Why I fell in love with magical Pushkar, India

The view from our terrace
Our arrival in Pushkar was one of the most intimidating, scary moments of our whole trip.

We booked a taxi to take us from Jaipur on what should have been an easy three-hour journey but it just happened to be the last day of Pushkar's annual camel fair. When we realised our dates overlapped with the fair we didn't think much of it, hoping to cruise in a few hours before the end, see a couple of camels and get some Gram-able pictures. We should have done more research...

As we got closer to the small town the traffic got worse and worse until we were at a total standstill. Our car didn't move for two hours while a constant stream of Rajisthani villagers, women wearing traditional saris and nose rings, men with machetes, farmers leading camels or horses and hawkers selling sugar cane surged past us. We peered out of the windows as our driver Imran told us that around 200,000 people come to this famous event every year. We'd got it wrong. This wasn't just a fair, it was camel Glastonbury.

Tension started to build in the car as Jack, Imran and I sat in silence, unable to move with so many people blocking us in and banging on the doors. A young woman draped in glittering red saw me in the back, screamed and grabbed her friends, who flattened their noses on the windows and shouted "hello! hello!" It was just meant to be friendly but made me feel like Free Willy when he's in the aquarium.

Pushkar streets once the camel fair was over
Just when I thought I couldn't feel any more claustrophobic, Imran turned around nervously and said he was sorry, the police had shut the road and we would have to walk the final 2km. I know that doesn't sound far now, but wedged between so many people, my blonde hair hidden under a scarf and heavy backpack on, it felt like miles. We pored with sweat while trying to stay unnoticed and Jack navigated the way through the madness with Google maps. Some boys next to us started a fight, women pinched my arms (it's actually a sign of affection) and we got lost a few times.

Half an hour of pushing, shoving, dipping and diving later we fell through the door of our beautiful (if slightly crumbling) guesthouse and Meera welcomed us with a big smile and sweet chai tea. She showed us to our clean, cosy room with its own little terrace and the view took my breath away. We could see the sacred lake, encircled by temples and bustling bathing ghats which were alive with colour, voices, gongs, chanting and cows. Mountains on the horizon turned the sky a dusty blue and birds swooped in every direction. I fell in love with Pushkar instantly.

FaceTiming home 
We spent our time playing cards while watching monkeys skip across the rooftops and throngs of pilgrims come to the lake to wash clothes or take a dip in the holy water. The spiritual atmosphere was captivating. At sunset, families gathered outside the temples to sing and light floating candles. One morning I was woken by the sound of women in colourful saris singing as they plaited each other's hair on the steps. Pushkar was a much calmer place (I mean calm for India) once the fair was over.

We also had some of the best food in Pushkar. At Honey & Spice cafe (my favourite cafe in all of India) I tucked in to homemade granola with toasted grains, nuts and figs served with yogurt, banana, papaya and pomegranate... pure breakfast heaven, especially with a cup of spicy, fresh lemongrass tea.

The best breakfast at my favourite cafe, Honey & Spice
For dinner, we had an incredible cashew nut curry with fresh naan, sticky fried aubergines, a navratan korma (meaning "nine jewels", it's made with banana, pineapple, nuts and vegetables – sounds weird, tastes amazing) and a secret beer, given to us in a plastic bag, at Raaju Garden Roof Terrace.

At chill-out spot Nirvana cafe I had a cup of chai so good that it set the standard for all other chai teas. Sweet, milky and fragrantly spiced with cardamom, cloves and black peppercorns. After not much convincing we tackled Hello To The Queen, a huge, mysteriously-named dessert made with bananas, crushed cookies, ice cream and a drowning of chocolate sauce – like a next-level banoffee pie.

We had four nights to soak up the magical atmosphere of Pushkar and I think that was the perfect amount of time. The journey in might have been really overwhelming but I forgot about it almost instantly and Pushkar still remains one of my favourite places in India.

Stay: Bharatpur Palace, £14 a night, we had room no.1
Eat: Honey and Spice cafe, Raaju Garden Roof Terrace and Nirvana Cafe

Watching the floating candles at sunset


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