Outside of Delhi, India several hours lies this small but rather bustling town. A stopping point for travelers between Delhi and Bikaner, Mandawa is an up and coming new tourist attraction thanks to it’s numerous beautifully painted Havelis.
My travel partner and I arrived in the late afternoon which did not leave much time to see these remarkable buildings in good sunlight. Our hotel, Castle Mandawa, arranged for a local guide. This young man was very eager and passionate to show us the town via an impromptu walking tour. Wear comfortable shoes you don’t mind getting dusty and taking off numerous times when entering the havelis.
As we walked through the town we found most of the havelis were nothing more than a shell of their former life. Learning that there is a push to restore these stunning paintings, and subsequently the buildings themselves, helped to curb my distress with their current conditions. Our guide was happy to hunt down the present occupants at several havelis to ask permission to enter. Some of the buildings are owned by absentee landlords who either rent to locals or have caretakers in place while others are filled with nothing more than squatters. We were encouraged to make small donations at some of the homes.
We did not encounter any other tourists during our haveli tour. However, the hotel was full of older tourists bussed in who either saw the sights earlier or arrived while we were out walking and just staying over on a longer final destination. The lack of more tourists during high season possibly was due to Mandawa being a relatively unknown spot. Since my stay here the guide books have picked up on this location and it appears more options for hotels have become available.
The next morning we woke up early hoping to walk the town before the traffic and locals crowded the streets. Success! we found empty streets with the exception of some motivated merchants sweeping in front of their shops allowing us time to snap some more shots.
Along the road back to the hotel we caught a family saying goodbye to one of their own as the bus pulled up and swept them off to destination unknown. Their sad feelings were changed in a blink as they saw us walking toward them. While the family moved back into their home, two sisters stopped so we could take their pic. Afterward they invited us in for tea. We declined but looking back I wish we had said yes.
Mandawa is one of around 30 towns with similar painted Havelis and buildings in this area known as the Shekhawati region. You don’t need more than half a day to properly see this town.. Stay in Mandawa for the most choices in hotels and food in this region.
Bus Service: Yes
Rail Service: Jhunjihunu Terminal
Eat: Castle Mandawa
Stay: Castle Mandawa