Being an Indian, I think I am quite accustomed to the diversity that India has to offer. Each province, state, city and sometimes even different corners of the same city can leave you surprised. As far as you have an open heart, mind and arms to embrace the variety, this country will leave no chance to woo you. And I experience this emotion deeply every time I visit new places. In less than 75 hours, Jaisalmer drowned me in its golden magic. The spell, however, lasted for a much longer time. Now here I am, still spellbound, writing about one of the best trips of my adult life.
Located at the western edge of our country, near the Pakistan border is the city of Jaisalmer (state – Rajasthan). The city was founded by king Jaisal (hence the name) in the heart of the Thar Desert and is also known as The Golden City cos for as far as you look, all you will see is yellow sandstone buildings, desert and arid landscape with little vegetation.
Planning you trip:
In my opinion, its good to have some 2-4 days in your hands to plan a trip to The Golden City. (Of course, you will need more days if you are travelling by train). Jaisalmer is well connected to many major cities by air, train and road routes and getting there mostly shouldn’t be a problem.
Note: I was putting up at Club Mahindra, which is about a few miles away from the city and every morning and evening, I had to commute back and forth to my hotel. Although staying away from the city is quite peaceful, I’d definitely suggest you to book some place in the city itself to cut on the transport cost and time and to enjoy the night view of the fort. There are plenty of accommodation options for all budgets in the city.
The best time to visit Jaisalmer would definitely be in winter, as it gets insanely hot in summer. However, that also means winter is the peak tourist season and the entire city is flocked with tourists and hiked up prices. You can also consider visiting Jaisalmer just before or after winter like I did. I planned my trip during Holi (March) and the weather was quite pleasant (just got a little hot in the noon hours) with bearable amount of tourists. In addition, I was super excited to celebrate the festival of colours in Rajasthan (a tick on my bucket list).
Jaisalmer is like a kaleidoscope of heritage buildings and colourful markets. The local people are very warm and always ready to help you. Penning down the best things to do and see in the city below:
1. Explore the most unique landmark of the city:
Toping my list is obviously the Jaisalmer Fort, one of the very few still living forts across the world and the only one of its kinds in India. The cobbled streets of the fort bustling with vendors selling antique items at every step will keep you amazed. The King and Queen’s Palace, the Jain temples, Dusshera Chowk, Laxminath Temple, the canon point, etc. are some of the few attractions within the fort.
I was specifically very attracted to the lifestyle of the people still staying inside the fort. And being true to my nature of exploring, I had to stay inside the fort to feel like a part of the fairy tale myself.
2. Visit the heritage residential buildings – HAVELIS
At every step, corner and nukkad, Jaisalmer is full of ornate buildings and houses on either sides of the narrow alleyways. The intricate carving details done on the stone is insane and the lurker inside me just couldn’t not fall in love with them. When in the Golden city, don’t miss to visit the Kothari-Patwaon ki Haveli (from the inside), Salam Singh ki Haveli and Nathmal ki Haveli.
3. Enjoy the most spectacular sunset over the sand dunes
As they say, when in Rome, do as Romans. Similarly, when in Jaisalmer, how can someone miss watching the sunset over the sand dunes? Sand dunes particularly present only in this part of the country are a must visit.
You can opt for an evening safari or an overnight camping package in the desert depending upon your convenience. An evening safari would include a camel ride to the sunset point and back, a traditional Rajasthani dinner at the campsite with an evening full of Rajathani folk dance and music.
4. Opt for some adventure sports in the desert
If you are an adrenaline junkie, go for some dune bashing or parasailing in Khuri or Sam sand dunes. There are many agents in the city as well as authentic portals on the internet that can hook you up with various activities during your visit/stay at the dunes. I booked my Desert Safari through Thrillophilia and the experience was pleasant. Some bargaining skills will always help while travelling in India.
5. Go camping with stars above your head and sand beneath your feet
Finally, the best part and something that I would highly recommend is to go camping/glamping in the dunes. Suiting your budget and comfort, various options for staying in the dunes are available. The whole experience of stargazing in the mostly clear skies is mesmerizing. Also, don’t forget to pack a thin cover up/cardigan as it surprisingly gets chilly in the night (even in summers).
6. Taste the royal life
This is not a must do point but sometimes its okay to indulge in some luxury and self-pampering. Take an evening off and enjoy some luxury dinner spread in one of the many palace hotels across the city. Many people suggested me to dine at Suryagarh and must I say; it was one hell of an experience.
7. Visit other important landmarks in the city
This list would include Gadisar lake, Bada Bagh cenotaphs, sunset point, The Museum of cultural history and Kuldhara village.
8. Indulge in some shopping
There are many antique shops in the fort as well as outside. Many people indulge in buying camel leather and camel wool products but I am almost a vegan and wouldn’t advocate them. I’d rather suggest you take a dig at the intricate handicraft products like handwoven bed sheets and quilts that are locally made by small groups/institutes in their own houses and are also very unique to this region.
9. Don’t forget to trip on BHAANG and kachoris
After a long walk in the fort, head to the little restaurants right outside the fort gate for some delicious kachoris and quench your thirst with a class of bhaang thandai. While I was doing my pre-trip research, I came across government authorised Bhaang dealers (Bhaang is the leaf of the cannabis plant) in the city. One such bhaang shop is right outside the fort gate and is worth giving a shot. They sell bhaang cookies and chocolates too 😉.
Please consider talking to the shop owner regarding the dosage of bhaang to not have an unpleasant experience. Also, please don’t hit the bhaang before the desert safari as it will leave you dehydrated and might cause some medical conditions in the middle of nowhere.
10. Discover the photographer in you
While not everyone is a photographer (me neither), Jaisalmer’s panoramic views, details in architecture and culture; and the beautiful golden colour palette throughout the city will make sure any picture you take turn out to be perfect. So unleash that photographer inside you!
Have updated another detailed post about how I spent the last day in Jaisalmer which was Holi. Read it here:
I have also written a blog on Udaipur which you can read here: