A short guide to Bundi, Rajasthan's undiscovered gem
Keen to escape the crowds, but still want to experience some of that rich Rajasthani culture?
The fascinating Rajasthani city of Bundi, India might just be your place.
We visited Bundi at the wrong time of year.
The sun was blazing, the temperature sitting at an unbearable 45 degrees throughout the day. It made exploring painful, almost impossible. Each step was met with the insatiable need for water, or coke, or anything to replenish the vast amounts of fluid clinging to our t-shirts.
And yet, somehow, despite the obvious challenges, Bundi became one of our favourite stops on our three-week Indian adventure.
A town with a charming nature, Bundi is filled with narrow laneways, blue-washed houses (ever visited Chefchaouen in Morocco - this is India’s version), picturesque lakes, untouched rural villages, bustling bazaars, India’s best chai and outrageously friendly people.
Rising from the hills behind Bundi is its main attraction, Garh Palace, one of India’s largest palaces, and a place where Indiana Jones dreams are made (despite its dilapidated state!). Then there are the ancient and intricate stepwells, all 50 of them, which are dotted throughout the city.
Despite the heat, Bundi was one of those places that made us feel like a traveller again. It's not splashed over Instagram or Pinterest, and it's little rough around the edges, but it has soul, and provided us with a great, authentic travel experience.
If you’re visiting Bundi as part of a larger Indian adventure (check out our three-week Indian itinerary here), or just popping by on a Rajasthan adventure, here’s our short guide to Bundi, including our list of favourite things to do.
A short guide to Bundi, Rajasthan | What to see and do in Bundi
#1 Explore Bundi’s Taragarh Fort and Garh Palace
Exploring the historic Garh palace complex of Bundi was one of our favourite days during our three weeks in India. Despite the 45 degree heat, the distinct lack of drinking water, and the beads of sweat rolling down our backs, walking the historic palace without another tourist in sight felt both unique and exciting.
The crumbling Palace sits atop a rocky hillside, overlooking the bustling old-town and Bundi lake below. Constructed by Rao Raja Ratan Singh around 1607, and added to by a long line of successors over the course of three centuries, this once grand palace is now unfortunately in a state of decay. Although it’s not possible to visit the whole palace complex, the areas that are open for visitors are stunning - walls are lined with colourful faded frescoes, while remnants of once intricate carvings remain.
We recommend visiting the following areas within the palace:
Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate) | The impressive entry to the Garh palace, Hathi Pol is made up of two elephants depicted blowing bugles, and was commissioned by Rao Ratan Singh.
Hall of Public Audience | The Hall of Public Audience, complete with white marble coronation throne, has views over the stables below. Hall of Public Audience was actually our favourite room in the entire complex - the unique frescoes and rows of columns created the most incredible ambience.
Chitra Mahal | The interior walls and ceilings of Chitra Mahal are covered in some of Bundi Palace’s finest examples of miniature paintings (for which Bundi is famous for). They’re the best preserved paintings in the complex. The garden also offers some of the best views of Bundi and Bundi lake.
Badal Mahal | The Palace’s crowning glory is Badal Mahal (Cloud Palace), a colourful room filled with colourful and intricate murals (some of Bundi’s best) dating from 1687 - 1707. It’s worth the entry fee alone to see this room.
Chitrashala | Chitrashala (Art Gallery), lined with murals, wall paintings and artworks related to Hindu mythology, recreational scenes and warfare.
Located above Bundi Palace is the Taragarh Fort, which provides the best views of the city. Although it’s also in a state of decay, it’s worth the walk to look down upon the blue hues of this colourful city.
We recommend taking a guided tour of the Palace as this will provide you with a great understand of the history and importance of the monument. Guides can be arranged at the entrance to the Palace, or at your hotel.
Cost | INR 500 per person, includes entry to Garh Palace and Taragarh Fort, INR 100 for video camera usage
Opening Hours | Summer: 8am - 7pm, Winter: 8am - 6pm
India inspiration | Cows, Curries and Colour - our three week journey through India
#2 Visit Bundi’s famous stepwells
Known as the “city of step wells”, Bundi is home to over 50 (and historically there were many more), mostly dotted throughout the city and surrounds, and visiting the popular ones is one of the best things to do in Bundi.
Stepwells are commonplace throughout Rajasthan and India, historically used to shield both the royals and their citizens against the water shortages the afflict the region during the scorching summers.
Over time, they developed to be places of worship and gathering, and became more and more ornate in design. Now, as the water tables have dried up, they’re nothing more than stunning remnants of the past, of which Bundi is home to many beautiful examples.
Raniji-ki-Baori | The most popular and beautiful stepwell in Bundi is Rani ji ki Baori, constructed in 1699 by Queen Nathavati as a gift to public. Ornate in design, this multi-tiered stepwell is covered in intricate carvings and is 150-feet deep. Although its been left to decay over time, it’s still a marvel and definitely worth the visit.
Dabhai Kund | The other notable stepwell in Bundi worth visiting is Dabhai Kund. Built in 1714 and shaped in an inverted pyramid, Dabhai Kund is made up of a series of 700 steps that lead down to the well below. The symmetry of the Kund is a sight to behold, although when we visited there was no water, and the well was filled with plastic pollution, reducing the grandeur somewhat. That being said, if you visit after the monsoons, the water levels will be much higher, showing the stepwell in its true form.
Cost | INR 350 (includes entry to 84 Pillared Cenotaph and Sukh Mahal) | free entry
Opening hours | 10am - 5pm | always open
#3 Learn about rural Rajasthan on a village tour to Theekarda
The rural village of Theekarda (also Thikarda), about 30 minutes out of Bundi, may be way off the well-trodden tourist trail in Rajasthan, but it’s home to one of our favourite experiences in India. Prior to our visit, we’d heard many negative media reports of crime and assault in rural India, so we were keen to understand what rural life was actually like.
Identified as a cultural village of importance by the Indian Government, Theekarda has a long crafts and agricultural history, with the people from the Kumhar caste, skilled in pottery and crafts, the primary residents of the village.
Surviving the bumpy, dusty jeep ride out to the town, we joined our tour leader, Ishok, and began to walk through the village.
The village was made up of hundreds of small, mud-brick homes, and narrow laneways, with small stalls dotted throughout the town. The streets were lively, filled with kids playing cricket and women running errands. It was a scene we’ve seen throughout our years of travels, one of peaceful rural life.
As we made our way through the narrow streets, we noticed pottery, masses of it, lining the streets and walls. Before long, we joined a local pottery maker and attempted, through broken translations and lack of skills, to make our own clay urn. While our skills left a lot to be desired, we had a truly authentic experience, and were able to better understand the importance of pottery to the village.
We learned that Theekarda, as well as others throughout India, are heavily supported by the Indian Government, keen to keep locals out of the major cities of Delhi and Mumbai. Government investment encourages the upgrade of basic infrastructure, including homes, toilets, schools and wells, as well as provisions for mobile phones and laptops.
While rural life in India is changing and modernising rapidly, it was far more developed and equal than we’d been led to believe, and it was great to see.
What | Theekarda rural village tour
Cost | INR 800 per person
Book | Book directly at Ishwari Niwas hotel, Bundi
Train travel in India | Our essential tips to survive the Indian railway network
#4 Walk the old town streets
We’ve often said that getting lost amongst the streets of a new city is the best way to get to know it, and this is definitely the case in Bundi.
The fascinating old town, situated under the imposing Garh Fort, is a labyrinth of laneways, colourful facades and blue-washed buildings. Exploring the streets feels like stepping back in time. Old men sit in doorways reading the daily newspaper, while sari-clad women stroll through the streets with their market hauls. Dogs run free, barking ad nauseam, while cycle rickshaws wind their way through the narrow streets. It feels like the real India.
Just outside the old town, near Nagar Sagar Kund, lies bustling bazaars selling just about everything, from giant watermelons to the latest Chinese whitegoods. If you’re photographers like us, this place is heaven!
Fortunately, unlike most places in India, tourists in Bundi aren't seen as a dollar sign. Here, you’re greeted with a joyful “Namaste”, and questioniod about cricket, or whichever city you call home. The laidback vibe is a welcome relief to the chaos of Jaipur, Agra or Delhi.
We recommend starting your walk in mid-afternoon, strolling from Garh Fort, following Sadar Bazaar (the main road) into the centre of Bundi, stopping for chai and chats at every opportunity.
Tip | Avoid the blazing midday sun and walk through the old town mid-afternoon
#5 The 84-pillared cenotaph
Located on the edge of town is one of Bundi’s must-visit attractions, the 84 pillared cenotaph. Erected in 1683 by the Maharaja of Bundi, Rao Raja Anirudh in memory of his foster brother Deva, the structure is covered by a decorated roof that is supported by 84 pillars, hence the name.
Although the history of this structure isn’t overly exciting, the actual structure is, especially at night when it lit up - therefore we recommend visiting in the late afternoon to see it at it’s best.
Where | 84 Pillared Cenotaph, Bundi
Cost | INR 350 (includes entry to Ranji-ki-Baori and Sukh Mahal)
#6 Have the best Chai in town, and probably India
After spending a month in India, and countless months in Nepal and Sri Lanka, we now consider ourselves Chai aficionados. So believe us when we say, the best chai we’ve ever had was in Bundi.
After exploring the Garh Palace, we decided to walk through the picturesque old town of Bundi, and stumbled upon Sawariya chai house and restaurant. The owner, Sunita, beckoned us into her store, where we sat down and ordered a chai.
We watched as Sunita got to work, using a mortar and pestle to break down the fresh ingredients (cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, peppercorns), before boiling it on the stove. After five minutes of boiling, draining, and pulling, Sunita served our steaming hot glass of chai.
It. was. delicious. Sweet, with subtle hints of spices, this chai put a smile on our faces.
We’re not sure what it is about Bundi, or whether they take their chai very seriously, but Krishna’s chai, directly across the road, is also famous for their Indian staple drink.
Trust us when we say, one of the best things to do in Bundi is sample the local chai - you won’t be disappointed.
Where | Sawariya restaurant, Bundi
Cost | INR 50 per glass
Read next | Our ultimate three week India itinerary
#7 Sukh Mahal and Jait Sagar
Like most things in Bundi, the once picturesque Sukh Mahal (summer palace), located on the banks of Jait Sagar, has fallen into disrepair, but it’s still worth a visit if you’re a fan of Rudyard Kipling.
Apparently Rudyard spent a few days here and wrote parts of The Jungle Book and Kin in this very palace, and looking at the natural surrounds, it’s not hard to see where he garnered inspiration for The Jungle Book. Beyond that, there’s a small museum with sculptures, miniature paintings and weapons from a bygone era.
We visited Sukh Mahal on our way to Thikarda village, so if you’re heading this way drop in for a visit - otherwise, it’s not worth the tuk tuk from town.
Where | Sukh Mahal, Bundi
Cost | INR 350 includes entry to Raniji-ki-Baori and the 84 Pillared Cenotaph.
A map of the best things to do in Bundi
Essential travel information for Bundi | How to plan your trip to Bundi
Where to stay in Bundi?
During our time in Bundi we stayed at Ishwari Niwas, a historic family palace built in 1927 by the local Maharaj. Yes, we stayed in an actual palace, and you can too! Book your stay at Ishwari Niwas here.
While the palace/hotel is a little rundown, but the rooms are large (very large!), and the staff wonderful. It’s also possible to organise tours throughout Bundi and Thikarda here.
| Alternatively, search for prices and availability for accommodation in Bundi here.
Where is Bundi?
Bundi is located around 200kms south of the state capital Jaipur in the Hadoti region, southwest Rajasthan. It’s home to around 100,000 people, making it one of the smaller cities in Rajasthan.
How to get to Bundi
As Bundi is a little off the well worn tourist path, it can be a little hard to get to from the main tourist sights in Rajasthan.
The best way to get to Bundi is via bus, with connections to Jaipur, Jodhpur and Ajmer, as well as nearby Kota.
If you’d prefer to catch a train, your best bet is connect via the town of Kota, some 40kms away. Kota is on the main train line from Delhi to Mumbai, so getting a proper connection is much easier. It’s easy to arrange a tuk tuk or transfer to Kota, which should take around 1 hour.
The best way to get to Bundi from other cities within Rajasthan is via bus.
Jaipur | Hourly buses to Bundi - five hours
Ajmer | Hourly buses to Bundi - four hours
Jodhpur | Five buses daily - eight hours
Kota | Buses every 15 minutes to Bundi - 40mins
Bundi station is located 4km outside of the city and has no daily trains from Jaipur, Ajmer or Jodhpur. Instead, connect via Kota if travelling from Delhi or Agra, or Mumbai in the south.
There are 12 trains daily from Delhi that pass through Kota.
How to get around Bundi
Bundi is an easy and inexpensive city to get around if you’re staying close to the centre of town.
Tuk tuk is an easy and inexpensive way to get around Bundi. Tuk tuk rides to just about anywhere in town cost around INR 50 - 100, however be sure to agree a fee before stepping inside.
If you’re keen to explore more of the city and it’s bustling streets, Bundi is very walkable. As most of the main tourist sights are located within a 2km radius of the city centre, it isn’t too much effort to stroll the streets. That is of course, you’re visiting outside of the scorching summer, in which case, grab a tuk tuk.
Whatever you do, don’t travel through India without travel insurance. Whether it be Delhi belly, theft, or lost baggage, something WILL go wrong in India, and insurance is your only way of mitigating the issues! Click here to get the best deals with World Nomads.
India backpacking Essentials
Travelling through India comes with a unique set of needs. To help you have a comfortable, happy journey, we recommend bringing the following items with you:
Ear plugs (for those overnight train rides!)
Eye mask (for the times people “accidentally” switch on all the lights in your train cabin).
Hand sanitiser | not something we’d actually recommend normally, but in India we think it’s a bloody great investment.
A spork - to cut down on unnecessary plastic usage at meal times
Power bank | sometimes the power works, sometimes it doesn’t
Experience more of India with these essential posts
INDIA ITINERARY | Our detailed three-week India Itinerary
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COWS, CURRIES AND COLOUR | A must-read from our three weeks travelling India by train
TRAVEL INSURANCE | Don’t leave home without travel insurance (seriously, don’t!). Click here to get the best deals with World Nomads, our trusted travel insurance provider
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RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL | Responsible travel is important. REALLY IMPORTANT.
Learn our top responsible travel tips to help you, your family and friends travel more consciously around the globe
ECO FRIENDLY PACKING ESSENTIALS | Don’t leave home without our favourite eco-friendly travel essentials
Been to Bundi yourself? Anything we’ve missed? Let your fellow travellers know other things to do in Bundi in the comments below!
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