Pushkar Guide – Pushkar is a quiet Rajasthani town, 11 km from Ajmer and 2 hours from Jaipur. It is a pilgrimage spot its sacred lake, the Brahma Temple and the annual Pushkar Camel Fair each November. I came to witness its camel festival and thus, it was a spot on my bucketlist. Aside from the craziness of the camel fair, Pushkar is a relatively sedate, laidback and tourist friendly town, where getting around is easy because most things are in walking distance.
Things to Do and Eat in Pushkar
Pushkar Lake is the holy pilgrimage spot of Pushkar and hold 52 ghats. Devotees pay homage to the lake and take a dip in it to purify themselves; some devotees even bathe a bit (warning: you may witness topless nudity).
Open at 1p and 3p, the Brahma Temple is the best-known Pushkar temple. You cannot take bags or electronics inside and must rent a locker to store your belongings.
Shopping in Pushkar
Shopping in Pushkar is easy. The main street is like one long shopping strip springing into offshoot streets with cafes and shops selling indo-western Rajasthani inspired clothing.
Things to Buy in Pushkar: Rajasthani silk clothes are both cooling, lightweight and fashion friendly. Of all my souvenirs from India, my silk pants are my favorite; every time I wear them, I get compliments on them. Leather goods and jewelry are other items travelers like to take home.
Tea Stall Hawker– In India wherever you travel, having a cup of tea is no big deal. Roadsides are dotted with chai wallahs who serve tea boiled up with spices, sugar and milk. But here at Pushkar this Chai Wala adorning pagdi serving steaming hot tea in mitti ka kulhad will surely grab your attention.
Once known as Rajasthan’s staple food, Baati is eaten with Dal and Churma and varies in tastes and sizes all across Rajasthan. In Pushkar Baatis are quite big in size, which are dipped in desi ghee and served in this tempting Thali.
India wouldn’t be India without it’s tempting street food. Sweet shop cafes and samosas with sweet chutney sauce and Pani Patasha is the best. Pushkar is famous for its legendary rabdimalpuas. Made with thickened milk or rabdi and mawa, they are adequately sweet and mildly crunchy.
Laxmi Mishtan Bhandar several times and had our fill of this saccharine delight. You can watch the men pour the batter in the fattiest oil and eat them as soon as they are taken off the cardamom-scented sugar syrup. If you are in Rajasthan, you cannot not eat kachoris for breakfast.
These puff pastry-like snacks stuffed with moong dal are available all over the town on hand-held carts and sweet shops. But we headed to Pushkar Raj, a hole-in-the-wall joint (they have samosas too) to grab a plate of this ubiquitous snack. The kachoris are typically smashed into pieces and served with a sweet as well as spicy chutney, and make for a hearty breakfast on cold winter mornings.
Price: Rs 20
Address: Near Maheshwari Dharamshala
Laxmi Mishtan Bhandar for malpuas
Pushkar is famous for its legendary rabdimalpuas. Made with thickened milk or rabdi and mawa, they are adequately sweet and mildly crunchy. On our two-day stay here, we stopped by at Laxmi Mishtan Bhandar several times and had our fill of this saccharine delight. You can watch the men pour the batter in the fattiest oil and eat them as soon as they are taken off the cardamom-scented sugar syrup. You cannot stop at one for sure.
Price: Rs 20 per piece
Address: Gau Ghat, Main Market
Sanskar for Vaishno thali
You cannot leave Pushkar without sampling its Vaishno cuisine i.e. food cooked without onion and garlic. Although hardcore meat eaters, when we stumbled upon ‘Sanskar’ way past lunchtime, all we wanted was to fill our growling stomachs. Once seated overlooking a busy street, we were served the most honest meal of our lives comprising daal, aloo gobhi, dahi, rotis and rice. The rotis were hot and the plates were clean. Who thought food cooked without onion and garlic would be soul satisfying?
Price: Rs 50 for a thali
Address: Near Sikh Temple, Choti Basti
Sunset Café for coffee
Sunsets are a thing to watch in Pushkar. You can spend hours sitting on the ghat waiting for the sky to change its colour to shades of glorious orange and feeling the cool breeze on your face. You can also watch the sunset from Sunset Cafe overlooking the lake while sipping on your favourite cuppa with a side of freshly-baked goodies from their bakery. The café also serves pizzas and pastas apart from local specialities for you to come back at dinner time.
Address: Parikrama Marg, Near Sun Set Point, Choti Basti, Pushkar Lake
Lala ji for parathas
Once the sun sets in the Pushkar lake, a frail man with a hand-drawn stall walks around the busy market square looking for hungry souls. Known as Lala ji, his parathas are the stuff of legend. When we asked the paratha man of Pushkar to make us his signature paratha, he happily obliged. Standing on a busy street, we found Lala ji roll the dough followed by stuffing it with a variety of veggies—onions, cabbage, beetroot, carrots, capsicum, potatoes—that almost resembled a mountain.
If that was not enough, he grated half a block of Amul cheese on top of it. The sight got us asking him how he planned to roll the paratha. He casually told us to watch him. We watched him in awe, and in less than a minute, the paratha was on the hot tawa with its stuffing perfectly intact. Once done, Lala ji served it with a side of raita, onion salad and green chutney. The paratha was so filling that we skipped the malpuas on our way back to our hostel.
Price: Rs 100
Address: Main Market Road, close to Nagar Palika Ghat
Laffa and Falafel for falafels
This Middle-Eastern speciality is extremely popular in Pushkar, and you will find two remarkably busy falafel joints in the main market road with menus written in Hebrew. You cannot miss them for the owners will politely nudge you to take a seat as you walk past them. Their falafels come in the most unusual combinations. We tried the one with fried eggplants, avocado and paneer as well as green olives, potato chips and garlic mayo and found them both interesting. There is complimentary chai too.
Price: Rs 80 to Rs 120
Address: Main Market Rd, Choti Basti
Out of the blue for noodles and pancakes
Out of the Blue is a cheery place with a hippie vibe that serves Italian food apart from noodles, momos and pancakes. The interiors are beautiful and once seated you can take in the views of the serene lake and the city. The café also serves some good expresso and latte, which you can enjoy watching the sunset. The gnocchi and ravioli are nice and could be your saviour if you are craving Western food on the trip.
Price: Coffees from Rs 80 to 100
Address: Main Market Rd, Badi Basti
Rooftop views at Sunset
As the sun sets, find a rooftop cafe to unwind with a relaxing view of the town, Pushkar Lake and Savitri mountain. During festival time, you might even see hot air balloons dotting the sky.
Savitri Mandir (best lookout)
While Savitri Mandir itself, isn’t much more than a simple temple, hiking to it will gain you the best lookout spot in all of Pushkar. You can get a great 360 degree view of the surrounding valleys and overlook the awesomeness of the camel grounds.
The climb to the top should take you anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Plan to go late afternoon so you can be there to snap some mean selfies against the sunset.
Evening Aarti, Pushkar Lake
As night falls, travelers will hear Hindu chats and ringing bells beckoning from Pushkar Lake. That’s the evening aarti. Aarti can be performed an all of the 52 ghats surrounding the lake, however, the largest and most celebrated one is at Brahma Ghat (or Varah Ghat). The lake’s origin is said to have spring from a lotus that fell from Brahma’s hand (Brahma is the guardian of the lake).
Book a Spiritual Walking Tour
A short walking tour of spiritual centers in Pushkar, led by a guide from a spiritual family. You’ll learn about the history and meaning of different temples, religions and its rituals.
Getting to Pushkar
Ajmer Station is the station stop for Pushkar. Ajmer is a town located 11km away (a 20minute taxi ride) from Pushkar. Once there, take the bus or hail a taxi to Pushkar. Outside the train station, there is a bus that goes to Pushkar every 15 minutes. You’ll have to ask a local (avoid asking taxis or handlers outside) as they’ll just direct you to a taxi. Still, a taxi is not a bad way to get there either.
The nearest airport is in Jaipur. Jaipur is just two hours away and you can essentially do day tours to Pushkar .
Where I Stayed
Expect accommodations to get booked full closer to the time of the festival. Room rates also increase if not double during the festival. Hotels and guesthouses are located both, in, around Pushkar Lake and on the edges of the town . I was going to stay with blogger friends at Pushkar hostel, but they were booked full. There are snack shops and travel agents for travel needs as well as, the Pushkar-Ajmer bus stop, which comes every 15 minutes.
The town is very famous for its numerous temples, serene lake and lovely market. Do visit Pushkar Lake during the evenings, since afternoons here are quite hot unless you are visiting during peak winters. There is also a small temple next to the lake and though the temple is beautiful, the priests here make it difficult to sit in peace.
They constantly pester you to perform pujas and it’s a little annoying when all you want is to enjoy a few moments of silence. The market next to the temple and lake is quite fun to explore and there is tons you can take back including bangles, bandhini sarees and dupattas, palazzos and stunning silver jewellery. Don’t forget to have the kachoris next to the temple since they are perhaps the best you’ll have in Pushkar. Reaching Pushkar is hassle-free since there are tons of buses plying from and to major cities and it would be best to combine Ajmer and Pushkar in one trip. Do choose a traditional homestay to spend your vacation in Pushkar and you’ll have an unforgettable experience!