From Agra Ollie and I travelled to Ajmer and then on to Pushkar, a further 11km away. Pushkar lies in Rajasthan but is very different from the other towns and cities in the state; it has a very special pull all of it’s own.
Pushkar: A Pilgrimage/Traveller Town
Pushkar is a prominent Hindu pilgrimage town and devout believers should visit at least once in their lifetime. The small town centres around a holy lake, said to have appeared when Brahma dropped a lotus flower. It also has one of the world’s few Brahma temples. There are 52 bathing ghats that surround the lake, where pilgrims come to bathe in the sacred waters.
We spent a lot of time on the ghats, soaking up the spiritual atmosphere and watching the proceedings with keen interest. Sunset is an especially beautiful time to be here, the sun casting an orange glow over the town and reflecting its rays in the lake’s calm waters.
Pushkar is said to have over 400 temples, milky-blue in colour, that constantly sound out pujas, chanting and devotional songs. Together with the lake and its ghats, the temples give the town its special magical ambience.
Pushkar is not a place with a huge list of sights to be ticked off. Instead it is the overwhelming mystical ambience and its hippie vibe that keeps many travellers here longer than they planned.
The main street is one long bazaar, selling everything from hippie clothes to books and handicrafts. The scene is commercial with funky traveller cafes at every turn, yet this small town still manages to hold on to its mystic roots and appeal to both Hindu pilgrims and Western travellers. It seems to have got the balance right.
The choice of food in Pushkar is endless; from Italian to Mexican, every taste is catered to. Some places are better than others; unsurprisingly the Indian fare always seems to be the most authentic. There are bakeries and side-of-the-road lassi stalls; in Pushkar lassis are made by hand as they are in Kolkata and are exceedingly good!
The Hills around Pushkar
Pushkar is surrounded by a sparse, arid, desert landscape, punctuated by rocky hills. It is starkly beautiful to behold. Ollie and I climbed to the top of the two hills at either end of town, each offering a different a viewpoint over the area. Both are topped by a Hindu temple and one offers pilgrims the option of taking a cable car, rather than the stairs.
We walked up and down both hills; going on foot is easily the best way to appreciate the stunning landscape and enjoy the views. We got to the top of one of the hills about an hour before sunset; the views at this time are amazing. The whole area is set out before you, a truly amazing perspective.
Camel Safari from Pushkar
Whilst we were in Pushkar Ollie and I also did a day-long camel safari, breaking for a few hours during the hottest part of the day. Pushkar doesn’t offer the same experience as Jaisalmer, where you can ride through what seems like an endless expanse of sand dunes, but it’s still an enjoyable experience nonetheless.
The landscape that we passed through was a mix of semi-desert and arid farmland; we were on the edge of the Thar desert but its rolling dunes were still some distance away. The camel that I started off on was quite jumpy and made me feel rather nervous, so after lunch we swapped round! Neither camel was very comfortable though.
We stopped at a village farmhouse for a delicious Indian thali lunch, which came with free refills and plenty of chai. We then chilled out for a few hours while the heat of the day passed. We made it back to Pushkar as the sun was beginning to set. Though we hadn’t gone far from town, it hadn’t taken long for it to feel like we were in a different world altogether, very far from the hustle and bustle of Pushkar’s bazaar.
Where to Stay in Pushkar
There are many guesthouses and hotels in and around Pushkar that cater to every budget. Here is our recommendation:
As we did on our first visit to Pushkar, Ollie and I stayed at Milkman Guesthouse, tucked away in the quiet backlanes. It has to be one of our all-time favourite guesthouses; it really does tick every box. There is a wonderful rooftop area with stunning town views, a superb restaurant where we ate most of our meals and a funky vibe that makes you feel right at home.
Our room, for just Rs 600/night, was spacious and clean with a hot shower, AC and beautiful paintings on the walls. The guesthouse also has other quirky features, such as an indoor swing seat. If we ever return to Pushkar again we won’t stay anywhere else!
Pushkar is one of our most treasured places in all of India; there is something about it that is just magical. The landscape, the lake and its ghats, the mystical vibe, the spiritual energy, the pulsating pujas and episodic chanting; it all combines to make one fantastic Indian experience.
For more on Rajasthan, check out our post: How to Get Off the Beaten Track in Rajasthan!