This  faster-paced horseback riding vacation gives guests the opportunity to visit and stay in some of the finest Forts and Palaces of Rajasthan, as well as two nights in a luxury camp. Combining both Diwali and the Pushkar Fair, two of the largest annual festivals. on this equestrian vacation, guests can immerse themselves in the cultural history of India and get a true insight into what these ancient traditions mean in the modern day.

While on horseback, riders will have a privileged view of rural Indian life and will be greeted by locals along the way. The rich diversity of the countryside will bring a new surprise at every turn, from carefully ploughed farmland to brightly coloured villages and onwards into semi-desert and sand dunes.  The sandy tracks provide perfect going for the horses, which means there is plenty of cantering. The pure-bred Marwari horses are mostly home-bred and are also trained to compete in endurance races and tent-pegging, meaning they are fit, forward-going and full of spirit.

Along with the horseback riding element of this trip, the sightseeing tours in Jaipur, Pushkar and Delhi make for a good all-round visit to India. An extension to visit Agra and the Taj Mahal can be arranged on request. 

Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.

Review received from SH of McArthurs Mills on 24/11/2018

Ride Summary
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Overall impression
Unicorn Trails sales staff

Riding tour leader

Additional Comments
Horses and Tack

Additional Comments
Meals

Accommodation

Miscellaneous

Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
Was there anything you should have known and were not told? NO
Please give more details to explain your response:
Was not aware of the amount of air pollution in the cities and would have taken a mask
What could we do to improve this ride?
Less driving in bus, less touristy demos such as marble, carpet and jewellery (exit at gift shop sort of thing) and more interesting shops to buy more unique and high quality items. More interesting restaurants in the cities that offer a little diversity from the traditional eg. At the Fort in Jaipour - was excellent
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
7
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
Not due to the terrain but due to the herd bound and very high energy horses.
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
YES
Any other comments:
Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you enjoyed your trip! :)

Day 1 (Pre-ride)
Arrive in Delhi and transfer to Hotel Vasant Continental (or similar). Rooms will be available from 12 noon.
P.M - If time permits, sightseeing of New Delhi: Delhi is the political, economic and cultural capital of the world's largest democracy, and has become a popular tourist destination. Visit Humayun's Tomb, aptly called the predecessor of the Taj Mahal. Drive past Safdarjung's Tomb, the Qutab Minarette (72 m high). An orientation drive through New Delhi includes the Embassy area, Government Buildings and Birla temple. Return to the hotel for dinner and good night's rest. Overnight Hotel Vasant Continental (or similar). 

Day 2
Drive to Dundlod after an early breakfast, (approx. 6-7 hrs). Pass through towns, villages and farmland to arrive in Dundlod at the Dundlod Fort for the night. The Dundlod Fort in the heart of the Shekhawati region was built in 1750. This old building has been beautifully maintained and offers all modern comforts. It has a large banqueting hall and each bedroom is uniquely decorated with paintings and photographs of the royal family from which the host is descended.  

Today is one of the most important festivals of India - Diwali - and you are here to witness and share in this grand celebration: 
DIWALI, or the Festival of Lights is held and celebrated every year in honour of Lord Rama. People celebrate Diwali with  lighting crackers and by lilluminating their houses with earthen diyas (lamps). On the Diwali day, prayers are offered to Lord Ganesha, the elephant headed God and to Goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth. It is believed that the Goddess of Wealth will grace your home on this day. It is worth taking a walk in the market areas where the shops will be beautifully decorated and are crowded with people in colourful dresses and costumes. At night the whole town is lit up with earthen oil lamps, candles and fireworks, and reverberates with the sound of crackers, joy and happiness. Overnight Dundlod Fort. 

Day 3
Ride in and around Dundlod, including a ride out into the surrounding countryside. This is an opportunity  to get to know the horses before heading out on the main trail. In the afternoon there is time to wander around the town before visiting one of the best Marwari Horse studs in the countrt and a display of tent pegging which was developed in India and now is fast becoming a popular equestrian sport. Overnight Dundlod Fort. 

Day 4
Ride to Churi Ajitgarh, once a trading outpost for the ancient caravan routes that stopped here from China and the Middle East (about 25 kms.), passing through several villages and farmlands. The terrain is soft and sandy and makes for excellent  riding. Arrive at Vivaana Haveli, one of the many buildings of the area that are renowned for their frescoes, on horses. Overnight Vivaana Churi Ajitgarth

Day 5
Tody's route heas to Timoli (25km), though small villages and farmlands. The camp for the night is close to high sand dunes, far away from any villages. Camp overnight in Timoli.

Day 6
Ride to Mehansar (25km), passing several villages and farm dwellings. The lanscape changes and it heads into sandy terrain that is perfect for some long canters. After lunch, ride through thefamlands on the way to Menhansar Fort, the overnight accommodation (or similar).

Day 7
Ride to Ramgarth (about 30 kms.). The ride takes crosses varied terrain consisting of flat land and sand dunes and passes through quaint villages and farmland. Keep and eye open for Chinkara, the local deer that sometimes run alonside the horses. After lunch, pass through small villages until arriving at Ramgarth. Admire the frescoes and overnight at Vedaaranya Haveli (or similar), or camp for the night.

Day 8
Ride to Churu (25km). It is a short ride to the Malji ka Kamra, a heritage hotel, with a spectacular mix of architecture and fascinating history. The ride for the day is away from civilization, where the group can enjoy cantering through the desert landscape. On arriving at the town, the horses are settled outside of the Old Town, while riders are transfered to the hotel. Overnight at Malji ka Kamra Hotel (or similar).

Day 9
After an early breakfast, bid goodbye to the horses and the grooms and drive to Pushkar (about 6 hours drive). Arrive Pushkar and transfer to Aaram Bagh Resort (or similar). After lunch, visit the Pushkar Fair. Excitement, gaiety and keen sense of competition fill the air as the long journey to Pushkar begins. Spirited columns of people with camels, horses, bullock-carts, cars and jeeps head for Pushkar soon after Diwali. The origin of Pushkar is lost in myth. It is believed that Brahma, the creator, was in search of a place to perform a Vedic yagna (sacrifice). As he pondered, a lotus fell from his hands and water gushed from the spot. Today, the faithful bathe in the holy waters of the Pushkar lake on Kartik Poornima(full moon in November). And on its banks, a mammoth 200,000 people and some 50,000 cattle become a part of the annual Pushkar fair.

It has been a Pilgrimage centre from time immemorial with over 500 temples and 52 bathing ghats (steps leading into a river or lake), which are linked to the lunar calendar, that enclose the lake. Each ghat has its own miraculous qualities and powers of healing. Pushkar begets a legacy of timeless architectural heritage. Pushkar radiates an ambience of peace and spirituality that casts a lure to visit again and again. The fair offers the opportunity for locals to trade in cattle and leather goods. The womenfolk shop for bangles, clothes, utensils and sundry household items.The most dramatic events of the festivities are the cattle auction and the camel race. Sports involving the camel are varied and plenty. Equally diverting are the gaily dressed rural folk. Overnight at The Clark's Safari Resort Resort (or similar)

Day 10
Full day in Pushkar - visiting the fair and the town. Overnight at The Clark's Safari Resort Resort (or similar)

Day 11
After breakfast, drive to Jaipur (about 3 hours drive). Arrive Jaipur and transfer to Hotel Alsisar Haveli or similar. Afternoon sightseeing of Jaipur. Jaipur is known as the rose-pink capital of Rajasthan and is surrounded on all sides by rugged hills crowned with forts. The city was built early in the eighteenth century and is named after Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, who founded the city in 1728.  A keen astronomer, he built an observatory which still exists and is equipped with his ancient masonry instruments of remarkable size.  This observatory (called Jantar Mantar) is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Overnight in Jaipur.

Day 12
Morning sightseeing of Amber Fort including an elephant ride to reach the fort entrance. Late afternoon flight to Delhi and transfer to International Airport in time for flight home. Flights depart late evening/early the next morning.

Optional Extension:

Day 12
Morning sightseeing of Amber Fort as above, including elephant ride to the fort entrance. Afternoon at leisure to rest/shop or more sightseeing. Overnight in Jaipur

Day 13
Early breakfast anddrive to Agra (about 4 hrs drive). Visit Fatehpursikri (A UNESCO World Heritage Site) en-route. Arrive Agra and transfer to Hotel Jaypee Palace. Afternoon sightseeing of Agra Fort (a UNESCO World Heritage site) is one of the most important and robustly built strongholds of the Mughals, embellished with number of richly decorated buildings encompassing the imposing Mughal style of art and architecture. It was constructed between 1565 and 1573. He ordered to renovate the fort with red sandstone and some 4000 builders daily worked on it and it was completed in 8 years  This powerful fortress is surrounded by a 2.5 kms. long and 21.4 m high fortification wall and has survived through the onslaught of time, nature and men. Spreading over an area of about 94 acres of land, it comprises many fairy-tale palaces, such as the Jehangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jehan ( the builder of Taj Mahal), audience halls, such as the Diwan-i-Khas; and two very beautiful mosques. Overnight in Agra.

Day 14
Morning sightseeing of Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan in memory of his beloved consort Mumtaz Mahal. It is is a beautiful mausoleum is pure white marble and an architectural marvel. After lunch, drive to Delhi (about 4 hrs) and transfer to the International Airport in time for flights home. Flights depart late evening/early the next morning.

Agra Extension 
Please note that you will not need to pay for internal flight on Day 12 with this option.

Single supplement policy
The single supplement is compulsory if booking alone but halved if you are willing to share and we cannot find you a sharer.

 

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

The horses are mostly Marwari horses with a few Kathiawari and Sindhi horses, all of which are indigenous to India and range from 14hh to 16hh. They are lean but very fit horses which makes them most suitable for desert safaris. Your hosts breed these horses and they are kept in absolutely immaculate condition. Marwari horses are warm blooded and thin skinned not unlike Arabians. They are alll very well schooled, responsive, forward going and have no vices. The tack is all made in India from fine leather of Kanpur. The saddles are known as SAWAR (rider) saddles as they are designed for Cavalry - they are not dissimilar to polo or army saddles, see our pictures for more details. They are comfortable for horses and safe for the riders. The saddle covers and martingales are made up of the Dundlod family colours.



The exotic beauty and vigour of the Marwari horse is their lasting heritage. Marwari was bred to lift the heart in battle and please the eye. He is easily recognised by his proud carriage, upright graceful neck and distinctive aquiline head with deep expressive eyes, the crowning glory of which are the unique inward curling or scimitar shaped ears set high on the poll and without exception unique to the noble Indian horse. The intelligence and natural regal bearing of the Marwari is blended with tremendous equipoise, graceful animated gaits and stamina. He displays an alert stillness when in repose and incredible elan vital in action. Hardiness and longevity have enabled the breed to survive wars, famine and droughts. The Marwari agreeably adapts to different life styles and environmental conditions and performs in various sports and formal riding disciplines. Loyal, tireless and competitive, the Marwari has evolved from one of the world ancient breeds to present a new archetype of beauty, brilliance and personality.


Rider requirements

Riders of an intermediate level onwards. There are some steadier horses for nervous riders but beginners or novices cannot be accommodated. There are grooms available who will ride the horses while the rider rests in the jeep if you are feeling tired at any stage. This is a full service trip and no participation by riders is needed in the horse care.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

The accomodation is in historic Forts and Palaces.. For two nights the accommodation is in luxury tented camps with fully furnished tents, a flushing toilet and a hot shower.



The food is varied and fresh. Indian meals are always available and are delicious but a choice of western dishes are also available in most of the hotels. The level of spicing is variable but generally milder and vegetarian dishes are offered. It's a good idea to try some sweet Lassi - this is a tasty yogurt-based drink which, as well as being delicious, is a good pro-biotic.



Accommodation is luxurious and meals are carefully prepared and cooked very carefully with excellent hygine standards. Be sure to take personal hygiene precautions.


Vegetarian or other dietary requirements within reason can be accommodated with advance notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests before booking.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip.

NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures and requirements while travelling.

You’ll need to get a visa before travelling to India. This can be applied for online at the following website, www.indianvisaonline.gov.in

Make sure you get the right visa for your travel and that it’s valid for the purpose and duration of your stay. If you enter India on the wrong visa, you could be detained on arrival and you may be deported and blacklisted, meaning that you cannot enter India again. Make sure you meet entry requirements. You can find further information on the Indian High Commission website or the Indian Immigration Bureau website.

To avoid possible problems at immigration, make sure your passport is valid for a minimum of 180 days at the time of entry into India.

Your passport must be machine readable, with 2 blank pages for your visa and valid for a minimum of 180 days at the time of your visa application.
Always keep a copy of your passport and your Indian visa separate from your passport, in case of loss

Airport tax
User Development Fees (UDF) apply at many airports. The fees are around Rs.1,000 per international passenger and Rs.150 to 260 per domestic passenger. This should already be included in the cost of airline tickets. If for any reason the fee is not included in your ticket it will be collected at the airport check-in counter in Indian rupees.
Passport and Visa requirements can change regularly depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country.
Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate should you need a visa.

In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/india

In the USA: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/India.html

In Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/india

Climate Summary

The temperature although warm during the day (max 30C) will drop in the evenings to approx 13C. It is therefore essential to have a warm fleece to hand especially when camping.

Climate Chart

Health

COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.

Mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever occur all year round. There’s been an increase in the number of cases of dengue fever, including in New Delhi.

Health authorities have classified India as having a risk of Zika virus transmission.

Cases of Chikungunya Virus have been confirmed in India, including in New Delhi. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in India and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.

You should make sure you have sufficient medical supplies (including prescription medicines) for the duration of your stay and any unforeseen delays, adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.


Health (ride specific)

Sunscreen and insect repellent is advised.

As with all countries where the bacteria present in water and around food are not those to which we are accustomed you are advised to exercise a degree of care. Bottled water is widely available, but check that bottle seals are intact and water levels reach the top. Fruit and raw vegetables which can be peeled are fine. Avoid ice cubes, diluted fruit juices and any unpasteurized/unboiled milk.

Electricity

In India the supply voltage is 230V. If the appliance is a single voltage rated appliance, it will need to operate at the same voltage as the supply voltage of the country i.e. 230V. If this is not the case it should be used alongside a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly.

Packing List

Riding:
Jodhpurs / Breeches / Riding Leggings (2 - 3 pairs)
Shirts with long sleeves and collar
T-Shirts, ideally with collar for sun protection
Jumper / fleece
Body warmer (for Dec / Jan rides)
Wind and rain resistant jacket (for Dec / Jan rides)
Wooly hat (for Dec / Jan rides) as camp nights can get very cold
Warm jacket / ski jacket (Dec / Jan rides)
Riding gloves
Riding boots, either long boots or short boots with half-chaps
Hard riding helmet to the appropriate standards and in good condition. There are a limited few at the stables if you do not have one at no charge
Light scarf / bandana, for sun and dust/sand protection
Long riding socks / thick hiking socks with good absorption
Bum bag, to keep easy to reach items such as camera / sun block etc. The backup jeep is never far away and will carry other required items you may need.
Seat saver, if you ride with a seat saver, or prefer to use one on longer rides, then please bring it. Dundlod Stables have a limited few for your use at no charge

Non-Riding:
Comfortable shoes fi=or sightseeing in and to wear around the camps
Casual clothes for sightseeing in
1 - 2 changes of smarter clothes for evenings at the heritage hotels
Flip-flops for use in the camp shower
Swimming costume if you wish to swim at the heritage hotels that have pools
A scarf / pashmina is useful for covering your head when visiting places of worship
A hat for walking around in, wide-brimmed is recommended for sun protection
** As a sign of respect for rural traditions, men and women should wear trousers (or a calf-length skirt). Try to avoid tank-tops and shorts. As a general rule, knees and shoulders should be covered.
** Towels are provided in the hotels and at the camps, no need to bring a towel (unless you wish)

Equipment:
Sunglasses. If you choose to ride with sunglasses, it is advisable to have a neck cord or string to stop them falling off.
Sunblock, and lip-balm with sunblock in it.
Head torch / hand-held torch for use at the camps. A lantern is provided in each tent, but it is useful when eating at the camps
Wash bag with all your necessities. A small bar of soap is provided in each camp tent.
Ear plugs (if you are a light sleeper). The camps can be noisy, as can rural villages.
Personal medications. Due to riding in the desert, some riders encounter allergies from the sand and the dust, so an antihistamine may be advisable.
Rehydration sachets.
Camera and phone chargers and adaptors (and for any other electrical equipment)
A portable charger is advisable as there is no electricity at the camps.

Programmes

This is a 12 day/11 night programme with 6 days riding available on a set date each year to coincide with the festivals. There is the option to add a 2 night extension to Agra.

Departure Dates

2024: 31 Oct
2025: 20 Oct

Pricing
No single supplement is charged if the rider is willing to share with someone of the same sex, and a sharer can be found.


Recommended Reading

Reading List

We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.



India (Lonely Planet Country Guides) - Sarina Singh

City of Djinns - William Dalrymple

The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia - Paul Theroux

An Indian Summer - James Cameron

Into India - John Keay

No Full Stops in India - Mark Tully

Rajasthan; India's Enchanted Land- Raghubir Singh

Rajasthan; Land of Kings - S. Matheson & R. Beny

The Royal Palaces of India – G. Michell & A. Martinelli

Arts and Crafts of Rajasthan - A. Nath & F. Wacziarg

Plain Tales from the Raj - Charles Allen


Wildlife

During the ride it is possible you will see some of the wide range of antelope species which inhabit the area. There are also many interesting birds and reptiles if you look out for them.

Other Information

PERSONAL TOILETRIES: For peace of mind it is recommended that should you require any sanitaryware you take this with you. A toilet roll with inner cardboard tube removed will take up little space and may be an invaluable item.

BEGGARS: You will not visit India without coming into contact with many distressing facets of this unfortunate community. Without appearing harsh, it is strongly advised by the Indian Authorities and charity workers in the country not to give to these people. Should you wish to do something extra to help these communities then a donation to an established charity will go much further and give you a relatively hassle free visit.

TAXIS/RICKSHAWS; In major cities these should be metered and have a tariff rate. If in doubt agree a fare before departing and check that the meter is used. Do not be persuaded to go where the drivers get commission

Other Country Information

India forms a natural sub-continent with the Himalayas to the north. The Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, which are sections of the Indian Ocean, lie to the west and east respectively.

The official language of India is Hindi written in the Devanagari script and spoken by some 30% of the population as a first language. Since 1965 English has been recognised as an 'associated language'. In addition there are 18 main and regional languages recognised for adoption as official state languages. There are another 24 languages, 720 dialects and 23 tribal languages.

India will sideswipe you with its size, clamour and diversity - especially if you enjoy delving into convoluted cosmologies and thrive on sensual overload. Nothing in the country is ever quite predictable; the only thing to expect is the unexpected, which comes in many forms and will always want to sit next to you.

The time difference for India is GMT/UTC +5.5hrs and the dialling code is +91. India has adopted metric weights and measures.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Delhi Airport (DEL)
Transfer:
2024: All road transfers included. Internal airfare from Jaipur to Delhi on Day 12 - currently $154 per person. There is also a road transfer option between Jaipur to Delhi (please enquire)
Flight Guide:
London to Delhi from return £460 pp
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