It was not the Taj Mahal, the holy Ganges or the beautiful Indian desert cities that were the highlights of my India trip. The highlight turned out to be a group of small, little-visited villages in northern Rajasthan named Shekhawati. The peaceful Shekhawati region is over around 100 kilometers and its villages are known for their exquisite painted havelis (‘mansions’). Below are some of my favorite places to visit in Shekhawati!
Updated in 2019
The Shekhawati havelis
Shekhawati is famous for its fascinating havelis. The grand havelis were built by rich merchants for their families in the 18th and 19th century. The rich merchants wanted to show off their fortune and hired artists to paint colorful frescos on their walls with mythological and historical themes. A haveli typically has two courtyards, an outer one for the men and an inner one for the women. These days, Shekhawati still feels like an open-air art gallery, despite some havelis have crumbled away. There about 2000 havelis in Shekhawati, but not all are open to visitors. Some have been converted into museum or hotels.
Places to visit in Shekhawati: Nawalgarh
There are two main villages in Shekhawati: Nawalgarh and Mandawa. Nawalgarh has many accommodation options and hundreds of painted havelis. Some of the best havelis include:
- Jodhraj Patodia Haveli
- Chokhani Haveli
- Bansidhar Bhagat Haveli
- Aath Haveli complex
Nawalgarh also boasts a vibrant market, a fort and a few museums. It is an excellent place to base yourself for your visit to Shekhawati.
Places to visit in Shekhawati: Mandawa
Peaceful Mandawa is much smaller than Nawalgarh (and more village-like), but also has some good accommodation options and is home to at least 175 havelis. I stayed in ‘Hotel Shekhawati’, a budget accommodation in Mandawa and I absolutely loved this hotel with its rooftop breakfast, absolutely gorgeous rooms and friendly staff. Recent 2019 experiences on Trip Advisor are also positive. In Mandawa you can visit the Chokhani Double Haveli and the Snehi Ram Ladia Haveli. The Mandawa castle offers the best views over the village. Mandawa is also an excellent place to start when exploring the region.
Places to visit in Shekhawati: Fatehpur
Other places to visit in Shekhawati include Fatehpur and Nadine Le Prince. Fatehpur is a sleepy, but incredibly charming town which has many havelis including the haveli of the French artist Nadine le Prince. The Haveli was built in 1802 by the wealthy Devras family and these days houses the most beautiful murals in the region, an art café and a cultural center that organizes art exhibitions and regional walks. The entrance fee is 200 rupees.
Other good places to visit in Shekhawati include the villages of Mahansar, Dunlod, and Mukundgarh.
Tourism in Shekhawati – Still a village life experience
More and more travelers have discovered Shekhawati. Even in this remote region, ‘touts’ wander the streets offering you tours and hotels. Despite this, it still remains one of the least visited regions of Rajasthan, making a more unique and authentic experience. For all you art lovers out there and for those who would like to experience Indian village life in Rajasthan, I would highly recommend visiting slow-paced beautiful Shekhawati.
How to get go Shekhawati from Jaipur
Shekhawati is a short 3-hour bus ride from Jaipur. From Jaipur you can take a local bus or train to Nawalgarh. Beware of the fact that the buses are often Indian style (which means completely packed including passengers on the roof). In my case, our bus broke down, which meant all passengers we stoved into another (already full) bus! You can also opt for public transportation.
Final tips for your visit to Shekhawati
– Wander the streets outside the ‘main center’ and experience the peaceful village life.
– Remember that not all havelis are open for tourists and many of them are homes. Therefore, always ask permission to enter and/or to take photos.
– Visit Shekhawati for at least two days to really experience the region.
– Bring enough cash money (there is only one ATM that doesn’t always work).
– Read these tips from one of my favorite India blogs on how to travel on Indian trains, planes, and automobiles!
– Also: check out the excellent India travel forum ‘India Mike’
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Have you been to Shekhawati? Feel free to share your experiences!