Covering a broad swath of remote Rajasthan, the gorgeous Thar Desert offers visitors a seemingly endless sea of golden dunes. Referred to as the Great Indian Desert (it’s the largest in the subcontinent), it’s the perfect destination for the adventurous traveller. Whether you choose to explore on camelback, or opt for a luxurious retreat in the desert’s arid heart, we’ve handpicked six of our favourite secrets for the perfect Thar Desert tour.
For visitors who are looking to go on a Thar Desert tour, the historic city of Bikaner, once the capital of a princely state, is a treasure trove of gorgeous architecture, rich heritage, and breathtaking landscapes. At the centre of the desert outpost, which is surrounded by sloping dunes, the historic Junagarh Fort draws large numbers of visitors. Save time as well to wander around its walled old city, its palaces, and to soak in the ambiance of this unspoiled destination.
The rust-coloured fort in Bikaner © Franck Camhi/Demera/Thinkstock
Modelled on the many historic palaces that populate the Thar Desert’s cities, the Mihir Garh hotel was only constructed in 2009. It’s the ideal place for a getaway: while the palace hotel’s crenelated, golden walls look like a vestige of hundreds of years past, modern facilities like an on-site infinity pool, expansive suites, the luxurious Tulsi Spa, and the equestrian Safari Programme make this secluded desert secret a top-notch luxury retreat.
The luxurious Mihir Garh is a fusion of past and present © Mihir Garh
Reggie’s Camel Camp
Given its lack of roads and its challenging sand formations, it can be difficult to do a car-less Thar Desert tour. Why not do as the locals do, then, and experience the desert from a new perspective: on the back of a camel. At Reggie’s Camel Camp in Osian, travellers can sign up for a journey-by-dromedary, which will conclude with a luxury dinner, an evening in a swimming pool, and a breezy night in a fully equipped tent. The sand dune-topped camp offers 50 tents as well as unparalleled views of the surrounding vicinity.
Guests can take to the dunes on camelback in Osian © f9photos/iStock/Thinkstock
The Serai Desert Camp
The name in Rajasthani glamping, The Serai Desert Camp, located on the outskirts of Jaisalmer, combines glamour with the unique offerings of the surrounding region. A private dinner under the stars, cooked on-site with ingredients sourced from the local garden, is the perfect way to cap off an evening, while daytime pursuits include a session in the pool or the spa, as well as excursions ranging from sunsets on the sand dunes to special desert drives.
The Serai is the word in glamping luxury © The Serai
Jaisalmer’s famous fort is more than just a nearby landmark for guests staying at the Killa Bhawan hotel – it’s their place of residence while visiting the city. The hotel in fact comprises three buildings that are built directly in the walls of the 12th-century structure. When not drinking in the historical surroundings, guests can be found relaxing on the romantic rooftop terrace: covered in floor cushions, it’s simply the best place to take in the views of the city (sunset is an especially nice time to settle in for an hour or two).
The Killa Bhawan Hotel is built into the walls of the Jaisalmer Fort © icon72/iStock/Thinkstock
There’s no question that the desert city of Jaisalmer is popular on vacations in Rajasthan, and with good reason: the ancient city is a living relic, its near millennia of history still encapsulated within the sandstone walls. From its many palaces to the compelling nooks and crannies of the Jaisalmer Fort itself, there’s no doubting that this outpost is a Thar Desert highlight.
Gorgeous Jaisalmer is a Rajasthani favourite © Manakin/iStock/Thinkstock
If your craving dry land and an adventure in the dunes our itinerary for the romance of the desert will have everything you need.