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 attracts travellers looking to avoid the Jaisalmer hustle.
The ancient Thar Desert town of Osian, 65km north of Jodhpur, was an important trading centre between the 8th and 12th centuries. Known as Upkeshpur, it was dominated by the Jains, whose wealth left a legacy of exquisitely sculpted, well-preserved temples. The Mahavira Temple surrounds an image of the 24th tirthankar (great Jain teacher), formed from sand and milk.
Kichan & Phalodi
Mornings and afternoons in the winter months see huge flocks of graceful demoiselle cranes flock to the tiny village of Kichan. The village is 5km east of Phalodi, a town at the junction of roads from Jodhpur (135km), Jaisalmer (165km), Bikaner (168km) and Nagaur (130km), and is a destination of long-distance camel treks from Bikaner.
Rohet Garh, in Rohet village, 40km south of Jodhpur on the Pali road, is one of the area’s most appealing heritage hotels. This 350-year-old, lovingly tended manor has masses of character and a tranquil atmosphere, which obviously helped Bruce Chatwin when he wrote The Songlines here, and William Dalrymple when he began City of Djinns in the same room, No 15.
The Bhati Rajput capital before Jaisalmer, the deserted ruins of Lodhruva are 17km northwest of Jaisalmer and 10km beyond Amar Sagar. Lodhruva (also spelt Ludarva and several other variations) was probably founded by the Lodra Rajputs, and passed to Bhati Devaraja, ruler of Devagarh, in the 10th century.