as well as other fantastic destinations including Varanasi.

Classical India Tour

For more details on their itineraries or to discuss a bespoke itinerary, call Simply India Holidays by Somak on 0208 423 3000 or email india@somak.co.uk and they will be delighted to help you plan your trip to Incredible India.

https://www.somak.com/

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I was hosted by Somak Holidays but all opinions and photos are my own.
Binita Shah-Patel

Hi, I’m Binny – a writer, dreamer, serial wanderluster and travel addict. I am originally from Kenya but now live in London. I set up this blog to share my experiences eating out as well as travelling.

I love packing my bags and going off on adventures as one of the best things about travelling is the ability to just get lost in it. To set aside the maps and itineraries and just see where the road takes you, learning and evolving and living in the moment along the way.

It’s my goal to get swept off my feet as often as possible.

Find me on: Web | Twitter

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7 Comments

  1. October 14, 2018 / 6:57 am

    I find some of the architecture in India just totally mind-blowing and incredibly beautiful. Thanks for sharing your travel experiences, Binny. I would have loved that cookery class too..

  2. October 14, 2018 / 7:35 am

    This is incredible Binny! My dream trip and loved this itenary. India is just so beautiful and the Taj Mahal, well a dream!

  3. October 14, 2018 / 9:21 am

    This is a great experience. India just has so much culture. The golden triangle is on my list. Also a cooking class – that is brilliant. Thanks for the tips. Definitely know where to start looking when I do decide to go.

  4. October 15, 2018 / 8:54 am

    What a sensational itinerary! I’d love to see the Taj Mahal!

  5. October 16, 2018 / 12:25 pm

    So much stunning architecture!

  6. October 24, 2018 / 1:00 pm

    Rajasthan is one of my favourite places in India. If you ever go back, you have to include Jodhpur and Udaipur as part of your itinerary…I loved Jaipur as well, and enjoyed Amber Fort but didn’t quite appreciate the snake charmers outside Hawa Mahal…eek! If you go back to Jaipur make sure you have the City Palace (if you haven’t already been) as the architecture in those courtyards is mind blowing…

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