Gaytri Singh Rathore
A wildlife sanctuary, desert countryside, ancient mansions, and plenty more when you head out of Jaipur

Jaipur can also serve as a hub for short trips to other must-see places in Rajasthan.

The ridges, dry forests and water holes in Ranthambore National Park, 130km south of Jaipur, provide the perfect abode for wildlife - including the tiger, which is of particular interest to many visitors. The park covers an area of 392sq km around the famed fort of Raja Hammir. You can take a morning or afternoon safari in a jeep or other open-top vehicle, and during the day you can also visit the Ranthambore fort and the Ganesh temple, which receives the first invitation for every wedding in Rajasthan.

Oberoi Vanyavilas (from Rs 30,000 per night) and Aman-i-Khas (Rs 40,000) are the high-end resorts in Ranthambore. In the mid-range, there are Sherbagh (Rs 20,000), Khem Villas (Rs 8000), Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge (Rs 20,000), Nahargarh (Rs 8000), Dev Vilas (11,000) and Pug Mark (Rs 8500). For cheaper options, you can try Ranthambore Regency (Rs 6000) or Ankur Resort (2600 onwards).

The twin pilgrimage towns of Pushkar and Ajmer are about 150km east of Jaipur. Pushkar is sacred for Hindus because the only Brahma temple in the world is situated there. The town's market is dotted with interesting shops selling local curios, clothes and toys, and the sandy countryside provides enough activities for a two-day trip. You can also visit the famous Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti shrine in Ajmer.

You can get to Ajmer by train, bus or cab. There are plenty of places to stay at: Ananta Spa (Rs 7500), the old favourite Pushkar Resort (Rs 4000), Jagat Palace (Rs 4900), Aaram Bagh (Rs 4000), New Park Hotel (Rs 1200) or Honey Dew (Rs 1500).

On a short overnight or two-night visit you can also explore the region of Shekhawati, on the famous Silk Route, north-east of Jaipur, historically inhabited by affluent merchant families. The area is still inhabited by these merchant communities, and the beautiful frescoes on their ancestral homes are a tourist attraction. In Mandawa, Dundlod and Nawalgarh you'll find some of these heritage havelis now converted into beautiful hotels. You can also take camel or jeep safaris in the desert countryside nearby.

Accommodation can be found at Patan Mahal (Rs 5000), Castle Mandawa (Rs 4500), Desert Resort (Rs 3000), Mandawa Haveli (Rs 2000), Roop Niwas Palace, Nawalgarh (Rs 3000), Dera Dundlod Fort (Rs 2500), Alsisar Mahal (Rs 4500). All the destinations are about two to three hours' drive from Jaipur.

Samode, half an hour from Jaipur, can be used as a base to explore the capital. The luxurious Samode Palace (Rs 15,000) is beautiful and there is a resort just outside it. Samode Bagh (Rs 5000) offers rooms and tents.

In Todi Sagar village, 110km south of Jaipur in Tonk district and accessible by road (two and a half hours away, approximately), you can see the ruins of a fortress atop a hillock, huge sand dunes, a large water reservoir and ancient step wells. The village serves as a great place for a large outing with activities. You can stay at the simple family-run heritage property at Tordi Garh (Rs 1600).

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