Bundi in northern India is a bustling place. Travelers will find the old town section is more quiet and close to some of the best things to do in Bundi: the fort and palace.
This fort is like a playground for adults, and the palace commands imagination. These places are a bit different from other forts and palaces in Rajasthan.
Honorable mentions: stepwells and hill hikes.
Best things to do in Bundi
Bypass the palace trail on your way up to Taragarh Fort. It’s an easy – but sometimes tricky – trail. Monkeys have invaded the old military barracks, so a long stick to deter any approach will greatly help. And sometimes the trail is really steep with slippery stones, but it’s navigated easily enough with a little care. A walking stick helped me – just watch out for thorns.
Once you reach the fort, you’ll be amazed. I thought it was a giant playground for adults! This is definitely one of the best things to do in Bundi.
Taragarh Fort was first built in 1345. Parts of it were modified or added over time. Today it is abandoned, but it’s open for exploration.
To get inside the fort, you must climb through a door in a door.
It’s a unique and fun experience. Walk up and down steps, all over roofs, wander through various chambers and courtyards.
Can you spot spouse Theo in the photo below?
We spent at least 90 minutes roaming around, and never once encountered another visitor. Well, except for monkeys. The rhesus macaques can be aggressive, so keep that stick handy!
There are a few stepwells on the fort grounds, but for me the main draw was the fort itself.
Views near the fort
You can also veer off the main trail to walk beyond the fort to a fantastic view of Lake Jait Sagar and surrounding mountains. This lake is in a valley that you cannot see from old town. It is much larger than Lake Nawal Sagar in old town.
An even better view of Jait Sagar is seen from the police outpost on your way back down to the palace.
The turnoff is not marked, but it’s the only other trail you’ll see on the way back down, to the left.
Experiential tip: stay on the trails. There are desert shrubs with thorns like thumb tacks and bushes covered in bothersome burrs.
After roaming all over the fort and surrounding trails, head back down to Garh Palace. Here you will likely see visitors, because it’s much easier to reach than the fort.
Garh Palace was built in the late 16th century, and the first part was finished in 1607. Then, over the next three centuries, various kings added other ‘palaces’ (which are really just elaborate rooms) to the main palace.
Some decorations like mirrors and wooden elephant column tops still exist. But unlike other palaces around Rajasthan, this one is empty. There is no furniture or relics on display. Only the structure, and any decorations left on the walls.
The painting in some rooms has lasted since 1687, despite desert dust and climate extremes.
There are a few rooms where the paint is still so vibrantly colored that it is almost easy to imagine what it must have been like centuries ago.
Experiential tip: ask the security guard on the second floor to unlock the ‘secret’ room with gold paintings. Details on these wall paintings are amazing. We tipped the guard 50 rupees for the special entrance.
Fort & palace: the best things about Bundi
There is a 500 rupee entry fee ($6.15) per person for this huge site. Your ticket includes the fort, the trails, and the palaces. We spent about four hours at the site.
Part of the reason we may not have seen any other visitors at the fort was that we were there midday, when it is hottest. We also went up on a weekday, so there were only a few palace visitors.
Honorable mention: Stepwells
Bundi is known as the city of stepwells. These were used as water supplies near the settlements. As we saw in Jodhpur, however, today these historic water wells are polluted. People use them as garbage dumps, and it’s really sad.
Still, the construction is cool to see. You don’t see desert stepwells every day. Raniji Ki Baori is a well kept stepwell because there is a 200 rupee admission.
It’s deeper than it looks. We went in early December after monsoon season, and the water level was high.
Experiential tip: Pay 350 rupees, and get a package admission to Raniji Ki Baori, the 84 Pillared Cenotaph (memorial for a king’s wet nurse), and Sukh Mahal – a former summer palace for royalty where author Rudyard Kipling wrote.
More information on all of these sites can be found on the official Rajasthan tourism website.
Honorable mention: Hiking in the hills
Another activity worth your time in old Bundi is hiking in the hills around the lakes. One on the south ridge is an easy 15 minute uphill walk that takes you to an overlook of old and new Bundi.
Easy treks will take you to temples and old fort walls and ruins. Good exercise and great views.
Where to stay & eat in Bundi
We recommend staying around Lake Nawal Sagar. It’s in old town, and it’s much more quiet than the modern part of Bundi.
We enjoyed our stay in Shivam Tourist Guest House. It was reasonably priced ($11), had a comfortable bed, hot water, WiFi, and a rooftop seating area with a view of Lake Nawal Sagar one way, and the palace the other way, pictured below. Shivam gets excellent reviews on many websites.
The owners Shivangi and Tampi and their daughter Packi are great. Order an awesome breakfast veggie omelette for a small additional charge. See more pictures on the Shivam Tourist Guest House website.
Bundi draws fewer tourists than Udaipur, Jaipur, Jodhpur, or Jaisalmer. It is not on the train line. Therefore, the COVID tourism loss feels more extreme here. Old town’s restaurant owners will actively solicit your business. At many places, you will be invited inside and you will walk through the family’s living area to get to the eating area. Other family members will come out to meet you as your meal is made to order.
A few places where we enjoyed for a home cooked dinner in old town: A&R Cafe, Jay’s Cafe, Rainbow Cafe.
Best things to do in Bundi
From home cooked meals to the abandoned fort to picturesque palace views, these are some of the best things to do in Bundi that we greatly enjoyed. Walk to stepwells and a few other sites, add in a hike or two, and you’ve got enough to do for a couple of days.
We stayed five nights. However, two or maybe three days would feel right for the average visitor.
Note about getting to Bundi via Kota
One other note – getting to Bundi is not as easy as the other tourism spots I mentioned in the state of Rajasthan. We took the train from Ajmer to Kota, and because of the train schedule, we stayed a night in Kota, then took a bus to Bundi the next day.
Kota is a former industrial city. It’s worth a peak if you are in the area. It had a few large parks, including a park with the ‘Wonders of the World’ –replicas of famous man-made sites around Earth like the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower.
Funny thing: I’ve seen them all, except the pyramids of Giza (which I hope to see in 2023) and the Taj Mahal, which we will see in a few days from this writing.
Life is now – travel now!