This post was republished with updated contents on 21-07-2023 or July 21st, 2023.
Bikaner, the red city of India
Prior to the mid 15th century, Bikaner, as we know it today, was known as Jangladesh. Though it is a desert town, Bikaner is very different from Jaisalmer. Bikaner was considered as an oasis on the trade route between Gujarat and Central Asia.
Bikaner city from Bhandasar Temple
Unlike other touristy cities of Rajasthan such as Jaipur and Udaipur, Bikaner is not so crowded. So, you can explore this rustic historic city at your own pace.
We loved Bikaner in many ways. Here we suggest these 15 places to visit in Bikaner. There are also many more offbeat places in Bikaner.
Top 15 things to do in Bikaner or Places to Visit in Bikaner
Even if you are looking for offbeat things to do in Bikaner, read on! This post caters to your every requirement of Bikaner tourism…. from famous things to eat in Bikaner, Bikaner shopping to Bikaner top 5 tourist places.
We were quite surprised when we first saw this fort. You know why? It is one of those few major forts in Rajasthan which is not built on a hilltop! Junagarh Fort was originally called Chintamani and was renamed Junagarh or “Old Fort” in the early 20th century when the ruling family moved to Lalgarh Palace outside the fort limits.
Till then the subsequent leaders kept adding palaces, temples and pavilions to it. Some of them are Phool mahal, Anup mahal, Badal mahal. My personal favourite is Badal mahal. A major feature of the fort is the stone carving done in red and gold coloured sandstones. The interiors of the palaces are decorated and painted in traditional Rajasthani style. The fort is well maintained and is a must visit. Choose a time which is not very crowded.
Karni Mata temple or Rat temple
I knew about this strange, one of its kind temple since years. This time I could visit also. Karni Mata temple is part of Bikaner tourism and is famous for rats that live, and are revered here. These holy rats are called kabbas. The temple attracts visitors from across the globe for blessings, as well as to satisfy their curiosity. This Temple is in a small town of Deshnok, at a distance of 30 kms south of Bikaner in Rajasthan. One of the must do things in Bikaner.
The legend about the temple is extended but in short, it is said that when someone dies in the Charan community, he is reborn as a rat and when a rat dies, a human baby is born in a Charan family. Be careful while walking here. If a rat dies under your foot, you must replace it with one made of solid silver! 😀
Ghee temple or Bhandasar Temple
This unusually ornate two-storied Jain temple, built by a merchant, is better known as Bhandreshwar (Bhandasar) Temple. It is said that 40,000 KGs of ghee was used, instead of water, in its foundation when during a drought he was asked not to use water. The locals insist that ghee seeps through the walls during summer and the tiled floor shines. What attracted us more was the stunning temple interior with vibrant paintings adorned with gold leaf patterns and the fact that they are very well maintained. Don’t forget to take a selfie with the temple priest.
Hot Tip: He also has an amazing collection of kites.
Grand Havelis of Bikaner
To be honest, I did not expect grand havelis in Bikaner. For me they existed in other towns of Rajasthan. Thanks to Narendra Bhawan (our hosts), we could see this side of Bikaner. It was difficult for me to choose the most fascinating one. The havelis belong to different merchant families who flourished and made Bikaner their home.
Of course, most of these havelis are vacant now because the owners chose to live in other parts of the world. I would love to go back and see some from inside. I could picture how children would have played inside, how women would have sang some songs while doing household chores. We absolutely recommend this Haveli tour.
Bika ji ki Tekri
The Royal exploration starts from the very beginning. The first stop is Bika ji ki Tekri. Rao Bikaji, son of Rao Jodha Singh, ruler of Jodhpur, was the founder of Bikaner. He left his father’s zone in 1465 and carved out his own territory, Bikaner, in the wild regions of the then called Jangladesh. Bikaji ki Tekri is his first humble attempt for a fort in the city. Now only this small fort and a part of the wall that surrounded the city remain. It is also not on the list of most tourists.
Laxminath Temple is one of the oldest temples in Bikaner. It is said that Rao Bika, the founder of Bikaner himself offered prayers here. The most exquisite artwork inside the temple besides the shrines is the doorway which is embellished in silver work. Photography is not allowed inside the premises.
This museum was established by Siddhi Kumari daughter of Late Maharaja Narendra Singhji of Bikaner in 2000, with a vision to preserve and showcase Bikaner’s rich cultural diversity. Siddhi Kumari’s endeavor is in line with the Bikaner Royal Family’s rich and glorious tradition of establishing institutions for public benefits.
This museum is inside Junagarh Fort and has separate ticket of INR 50 for Indians. This includes camera charges.
Laxmi Niwas Palace
Laxmi Niwas Palace, in my opinion, is a photographer’s delight. Every room in this 5 star hotel has hand-painted walls and is adequately furnished. This heritage hotel provides amenities like dressing tables, brass beds, bathtubs and shaving mirrors, each exuding an old-charm. Some of the movies are also shot here.
The Royal Cenotaphs
A little outside the city at Devikund sagar, the Royal Cenotaphs or the Chhatris were built for the royal family of Bikaner. Starting from the fourth king of Bikaner till the last king Narendra Singh ji … they all took their last journey to this place. Each one is beautiful and you can also see the cenotaphs have lovely stone carvings depicting the Royal art of stone work of Rajasthan.
Lalgarh Palace & Museum
Lalgarh Museum is in the Lalgarh complex. This is a private property in use by present Maharaja of Bikaner. A part of the palace is now a heritage hotel. Inside the museum one railway coach (meter gauge) used by Maharaja and their family members is kept at the entrance. Inside the museum there are displays of photos of events, paintings, garments used by Maharajas, gifts and several art and craft items. I loved the silk garments very much.
This is one art that surprised me a lot! I had seen a few paintings in Narendra Bhawan and when we visited Mr Ajmal Hussain Usta in his Workshop, we could join the dots. Usta art is a generic term used for the media of Naqqashi and Manoti art practiced by Usta artisans from the Bikaner. It is said to have originated in Persia and later came to India.
Usta art is the art of embossing with gold and meenakari (an art famous for gold jewelry in Rajasthan). We have written a detailed post on Usta Art Bikaner.
Read all about the Usta Art of Bikaner and how it is made.
We suggest, even if you do not wish to buy anything, do drop in to see his work.
Miniature art & paintings
Paintings and Rajasthan go hand in hand. Since childhood I always used to admire handmade paper greeting cards with miniature paintings on them. Little did I know, one day I would have a privilege to meet Mahaveer Swami, an award winning miniature painting artist, at his workshop. About him, the less said the better. Humble to the core, he is famous world over. As I write this, he is in Hong Kong for an exhibition. Do visit his workshop to learn more about it.
If you want to watch the sun go down in the desert with a glass of wine, and lilting folk music to arouse your rustic music sense, this is an experience made just for you. Our hosts took us in the middle of desert and pampered us with all the good things in the world.
This is one thing that we always try our hands …. errr mouths on! The local delicacies. The epic Kachauris, Gulkand milkshake (Vardhman is the best place), Ghewar, Rasgullas, and the ever famous Bikaneri bhujiya! You cannot complete your trip without feasting on these.
Shopping in Bikaner
If you ask us, what is famous in Bikaner for shopping then we have a long list. The city has all the colors of shopping opportunities. Bikaner is a place where the country’s best Kundan Jewelry is made. Bada bazar, Kote market, MG Road are a few markets where you can do your shopping.
Here you can shop for wooden antiques, colored dupattas and sarees, lacquer bangles, Mojaris (a kind of camel leather shoe in Bikaneri style), and camel leather wallets, Nokha Razai, and carpets. Beautiful souvenirs and miniature paintings are a few more things you may want to take home.
Among food items to carry home Ghewar, Bikaneri Bhujia, Kesar Pheni are the three most popular delicacies.
If you are a fan of having something to digest your food after a sumptuous meal, don’t forget to buy natural mouth fresheners, churans and suparis. Bikaner has a thriving business of processing supari. Head over to Supari Bazar lane in Bada Bazar of the old town area. The Gulabji Supari Center offers 300+ varieties. Things like anaardnaana, munakka, heeng and jeera golis dominate the market. But the favourites different flavors of suparis, including some exotic ones such as acacia gum (gond), and rasgulla supari.
What are famous things to eat in Bikaner?
The city of Bikaner is almost a desert town. Adorned with intriguing heritage sites, spectacular forts and magnificent havelis, Bikaner is famous for its mouth-watering delights too. The arid dry region has forced the local community to master the craft of transforming food as per the climatic conditions. So what to eat in Bikaner? Indulge in the best of dishes and savouries that Bikaner is famous for. Bikaneri bhujia, gatte ki sabzi, papad ki sabzi, laal maans, kesar pheni, Khasta, Raj Kachori are some of them.
Guided Tour of Bikaner
Since Bikaner has many things to see and experience, it is always advised to go with a tour operator or a tour curator to avoid missing on important activities.
Check out these guided tours while you are visiting Bikaner.
Book here your guided tour of Bikaner and nearby places as per your preferences.
Narendra Bhawan also curates two beautiful trails known as Merchant trail and the Royal trail. Merchant trail consists of all the grand Havelis which were built by various merchant families. The Royal trail takes us first to Bika ji ki Tekri where it all started. Then to all those places where the royal family used to pray, live and finally where the members were put to rest. We’ll write a dedicated post on these two trails. We highly recommend taking these trails with them.
Best time to visit Bikaner
Rajasthan is at its best during winters. So the best time to visit Bikaner is between October and March. December and January are the best months in our opinion. Plan your visit accordingly.
Where to stay in Bikaner or Places to stay in Bikaner
The Bikaner tourism is growing with time. There are many luxurious hotels in Bikaner and there are hotels to suit smaller pockets also. If you are looking for absolute luxury, there’s nothing grander than Laxmi Niwas Palace. Another gem is Narendra Bhawan, a decent place to stay and they also curate customized city tours on request.
How to reach Bikaner
Bikaner can be thought of a weekend getaway from Delhi and other parts of Rajasthan if you are short on time. In fact, you can also have just a few important places to visit in Bikaner in 1 day.
By air – Besides NAL airport at Bikaner, there are two airports nearby, Jodhpur and Jaipur, and a cab ride will take 4-6 hours to reach Bikaner.
By train – Bikaner is well connected to major cities like Delhi, Jaipur, Allahabad by train.
By road – The city is well connected by buses to all major cities of Rajasthan and Delhi.
FAQ on Bikaner
Why is Bikaner famous?
Bikaner is famous for its savory Bikaneri Bhujia as well as for its sweets. Bikaner also has its handicrafts, leather articles and the biggest camel farm of Asia. The city is known for its intricately carved jharokas which can be found on the windows of forts and havelis of rich people.
Why Bikaner is called Red city of India?
Bikaner has received the name Red City because of the Rampuria Havelis that are made of red sandstone. Built by 3 brothers who belonged to the wealthy Rampuria family, these 7 houses on the same streets are built with red dulmera stone.
Does Bikaner have an airport?
Bikaner has a domestic airport and an Indian Air Force Station.
How many days are enough to visit Bikaner?
Two days are sufficient to explore Bikaner. You can see the major attractions such as Gajner Palace, Junagarh Fort, Laxminath temple, Karni Mata temple, havelis, the royal cenotaphs etc. But we suggest at least 3 days if you wish to cover all that we have mentioned here in this article.
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