Bikaner is undoubtedly one of India’s best kept secrets. Home to plush palaces, ornate havelis, picturesque cenotaphs, and a myriad of beautiful temples, it is an unexplored city in the princely state of Rajasthan that deserves to be on every Rajasthan Itinerary. Trust me, you’ll be surprised to find out how much there is to uncover in this offbeat destination.
Being a place which has all the splendour that Rajasthan is known for, but without the typical crowds that are present in other cities like Jaipur and Udaipur, Bikaner is a haven for photography, history, and architecture enthusiasts. I was completely blown away by the abundance of Instagrammable spots, untouched charm, and unmatched hospitality in the city.
So, if you are planning to visit and are wondering what is there to see in Bikaner other than its famed namkeens and sweets, then you are in the right place. In this guide, you will find everything from how to get to Bikaner, the best places to see in Bikaner, where to stay and more. Read on to see why you must give the Red City of Rajasthan a chance!
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Where is Bikaner in Rajasthan?
Located only 100 kilometres from the Pakistan border, Bikaner is a city in the middle of the Thar Desert in the North West of Rajasthan. It is approximately 330 kilometres (205 miles) from Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan, and 250 kilometres (155 miles) from Jodhpur, the blue city of India.
If grouped together, each of these three cities have something different to offer and can make for a wonderful Rajasthan trip. But if you are keen on visiting Jaisalmer instead, it is also easily reachable at a distance of around 330 kilometres (205 miles). Many travellers also consider Bikaner a good stopover to break the journey between Jaipur and Jaisalmer.
History of Bikaner
Before becoming the fourth largest city in Rajasthan, Bikaner was nothing but a barren wilderness known as Jangladesh. It was founded as a namesake city in 1488 by Rao Bika, the first son of Maharaja Rao Jodha, the founder of Jodhpur.
It is believed that Rao Bika left Jodhpur in the pursuit of establishing his own kingdom, instead of inheriting Jodhpur from his father. During his search for a suitable land, he saw promise in Jangladesh and decided to build his estate in what is now known as Bikaner. The first fort in the city, Bikaji Ki Tekri, was constructed by Rao Bika as well.
Even though Bikaner was situated in the middle of the Thar Desert, it was considered an oasis on the former trade route between Central Asia and Gujarat. Due to the presence of adequate spring water, it served as a strategic trade point on the ancient Spice Route. Because of this, the merchants in Bikaner earned generously and you’ll find many elaborate havelis in the city.
Bikaner itself predominantly flourished under its sixth ruler, Raja Rai Singh, who reigned from 1571 to 1611. He accepted the suzerainty of the Mughals during the Mughal Empire and held a high rank as an army general in the court of Emperor Akbar, as well as his son, Emperor Jahangir.
During this period, Rai Singh won a significant share of the Mewar Kingdom for the Empire and was handsomely rewarded for the same. With this revenue, he thenceforth built the city’s most famed architectural marvel, Junagarh Fort. Following this, Bikaner came under the suzerainty of the British under the treaty of paramountcy, which was signed in 1818.
While the main control of Bikaner was in the hands of the Britishers, the royal family of Bikaner still kept ruling on the ground. Modern Bikaner, as we know it, is the result of the prudence of Maharaja Ganga Singh, who ruled from 1887 to 1943. He was a favourite of the British Viceroys of India and made significant contributions to Junagarh Fort. Laxmi Niwas Palace and Lalgarh Palace were also commissioned by him.
How to get to Bikaner?
Whether you are travelling domestically within India or visiting directly from international destinations, there are multiple ways to get to the city of Bikaner. Here are the most common transport options to help you decide the best mode for you:
Getting to Bikaner by air
Located only 13 kilometres west of the city, Civil Airport Bikaner is the closest airport serving the city of Bikaner. Along with being a domestic airport, it is also an Indian air force station commonly known as Nai Air Force Station and Bikaner Air Force Station.
While the majority of the airport is still under development, there is one direct flight operating between New Delhi and Bikaner every day. Bikaner doesn’t have any direct flight connections to other cities in India as of yet, but I will update this post as soon as more routes are added.
If you want better air connectivity, it is best to fly to either Jodhpur or Jaipur. The airport in Jodhpur is closer to Bikaner than Jaipur airport, but the latter offers a wider variety of direct domestic and international routes. From there, you can cover the distance to Bikaner by train or road. Check the best flight route for you here.
Getting to Bikaner by train
Bikaner Junction and Lalgarh Junction are the two main railway stations in Bikaner. They are located approximately 6 kilometres (4 miles) away from each other in the city centre of Bikaner. From there, you can hail an auto-rickshaw or ask your hotel to arrange a taxi for you beforehand.
The railway connectivity in Bikaner is much better than air connectivity and you can find trains from most cities like New Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Jodhpur and more arriving directly. For more information about your particular route, check train timings and schedules here.
Getting to Bikaner by road
If you are coming from anywhere in Rajasthan, it might be easier and more convenient to travel to Bikaner by road. The highway connecting Bikaner with other major cities is in great condition and there are plenty of eateries along the way. You can take your own vehicle or book a private taxi for the transfer and reach Bikaner at your convenience.
Depending on how early you leave and the traffic along the way, you can get from Jaipur to Bikaner in approximately six to seven hours. My family and I left Jaipur around 8 am and were there in time for lunch. In case you are travelling from Jodhpur or Jaisalmer, it will take you around five to six hours to cover the distance in a car.
If you are travelling on a budget, it is also possible to reach Bikaner by bus. There are plenty of buses operating between Bikaner and other cities in North India. Depending on your preference, you can choose between air-conditioned (AC), non-air-conditioned (Non-AC), or sleeper buses. Find more information about bus prices and schedules here.
CG’s tip: Please keep in mind that cities like New Delhi and Agra are further away and it is advised to use other modes of transport for them.
How to get around Bikaner?
Public transportation in Bikaner is pretty much non-existent and online cab aggregators like Uber and Ola aren’t operational in the city as of yet. Moreover, some tourist landmarks are located far apart from each other so you will need some kind of transport to get from point A to B.
If you do not have your own vehicle with you, I recommend hiring a taxi through your hotel or hailing auto-rickshaws (tuk-tuks) as needed. We got the latter from outside our hotel and ended up hiring the same person throughout our stay for about INR 800 per day. This way you have the rickshaw with you at all times and can get around more conveniently.
CG’s tip: Even if you have a car with you, it is best to hop on an auto-rickshaw if visiting the old city area. The streets near Rampuria Haveli and Bhandasar Jain Temple are narrow and you don’t want to be stuck in traffic otherwise (or be the reason for a roadblock).
What is the best time to visit Bikaner?
Similar to the rest of Rajasthan, the best time to visit Bikaner is during the winter months of October to February. The weather in Bikaner is ideal during this time of the year with clear afternoons and pleasantly cool temperatures at night. You will be able to peacefully sightsee without worrying about feeling hot due to being in the desert.
Bikaner during the summer months from April through June can be insufferably hot with temperatures rising up to 50° Celsius (122°F) on some days. Although the evenings are slightly better with an average temperature of 28° Celsius (82.4°F), it isn’t practical for exploring the city.
The monsoon season in Bikaner runs from July to September typically, but being located in the middle of the desert, Bikaner barely experiences much rainfall. If you don’t mind a little humidity and want to go during off-peak season to save money, September and March are also decent months to visit.
I was in Bikaner near August end and didn’t mind the heat that much as I am accustomed to it due to living in Jaipur. The hotel prices being relatively low was an added bonus for sure!
How many days are enough?
Most travellers visiting Bikaner mainly come to break the journey between Jaipur and Jaisalmer and stay only for a night or two. But if you want to see the majority of the famous tourist attractions in Bikaner, I would recommend staying for three nights to soak everything in.
Other than the landmarks within the city, there are some popular spots like Devi Kund Sagar and Gajner Palace located a little further away. If you have three full days in Bikaner, you can visit them all in a single trip to the city. In case you would like to spend a night at Gajner Palace and wildlife sanctuary or in a desert camp, then an extra night may be ideal to not have to rush.
My family and I spent three nights in Bikaner and were able to visit all the spots on our list. But keep in mind that we had been to Gajner Palace already and didn’t go on this trip.
Where to stay in Bikaner?
Being a city with such a momentous history, you can bet that Bikaner has its fair share of heritage palaces turned into boutique and luxury hotels. Irrespective of what your preferences, budget, and purpose of the trip may be, you can undoubtedly find an aesthetic property to base yourself in Bikaner.
I stayed at the beautiful Narendra Bhawan for the first two nights of my trip and then moved to Laxmi Niwas Palace for the last night. Narendra Bhawan was the palace of the last reigning king of Bikaner, Maharaja Narendra Singh, who travelled extensively around Europe and was greatly inspired by the Bombay Art Deco movement.
After his passing in 2003, the palace was transformed into a luxury boutique hotel and you can find memorabilia from his travels (and life in general) all around the property. Housing over 80 rooms, a spa, rooftop swimming pool, multiple restaurants, and one of the most beautiful courtyards ever, it became my favourite property in Bikaner in no time. The artistic interiors at Narendra Bhawan were second only to their generous hospitality!
Laxmi Niwas Palace, on the other hand, was once the residence of Maharaja Ganga Singh and was constructed in 1902. While the architecture of Laxmi Niwas Palace is spellbinding and the hotel has somewhat become an image of Bikaner, the rooms there feel quite outdated and in dire need of a renovation now. I remember my family and I loving it when we stayed there many years ago.
So, I would advise you to go to Laxmi Niwas Palace for a meal instead and tour the property on your visit as it is still very picturesque. Their Rajasthani thalis are delectable. For everything else, I personally prefer Narendra Bhawan. Lallgarh Palace, located in the same premises as Laxmi Niwas Palace, is also another option worth checking out.
For budget travellers, there are many havelis and homestays located in the old city of Bikaner. You can check the prices and availability here.
Best places to see in Bikaner?
Bikaner has no dearth of incredible places to offer. From the mesmerising Junagarh Fort, to the iconic Rampuria Haveli, there are plenty of monuments to entice both domestic and international tourists. Here are some sites that you should unquestionably add to your Bikaner itinerary:
Because how can a city in Rajasthan not have an impeccable fort under its belt? Built in the late 16th century by Raja Rai Singh, Junagarh Fort is an unmissable stop on any Bikaner itinerary. It is located in the heart of Bikaner’s city centre and is the only fort in Rajasthan that is built on ground level and not atop an elevated platform like a hill.
Junagarh Fort was formerly known as Chintamani Fort in the years gone by. It is said that when the royal family moved their residence to Lalgarh Palace in the 20th century, the fort was renamed Junagarh Fort meaning old fort. Housing different coloured palaces, numerous courtyards and temples, it is undoubtedly the most famous landmark in Bikaner.
When visiting Junagarh Fort, you are destined to be amazed upon discovering the exquisite work of sixteen rulers that called it home during different eras and added their own architectural elements to the edifice. One of my favourite sections was Badal Mahal, a blue room painted with clouds portraying rainfall for royal children as the city of Bikaner barely experienced it.
Chandra Mahal with its lavish gold plated deities, intricate stone inlays, bedrooms and paintings was another highlight. From Rajput and British influences, to Bikaner’s Dulmera sandstone and Mughal design elements, the blend of different architecture at Junagarh Fort was unlike anything I have seen before. It truly is different from other forts in Rajasthan.
Ultimately, Junagarh Fort also consists of museums and you can spend some time learning about the royal family of Bikaner and admire their fleet of vehicles. One of the only two models of the biplane that was used by the British in World War I is also housed in the basement of the fort. It was gifted by the Britishers to Maharaja Ganga Singh and is quite fascinating to see. The Prachina Museum is also worth visiting once you are done with the interior of fort.
CG’s tip: The Junagarh Fort is enormous in size and there is a lot to see when there. Make sure to keep two to three hours aside for it when visiting and don’t forget to go up to the top for an unobstructed view of the city. The Sur Sagar Lake outside the fort is also lovely.
Opening hours: 10 am – 4:30 pm, every day.
Entrance fee: INR 50 for Indian nationals and INR 300 for foreign tourists. Student discount is available with a valid ID.
Possibly the most photographed landmark in Bikaner, Rampuria Haveli is a cluster of seven ornate mansions (havelis) located in the old city. These havelis were constructed in the 15th century by a wealthy merchant family of Bikaner called Rampuria. Made with the signature red sandstone of Bikaner called Dulmera, it is easy to grasp why Bikaner is known as the red city of Rajasthan.
If you could only see one place in Bikaner, then by all means, don’t even think twice before heading here. From the intricate carvings on the wall, to the different coloured jharokas and doors, to the startling symmetry, there is so much to admire when visiting Rampuria Haveli. I loved this area of Bikaner so much that I ended up going there on two consecutive mornings.
Rampuria Haveli is also known as the pride of Bikaner and it is easy to understand why. With a strong influence of Victorian architecture, they are a perfect blend of British, Mughal and Rajput design elements. If you ask me, I think it is truly a shame that most of these havelis are now closed and empty as the owners have left Bikaner for tier 1 cities like Kolkata and Mumbai.
Still, if you are interested in seeing them from inside, one of the havelis is now a heritage hotel called Bhanwar Niwas. You can book a room there to enjoy the interiors to the fullest or visit for a meal whilst exploring the walled city. Just make sure to make a reservation beforehand or request your hotel to do so.
CG’s tip: Rampuria Haveli is located on a small one-way street and gets very busy after 9 am. If you want to take pictures while standing in the middle of the road like me or are simply looking to enjoy the architecture without all the honking, I would recommend to be there at sunrise. You can also go on a walking tour with a local if you like.
Opening hours: All day, every day.
Entrance fee: Free of cost.
The Walled City of Bikaner
While the Rampuria Haveli is located within the walled city of Bikaner on Joshiwara street, there are many more beautiful facades and temples to explore in this area. Locals say that out of the thousands of havelis that were there in ancient times, about 400 have survived over the years and are still spread around the city. The Kothari Havelis in particular were incredibly eye-pleasing.
My family and I spent a couple of hours walking around the neighbourhood from Rampuria Haveli and came across many picturesque nooks. We didn’t have enough time to book a tour, but if you do, Narendra Bhawan offers an experience called Merchant’s Trail where a local guide takes you around the winding lanes of the walled city telling tales of yesteryear. I honestly can’t wait to go back and do it sometime soon!
The walled city is also home to a busy market with many shops selling sumptuous local street food and namkeens that are quintessential Bikaner. If you browse around Kote Gate, you can even find stores selling textiles and other souvenirs. Besides, Bikaner’s famous moustache man with a few metres long moustache also lives in the area and you can visit his shop to get a picture with him. Just don’t forget to tip him for his time!
Opening hours: All day, every day.
Entrance fee: Free of cost.
Seth Bhandasar Jain Temple
Although located in the vicinity of the old town of Bikaner as well, Seth Bhandasar Jain Temple calls for a special mention due to its magnificent interiors. The city of Bikaner is home to many popular temples, but this is easily the most beautiful one to see. Also known as Bhanda Shah Jain Temple, it is a must see site in Bikaner even if you are not religious.
Seth Bhandasar Jain Temple was built in the mid-15th century and is dedicated to Sumatinatha, the 5th Tirthankara. Renowned for its surreal wall paintings, colourful frescos, stone carvings and detailed gold inlay art work, it is one of the best temples to see in Bikaner. Trust me, you’ll thank me later for sharing this underrated gem.
Another thing that sets Seth Bhandasar Jain Temple apart is the fascinating tale related to its construction. Legends say that since there was a scarcity of water in the region, the temple was constructed using 40,000 kilograms of ghee (clarified butter) instead of water in the mortar. The priest at the temple swears that visitors can still feel it during the summer months.
And, while it doesn’t look like much from the outside, this temple is 3 storeys tall and you can actually climb up to the roof for an unobstructed view of the old city of Bikaner. You can visit in the late afternoon and then go up to the roof for sunset. Just keep in mind that the temple has a strict no leather policy so make sure you aren’t carrying any wallets, bags or belts.
CG’s tip: You will also need to take your shoes off at the entrance and walk over a short marble path to access the stairs of the temple. The floor isn’t dirty by any means but it can be unbearably hot if you are visiting when the sun is high up. The temple also gets really busy during the prayer hours at sunrise and sunset.
Opening hours: Morning or evening hours as the temple closes for a few hours in the afternoon and reopens from 4 pm onwards.
Entrance fee: Free, but there is a INR 25 charge for videos.
Karni Mata Temple
Probably the most unique temple I have ever heard of or visited, Karni Mata Temple located at Deshnok is famous for over 25,000 rats that live, and are worshipped, there. Plenty has been written about how devotees visiting this Hindu temple feed the rats in order to yearn their blessings. There are even shops set up outside the temple selling food for the rats, but you really have to see it to believe it.
This temple is also known as the temple of rats and you will find them scurrying around all over the premises. Along with black rats, you can even spot some white ones which are considered extremely auspicious by locals. The rats at Karni Mata Temple can be seen running around, drinking milk, eating from the hands of the priest and worshippers, or simply resting.
Legends say that when Lakshman, the son of Karni Mata, drowned in a pond while attempting to drink water from it, the Goddess pleaded to Yamaraja, the God of Death, to revive her son. After refusing initially, Yamaraja allowed Lakshman and all the other sons of Karni Mata to be reincarnated as rats. So, devotees believe that the rats belong to her reincarnated clan.
Still, I would recommend you to only visit here if you aren’t scared of rats. They are literally everywhere at the temple and some may get really close to you. However, the rats at Karni Mata temple aren’t the same as sewage rats and the place doesn’t stink at all. Many people travel great distances just to come to this unlikely holy site.
CG’s tip: Karni Mata Temple is located a little outside of the city of Bikaner and you will need to book a transport to go there. I personally didn’t visit on my recent trip but have been before in a private taxi. You can hire a car for a day and cover all the spots that are further away together. Alternatively, there is also a train station right outside the temple.
Opening hours: 04:00 am – 10 pm.
Entrance fee: Free, but donations are appreciated.
Devi Kund Sagar
Since Rajasthan doesn’t believe in doing anything on a small scale, the crematoriums there are beautiful too. Located around 9 kilometres (5.6 miles) away from the city centre of Bikaner, Devi Kund Sagar is the cremation ground of the royal family of Bikaner. If you like visiting off-beat landmarks, then don’t give this a miss. The cenotaphs (chattris) there are unbelievable!
Marrying Mughal and Rajputana architecture, Devi Kund Sagar is home to over 70 stunning cenotaphs that are built using white marble and Dulmera sandstone. The cenotaphs that were constructed in ancient times are all built with Dulmera sandstone while the more recent ones are made with white marble. However, the chhatri of Maharaja Narendra Singh Ji is of Dulmera.
When visiting Devi Kund Sagar (aka the Royal Cenotaphs of Bikaner or Bikaner Raj Parivaar Vishram Grah), you will notice that some of the cenotaphs are decorated more elaborately than others. This was done to show respect to rulers who played a significant role in Bikaner’s development. My personal favourites were the cenotaphs of Raja Karan Singh and Maharaja Anup Singh.
There are also chhatris of the female members of the royal family as well as children who passed away at a young age. Spend some time exploring them carefully as you will notice there are clear distinctive features that give away whose cenotaph it is. You will also find chhatris of both men and women who committed sati, a historical Hindu practice of self-immolation that is thankfully considered illegal now.
CG’s tip: If you are going there in a taxi or auto-rickshaw, make sure to tell the driver beforehand that it will be a return journey. I didn’t see any transport options around the cenotaphs so it would be hard to get something for the way back once there. Also, you’ll need to take your shoes off before entering so avoid going during afternoon hours as the floor can be very hot.
Opening hours: 9 am – 5 pm, every day.
Entrance fee: INR 5 for Indian tourists and INR 10 for foreigners. Take cash with you.
Talking about Bikaner attractions that are a little outside of the main city, Thar Desert or The Great Indian Desert is another must-see spot that comes to mind. If you are not travelling to Jaisalmer on your trip or would like to see some off-beat sand dunes, then make sure to add this to your Bikaner itinerary. It is located only a few kilometres from the city centre.
While the sand dunes in Bikaner aren’t as vast as the Khuri Sand Dunes and Sam Sand Dunes close to Jaisalmer, the experience here feels more authentic and visiting them for sunset is surreal. Whether you would like to go on a camel safari or stay overnight in a desert camp, there are numerous activities and experiences to choose from when visiting the Bikaner sand dunes.
One of the experiences that I personally wanted to try but didn’t have enough time for is The Crescent Grill and Dinner by Narendra Bhawan. During this, you are escorted to a private area of the desert where a beautiful set up with freshly prepared food awaits you. Dining under the stars with no one around definitely sounds like an experience for the books.
CG’s tip: Irrespective of the activity or experience you choose to opt for, make sure you book the same via a reputable company. Most of these services should include transfers from Bikaner and back so enquire about the same beforehand. But you can also visit on your own in your vehicle if you like.
Opening hours: All day, every day.
Entrance fee: Depends on the experience you choose, but otherwise free of cost.
Gajner Palace and Wildlife Sanctuary
Although located over an hour from Bikaner’s city centre, Gajner Palace and Wildlife Sanctuary is a beautiful landmark worth going the extra mile for. The palace was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh on the shores of Gajner Lake as a hunting resort and is spread over 6000 acres. It was converted into a heritage hotel in the late 20th century.
If you are looking to splurge and want to have an experience amidst nature, I would recommend you to spend at least a night at the Gajner Palace. Alternatively, you’ll be pleased to know that Gajner Palace also accommodates day visitors so you can pay a small fee to enter and enjoy the premises to your heart’s desire. The architecture of the property is incredible and there are so many different sections to explore.
The Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary is home to species such as wild boars, nilgais, black bucks, chinkaras, desert foxes and more. If you would like to go on a safari through the sanctuary, make sure to reserve the same with the hotel as you would need their personnel with a jeep to escort you. Moreover, during the summer months, you can even spot some animals by the lakeside.
CG’s tip: If you are visiting Gajner Palace on a day trip, then time your visit in a way that you are there for sunset. There are many birds and peacocks around during that time of the day and you can even go for a boat ride to admire the surroundings from another perspective.
Opening hours: The hotel is open all day and the Gajner wildlife sanctuary timings are 10 am – 5 pm.
Entrance fee: INR 100 for the day visitor entry. For overnight stays at Gajner Palace, check prices and availability here.
Lallgarh Palace and Shri Sadul Singh Museum
Lallgarh Palace or Lalgarh Palace is another beautiful heritage property in Bikaner. It was built for Maharaja Ganga Singh in the early 20th century because he felt that the Junagarh fort was not befitting as the residence of the royal family anymore. The royal family of Bikaner moved to Lalgarh Palace upon its completion and the descendants of Maharaja Ganga Singh still reside there to this day.
If you want to get a taste of the royal life of Rajasthan, then you can book a room at the Lalgarh Palace and experience it in all its grandeur. The complex has multiple wings under its belt and while a part of it is a dedicated royal residence, the other half has been converted into a heritage hotel managed by the emperor’s trust. The art deco indoor swimming pool at Lalgarh Palace is reason enough to go if you ask me.
But if you are on a budget, then you can still pay a visit to one of Bikaner’s most famous museums, Shri Sadul Singh Museum, that is situated within the Lalgarh Palace. Other than displaying a wide range of Georgian sketches, unique artefacts and hunting trophies, it is also home to the fourth largest private library in the world. Though, visitors are sometimes not allowed to wander around the palace if just visiting the museum.
CG’s tip: If you want to explore Lalgarh Palace but are staying somewhere else, then I recommend making a reservation at their restaurant for lunch. You can visit the museum before and then inside the hotel part of the palace to enjoy a meal and amble around. The intricate lattice work and carving all over the edifice are absolutely worth it!
Opening hours: The hotel is open all day, but Sri Sadul Museum is operational only from 10 am – 5 pm every day except Sunday.
Entrance Fee: INR 10 for the museum. For overnight stays at Lalgarh Palace, check prices and availability here.
Laxmi Niwas Palace
Originally a part of the Lalgarh Palace, Laxmi Niwas Palace is now a heritage hotel that has been leased to a hotel group. It is located in the same complex as the Lalgarh Palace and you can easily walk between the two in a couple of minutes. Being one of the most beautiful heritage hotels in India, seeing the Laxmi Niwas Palace is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Bikaner.
The exterior of Laxmi Niwas Palace is spellbinding and the area of the hotel is so grand that you will need at least a few hours to take it all in. From the massive manicured lawns at the front, to the picturesque swimming pool and unbelievable rooftop, everything at this hotel photographs so beautifully. I particularly loved the use of Dulmera sandstone throughout the property.
So, even if you are not staying there, do yourself a favour and visit the hotel for a meal. Their dinners are famously special with delectable Rajasthani thalis on the menu and live folk musicians playing as you dine. After all, how often do you get to have a candle light dinner in the heart of a century old palace?
The entry to the premises can be restricted if you are not a guest, so make sure you have reservations from before. The hotel also has some exhibits on the ground level and you can find many royal artefacts spread around the property. Just note that one of the rooms is dedicated to taxidermy from the hunts that Maharajas used to go on and can be disturbing to witness.
Opening hours: All day, every day.
Entrance fee: INR 500 for non-hotel guests which is deductible from your dining bill. For overnight stays, you can check the prices and availability here.
ICAR-National Research Centre on Camel
The ICAR-National Research Centre on Camel or Bikaner Camel Research Centre is another unique place to visit in Bikaner. Built to understand and protect camels, this centre is dedicated to camel health, breeding, psychology, benefits and utilisation of their milk. There is a small museum sharing the development in research and other interesting facts as well.
You can find many different types of camels being protected there. I was surprised to see black and white camels, along with baby camels at this centre. It could be an exciting place to visit if you are travelling with kids. The only downside is that there aren’t any guides or staff to explain anything and you are pretty much by yourself with little information.
Some facilities for camel riding (I don’t recommend it) and desert safaris are also available at the camel research centre. There are even souvenir shops selling decorative products like bags, shawls, shoes, and more. If you consume dairy, you may also try the famous camel milk kulfi (ice cream) that is made with saffron at their humble cafe.
If you are exceptionally interested in camels, there is even a popular Camel Festival that happens in the city every January which attracts visitors from all over.
CG’s tip: Bikaner Camel Research Centre is located close to Thar Desert and Devi Kund Sagar. You can easily club all these places in one trip and make the most out of your time. The camels go for grazing during the day and only return around 3 pm. If you want to have a better experience, then I would advise going after that.
Opening hours: 10 am – 5 pm, closed on Sundays.
Entrance fee: INR 30 for Indian nationals and INR 100 for Foreigners. Extra charges for camera and riding are applicable as well.
Bikaner Miniature Arts
India in general is known for its art and the city of Bikaner is no different. If you are an art aficionado, then Bikaner Miniature Arts should definitely be in your top places to visit in Bikaner list. Its founder, Shiv Swami, is known for holding two Guinness world record titles for the world’s smallest paintings in 2002 and 2003.
Bikaner Miniature Arts gallery has a few different rooms displaying different categories of miniature paintings per section. You will find themes such as birds, animals, Hindu deities, the history of Bikaner, nature and more. Most of the paintings at the studio are done by Shiv Swami and other members of the Swami family.
When visiting, not only will you get a chance to admire this unique art up close, but also have a meet and greet with the artist who is often always there. He is an extremely humble person who may even offer to draw a small miniature painting on your fingernail. Trust me, you will be surprised at how much he can fit in that little of a space.
Due to the nature of intricate detailing, some of the paintings done by the Swami family have even taken months to finish. You can purchase them directly at the gallery for a very fair price. They will surely make for a unique souvenir!
Opening hours: 10 am – 6 pm, every day.
Entrance fee: The shop is free to visit and they also provide free classes and courses for aspiring artists.
If you find yourself having more time in Bikaner, then Bikaji Ki Tekri and Ganga Singh Museum (aka Ganga Golden Jubilee Museum or Ganga Government Museum) are some other places to check out when there. Another famous art studio in Bikaner called Usta Golden Art by Ashish Buchha is also recommended.
For temples, Laxmi Nath Temple, Shiv Bari Temple, Kodamdeshwar Temple, Ratan Bihari Temple, and Kolayatji Temple are also very well-known and loved. I can’t wait to go back and explore these Bikaner sights someday!
Map of the best places in Bikaner
To make your time in Bikaner even more convenient, I have created a custom map containing all the best places in Bikaner for you. This way you can club places that are closer in one outing and plan your trip more easily.
Just click on the bracket in the upper right corner and the map will automatically open in Google Maps on your device. You can leave it open to come back to it later or share with friends and family. Super convenient, right?
Best places to eat in Bikaner?
My love for Rajasthani food is no secret, so I love travelling within the state and tasting local delicacies of different districts. Here are some places that I would recommend for the best food in Bikaner:
P&C: Abbreviated for Pearls & Chiffons, P&C is the main dining room at Narendra Bhawan. Serving a delicious mix of Indian and International cuisines, it is an all-day dining restaurant where you can find everything from fresh salads to thalis. My family and I especially loved the Museum Dinner at the Night Room experience at one of the private areas of P&C. I don’t think we have ever tried a sabzi of aloe vera before!
Gaushala: Gaushala is an outdoor restaurant at Narendra Bhawan overlooking the beautiful edifice and the courtyard. The menu is the same as P&C, but it is a must if you are looking for a place to dine at night. The building of the hotel is lit up beautifully after sunset and you can admire the same while you eat. The service was extraordinary at both establishments.
Swarna Mahal: Dining at Swarna Mahal is as much about the food as it is about the interior of the restaurant. Located inside the regal Laxmi Niwas Palace, the walls and ceiling of this restaurant are adorned with the finest Usta art. They offer both Indian and international cuisine, but I would recommend going for their Indian dishes. Their Rajasthani thali is one of the best I have ever had!
I had all my proper meals in Bikaner in the hotels I stayed at as we would always be in the hotel during the afternoon hours to escape the heat. But since there are many local delicacies to taste in Bikaner, I, of course, indulged in those while sightseeing.
Best local food to try in Bikaner?
Even after being home to such remarkable attractions, the one thing that Bikaner is most known for is its local dishes. Whether you are visiting tourist landmarks or shopping near Kote Gate and Station Road, you are bound to come across numerous eateries selling Bhujia and hot Kachoris in Bikaner. Here is a list of the popular local food that is worth indulging in in the city:
Bikaner Bhujia: Bhujia is that one Indian snack that you’ll find in nearly every Indian household. Made with gram flour, moth beans, spices and groundnut oil, it is a kind of fried noodle that is salty and crispy. With its origins dating back to Bikaner, many big Indian companies such as Bikaji and Haldirams selling Bhujia also trace their roots back to the city. One of the most famous places to try Bhujia in Bikaner is Bhikharam Chandmal at Kote Gate. You can also visit Bhujia factories in Bikaner and learn about how this loving snack is made.
Rasgulla: Although this Indian sweet dish is known to be a speciality of West Bengal and Orissa, Bikaner’s version is equally loved by locals and tourists. Cooked in a light sugar syrup, it is a milk-based ball-shaped dumpling that is white and spongy. Some of the most popular places to try Rasgulla in Bikaner are Chhotu Motu Joshi sweet shop and Bhikharam Chandmal.
Kachori: If you are looking for something savoury instead, Kachori is famous all over Rajasthan. It is a spicy deep-fried snack that comes with a variety of fillings. You will find vendors taking out hot kachoris during the morning hours in Bikaner as it is one of the most loved breakfast dishes of the locals. Some places serve it with a savoury and a sweet chutney (dip) while others with a potato sabzi. Raj Kachori, a variant served with yoghurt, is also quite popular.
Camel Milk Kulfi: Camel milk kulfi is another speciality of Bikaner and you can get it at the ICAR-National Research Centre on Camel. It is an Indian ice-cream on a stick that is mainly made with camel milk, sugar and saffron. I am not a big fan of dairy so I didn’t try it myself, but I know some people who loved it and others who found it more on the heavier side. I guess you’ll have to go try it for yourself to see what you think!
Sharbat: Sharbat is another popular favourite of the locals of Bikaner. It is essentially a natural syrup that is mixed with water and ice to make a refreshing cooler. The most popular place selling sharbat in Bikaner is Chunnilal Tanwar’s syrup shop that serves syrups made with natural flowers and mostly without artificial colours.
Presented in terracotta glasses, the sharbats at Chunnilal Tanwar’s syrup shop come in a variety of flavours such as gulab (rose), saunf (fennel), laung (clove) and more. My personal favourite is the Bela flavour, which is made from jasmine flowers. I tried it for the first time upon check in at Narendra Bhawan and immediately asked for more!
Rajasthani Thali: Although Rajasthani thali isn’t a dish in itself, it consists of so many delicious local delicacies that you must try it when in Bikaner. The dishes in the thali can vary depending on the place that you eat it at and the option that you choose.
I had the vegetarian Rajasthani Thali at Laxmi Niwas Palace and it included local dishes such as Dal, Bhati, Rajasthani Kadhi, Sev Tamatar ki Sabzi, Papad ki Sabzi, Ker Sangri ki Sabzi, Gatte ki Sabzi, Churma and more. Everything on the plate was prepared with centuries old recipes and it was easily one of the best meals I had in the city.
What to buy in Bikaner?
Souvenirs are a wonderful way to remember a trip by. If you love bringing local goods for yourself or friends and family, then don’t forget to spend some time in the markets in Bikaner. Bazaars near Kote Gate, Station Road Market, Lallgarh Palace Road, Mahatma Gandhi (M.G.) Road, and Bara Bazaar are all full of options. Here is a list of things you can consider bringing back:
Miniature Paintings: Miniature paintings are unique to this region of India and can be a beautiful addition to any space. You can get really affordable ones from Bikaner Miniature Arts for yourself or as a gift.
Bikaneri Bhujia and Sweets: If you want to carry food souvenirs, then sweets are a good option if you are going back home right after as they should be eaten fresh. For something more long-lasting, consider buying the iconic Bikaneri bhujia.
Small Wooden Carved Objects: Bikaner has plenty of artefacts to offer and small wooden carved objects are some of the most popular. From quaint jewellery boxes and toys, to furniture and household items, you can find a lot of options in the main markets in Bikaner. Just don’t forget to bargain!
Rajasthani Handicrafts: Other decorative souvenirs that you can buy from Bikaner are Rajasthani handicrafts. These range from wall-hangings to terracotta sculptures to pottery and more. While they are available throughout the state, you may find that the prices in Bikaner are better compared to more famous cities like Jaipur and Jodhpur.
Leather Articles: It is impossible to visit a market in Rajasthan and not come across colourful leather articles like mojaris and juttis (a type of Indian shoes). Apart from being beautiful to look at, they are also very comfortable and durable. Trust me, the women in your life would love to receive these as gifts!
Sharbat: If you try the sharbat at Chunnilal Tanwar’s syrup shop from my recommendation above and like it, then you can even get a bottle of the syrup to take back home and make the drink yourself. The packaging is done quite well and it is very affordable too.
Pickles: I like to think that we Indians can make pickles out of anything edible. Pickles in India are very popular and Bikaner has a few speciality options that are exclusive to Rajasthan. If you like Indian pickles as well, you can buy some from the Golchha Store in the city.
What to pack for Bikaner?
- Some weather appropriate clothing. The temperatures in Bikaner are generally hot during the day and if you are travelling during the winter, then it can be really cold at night. I always carry some light cotton maxis that are loosely fitted for the day and a jacket for when it gets colder.
- A camera! Bikaner is home to so many photogenic sights that you would be crazy to travel all the way there and not bring a camera to capture its beauty. Irrespective of whether you like to shoot with a smartphone or a professional gear, make sure to bring something with you. I use the Sony A7rIII and the iPhone 13 Pro.
- Some lenses! If you like taking photos with a professional camera, then chances are you have a couple of lenses for it. If so, I would recommend packing both a wide-angle lens and a zoom lens as the architecture is quite varied and you would wish you had a wider range.
- A durable hard drive because all those photos need to be stored somewhere now, don’t they? This may not apply to everyone, but I like to take a backup of my files every day and thus carry a hard drive on all my trips. Not only does it help to empty SD cards, but I honestly sleep better knowing my photos are safely backed up. This is the one I use.
- A scarf! Because Rajasthan is a conservative state when it comes to the dressing style, so if you are a woman, I would recommend having a scarf with you at all times in case you feel like covering your shoulders. It is also useful when visiting religious sites like temples.
- A sun hat or sunglasses because Bikaner is a desert city and the sun there can be really intense. Also, make sure to carry SPF 50 with you too.
- A packet of wet wipes. Along with the temples in Bikaner, you have to walk barefoot at Devi Kund Sagar too so your feet will get dirty when sightseeing. I always keep a packet in my bag and wipe my feet before putting my shoes on again.
- Cash! Whether you choose to withdraw cash in Bikaner or have some on you from before, make sure to keep a little emergency cash handy in case you visit places that are cash only.
- A travel plug adapter that supports outlet types C, D, and M. If your devices are bought from outside India, then make sure to check this to have a seamless experience at your accommodation or ask your hotel for a spare. This one works in most places around the world.
- A portable charger. Since you are going to be out and about all the time and using your phone for photos, directions, restaurant reviews, you may run out of battery quickly. A portable charger ensures you always have a working device with you!
- A steamer! I don’t know about you but I always find that my clothes could use some steaming after being in a suitcase during transit. This one is really compact and works wonders.
- And lastly, some hand sanitisers and face masks. You can never have too much of these while travelling during these uncertain times.
Some other things to know before visiting Bikaner
- The local way of greeting others in Bikaner is Jai-Jai. Although you can still use Khamma Ghani or Namaste as anywhere in Rajasthan, you’ll find most locals saying Jai-Jai when they see you.
- The Rampuria Havelis are located in a residential area and since Bikaner isn’t a major tourist destination, the locals aren’t that used to crowds. If you are visiting early in the morning, please try to be respectful and don’t speak loudly amongst yourselves.
- The Maharajas of Bikaner loved and valued animals largely. You will find that there are multiple schools dedicated to solely studying animals. There are also numerous medical shops selling medicines for animals. My family and I had to go buy something for ourselves and we came across more medical stores for animals than humans.
- The city of Bikaner is also nicknamed as camel country because of the presence of a camel breeding farm and research centre.
- If you have some extra time in Bikaner, it is also possible to do some day trips from the city. The town of Mandawa is approximately 190 kilometres (118 miles) from Bikaner and is a beautiful sight to behold. It is also off the beaten track. Other places that you can consider visiting are Nagaur and Shekhawati.
That’s a wrap on a comprehensive Bikaner travel guide from me! I have tried to cover everything I could think that would be useful for you in planning your trip, so I hope you found this post helpful. I have written a detailed guide about the Bikaner Cenotaphs and Instagrammable spots in Bikaner too, so you can check those out as well.
In case you have any questions or comments for me, then please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. I love hearing from you and making your travel planning process as convenient as possible. For more pictures from my trip to Bikaner, make sure you check out my Bikaner highlight on Instagram.
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