Budget backpackers guide to Ranakpur and Kumbalgarh.
Both of these incredible places almost always miss the attention of backpackers in favour of the big-hitting destinations surrounding them.
The people who do make it tend to visit on a day trip and completely miss all of the charms they have to offer. In this post, a Budget backpackers guide to Ranakpur and Kumbalgarh I aim to change that.
It is far better to spend a night and enjoy these tiny villages after all the tourists have gone home. Welcome to the raw kind of Rajasthani experience. As beautiful as Udaipur’s bustling lakeside is you are unlikely to be able to get such an experience there.
I will provide information that is hard to find elsewhere as no one seems to give it the time of day and for the life of me I can’t work out why?
The whole area sits in the incredibly picturesque part of the Kumbalgarh wildlife sanctuary that is simply bursting with biodiversity. With a vast historical fort, tribal culture and a spectacular example of ancient artwork all surrounded by lush jungle.
I don’t know what else the intrepid traveller would want from a holiday destination. So let us see how you can discover these beautiful places for yourself and improve what is already a fantastic trip to this part of the world.
My guide to Rajasthan’s Ranakpur.
The main reason most people visit this place is for the spectacular Jain temple (Chaumukha mandir or four-faced temple.) It is Composed of 29 halls, 80 domes and 1444 intricately carved pillars. This place is sure to blow you away. The artists were reputed to get paid by the dust they produce for there work while chiselling. When your wage depends on such a thing, you can bet the result will be fantastic.
That would make sense as seldom do you see such attention to detail anywhere in art. I understand that is a very bold statement, but wait till you come and see this masterpiece for yourself. It is only 200 rupees to get in when I was there last and a 100 rupee fee for the camera. No leather products and no menstruating woman are allowed inside although I am not sure how you would go around checking the last one?
The national parks entrance is near the temple and theoretically is open although I have never seen it with any staff working. The park is massive, so if you do plan to go inside, you certainly need a guide, and if you are caught without a ticket, you could be heavily fined.
There is a very blurred line as to where is a national park and where it isn’t in all fairness. Local people tell me its ok to around Shivika lake, but don’t go too far as you will be inside the boundaries of the park, but how far is too far? The lake the other side of the road is definitely not in the park as it is considered farmland.
To access Shivika lake is easy as you follow the clearly marked path from the guesthouse with the lake’s namesake to the viewing platform. Sometimes domestic daytrippers come here and play their music super loud sending anything living fleeing into the undergrowth, and that can be frustrating.
The park is home to sloth bears, nilgai, softshell turtles, leopards, wolves and more than 200 species of birds. Many animals can be seen right from your hotel. What you see depends not only on your luck, but it seems the time of year.
There is a small tribal village situated one kilometre from the temple, and the culture is fascinating to experience. The villagers tend to be very friendly and keen to get tourists into there modest homes for a cup of tea.
The whole experience tends to be a little pushy as it will end in a donation, but remember the people are impoverished and your money will be going to people who need it. I always give generously as its nice to see a side of India that would otherwise be very hard to experience for yourself.
The people are devout Hindus and all work in agriculture. They grow crops and raise livestock to be self-sufficient. As you can see from the picture the lakes dry up in the summer months and provide fertile arable land even in the hight of the Indian summer. The green area where the lake stands in the monsoon provides a stark contrast to the surrounding harsh landscapes. It will provide any traveller who gives these places the time of day with one photographic opportunity after another.
Getting a nights rest.
This place is well worth spending time in, and it is worth finding a place to stay. I have discovered Roopams to be an ideal base to explore this beautiful area. The rooms are clean and comfortable with wifi included. They’re not very expensive, and the restaurant makes excellent if not slightly overpriced food.
The owners are friendly people and will help you with whatever you need during your stay. In the peak season, they serve an excellent lunchtime buffet that times perfectly with the tours that come from Udaipur. It can get booked out with domestic tourists in peak season so if you arrive at this time book through booking.com.
The owner is a bird enthusiast and feeds the local animals, so if you sit silently, you will be blessed with an explosion of colour. This place is a must for any nature lover. If you ask the owner, he knows somewhere close by that is frequented by leopards that use the area as a waterhole in the summer months. Leopards are undoubtedly present, as the owner has lost some of his dogs from night-time raids from these stealthy beasts. Don’t go walking around in the dark as there are many dangerous animals you may encounter.
Getting a bite to eat.
Well, this is going to be a short section. You either eat in one of the hotels or nothing. However, the water here is forty rupees a litre, and that can eat into your daily spend so I would advise taking as much as you can carry with you. When you run out, take an empty bag to the temple where you will find a small shop. Top up on snacks and supplies while you are there. You can also get good chai and samosas, and that can cut your lunchtime bill down for more information on how to budget your money while on the road, check out my post on that.
Getting there and away.
If you are coming from Udaipur on the bus (2.4 hours) get off the bus 1km after the temple and if you come from Jodhpur (6 hours) ask to get off I km before the temple at the turning as it stops right outside the hotel. It is a long walk back in the heat with all your luggage so try not to miss it. There are no rail stations anywhere near Ranakpur, so a bus or private car is your only option. Most hotels in Udaipur offer seats in shared taxis that take in both Ranakpur and Kumbalgarh in just one day for a couple of hundred rupees.
My guide to Rajasthan’s Kumbalghar.
Despite having a national park named after the village, it is a very impractical place to access it. However, it is home to one of the most prominent forts in India that are ringed around by thick wall that are reportedly the second largest wall in the world after the great wall of china. I have no idea if that’s true, but it is massive! The wall is 36km around and inside is a whole other world of temples, forts and farmland, that is just ripe for exploration.
There has been some kind of fortified structure here since the 6th century, and today the sight of the finished product is both magnificent and imposing. Walking from your guesthouse to the entrance, you quickly get the idea that this would have been impossible to take this place.
In some parts, the walls are 15 foot wide and hemmed in by the Aravalli mountains. The castle affords magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. It takes a full day to explore this place so bring sunscreen or cover-up in the Rajasthani sunshine.
The main structure of the temple took just twelve years to complete. It was constructed under Rana Kumbha and was once the most potent part of the Mewar kingdom after Chittorgarh. Today it houses temples, step-wells, palaces cannon bunkers and a small village in the entrance. For history, buffs check out the Wikipedia page for a detailed explanation on the history of this fascinating place.
Getting a nights rest.
There is a cluster of accommodation on the road leading up to the fort, and they are all close together. You will have to walk around and pick your favourite. It is popular with domestic tourists, so the price of some accommodation might seem nuts for what you are getting. There are a couple of cheap guesthouses around you just have to look. Where I stayed, I don’t even think it was a guesthouse, but it only cost me 400 rupees so happy hunting.
Getting there and away.
Getting to and from Kumbhalgarh is a bit of a mission first, you have to make your way to a town called Saira. It is a tiny crossroad that you have to change busses in. The town is on the main Jodhpur, to Udaipur highway. It is only 40 minutes to Ranakpur so what I would do is visit Ranakpur first and leave your big bags and come back. From Saira, you get on the tiny bus that’s ridiculously overcrowded, so you don’t want a big rucksack on you. When I went, my backpack was strapped to the luggage rack with a dozen locals on the roof and me inside the bus. It made me feel very anxious, indeed.
If I were going to suggest an itinerary, I would say Travel from Bundi (stopping at Chattisgarh fort if you like ) to Udaipur. Udaipur to Ranakpur, drop your bags off and visit Kumbhalgarh. When you come back to Ranakpur either stop or continue to Jodhpur. This route is direct and does not involve backtracking, so it is perfect for your wallet as well.
The last option of cause is to get in one of the shared or private taxis in Udaipur. The problem with that is Kumbalghar is massive, and if you do not stay in the village, you will only get to see a little bit of the fort and probably leave feeling unsatisfied.
Summary of a Budget backpackers guides to Ranakpur and Kumbalgarh.
I hope after reading my post, my readers find it themselves to give these two places the attention they deserve when visiting the area. I think there is a little something here for anyone. Given its proximity to both Udaipur and Jodhpur, there is no reason why these places should not be included in your itinerary as all they will do is enrich your experience here.
Anyone travelling between Jodhpur and Udaipur will have no choice but to pass right through anyway as the two are not connected by train.
I hope you have found this article useful and as usual, if you have any questions or comments, leave them in the box provided. Also, if anyone has any suggestions on what they would like me to write about in the future, then I would appreciate the recommendations.
That about wraps up my post a backpackers guide to Ranakpur and Kumbalgarh. I hope you have found it of some value and if you didn’t please let me know what I could do better next time. So until the next time my fellow intrepid travellers, happy trails.
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