The Princess Trails in Rajasthan, India offers active travelers a unique luxury horse safari experience. In the post COVID-19 world this novel travel adventure should be on your bucket list.
The Princess Trails
I love riding horses, and have long had a fascination with India. So when my Indian-born and US-bred friends, Rupi Puri and his wife Kusum Gaind, invited us to join a group on The Princess Trails, riding safari in Rajasthan, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
A Noble Horse Family of India
Flying in to Delhi, we transferred to Udaipur, the home of The Princess Trails, where we were welcomed by our hosts. The Princess Trails were founded by members of the noble family of Boheda Shaktwat, Virendra Singh Shaktawat, and his wife Ute. After a beautiful welcome ceremony we were introduced to our horses. These horses are direct descendants of Chetak and the former warhorses of the Maharajas. The Marwari horses of Northern India have very distinctive ears. They are curved inwards in a lyre-shape, making them unique and easily recognizable.
The start of the horse safari
I was partnered with Kirti (pictured above). She is a magnificent dark bay Marwari mare with a very spirited character. Her name in Hindu means fame, and she certainly lived up to it on our journey together.
Shiv Niwas Palace
That evening, we stayed at the famous Shiv Niwas Palace in Udaipur. The last Maharana of Udaipur, Bhagat Singhji of Mewar, converted parts of this huge palace complex into a luxurious heritage hotel after India became independent.
The city of poets, writers and painters
Founded in 1567, Udaipur is the former capital of the princely state of Mewar. It is situated on the shore of two lakes – Lake Pichola and Fateh Sagar and is also known as Venice of the East. The old city is a glorious labyrinth of narrow lanes, old havelis, palaces and temples.
It’s also one of the most romantic towns in India. Countless poets, writers and painters were and still are inspired by its white splendor.
Discovering Northern India on horseback
We set off early the next morning and headed for the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s one of the last homes of the Indian wolf as well as leopards and bears. We didn’t see any of these wild animals during the day as they’re mainly night active and prefer to sleep during the day. However, we were fortunate to see Chetal, Indian spotted deer, Nilgai antelopes as well as Indian gazelles. This area is a bird watchers paradise. The Aravalli Mountains are abundant with bird life and more than 250 species. We probably saw at least 100 different birds during our journey.
Throughout this part of our journey I was enchanted by the many small villages, the Ranakpur Valley is brimming with warmth. As we rode through we were greeted with smiles, curiosity, but always generosity. This despite the locals’ humble existence.
I am sure the sight of Europeans on horseback in the middle of nowhere was a curiosity. I loved greeting the villagers dressed in bright colors and enjoyed the beautiful, soft-eyed children running next to us. Always clapping or cheering us on our way.
A stone’s throw away from the Jain temple, we came to rest at the impressive Heritage Hotel Fateh Bagh. This is where we took great delight in posing next to the vintage Ford parked in front of the hotel. It was like we had found ourselves in a place where time had stood still for many years.
Luxury historic accommodation
After another good night’s rest, we headed through the serene Ranakpur Valley. Making our way down to the Rajasthani Bagar which is the fringe area between the hills and the Thar Desert in the North-West. Our horse safari took us over open plains dotted with small villages and little fields, where we found paradise at Rawla Narlai, the small hamlet of Narlai.
Rest, ride, spa, eat, repeat
After three days of riding, we were ecstatic to find that this beautiful fort converted now to a hotel had its own spa and massage therapists. Of course, we lost no time and spent the late afternoon resting on a traditional day bed, enjoying the beautiful sunset. The fort is globally renowned for its location and hospitality, I’d recommend a trip to India just to experience the magnificent Rawla Narlai.
Horse safari in nature
The last day of our safari took us towards Rajasthani Bagar and the open and arid plains of Northern India. The sandy terrain meant we were able to pick up speed and canter, which we did with gusto and enjoyment. Our final destination was the small town of Jojawar and the Rawla Jojawar.
I have to admit, this last leg was an emotional ride for me. It signalled the end of our time on The Princess Trails and of course my time with Kirti.
A memorable horse safari experience
I will never forget this journey. The incredible oneness of nature with our riding companions and my horse, Kirti. I will always savor the unique moments we shared together. It was not easy to bid farewell to this wonderful animal who had been my horse safari companion.
The incredible Taj Mahal
After we finished our horse safari and left our horses, we headed off to Jaipur, then Agra to see the extraordinary Taj Mahal. Then we ended our journey in Delhi with friends to experience Diwali.
In the end
Along the way we stayed in Oberoi hotels with hospitality and service that is nothing short of perfection, and that’s a story all on its own. But this horse safari in the heart of beautiful India remains the most unforgettable journey for the mind, body and soul.
My article originally appeared in ELLE, South Africa. This was well before the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to travel restrictions globally, tourism in India has been badly impacted by the COVID-19 virus, placing companies like the Princess Trails under huge pressure. I have re-published this article to raise awareness for this amazing adventure. If you would like to support them, then book your horse safari trip in advance. If you are unable to travel, you can buy their collectable 2021 calendar featuring the magnificent Marwari horses. For more information visit The Princess Trails website or email: email@example.com
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