The city of Jaipur is most visitors’ first know-how of Rajasthan. The capital of the state, and easily its biggest and busiest city, Jaipur is home to a rich clasp of tourist attractions, most of them were built by the verdict maharajas, whose substantial military power and seemingly bottomless personal coffers are encapsulated in the showy sequence of forts, palaces and other creations, from cenotaphs to observatories, which dot the city and its vicinity, if you can handle with the city’s intense crowds and atrocious traffic. North of Jaipur, the enthralling region of Shekhawati remains one of Rajasthan’s most captivating – and least touristic – regions, with dozens of dusty little towns filled with superlative, crumbling havelis build by rich local traders during the period of nineteenth and early twentieth century, their walls are roofed with a terrific assortments of murals displaying everything from conventional religious scenes to modern Europeans in trains and airplanes.

The area east and south of Jaipur is of extraordinary wildlife interest, being home to a pair of world-famous national parks: the famous ornithological wonderland of the Keoladeo National Park, just outside the enthralling little town of Bharatpur; and the even more admired – the Ranthambore National Park further south, which offers as good a chance of spotting tigers in the wild as anywhere on the planet. You won’t, sadly, see any tigers at the region’s third major national park, the Sariska Tiger Reserve, which in spite of its name is now completely devoid of big cats (tigers). It remains well populated with other types of wildlife, however, and offers a peaceful and lesser known choice to the area’s more popular parks, and an easy day trip from the absorbing little city of Alwar, a rewarding destination in its own right. At the heart of Jaipur lies Jai Singh’s original capital, popularly known as the Pink City, enclosed by snooty walls and daunting gateways which were designed to offer it some measure of defense against intimidating forces, and which still serve to physically distinguish it from the extensive modern bounds around.

The city’s other striking feature is its identical pink colour, intended to disguise the poor-quality materials from which its buildings were originally constructed and lend the whole place a roseate hue redolent of the great imperial marble monuments of the Mughals. The neatly rectilinear streets are home to Jaipur’s three most famous monuments viz. the Hawa Mahal, City Palace and Jantar Mantar observatory as well as an astonishing collection of bazaars, with different trades and crafts allotted their own streets within the grid.