The desert state of Rajasthan, among its many forts, palaces, aravalli mountains, sand dunes and havelis also has the lone ‘hill station’ of Mount Abu. Reading about Mount Abu in the geography textbooks in school, I was fascinated by the idea of a hill station in the dry desert state of Rajasthan and wondered how it would look like. I so wanted to visit it and on our 8 day family road trip through Rajasthan this winter, I finally visited Mount Abu. It was a bittersweet experience and I came away with mixed feelings.
The hill station of Mount Abu is located in Sirohi district of Rajasthan and borders with Gujarat. Driving in from Udaipur via Ranakpur and Kumbhalgarh (which we took detours for a day trip), we were a bit flummoxed when the ‘hills’ did not appear even when only 70 odd kilometres were remaining to reach Mount Abu. Then, suddenly the ascent to the hills started and what a steep curved road it was (our baby vomited once while going up the hill road). We had booked a home stay “Forest Eco Lodge’ which was located at a vantage location, just after entering the municipal limits of the Mount Abu town but tucked away into the forest area.
Our stay at Forest Eco Lodge was one of the highlights of this trip to Mount Abu; run by a friendly Gujarati family of 3, it has pretty rooms and wooden chalets. The rooms are neat & clean, the staff is friendly and they have dogs which love to play around with guests. The views from the homestay (especially chalets) are pretty, looking out into the aravalli forests. On the first day, we opted to relax and enjoy the views and the staff put out a bonfire separately for us (there was another group of guests and they had their own bonfire).
The next morning, with guidance from our homestay hosts, we first visited the Brahmakumaris headquarters (a spiritual community) on the husband’s insistence (frankly it was disappointing). We then headed to the world famous Dilwara Jain Temples, renowned for their stunning marble work.
The Dilwara temples open for visitors at 12 pm and we reached a little bit before that, making us the first group to enter the temples. Photography is strictly prohibited inside the Dilwara Jain Temples and the priests of the temple take a group of 20 people in one batch for a guided tour, explaining the various marble works and the temples, after which one is free to roam around inside the temple complex. There is no fees to enter the temple, however, generally people offer donation to the priests for the guided tour.
The Dilwara temples were stunning, the marble work so intricate that at times it looked like a painting. For me it was another childhood travel wishlist fulfilled and all the curiosity built over the years coming to a sweet end (you know that feeling of achievement when what you have been wanting for a long time gets fulfilled). However, coming out of the temple, we were met by crowds and we found it too congested for our liking. We spent some time at the shops in front of the temple (mostly to pacify our kid and also do some souvenir shopping) and then headed to Guru Shikhar.
Moments in front of Dilwara Jain Temples
The moment we landed in Guru Shikhar parking lot, we were besieged by touts who wanted us to take the ‘palki’ (carrier) to go up the hill top of Guru Shikhar. It took us half an hour to get rid of them!
Anyways, the husband wasn’t quite keen to go up the hill top (not because it was steep – it wasn’t, but seeing so much crowd). We strolled into one of the food outlets and had a leisurely lunch, dilly dallying on whether to go all the way up. Finally, it was decided that I will go up, take pics and come back, while the husband will spend time with the kid. The walk up to Guru Shikhar is quite easy (I mean if you compare it to the climb to Vaishno Devi, it’s a walk in the park actually), but quite boring as its lined with shops and vendors trying to entice the visitors (I find it quite irritating).
The views from top of Guru Shikar are lovely though, but again too much people taking too many photos and selfies kind of takes away from the experience. By the time we finished off with our visit to Guru Shikhar, it was late noon and we decided that we shall go to the main market of Mount Abu, where Nakki Laki is also located, do a bit of shopping and eat out, before heading back to our homestay.
Nakki Lake was a nightmare to say lightly. It was crawling with people and completely filled with nonsensical activities. We spent only about 5 minutes there before heading back to the market area. We went into the Khaadi store and bought some nice ethnic stuff.
Tip – The Khaadi store here has some of the most interesting things, but looks a bit run down from outside, so please take the effort to go in here inspite of its looks and you will find lot of nice stuff to take home. Its certainly much better than the other fancy shops here.
We headed back to our homestay for a quiet evening and absolutely loved the views of the sunset. We spent a nice evening with the hosts, chatting over our visit here and they graciously showed us the chalet rooms (we had booked the normal rooms), told us stories about their wildlife encounters here and our experiences of the rajasthan road trip till now.
Mount Abu turned out to be disappointing for me overall and I wished, in fact, that I had not come here. That way, my childhood fascination for the only ‘hill station’ of Rajasthan would have not turned into the disappointment that I faced…sometimes its best that childhood fascinations remain as such.