The walled town of BUNDI, 37km north of Kota, lies in the north of the former Hadaoti state, shielded on the north, east and west by jagged outcrops of the Vindhya Range. Visible only from the south and guarded by the marvelous Taragarh or “star fort” high in the north of town, the site made a perfect capital for the Hadachauhans, perched in their immense turreted palace underneath the snooty walls of the fort. Although settled in 1241, 25 years before Kota, Bundi never amounted to more than a modest market centre, and remains fairly untouched by modern developments. The palace alone justifies a visit thanks to its superb compilation of murals, while the almost complete absence of intrusive modern structures within the old walled town, crammed with crumbling stucco havelis, makes this one of southern Rajasthan’s most laid-back and tempting destinations – a fact recognized by the increasing numbers of foreign tourists who are now visiting the place.

Bundi is small, and easily explored on foot. Dominating the town, the rocky Taragarh fort is home to the town’s palace. South of here the narrow streets of the old town run gently downhill through a sequence of lively bazaars to reach Chogan Gate and the superb Raniji-ki-Baori (step-well). Further lowkey attractions lie dotted around the surrounding countryside, including the fine old Sukh Mahal and the evocative Sahr Bagh gardens.

Much of Bundi’s accommodation is in old havelis, with a big selection of budget rooms – standards are often rather basic, but rates are among the cheapest in Rajasthan. The vast majority of places are lined up along the (seemingly nameless) road that runs directly below the castle along the north side of Nawal Sagar. Most people eat where they are staying; otherwise, the pleasant garden restaurant at the Haveli Katkoun is usually the liveliest place in town.