It is said that if you want to explore the traditional cultural of Rajasthan, head straightaway to Jaisalmer. And this indeed is the best advice. The city of Jaisalmer has successfully preserved and revived its traditional art and culture. The colourful Bandhani Lahengas, paghdis (turbans), most expressive puppets and tinkling ornaments, make this a cultural paradise. There can never be enough description about the architecture on this city that has a magic to leave each one awestruck. Here is the list of things to do in Jaisalmer, so that you don’t miss out the best part of it.
The Golden Fort of the Golden City – Jaisalmer Fort
This is one of the forts which did not fall prey to British conspiracy and thus, it is still occupied by the families of the then residents. Named after Raja Jaisal, who built it, the fort is Famous as the Golden Fort or ‘Sonar Quila’ as it resembles the golden grains of Thar Desert. The architecture is certainly like a gold ornament beautifying the golden city of Rajasthan. The Fort occupies museums, shops, jain temple, the old palace which exhibits the royal families’ belongings and a view-point that gives you a stunning panoramic view of the whole city. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013.
- Closing Time: Its open 24 x 7
- Location: At the centre of the city. Sharing Rickshaws and taxis are always available from the bus stop/railway station
- Enjoy the city view from the fort by climbing up the stairs in front of the museum.
- Sharing taxies from the railway station drops you right at the centre of the fort. (20 INR)
Meet Dr. Bhaang
Just outside the fort is a Govt. authorized Bhaang Shop which sells bhang (an intoxicating weed) lassi, chhach, cookies and sweets. Bhaang is considered to be a healing weed. It was used in ancient India as pain-killer and as a medicine to a number of ailment. It induces sleeping state and thus gives a healing break to the body.
- Location: Outside the Fort along the main lane
- Contact No: 09571825008
Jain Temples – When Religion meets the Art and Architecture
Dedicated to two of the most venerated Jain Tirthankara, Sambhavnath Swami and Rishabhdev Swami, these temple are excellent specimen of Jain architecture. The outer wall colour of the temples is golden, to match with the uniformity of golden houses in the fort. The interior resembles to the marble carvings at Dilwara Temple of Mt. Abu. The carving mostly consists of the animals related to both the Tirthankara and other flora and fauna. The temple has strict rules regarding the outfits and cameras. Thus, don’t forget to keep the rules in mind.
- Location: Inside the fort
- Time: Early morning till 12 pm
Patwaon ki Haveli – Witness the Forgotten Lifestyle of the Rich
This is the most beautiful of all the havelies of Jaisalmer. `It is a cluster of total five havelies out of which a few are converted into museums showcasing the garments, vessels, ornaments and other beautiful belongings of the rich merchant, Patwa ji. He was a merchant dealing with silver and golden brocade and had grown so rich that he built separate glorious havelies for all his five sons.
The interior at the entrance of the main haveli is an absolute beauty with shining mirror work all over. The havelies have a number of ‘jharokhas’ or balconies with intricate carvings and is the heaven for the photographer, architecture lovers and posers ;).
It is advisable to hire a guide or opt for an audio guide for the better understanding of each part of the haveli. The lane leading to this haveli is also quite beautiful with haveli style carvings on even the small golden houses along the way.
Do not miss to click a portrait in Rajasthani attire in the Patwa Complex.
- Entry Fees: Rs. 75
- Time: 10 am to 6 pm
- Location: A few miles from the fort.
- Audio guide or a guide should be preferred in the havelies
- Don’t forget to try the Rajasthani dressing and get yourself clicked with the backdrop of this beautiful Haveli.
- Don’t forget to bargain for the same
- Don’t fall for anyone luring you to see their haveli. (Each finely decorated house in Jaisalmer looks like a haveli and the people might fool you for money)
Nathmal ki Haveli – An Architectural Blunder
It is the house of the diwan of Jaisalmer, named Mohota Nathmal. He was the Prime Minister of Jaisalmer. The famous story connected to this haveli is about the two architect brothers who started building the two different parts of the haveli simultaneously. Thus, if observed carefully, the irregularity in the shapes can be seen. The two huge elephants at the entrance gives it a royal look. Apart from this, the carvings and paintings on the pillars are also notable. It is believed that the painters had never seen the amenities like cars and fans as painted on the walls. They drew it just by following the instructions of the people who has seen it.
- Time: 8 am to 6 pm
- Location: A few miles from the fort.
- Entry fee: N/A
Hotel Mandir Palace – Stay like a King
This palace converted into hotel is now famous as Hotel Mandir Palace. The hotel also includes galleries and museums which are open to the visitors. The temple premise is also open to all the visitors from where one can observe the intricate carvings on the palace walls. The Hotel and the restaurant area are restricted for the public. The palace is the current residence of the royal family.
The most famous architecture in the palace is the ‘Tazia’ tower built by a muslim architect of the city who moved to Pakistan after the partition. The ‘Tazia’ tower has a number of intricately carved balconies which are so beautiful that it has become the face of Jaisalmer tourism.
Nachna Haveli – Dine like a King
On the road towards the forts lies a beautiful haveli to give you a royal dining experience. The restaurant is named as Saffron restaurant which has a terrace area that gives you the beautiful night view of the ‘Tazia’ tower and the terrace of Mandir Palace. Sipping on a cup of coffee as the sky turns deep orange creating a magical effect on the Golden City is an experience of a life time.
The Royal Palace – The Abandoned Royal Resident
Located inside the fort premise at dussera chowk, the palace was the old residence of the royal family. The museum inside the palace exhibits the attires, palanquins, lavish beds and other things used by the royal family. The palace also has the gold idol of goddess Parvati which is taken in a procession to Shiva temple in Gadisar Lake during a ‘Gaur’ festival. The idol is kept under 24 hours protection and is taken out only for the procession.
Roaming around in the balconies meant for the ladies of the royal family, from where they could see all the festivities going on in Dussera Chowk, gives you a royal feel. The king used to sit on the marble seat placed on the huge stairs outside the palace and from there , he gave required commands to the attendants.
- Time: 8 am to 6 pm
- Location: At the entrance of the fort area, Dussera Chowk
Gadisar Lake – The Precious Heritage
Gadisar lake is named after Rawal Gadsi Singh who had built it during his rule. The lake has two beautiful towers right in its centre which can be reached by boat. The towers were may be used for bird watching as many migratory birds can be seen in the lake area. The lake area has a number of small temples and houses with lake view. You can request the residents to get access to their terraces from where one can have an amazing panoramic view of the lake.
Boating activity is open in evenings. One can also feed the dough sold in the premise to the fishes in the lake. The lake area is beautifully lit up during the night, which is a not to miss view. The sturdy entrance gate of the lake called ‘Tilon ki Gate’ looks all the more royal with the lighting effects.
- Time: Accessibility 24×7
- Location: A few miles from Mandir Palace, Sharing autos are available from the fountain square outside mandir palace.
- Entry fee: N/A
- If you request the house owners on the bank of the lake, they might let you in and you can have an ariel view of the lake from their terrace.
- The lake turns all the more beautiful at dusk/dawn.
- If you are a painter or has paiting skills, you can actually create an amazing picture of the lake. So, don’t forget to carry your sketchbook and colors.
Sam or Khudi Dunes – Camping on the Bed of Golden Granules
The vast ocean of golden sand shining brightly in the sun light, is our imagination when somebody mentions ‘Thar Desert’. And that is what you witness at Sam Dunes. Hundreds of people gathered to enjoy the fine sand beneath their feet and the camel riders waiting for the customers, is my first impression of Sam dunes. It really becomes a crowded place during peak seasons. But, if you trek a little further in the evening, you can enjoy a serene evening with an enchanting view of sun painting the sky red as it bids adieu for the day.
After the wonderful view, you can enjoy the cultural program of Rajasthani folk music and dance in the camps set up at Sam. You can pre-book the camps and the tents of your choice in the city itself. There are many dealers and package providers who will give you the best deal if you have the art of bargaining. Especially during the off-season the charges are most reasonable.
Khudi dunes are not so frequented as Sam dune and thus it can provide the secluded experience of sleeping under the star studded sky. You can find many dealers who can take you to Khudi dunes right outside the Fort.
Alert!!!! The guides at Sam Dune deceive the travelers by promising of showing India-Pakistan Border which is actually just the fence put up by the forest department. Be aware of such fraudsters plotting to drain out money from your pockets. The border is actually located near Tanot located 120 km from Jaisalmer.
Location: 40 kilometers (45 minutes) away from Jaisalmer which can either be reached by sharing autos/ local buses or private taxis.
Try the Desert Adventure
You can indulge in various adventure and sports activities like dune bashing, parasailing, paramotoring, jeep safari or biking in the fine sand of the desert. Do try to bargain as the prices are not fixed and it might depend on demand-supply rule. The prices are tend to be more during peak season and time. During off season you might get successful in cracking the best deal.
Visit The Ghost Town
Abandoned by the locals to save themselves from the wrath and cruelty of Salim Singh, the Deewan of Jaisalmer, this city was once the lively abode of Paliwal Brahmins. As per the legend, Salim Singh wanted the beautiful daughter of the head of the village by hook or crook. In order to fulfill his lustful desires, he threatened the villagers that he would levy heavy taxes and thus, would make their life hell. The general meeting of the group of villages of Paliwals was immediately held and the villagers flew overnight leaving the town cursed. Nobody knows how much truth does the story hold, but it makes the people believe in it as no soul has been able to survive in the town till the date. Those who have tried to stay there after evening narrate their spooky experience of being troubled by some grey translucent figures at night.
Currently the remains of Kuldhara are well maintained by the Archeological survey of India and is a beautiful site to admire. Though it feels sad to see such a lovely place being lonely and abandoned, it has its own charm. The place must be visited personally to experience what cannot be described in words.
Location: 21 kilometers (30 minutes) away from the Jaisalmer which can either be reached by sharing autos/ local buses or private taxis.
How to reach Jaisalmer
- By Road: It is well-connected through roadways with major cities like Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Agra.
- By rail: Direct trains from Delhi to Jaisalmer runs frequently, weekly trains run from Mumbai.
- By Air: The nearest air port is in Jodhpur City (275 km) and regular trains and buses and trains ply from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer.
Best Time to Visit: October to March when the climate is cold/pleasant. Avoid visiting it during summers (April to June). Though September is a good time to visit as the city isn’t crowded much during this month, it can get a little hot during the noon time.
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