Bikaner is a vibrant, dust-swirling desert town with a fabulous fort and an energising outpost feel. It’s less dominated by tourism than many other Rajasthan cities, though it has plenty of hotels and a busy camel-safari scene, which is attracting more and more travellers looking to avoid the Jaisalmer hustle. Bikaner’s atmospheric walled old city sits in what’s now the southwest of the city, with the main train station (Bikaner Junction) and Junagarh fort to its northeast, in what’s more or less the centre of town. The northern parts of town are more modern, with wider, straighter streets.
Few people come to Bikaner without taking a trip out to the notorious Karni Mata Temple at Deshnok, 30km south, where pilgrims worship thousands of holy rats. Less Brothers Grimm, but still fairy tale, is the small temple town of Kolayat, with its holy lake and religious fair, 51km to the southwest.
Around the full moon in January or very late December, Bikaner celebrates its three-day Camel Festival, with one day of events at the Karni Singh Stadium and two days out at Ladera, 45km northeast of the city.