A mesmerising oasis nestled in the vast Thar Desert, Jaisalmer is one of Rajasthan’s crowning jewels. Channeling the echo of a regal time from long ago, this city exudes charm and a welcome reprieve from the frenetic pace of other cities in the state.
The fact Jaisalmer became a place of such importance in an age of royalty and wealth during the Rajput rule despite its hostile environment commands reverence. Its modern infamy lies in that it has the only live-in fort in the world.
Take a whole day to explore the narrow streets of the dominating Jaisalmer Fort. Locally known as Sonar Quila, upon entrance you will notice the distinct lack of traffic noise. With most rickshaws banned from entering the walls, it is nice to let the (almost) peace wash over you and set the mood for a day of laid back exploration.
In the morning take your chance to explore the Palace Museum. Make sure you take the audio tour to get a full understanding of the rich history within these walls.
Enjoy lunch on the roof top of Little Tibet restaurant which gives the best 360 views of the city. Enjoy putting your feet up while sampling the vegetarian momos and cool down with a fresh sweet lemon soda.
Once you’re feeling reinvigorated, it’s time to test your haggling skills at the many market stalls that sell everything from silk scarves, clothing, jewellery and artwork. The hospitality of the people from this city is renowned so take time to return a smile and chat to the locals.
Go on a journey of discovery through Jaisalmer’s spectacular barren desert surroundings. An overnight camel safari is the best way to experience the sheer expanse and beauty of the dunes. Camp under the stars and enjoy traditional cuisine while being entertained by local cultural performances which transport you to days of old through Indian folk music. Dropped into a place of complete solitude, it can invoke feelings of reflection.
Alternatively the more expensive overnight jeep safari is increasingly becoming a popular way to enjoy the desert experience. Designed for the more adventurous at heart, feel the wind in your hair as you careen over sand dunes at speed in special 4×4 open jeeps.
Travel tip: There is an abundance of tour operators offering package deals at the ‘best price in Jaisalmer’ so it’s best to do your homework first so you find a reputable company as comfort and service levels can vary greatly.
Enjoy a leisurely return from your camp and take in the sights of the desert in the morning light. Use midday as a chance for a nap or to sip a chai in a shady spot to escape the heat and reminisce about the sights seen on the desert safari.
In the evening, why not check out a local Bollywood blockbuster at the local cinema. An interesting experience, the ‘complex’ is a dilapidated old warehouse where you can pay a mere 25 rupees for local seating or 100 rupees for the balcony couches. Pay no heed that it is all in Hindi, it’s amazing how much you can still understand and be drawn into the dramatic storylines.
On your final day in Jaisalmer, it’s time to hire a driver to take you around to appreciate the impressive heritage and architecture which lies just outside of the fort walls.
Renowned for its striking havelis, used as places of residence for ministers and landlords, they will give you an appreciation for the fine nuances of Islamic architecture. In the morning, spend time exploring the wide open spaces of Salim ji ki haveli and Nathmal ji ki haveli.
Bada Bagh, which literally translates to Big Garden, is a large garden complex located 6 km north of Jaisalmer. This Bagh is home to the royal cenotaphs.
A visit to Lodurva, the old capital of the Bhatti dynasty until it moved to Jaisalmer in 1156AD, should be your next destination. Located 15km outside of the city, take time to enjoy the Jain Temple which was destroyed in 1152 AD but rebuilt in the 1970s.
The Akal Fossil Park will give you a fascinating glimpse into the prehistoric geology of the region where 10sq km is covered in fossilised trees from 180 million years ago.
Finish the day at Amar Sagar Lake, a picturesque spot which lies in from the of 17th century Amar Singh palace, a five story high haveli. The perfect spot to watch dusk settle in for the day.