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Painted Palaces of Rajasthan - Jodhpur, Nagaur, Bikaner, the Shekhawati & Jaipur

A chronological survey of the remarkable phenomenon of architectural paintings.

Architecture of forts and palaces, from the grimly defensible to filigree finesse.

Includes places rarely visited by tourists, and lingers longer in well-known places.

Private visit of the painting gallery of Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur.

Led by Dr Giles Tillotson, a leading expert in Rajput and Mughal history and architecture.

100% of participants rated this tour as excellent the last time it ran. 

  • Jaipur, watercolour by Mortimer Menpes, 1910.
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Day 1

Delhi. The tour begins in Delhi with a pre-lunch talk in the hotel bar, followed by lunch in the hotel restaurant at c. 12.45pm. Your room is available from 2.00pm the previous afternoon. (flights from London are not included – see Practicalities tab). In the afternoon visit the National Museum’s impressive and well-displayed collection of miniature paintings, from both Mughal and Rajput traditions, studying their differences and similarities. Overnight Delhi.

Day 2

Delhi, Jodhpur. Fly from Delhi to Jodhpur in the morning (Jet Airways). Presiding over the capital of one of the largest Rajput states in western Rajasthan is the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort. Described by Kipling as the ‘work of angels, fairies and giants’, it was built in 1459 and has some of the most imposing fortifications in the world. Private dinner in the fort’s garden. First of two nights in Jodhpur.

Day 3

Jodhpur. Created in resplendent white marble, Jaswant Thada is the large 19th-cent. memorial of Jaswant Singh II and cremation ground of the Marwar rulers. The visit to Mehrangarh examines the painting tradition of the Marwari Rajputs, with special admission to the gallery led by the curator. The buildings of the lively Old City are painted in a variety of blues, originally the colour denoting the homes of Brahmins. Overnight Jodhpur.

Day 4

Mandore, Nagaur. Mandore was the capital of the Marwari state until 1895 when it moved to Jodhpur. On the ancient cremation grounds, the royal cenotaphs are unique in Rajasthan as they resemble Hindu temples. In the afternoon, drive through the desert to Nagaur, one of the earliest Rajput settlements and an important Sufi centre. First of two nights in Nagaur.

Day 5

Nagaur. Ahichhatragarh Fort (linked to the hotel by a corridor) was founded in the 4th cent. and developed and embellished in the 18th. Pre-Mughal and Mughal architecture is well preserved in the palace chambers; the Akbari Mahal, built to commemorate the visit of the Emperor Akbar in 1570, has some original floral murals, while the Hadi Rani Mahal houses some 16th-cent. murals in shades of green depicting daily and courtly scenes. The rest of the day is free. Overnight Nagaur.

Day 6

Nagaur, Bikaner. In the morning, drive to Bikaner for lunch at the Laxmi Vilas Palace, a masterpiece of Indo-Saracenic architecture designed by Sir Swinton Jacob (1902). The Jain Bhandasar Temple is said to be older than the city itself, although the current building dates from the 15th cent. and has fine paintings. First of two nights in Bikaner.

Day 7

Bikaner. Unlike most Rajput strongholds, Junagadh Fort is not built on a hill. Founded in 1588, it displays a variety of painting styles, from traditional Rajput motifs to early 20th-cent. depictions of trains. The Monsoon Palace has some highly unusual paintings of rain clouds and lightning, while the Diwan-i-Khas, the hall of private audience, is profusely decorated with gold leaf. There is a special opening of the Phool Mahal, the oldest part of the palace. Overnight Bikaner.

Day 8

Bikaner, Mandawa (Shekhawati). The desert villages of the Shekhawati region of northern Rajasthan are celebrated for their painted havelis (merchants’ mansions), which go back to the 18th century. The Nand Lal Devra haveli in Fatehpur has some newly restored examples. A leisurely walk in Mandawa reveals some interesting depictions of flying machines and other modern appliances. Overnight in Mandawa.

Day 9

Mandawa, Jaipur. The four-hour coach journey to Jaipur drives through the scenic Aravalli range. Founded in the 18th cent. by the prominent Rajput ruler Sawai Jai Singh, the design of Jaipur demonstrates its creator’s obsession with mathematics and science. The dramatically located site of Galta outside Jaipur features temples, leisure pavilions, sacred water spring and tanks. First of three nights in Jaipur.

Day 10

Jaipur. The City Palace contains an unsurpassed collection of paintings and artefacts. The Jantar Mantar, the 1730s observatory is equipped with massive astronomical instruments that are astonishingly accurate. A walk takes in the many-windowed façade of the pink sandstone Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) and attractive havelis. The former duck-hunting lodge Jal Mahal is situated in the middle of Man Sagar lake (visit by special permission). Overnight Jaipur.

Day 11

Jaipur. Athwart a natural ridge, the magnificent yellow walls of the 18th-cent. Amber Palace conceal fine craftsmanship – mirrored chambers, latticed windows, carved alabaster. In the afternoon there is free time to visit the painting and gem markets for which Jaipur is famous. Overnight Jaipur.

Day 12

Jaipur, Delhi. Fly to Delhi around lunchtime (Jet Airways). Overnight near the airport.

Day 13

Delhi. Car transfers to Delhi Airport can be arranged for your onward journey.

Price, per person

Two sharing: £5,710. Single occupancy: £6,660.


Arrival and departure airport car transfers; domestic flights with Jet Airways: Delhi to Jodhpur (Boeing 737) and Jaipur to Delhi (Boeing 737); travel by private air-conditioned coach; accommodation as described below, breakfasts, 9 lunches and 9 dinners with wine or beer, water and coffee; all admissions to museums and sites; all tips for drivers, restaurant staff, and local guides; airport taxes; the service of a lecturer.


Flights from London to Delhi are not included in the price of the tour. We will send the recommended flight options with your confirmation of booking and ask that you make your own flight reservation. The cost of a World Traveller (economy) seat at the time of going to press is c. £750 and will be available to book towards the end of November 2016. Visas: required for most foreign nationals, and not included in the tour price.


Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi: 5-star centrally located hotel. Hotel Raas, Jodhpur: boutique hotel within the walled city. Hotel Ranvas, Nagaur: 17th-century palace converted into a luxury hotel. Narendra Bhawan Hotel, Bikaner: A 5-star luxury hotel. Hotel Vivaana, Mandawa: painted haveli converted into a comfortable hotel. Trident, Jaipur: A comfortable 4-star hotel close to Man Sagar lake. Leela Gurgaon, Delhi: A 5-star hotel overlooking the Rajokri nature reserve.

How strenuous?

A good level of fitness is essential. Unless you enjoy entirely unimpaired mobility, cope with everyday walking and stair-climbing without difficulty and are reliably sure-footed, this tour is not for you. A rough indication of the minimum level of fitness required is that you ought to be able to walk briskly at about 3 miles per hour for at least half an hour, and undertake a walk at a more leisurely pace for an hour or two unaided. Uneven ground and irregular paving are standard. There are a few fairly steep ascents to hilltop forts and temples. There are three 3-hour coach journeys during which facilities are limited and may be of poor quality. Most sites have some shade but the Indian sun is strong, even in the cooler seasons. Average distance by coach per day: 60 miles. Group size: between 10 and 22 participants.

Are you fit enough to join the tour?

Travel advice

Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting:

'The lecturer was excellent at all levels – knowledgeable and clear.'

'I'm still glowing from it.'

'Well planned and thoughtful.'