One of the most exotic desert cities of Rajasthan and a World Heritage Site, Jaisalmer promises to give you an extra ordinary holiday experience. Also known as the “The Golden City of India,” Jaisalmer is situated close to the Thar desert, near the India-Pakistan border.
Jaisalmer fort and town was built by Maharawal Jaisal in 1156 AD. He wanted to shift his capital to a safer place from Ludharva, which was 18 km from Jaisalmer. The ruler of erstwhile Jaisalmer state was from Bhati Clan of Yadu Rajputs, belonging to the Chandrawanshi race. They claim to be descendants of Lord Krishna.
As per historical evidence, Yadu Rajputs ruled and built forts at nine places viz; Gajni, which is now in Afghanistan, Dirawal, which is now in Pakistan, Lodurya, Bhatner, Pragwad, Digam, Kashi, Mathura, and in Jaisalmer.
The Sonar Quila or the Golden Fort of Jaisalmer is one of the very few forts in the world where people still live inside the fort. It is one of the biggest fully preserved fort cities of the world.
Jaisalmer is known as the Golden City, as yellow sandstone is used in the entire architecture of the fort and the city buildings. This renders a lovely golden-yellow hue to the whole city.
Jaisalmer is famous for its lavish Havelis and pavilions that dot the medieval lanes of the city. The Desert National Park surrounding the fort city gives visitors a golden opportunity to spot desert foxes, chinkaras, and blackbucks.
The rolling sand dunes and water holes are things that you won’t find elsewhere.
Things To Do
- Sightseeing at historical places, religious and sacred sites, art galleries, museums, parks, and lanes and bazaars (marketplaces) of the city
- Desert safaris
- Cultural tours
- Day trip to Barmer
The following are the must-see places of Jaisalmer:
1. Jaisalmer Fort:
When in Jaisalmer, you simply can’t miss exploring one of the most famous forts of the world – Jaisalmer Fort. Nestled in the soft golden sands of the Thar desert at the Trikuta Hill, this fort displays excellent architectural design and rich cultural heritage of Rajasthan then and now.
The fort is built of sandstone. It is protected through huge walls all around. There are four gates: Hawa Pol, Suraj Pol, Ganesh Pol, and Akhaiy Pol. The palace houses fascinating old havelis, a Hindu temple, and a cluster of 7 Jain temples, which you must visit.
People live inside this fort. It’s another world inside here.
Do you know locals in and around the fort here consume opium openly? Although illegal, you can also try your taste in opium here without fear. If this isn’t your idea of vacation, then go for the local cup of chai (tea). Excellent!
Don’t miss visiting the Maharaja’s Palace on top of the hill, inside the fort.
2. Nathmal Ki Haveli:
As per historic reports, the Nathmal ki Haveli was carved by two brothers, Hathi and Lalu. Each brother worked on either sides, one on the left and the other on the right. They created a masterpiece with each side in perfect symmetry. You got to see the intricate carvings and the miniature paintings of the haveli.
3. Patawa Haveli:
Patawa Haveli is one of the most beautiful buildings of the city. It displays a rich Rajputana architecture. The corridors and chambers supported by beautifully carved pillars will awe you to no end.
4. Mandir Palace:
Situated near Amar Sagar Gate, Mandir Palace was the residence of a former royal family. Its most striking feature is the Tazia Tower that soars high from the palace. It is a landmark of Jaisalmer. You must visit this place for its rich carvings and beauty.
5. Salim Singh ki Haveli:
Salim Singh ki Haveli is a towering 5-storey building constructed 200 years ago by a powerful Chief Minister of the city, Salim Singh. The blue cupola roof is eye-catching.
6. Gadisar Lake:
Gadisar Lake is just near the Tilon ki Gate near the Golden Fort. You will enjoy a boat ride and fishing here. It’s a great place to spend sunset time here. Visit the Shiva temple here.
7. Bada Bagh (Big Garden):
Bada Bagh is situated on Ramgarh road, 7 km north of the city, and was built in the 16th century by Maharawal Jait Singh and his son. The bagh features chhatris or cenotaphs of the Bhatti dynasty – rulers of those times. The place is quite intriguing.
8. Kuldhara – The Abandoned Village:
A paliwal person named Kuldhar created the Kuldhara village, which lies 27 km west of the city. Many interesting stories revolve around this village.
One of the most widely accepted story is that the then Deewan, Salim Singh, was a torturer. To escape his atrocities, all the villagers of 84 villages in and around Kuldhara decided to abandon the place one fine day. All of them left the place on the same day. That’s why Kuldhara is called the Abandoned Village.
It is also believed that the village is haunted and there have been ghostly sightings here, but without evidence, of course.
9. Desert National Park:
Desert National Park is located near the city in an area of 3162 sq kms. It is open from 10 am to 5 pm and it takes 2 to 3 hours to tour the whole park. The park has almost everything to offer to a tourist’s delight – fixed dunes, craggy rocks, desert, compact salt lake bottoms, and, yes, flora and fauna in the middle of the desert!
You can spot here camels, chingaras, blackbucks, desert foxes, Bengal fox, desert cats, and wolves. This is home to several migratory and local birds. The Great Indian Bustard, one of the rarest bird species, is found here. There are lots of cacti, desert plants, and thorny bushes here, so be careful or you might get pricked!
You can explore this enthralling park through two ways:
- Jeep safari
- Camel safari
One more attraction of the park is the collection of fossils of birds and animals. They are believed to be 180 million years old! And, hold your breath, 6-million-year-old fossils of dinosaurs have been found here!
10. Sam Sand Dunes:
This is one of the most popular attractions of Jaisalmer. It just can’t be that you visit this desert city of Rajasthan and miss unwinding yourselves in the majestic dunes!
Located 45 km west of the city, the dunes soar ½ km high, are 3 km long and 1 km wide. The rippling sand of the desert, sprawled everywhere, will mesmerize you to the core. The shifting dunes are all over and they change their places and shapes. They are one of the most fascinating things to see in the world.
You ought to do a camel safari here. Don’t forget to click some exceptional photos. You will find here only a vast expanse of sand, no vegetation.
You can camp here, create a bonfire, sing and dance under the starry skies of the desert! Come here in February and March and you will see this place transform into a cultural hub. Enjoy puppet shows, camel races, folk dances, competitions, and other such pompous festivities here.
Apart from this, you can also visit the Jaisalmer War Museum, which is at Jaisalmer-Jodhpur highway.
Want to see one of the most entertaining puppet shows? Head to the Desert Culture Center and Museum, which is a 10-minute tuk-tuk (autorickshaw) ride from Jaisalmer Fort.
If you are on an overnight desert safari, then you will be camping right in the middle of the desert. Otherwise, you can stay at one of the hotels in the city. They suit all budgets.
Dining tip: Choose a terrace restaurant to feast your eyes on the breathtaking panoramic view of the Jaisalmer Fort.
Essentials To Carry
- Summers can be quite hot in Jaisalmer, even in the mornings. So carry sunglasses and sunscreen protection for skin.
- Desert nights are cold. Pack warm clothing, especially when you are on a desert safari.
- A good camera.
- Good pair of shoes to walk on the desert sand.
The best way to travel to Jaisalmer is through train. The city is well connected through rail network with most major cities of India. You can hail a direct train from Delhi, Jodhpur, or Jaipur.
And if you wish to have one of the most memorable journeys of your life, board two of the most luxuries trains of India – “Palace on Wheels” or the “Maharajas’ Express.”
Jaisalmer military airport permits only chartered flights. The nearest airports are in Jaipur, which is 300 km from Jaisalmer, and Jodhpur, which is 225 km from Jaisalmer.
Road journey to Jaisalmer can be strenuous, although buses are available.
The best time to visit Jaisalmer is from October to March.
Time for one of the most culturally rich holidays of your life!