Why Pushkar is the best city in India? I can come up with many reasons, but along my journey through the Northeast of India I have been advised to travel to Pushkar numerous times by fellow travellers. Travellers and locals recommended me to hit the road to Pushkar as soon as possible and drive to this peaceful sandy town in the province of Rajasthan. It has to be said, Pushkar definitely is among my favourite cities in India now and in 2017 I went back here again.
Traveling through India is insanely intense and it’s barely possible to escape from the hectic streetlife. However as India is a huge country and all regions are different I can’t speak for all of them since I only travelled through the North Western provinces in 2014. Another place in India where to escape the hectic life is if you travel to McLeod-Gansj. This little village up in the mountains is a refugee town for the Dalai Lama and his followers and cant really be seen as part of India. Read about it in the link above. However a real Indian city where the pace of life has slowed down a little can be found around the sacred lake known as Tirtha Raj. Here, the city of Pushkar arises in the middle of the desert.
Why Puskar is so different
It’s not hard to tell why there is a different vibe in this sleepy village. The city center of Pushkar is located around the sacred lake where the streets are windy and narrow. And in huge contrast with most other places in India there is no traffic! Imagine an Indian city without the horrible traffic, which takes up most of your energy. Walking around in Pushkar just feels different. No chaotic traffic, just lovely people trying to sell their goods in the narrow streets. Like in all towns around India people ask to take a photo with you, but here it feels different. For the first time in India it felt enjoyable to look around and do some souvenir shopping. People won't hassle you too much at all, they just let you have a look. Though the level of chaos you will encounter in Pushkar depends on the season. Around November there is the Pushkar Camel Fair and since this is a huge and well-known festival be prepared to experience Pushkar to its fullest.
Holy lake in Pushkar
With the holy lake being the city center there is lots of Hindi culture to be seen and to experience in Pushkar. If you believe the myth, the god Brahma created the city and its artificial lake by dropping a lotus flower on the ground. The Temple of Flower is the place where you can witness the morning ritual and appears to be the only Brahma temple in the world. This town is a spiritual refugee from chaotic India. See the temples enjoy the lake, hike in the surrounding hills and most of all enjoy the laid-back vibe!
Pushkar doesn’t feel like India
The thing that distinguishes Pushkar from other cities in India is that it is very small. It’s definitely touristy and you wont be the only Western walking around here. That makes the local people sincerely interested in you, without being hassled for every little thing. Shopping is big in Pushkar with its uncountable little shops lined up on the main street. The colourful shops are selling everything, from purses to paintings and from colourful cloths to leather bags. If you are addicted to buying little souvenirs then stay away from this village. If you are into silver jewellery Pushkar you will most likely feel like heaven. You will find everything here and since the vibe is very relaxed you wont be hassled that much while window-shopping. Its almost like this is not India!
The best hikes in Puskar
My favourite hike was up to up to the Savitri Temple atop Ratnagiri Hill. From this temple, which is dedicated to Brahmas wife, Goddess Savitri , you will enjoy splendid views over Pushkar and its surroundings. I was advised to hike up here for sunrise, as the temperatures at that time of the day are bearable. The sunrise over Pushkar was a lovely experience and I would recommend it to all of you! It’s a short hike and within one hour I reached the top, so it’s accessible for all kind of fitness level.
Another great hike is up to the summit of Snake Mountain. This hill cannot be missed while in Pushkar. It will most likely appear on all of your pictures of the sacred lake as it is looming large over the town. The Nag Pahar as this mountain is originally named also offer great views over the Pushkar but it a little more challenging than the Ratnagiri Hill.
Go for a sunset camel ride
Camels are iconic for Pushkar and on the outskirts of the city you will surely find camels everywhere. Going on a camel safari is fun, but don't book a too long tour as it can be boring if you ask me. Therefore I would recommend you to go on a sunset camel safari. They will show you incredible desert pictures, but you literally will just go for a ride a couple kilometers out of town, stop on a hill and a bunch of musicians show up and play for you while the sun sets in the background. You will have a great time and if you haggle the price down to just a couple dollars it is a fun activity for sure.
Look for the best hotel in Pushkar
Of course this is only based on my opinion and I bet there are several hotels around town that are just as lovely as this one, but I really enjoyed my stay in Hotel Paramount Palace. It’s tucked back in a very quiet alley, though only a 1-minute walk away from the main street. The hosts are lovely and helpful, the rooms clean and tidy. The facilities are good and I can’t complain about the price. I paid 700Rps for the room and had a lovely balcony overlooking the village. The rooftop terrace is may be the hotels best feature. Drinks and light meals are served while you prepare your seat on the super relaxed couches to watch the sunset over Pushkar. Other good places to stay what I have heard from fellow travellers are: Inn Seventh Heaven, Hotel Brahma Horizon, Hotel Moonlight, Zostel Pushkar.
Best rooftop restaurants in Pushkar
While travelling around in India I more and more fell in love with the Indian cuisine. In this little village there are numerous places to enjoy an amazing lunch. As I tend to look for relaxed places to unwind and to chill out I mostly go for the rooftop restaurants with great views. The Sanjay Hotel in the middle of the main street was where I hang out most. The lovely food, the good Wi-Fi and the colourful setting drew me back to this place a couple times. Obviously it has an amazing view over the lake.
A couple more meters down the road there is the Lake View Hotel. It rooftop restaurant definitely has the best spot for taking great sunset pictures of the Pushkar Lake and its surrounding mountains, but since its mentioned in the guidebooks it’s a bit overpriced compared to rest and the menu is not that spectacular. Though it’s a good spot to meet fellow travellers as loads of foreigners are hanging out there. Another nice rooftop restaurant is The Sixth Sense where they serve great Thali. Unfortunately they don’t serve food at the rooftop of Café Enigma, but it’s a great place to sip a fresh juice and watch the lively streets of Pushkar beneath.
I do eat in the streets as well and there was one place in particular I was heading back every day. Simply because the food was good, the people were very friendly, but mostly because they served the best fruit juice in town. The place is called Shivas Juice Bar. Go there and the friendly owner and his kid will make you smile!
A special word goes out to the Laughing Buddha Café. It easy to spot just on the second floor above the main street and pretty well known in Pushkar cause of its best located balcony restaurant with a perfect view. Only just above the bustling street so you can experience it in its full glory. I got in touch with the owner while enjoying a fresh fruit salad at the end of the evening. Part of his revenue he donates to a volunteering project called Little Buddha’s Hearts that helps kids from a surrounding village to get a home and education.
I simply fell in love with this sleepy town on just a little more than 100km away from Jaipur. Its my favourite place in India so far and that just because of the laid-back vibe. If you think its impossible to find a place in India where you can chill out then head to Pushkar.
I have traveled around India twice and in total spent more than 2 months in this crazy country. It is a really captivating journey and I remember my first time that after 5 weeks I felt like I had to escape India. A couple months later I wanted to go back. It was a strange feeling, but somehow I missed it. Read about it in my India for first timers article. If you want to see a different side of India, but just as intense then you should consider Kashmir. Yes officially this is this a war zone, as it is a conflict area, but don't limit yourself based on mainstream news media. They talk so much bullshit. Read how it was to travel to Kashmir in this blog or how I met the Dalai Lama in McLeod-Gansj.