Rajasthan is a must-visit for anyone planning a gap year in India. The state is pretty well known for its abundance of wildlife, but its main attraction is the many historical palaces, forts and other properties that tell the fascinating story of the region's royal past.
Amber Fort, Jaipur
Also known as Amer Fort, this impressive structure can be found 11 km from Jaipur and is one of the most stunning buildings in Rajasthan. Built from white marble and sandstone near Maota Lake in 1592, the fort combines Mughal and Hindu architecture and is filled with a wealth of treasures.
Points of interest include the elaborate wall paintings set with gemstones and mirrors, the intricate Ganesh Gate, the Baradhari pavilion and several scenic gardens.
Bundi Palace, Bundi
Bundi itself is a historical attraction in its own right; very little of modern life intrudes on this collection of decades and centuries-old buildings separated by a network of winding backstreets.
However, the palace overlooking the town is worth the trip alone. Dilapidated as it is, Bundi Palace is filled with noteworthy sights, particularly the Chitra Shala gallery, where you can examine works from the Bundi art movement that began in the 17th century and continued for another 200 years or so.
While you're in Bundi, make an excursion to the sukh mahal - or small palace - on the outskirts of town that Rudyard Kipling stayed in while writing Kim.
Junagarh Fortress, Bikaner
Built in 1593, Junagarh Fortress has - quite impressively - never been conquered. It's easy to see just why this is so, as the building is surrounded by a moat and further fortified with some huge walls.
There are several points of interest inside the fortress, including the Suraj Pol - or sun gate - and several individual palaces constructed from red sandstone and white marble, much like Jaipur's Amber Fort. The onsite museum also provides an excellent explanation of the building's history.
City Palace, Jaipur
This is the Pink City's most popular historical attraction. The reason why will become obvious when you go to visit it yourself; from the elephants flanking the entrance gate to the impressive Diwan-E-Aam audience hall, everything about the City Palace points to a glittering past as a royal residence.
Just a few of the other highlights include the seven-storey Chandra Mahal, which is packed with all kinds of artistic treasures, and the Maharani Palace, which now houses a weapons museum but was once the private quarters of Rajasthan's queens.
Don't miss the art gallery, where you can see a host of ultra-rare astronomical texts and images in Latin, Persian and other languages that were collected by Jaipur founder Jai Singh to fuel his passion for the stars.
City Palace, Udaipur
This stunning lakeside palace is now a wonderfully luxurious hotel, but it can still be visited as you tour Rajasthan's top historic sites.
Built in the mid-16th century, Udaipur's City Palace combines Mughal and traditional Rajasthani architectural styles to create a visually arresting spectacle. It is actually a complex comprising several smaller palaces, each of which has something interesting for visitors to see.
Highlights include the Garden Palace - Badi Mahal - and the square of Mor Chawk, which is also informally known as the peacock square due to the spectacular glass mosaic peacock that adorns one of its sides.