I was excited to get to Pushkar as I heard many great things from other travelers I had met thus far in India. Pushkar is a small town but is quite popular with travelers, both domestic and foreign, especially Israelis. Set in the shadow of the Araveli mountains, the centerpiece of Pushkar is the revered Pushkar Lake. Similar to the Ganges River, a pilgrimage to Pushkar is popular with Hindus to dip in and receive blessings.
Getting to Puskhar from Jaipur was fairly easy. I first caught a 3 hour bus to the nearby town of Ajmer, and from there caught another bus for 30 minutes to Pushkar. While quicker than some of my train travels in India thus far, it was not as pleasant. The bus was cramped and tiny with not much room for luggage, although it did get me from Point A to Point B quickly and cheaply.
My plan for the next four days in Pushkar was to chill out and soak the town in, while perhaps participating in a few activities. Other than the lake and its ghats’ Pushkar doesn’t have many famous sights to see. Since I’ve seen many forts, city palaces and temples already, I decided to use this opportunity to spend time doing more creative and interactive activities.
Since I greatly enjoyed the Thai cooking class I took back in Chiang Mai, I knew that I wanted to take a cooking class somewhere in the state of Rajasthan, as it is well-know for its delicious cuisine. After looking at the different options, I decided to go to Pushkar Cooking Art, which was located down the road from where I was staying (Zostel).
Run by an enterprising and friendly woman, Shivani offers cooking lessons directly from her own home. Booking a class for her was simple-I emailed her and she even let me pick the timing that worked best with me. Since her company is self-run, she only runs lessons by demand. As such, I had a private, 1-on-1 cooking lesson!
When I arrived, she had the printed recipes for the dishes we would be making laid out, as well as a few snacks to munch on. We chatted for a bit as she informed me of the dishes she thought we could make: chapati and naan, dal fry, aloo gobi, and palak paneer. They were some of my favorite dishes to eat thus far, so I eagerly agreed with the selections. We then got to work on preparing the various dishes. One thing that surprised me was how similar the ingredients are for a majority of Indian cuisine. Almost every dish/curry contains the following: chili powder, curry powder, salt, coriander, garlic paste, onions, and tomatoes. Shivani showed how easy the dishes actually were to make. Since they often include many ingredients, I had assumed they were complex to make. However, that was not the case! When all of the dishes were finished, it was time to eat! All of the food was delicious and there was so much that I wasn’t able to finish it all. Shivani was able to package the leftovers to take with me. I can’t wait to try the recipes out back Stateside!
Some of the hills around the town offer great views of the surrounding area. Taking only 20-30 minutes to ascend once you reach the base, this moderate exercise is for a good reason. Small temples are also often built on the tops of these hills. I went for two hikes while I was in Pushkar. The first was to Savitri Temple to watch the sunrise. The second was to Gayatri Temple that I did with Anne Marie (whom I celebrated Holi with), for sunset.
Of the two, Savitri Temple is the more popular hike and for good reason-it offers a great view of the lake and town below as the sun peeks over the eastern tip of the surrounding mountains. It was very peaceful to be up there before the heat of the day kicked in and the air was still cool. There was an added benefit of 3 puppies who were at the top of the hill! While I was happy to see some dogs that I could approach without fear of contracting rabies, it appeared that their mother was not around. Being too small to make it down the stairs of the hill unaided, they had to content themselves with hanging out at the top and getting scraps of food and water from the temple-goers and hikers.
Gayatri Temple offered a good view of the sunset, but didn’t have the picture perfect view of the town like Savitri did. Anne Marie and I enjoyed the hike. Originally missing the pathway up, we foraged our own path halfway up the hill until stumbling upon the trail-a much better option!
Other highlights from my time in Pushkar included spending some time walking around the lake and observing the Hindu rituals (although the ghats were rife with Indian men trying to scam tourists by giving them a flower to deposit in the river and then demanding a large “donation” for the blessing). I also tried an Ayurvedic Massage, although I think I prefer the Thai version-much more relaxing! There also was a random day where the town still celebrated Holi with throwing the colored powder. I chose to sit this round out, 2 days of those festivities were enough for me!
Eat: falafel! Since this is a favored destinations for Israelis, the restaurants in turn cater to their cuisine. Thus many options for good falafel, something I haven’t had since Cairo!
Hike: Savitri Temple for the peacefulness and awesome sunrise.
Eat: Honey and Spice. This vegan cafe offers a variety of delicious options. It’s so nice to be able to have healthy options and raw vegetables!
Stay: Zostel. This was my first time staying at the famous chain of hostels located all over India. While situated a bit outside of the main town, it helped it give off more of a relaxed vibe. Plus the facilities were modern and clean-not a given in India.