The direct train from Delhi to Jaisalmer was fully booked for at least a week ahead. That’s how I ended up in Bikaner, somewhere over the middle of the railway trail to Jaisalmer.
Bikaner is a dusty desert city that feels different compared to many other cities in Rajasthan. I liked it there. The locals are friendly, way more friendly than how people treat you in Delhi. And everything feels at ease throughout the city, especially in the old part of town.
Maybe it’s because Bikaner is so unknown for tourists that the locals still treat foreign people warm-hearted and fair. Almost every tuk-tuk driver or market vendor gave a fair price, which again is a big contrast compared to Delhi. In Delhi, someone tried to sell me a bottle of water for 300 rupees. I mean, come on?
Bikaner is a good place to visit in Rajasthan and I’m pretty sure that many people underestimate the city because they don’t know about it. Most tourists skip Bikaner and travel by the famous tourist routes to Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Pushkar, and Bundi.
You’ll need a day or two in Bikaner unless you want to do a camel safari in the Rajasthan desert.
Here’s a list with the five things you should consider doing when you are in Bikaner, India.
1. Visit the old town with beautiful Havelis
The old town of Bikaner is modestly dotted with beautiful old houses.
These Havelis, as they are called, were once built by rich Mughal inhabitants of the city.
How to recognize Mughal architecture:
- Half-moon shaped roofs over the windows
- Dense and detailed window decorations
- The windows are built in such a way that someone from inside can look outside of the house, but one that’s outside can’t look inside.
Explore the small medieval streets
Despite a few motorcycles and tuk-tuk’s, the lanes of the old town in Bikaner are calm and comfortable for walking.
It’s because of the streets that are more narrow here, that the big part of the traffic can’t get around here. This is in contrast with the newer part of the city, where the streets are wide enough.
The old district of Bikaner dates back to the 15th century (when Bikaner was founded). The streets in this part of the city feel like a maze. But it’s such a pleasant area to explore. You’ll have a high chance of spotting a few centuries old Rajasthan houses there.
2. Explore the local markets in the small streets of Bikaner
Shopping is fun in Bikaner. There are a lot of market areas where you can find all kinds of goods and tasty Rajasthan food. There are a few good shops in town where you can buy souvenirs or other necessities. The shopkeepers will (most of the time) give you a fair price, but keep in mind that you’ll sometimes have to bargain your way to a fair deal.
3. Go on a mesmerizing camel safari
Many tourists think about Jaisalmer when it comes to camel safaris. They don’t know about the camel safari business in Bikaner because if they did, they would probably prefer Bikaner. The camel safaris are as good as in Jaisalmer, but they are less crowded and more like ‘a real local experience in Rajasthan’, or off-the-beaten-path. So if you prefer a good camel safari in India, go for Bikaner.
There are quite a few good camel safari companies in Bikaner. Just ask the owner of your accommodation to arrange a camel safari for you.
4. Visit the Hindu temple of rats (!!)
A couple of miles away from Bikaner, in Deshnok, there is a temple you must visit. The Karni Mata temple is a very interesting temple that attracts a lot of pilgrims from all over Rajasthan. It’s full of holy rats actually and people from Rajasthan visit the temple to praise and feed them. If you’re lucky, you might spot one of the rare white rats, which as legends tell will make you a very lucky person.
5. Explore the majestic Junagarh Fort
There are many forts in Rajasthan, but most of them are not as beautiful as Junagarh Fort in Bikaner. You can explore the forts’ squares, decorated rooms and go up to the rooftop for a view over the whole city. There are also old weapons to be found the fort and many other artifacts from the Majaharas period in India.