• pushkar india backpacking

Pushkar, a Hidden City with an Easy-going Vibe

Pushkar, “the rose garden of Rajasthan” is where traditional meets hippie in the desert state. Spend some extra time here to soak in that easygoing Rishikesh vibe in this hot sandstone town.

Engulfed by the Aravali hills, this is where I chose my week-long retreat from traveling. The lake in the middle is one of the 5 pilgrimages Hindu’s may take in their life.

I used Lonely planet as my Pushkar travel guide, until I realized I didn’t really need one.

pushkar india backpackingphoto credit: flickr

pushkar india backpackingrooftops are where it’s happening, from dinner to yoga

It was explained that a bird carrying immortality water flew around India and dropped five drops, one landing in the lake, and the others at the rest of the pilgrimage sites in India.  

My driver here in Goa said it has to do with Brahma’s lotus petal flowers falling, but either way, the lake in Pushkar is a hidden little city behind a mountain range to the south and the desert to the west.  

pushkar india backpackingphoto credit: flickr

I mean how cool is that photo above!?

Because Pushkar is a spiritual place for so many, you can’t help but feel it’s ambience. It’s calming, colorful, tranquil, and timeless.

You can get lost in the winding alleyways and even bump into a stray camel or two.

Pushkar india backpacking

pushkar india backpackingphoto credit: flickr

If you want reflexology, palm reading, holistic healing, or reiki, you will have bountiful options here. If you’re more interesting in learning: how to draw henna, cook Rajasthani meals, paint, or traditionally dance, this is a great place to take a backpacking breather and embrace the mystical side of India.

pushkar india backpacking“we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”

pushkar india backpackingLots of places have these open roofs with plants and flowers

This vibrant town is best known to tourists for it’s annual camel fair, the biggest animal-trading fair in India. I left 3 days before the fair on purpose because all the locals said it’s just a dusty stinky mess.

I have met people who travel to Pushkar each year for this festival, so maybe I really missed out! The electricity was out most days until 5 PM, due to preparations for the fair- but I have an inkling that regardless of the fair there would be frequent outings just like the rest of rural India.

pushkar india backpackingphoto credit: flickr

For Hindu people, Pushkar would be most well known for the only Brahma temple in world. He’s the creator of earth… so it’s worth checking it out!

Rajasthan is spiritual and royal. If India’s chaos is stressing you out, you’ll feel so at peace here. See a temple, explore the lake, and you’ve already completed the tourist checklist; you can chill out and just enjoy!

pushkar india backpacking

Tips/Info on Pushkar

There are a handful of places in India where alcohol isn’t allowed and waiters will whisper, “I have beer” while hiding it under the table for you. Along with beer, in holy Pushkar, meat and even eggs aren’t allowed. Many waiters will whisper that they have a secret menu with eggs.

Similar to how Goa caters toward the many Russians, so does Pushkar with Israelis. Many locals speak bits of the language and menus and signs might be in Hebrew with restaurants offering lots of great Israeli dishes.

pushkar india backpacking

pushkar india backpacking

Consider taking the pre-sunrise hike to Savitri Temple. It was so pretty to watch the sun rise from behind the hills while the moon was still low and full.  Beware of snakes! Cobras like to chill in the corners of the temple- and they aren’t the kind that have had their teeth or venom sac ripped out by mean Indian snake charmers.

pushkar india backpackingthe sun is just about to peak out

pushkar india backpacking

pushkar india backpacking

What should you buy in Pushkar? EVERYTHING! Just kidding, you should really try to hold back or your backpack will be bursting. This is where I bought my massive wall hanging. The pink and pearl hand-beaded three elephant masterpiece is now buried in my closet in the U.S. from when I moved back to India….

The prices are so reasonable and I got the rate from 40,000 (psh) to 3,500. If you are afraid of negotiating you’ve got to get over that. They are giving rates much higher than what they want or expect to get. It was off-season, but I have never seen one with such quality workmanship at such a low price.

The ones in Goa are fake crappy ones, so I’m so glad I got a proper one for the day I actually have a permanent home to decorate. I always get my dad something silly and almost got him a turban here- they are everywhere for 50 rupees- but I held out and got him a Kullu cap later. My backpack can only fit so much!

pushkar india backpacking

pushkar india backpackingphoto credit: flickr 

Like everywhere else in Rajasthan, there is colorful jewelry, purses, wooden carvings, silver anklets, ali baba pants, scarves, and trinkets. You can also get your nose pierced for 50 rupees with a nail on the street like my friend Ashley as I told you about in a previous post.

You could really amp up your shopping game: go during the fair, buy a camel.

Where to Stay

I stayed at Hotel Paramount Palace. The 200 rupee room was a dump so I moved to the “view” room which was 500 rupees and really cute. A bight pink balcony was perfect for sunbathing and watching the sunset. The fanned room had hot water and an attached bath recommended by Lonely Planet’s Pushkar travel guide. Click here for rates and availability.

PS if you want a soft bed in India, you basically have to go to a 4 or 5 star hotel. They are very hard to come by!

pushkar india backpacking

pushkar india backpacking

I got Henna for the millionth time, did rooftop sunrise yoga every morning, a dance class, and lots of shopping. I spent some time trembling after cobras sneaked out of their baskets. There were so. many. cobras. It was very uncool for people like me who are terrified of them.

As for the lake, while many pilgrims purify themselves in the water, you shouldn’t get in as a tourist. You definitely shouldn’t get naked like them and take a bath OR do your laundry in it. If you go near the lake take off your shoes!

Touts will try to bless your family and give you a red “entrance” band to the city. You don’t have to buy one. I avoided this area after I saw it once, but supposedly the scam is they put the red string on you, bless your family, do a gorgeous ceremony putting flowers in the water then ask for an outrageous amount of money… per family member. If you don’t pay it, they will curse your family! Yikes!

pushkar india backpackingphoto credit: flickr

pushkar india backpackingphoto credit: flickr

Pushkar would be a great place to celebrate Holi with a bhang lassi. It’s already so colorful, I think it would be such a fun place to celebrate.

There were tons of mosquitos at night near the lake…. But there are also fireworks and great views. One great view is from Baba’s, who also serves a delicious wood fired pizza.

pushkar india backpacking

Don’t let the guy at Laughing Buddha read your palm, and “balance my energy and chakras”. He told me my throat chakra was blocked. I don’t think he meant harm, but seriously was just talking rubbish and wasting my time. I was too nice and just kept nodding but finally just had to bolt. He hadn’t asked for money so it was worth a shot.

Keep in mind, during the camel fair, prices are hiked up ten fold. It takes place near the end of October. Typical tourist season in Rajasthan is October to March.

Tansportation

Getting here from Jodhpur to Pushkar I took an overnight bus (8 hours) and arranged hotel pick up for my 3 A.M. arrival. Getting away to Jaipur was 220 rupees on a “private bus” that was 100% just a local bus. It was a quick 6-hour ride.

pushkar india backpackingfeature image photo credit: flickr

 

 

2017-07-03T16:27:26+00:00

About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing to live on the beaches of Goa, India almost four years ago where she is now a travel writer. Her website gives advice on the 35+ countries she's been to but has become the go-to site for India travel, focusing on offbeat places & “glamorous travel”. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE magazine, Tripadvisor, and Thomas Cook. Her blog is one of the top 50 travel blogs in the world based on traffic. She also enjoys writing for BravoTV.

27 Comments

  1. Catherine May 6, 2014 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    I so want to buy a camel now! Reminds me of this fair we went to in Ireland when I was a kid , where you could win a real living donkey as a raffle prize! I have never wanted to win a raffle so bad!

    • Rachel Jones May 6, 2014 at 9:12 pm - Reply

      lol that’s funny about the donkey! I happen to think donkeys are one of the cutest animals!

  2. Renuka May 7, 2014 at 1:14 am - Reply

    Wow! I am loving your Rajasthan series! :) I haven’t been to Pushkar, but it’s on my radar. Thanks for a great guide.

  3. ellen Bak May 7, 2014 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    Love All your posts! I would like to know your advice on going to a couple of. Ashrams or Yoga retreats for a month or so here and there. Do you have places to recommend? Does one sign up before one arrives or can I make plans when I get to a city?. I would be on a backpacking budget, no frills necessary, just the real deal experience. I would even be willing to work as part of the program. I would also like to find one that would help holistically with back pain.
    Look forward to your thoughts!
    Thanks so much,
    eb

    • Rachel Jones May 7, 2014 at 1:36 pm - Reply

      Hi ellen I stayed at one in Rishikesh, I’ll have to look up the name. It was pretty touristy though. I will ask around and see which will give you a great experience. Have you looked into Vipassanna? I want to do it this summer! it’s a 10 day meditation class.

  4. Amanda @ Farsickness May 9, 2014 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    Your blog is killing me, Rachel! I’ve wanted to go to India for so long and every time you post I get a serious case of wanderlust. Pushkar looks fab. Bah. Why does real life and work have to get in the way of my galavanting?!

    • Rachel Jones May 9, 2014 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      haha well let the wanderlust build up a year or so then when you finally come to INdia it’ll be even better!

  5. Nick May 12, 2014 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    I’m in Pushkar right now, taking a little travel break too. I’m in love with the place, it’s so peaceful and relaxed (especially being off-season now), it’s hard to think of returning to the chaos of the rest of India.
    I agree the guy at Laughing Buddha is a little strange but his breakfasts are amazing!
    I almost got scammed by the lake too, in fact I told him I had no money and he still did the blessing and now insists on a donation everytime I walk past (he wants $20-50 he said), I told him I was looking for him, couldn’t find him so just had to put my donation in the legitimate donation box and he bought it haha.
    Kind of wish you hadn’t mentioned the cobras, I didn’t know they were around here!

    • Rachel Jones May 13, 2014 at 2:42 pm - Reply

      Yep, you have to be careful at the lake for sure! but 20-50 that’s a far stretch for any backpacker’s budget lol what a nut. Don’t get bit by a snake!

  6. Rebekah Voss May 16, 2014 at 7:36 am - Reply

    This must be fate – I’m in Vietnam and just met a meditation teacher who spent 20 years in India. She was talking about what a spiritual place India is, and I asked her “But it’s so vast, where should I go?” and she couldn’t really answer me! And then I stumble upon this post…Pushkar looks like it could be just what I’m looking for.

    P.S. Is the blue backpack in that picture REI? I do believe we have the same one!

    • Rachel Jones May 16, 2014 at 8:59 pm - Reply

      Wow, that’s perfect for you. I’m surprised she didn’t have any tips for you! I think you’ll like Pushkar. and Yes, it’s REI. Ashley Abroad has it too!! haha it’s so old!

  7. vinay October 10, 2014 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    stayed at Hotel Sun and Moon at Puskhar. pretty full with backpackers. mentioned by Lonely Planet too.

  8. Lakshay July 26, 2016 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    Hi Rachel, afetr reading your blog i found you have gone deep into places i would love if we can share a trip to kasol and malana village together. I would await your reply via email.

  9. Kirsty August 14, 2016 at 4:53 am - Reply

    Would you say that Pushkar is safe for a solo female traveler during the camel festival?

    • Rachel Jones August 15, 2016 at 2:31 am - Reply

      I wasn’t there at that time, but I wouldn’t think it’s any less safe. Lots of tourists go in for it. It’s really expensive accomodation though, but it’s important to still try and stay somewhere decent because theft in terrible hotel rooms can happen.

  10. Jatin Chhabra September 20, 2016 at 11:59 pm - Reply

    Great post Rachel, and quite useful for me as I am visiting Pushkar next week. A point which I would like to bring in your notice, Brahma isn’t the creator of earth, its Universe (I mean if you believe in sanatani mythology)

  11. Lisa February 11, 2017 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    Thank you! Just arrived into Pushkar

  12. Meaghan l The Millennial Escape March 12, 2017 at 9:55 am - Reply

    I would love to know where you found sunrise yoga! Could you share the place? Currently in Pushkar, thanks!

  13. rebecca June 12, 2017 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    Hi Rachel I just stumbled upon your blog while trying to look for a yoga retreat to go to in India. I have never traveled there. I am also intrigued by your life story. I am also a nurse. Any advice. I was looking at the swan yoga center in Goa

    • Rachel Jones June 13, 2017 at 11:24 am - Reply

      I wish I could help more on this because I do get asked about it a lot, but I’m very unfamiliar with the yoga schools here and which are good/bad – I have heard of swan yoga though!

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