Pushkar – Rajasthan’s Holy City – was recommended to me by a local when planning my trip around Rajasthan. I was hesitant at first because I hadn’t read about it on any travel blogs – but boy am glad that I took his advice. Pushkar is one of India’s oldest existing cities and it ended up being one of my favourite cities – and many other travellers too.
Okay, it is actually hard to say which is my favourite city in India, but I sure loved this place. I was recommended to go here because I did not have time to go all the way to Varanasi to see the famous Ganges. Pushkar, is a smaller version of Varanasi – with it’s holy lake and religious monuments. It is a holy city that, if off the main streets, can be quite quant (for India anyway).
I stayed outside of the main market place at Cha Cha’s Garden. It was super laid back and you can enjoy a beer with Cha Cha, the owner – even though you are not technically supposed to drink in Pushkar. If you do stay here, it is a great place for meeting people and has an awesome atmosphere. Just a warning though – I hope you like firm beds!
I recommend that you also staying somewhere off of the main streets, like Cha Cha’s, so that you have a peaceful and quiet place to retreat. During holidays if you are staying near the temples it can get pretty crowded. Plus, even though we were off the main strip, it was still only a minute walk away from the market and about five minutes to the Holy Lake.
What to Do in Pushkar:
Explore the Market
While in Pushkar, the obvious thing to do is to go for a walk around the city explore and get your bearings. I loved walking around the little town market where they sell all sorts of things for tourists. I’m usually not into touristy things, but the shops here offer some unique clothes that are worth checking out. Plus, of all the countries that I have been to I think India has the best items/souvenirs – and for cheap!
Eat, Eat, Eat
Pushkar if amazing because it has so many restaurants to choose from. If you have been traveling for a while and need a break from Indian food, you can find other options here. There are three falafel stands that are apparently to die for – unfortunately, I was suffering from food poisoning so didn’t get the chance to try them for myself. Don’t worry – I didn’t get the food poisoning from Pushkar!
A great place to check out for a cheap (like super, duper cheap) and delicious breakfast is the breakfast stall at the end of the main square that serves an amazing rice breakfast dish for about 10 rupees. This dish has fresh cilantro and tomatoes and reminded me of Mexican food.
*If you go down the hill to the market from Cha Cha’s Garden it will be the first thing that you see as you enter the square.
Get Blessed (or don’t) at the Holy Lake
There are many religious sites in Rajasthan’s holy city of Pushkar. The most famous of all the sites is the holy lake that, apparently, is second to the Ganges. To be honest though, I don’t think it holds a candle to the Ganges.
As you walk down to the lake a man will approach you and ask that you take off your shoes. Then he will get a metal plate with flowers, rice and powdered colours – and essentially force a ritual on you down by the lake. He will bless you and the rest of your family. I ended up being blessed as part of my travel buddy’s family since he just assumed we were married. Of course, at the end you will be asked for a donation as a ‘gift to the Gods’. We only gave a tiny donation because it’s a scam (like a lot of things in India) and he just pockets the money.
Instead – visit the ACTUAL Cool Sites – the Temples…
Pushkar has the oldest Brahma (Hindu God of creation) temple in India and it is one of the few Brahma temples in the world. The temple here is found between a in the midst if a busy bazaar. When I went it was on a religious holiday, so it was very busy – but that just added to the atmosphere. The temple was far from shy with its bright and playful colours. It is a very unique and beautiful temple that you should take the time to visit.
To enter the temple is free, but you must take off your shoes before entering and no bags or cameras are allowed. My friend and I just took turns going in while the other held the bags. During the time I was waiting I was busy with locals coming up and taking photos with me – but this just made the time pass by quicker. This will probably only happen if you are a female since my guy friend didn’t have anyone taking his picture.
I felt bad but I was very confused about what the attraction was here.
Instead of spending your precious time visiting Savitri Mata, head to the pink temple on the top of the hill. I couldn’t go to this temple due to my broken toe because it is a steep trek up the hill. There are stairs but they break off into stones near the top. I hear that the best time to go is for sunset. Unlike Savitri Temple, the view is of the city and so you can see the sun setting down over all of Pushkar, Rajasthan’s holy, city before you make your way back down.
Pushkar is a chill place – which is sometimes needed in North India – so you can take an extra day or two here just to relax and take it easy. However, if you are limited for time, you don’t need more than a day or two to experience it.
Pushkar also has camel rides if you want to take a ride out in the desert. However, the most famous place for this is Jaisalmer where you do a camel safari and actually get to spend the night out in the desert. This was one of my favourite experiences, plus Jaisalmer is a wonderful city, so I recommend saving the camel ride for there if you can make it. You will have a more serene experience since the desert in Jaisalmer is a lot more isolated – and the stars at night are freaking fantastic.
Things to Note in this Holy City
- Cover up – make sure to cover your legs, chest and shoulders.
- No alcohol is allowed (but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t served. It is actually very easy to find).