Covered in a golden hue, no other city in India could better fit the title of ‘Golden City’, other than Jaisalmer; one of the jewels in the crown of Rajasthan, a royal state in the western part of India.
If you want to experience a glimpse into grandeur, pomp, and show, you couldn’t be in a better city in India to experience this, and so much more.
Jaisalmer, a city that earned its name from its founder ruler, Rawal Jasial, literally translates to the Hillfort of Jaisal.
Why is Jaisalmer named the Golden City of India?
If you take one sweeping glance at the city, much of it is built in yellow sandstone, including the mighty Jaisalmer Fort that sits atop the Trikut Hill – the crowning glory of the region.
And when the sun sets on the numerous yellow sandstone structures, the city is masked in a gorgeous golden reflection, giving it the well-deserved description of being a Golden City.
And, a step beyond the city limits opens up to vast, glistening expanses of the Thar Desert – miles and miles of yellow sand that casts a mesmerising spell on the rest of the city.
Jaisalmer – a short history.
The city of Jaisalmer enjoys a history dating back thousands of years. Founded by the Rajput ruler, Rawal Jaisal, he chose Trikut Hill to build the mighty Jaisalmer Fort.
Thanks to its terrific location that made it tough for approaching enemies to conquer, the fort then gave birth to the city of Jaisalmer that spread out at the foothills of the fort.
And not just the fort – the city stood at a juncture that connected it with one of the main routes to Persia, Egypt, and Africa.
It was no wonder why the princely state was sought after through the ages.
And with its difficult and arid terrain, it wasn’t easy to infiltrate, adding an extra layer of security for the kingdom.
Modern history also went on to prove that Jaisalmer wasn’t easy to conquer.
When India gained independence, an agreement was signed between various princely states in the country, to cede to the union and give up their kingdoms.
It took a lot of negotiations for the rulers of Jaisalmer to agree, making them the last of the Rajasthan Royals to sign the agreement of merging their kingdom with the rest of the country, with several conditions in place.
Top Things To Do & See In Jaisalmer.
There is just so much to keep you enthralled, entertained, mesmerised, amazed, and often, leave you at a loss for words! In a nutshell – Jaisalmer has the best of the very best.
Let’s glimpse into the absolute must-see, must-do, must-experience locations that give Jaisalmer the fame it deserves when you visit this city.
A living, breathing fort – that’s what you get on your visit to Jaisalmer Fort. Unlike other forts around the world, Jaisalmer Fort is unique, and one of the most beautiful forts in Rajasthan and India.
Jaisalmer Fort is still home to over 3000 people who live within the walled fort – including generations of families who’ve lived in the same premises for centuries.
The fort is a city in itself, made up of narrow alleyways, houses, shops, boutique hotels, eateries, and places of worship.
Housing a third of the city’s population, Jaisalmer Fort needs to be high up on your list of places to visit.
The fort has several entry points and gateways, but make it a point to enter the fort through the Surya Gate (Sun Gate).
Do yourself a favour and hire a guide or pick up an audio guide – the fort is way too massive and confusing to explore on your own!
Highlights of the fort include the fort palace, known as Raj Mahal or Royal Palace, that housed the Jaisalmer Royal family.
Expect to be bowled over by the magnificence of everything you see within the fort, including this gorgeous palace.
Adjoining the Royal Palace is Rang Mahal, a stunning mirrored room that’s another must-see.
The temples enclosed within the fort are another feature that highlights how religious devotion and spirituality are intertwined in the architecture of the fort.
The temples are scattered around the fort, making it really hard not to miss!
While most of the temples go back to the 15th and 16th centuries, the temples are characterised by skilfully intricate carvings and architecture.
Worshippers still throng the temples, and you might want to avoid visiting these temples on days of religious festivals as they can get overwhelmingly crowded.
And oh, no shoes, food, or drink can be carried inside – and nothing made of leather is permitted inside either.
Another striking feature of this fort is the many housing quarters or ‘Havelis’ in different parts of the fort.
Nearly every haveli has a beautifully carved entrance, complete with little balconies and turrets, with people living within the walls of these Havelis. ‘Nathmal Ki Haveli’ is your go-to if you want to explore the insides of the haveli as well.
Stroll the little lanes and alleyways that meander through the fort – lanes that accommodate shops, homes, pedestrians, cows, and vehicles – you’ll find yourself jostling for space on many an occasion, but keep your wits about it.
This is life in India – enjoy it for what it is – there is comfort in the chaos you see around you.
The Gadi Sagar Lake.
Enjoy a morning sipping piping hot tea aboard a little wooden boat at the Gadi Sagar Lake – actually a water reservoir, but commonly referred to as a lake.
Early mornings at the lake are fun – you’ll catch glimpses of people praying or feeding the fish, or just sprawled out on the steps soaking in some early morning sun.
Patwon Ki Haveli.
If you enjoyed Nathmal Ki Haveli inside Jaisalmer Fort, you’d fall in love with Patwon Ki Haveli.
Made up of 5 smaller Havelis, it’s the largest of its kind in the city, and was built by a famed trader of jewellery and brocade, hence the name of Patwon Ki Haveli which translates to a mansion of brocade merchants.
There’s a museum inside that offers a peek into the lifestyle of the residents of these Havelis, along with lots of insight into the culture of the people of the area.
Kuldhara – all things ghostly!
A bit of a drive from the city of Jaisalmer (less than an hour) brings you to Kuldhara.
And if you’re a fan of the spooky, then you must make this trip!
This abandoned village is considered a ghost village and has an eerie history to its credit.
Without going into details (that will just spoil the fun), a spell was cast on the village that no humans would live on its soil after a certain incident happened there, and the curse is still intact.
Attempts were made to live on the land, but each attempt met with failure. To find out why – head to Kuldhara!
Goo on a Desert Safari in the Thar Desert.
For thrill-seekers, this might just be the high point of your visit to Jaisalmer.
Just under 30 minutes from the city brings you to the open expanses of the Thar Desert.
If you love the desert, tent camping at one of the many resorts is a great idea.
If you’re not a fan of the sand, then a shorter camel safari or a jeep safari might sit better with you.
But there are options galore, including dune bashing on quad bikes.
Sunsets at the dunes are one of the most sought-after activities in the region.
If you like peace and quiet, opt for a more soothing experience at the dunes.
Many of the camps offer just that – gorgeous sunset views that seep into the night, accompanied by a night sky filled with twinkling stars, traditional Rajasthani music and dance performed live, and a mouth-watering Rajasthani meal to bring an end to a magical evening! It might be the most beautiful sunset in the whole of India.
If you reserve this experience for the end of your trip, you’ll leave with a promise to come back – I guarantee you!
Best Way To Get To Jaisalmer.
With a domestic airport that is well connected to the bigger cities in India, flying into Jaisalmer is an option.
If you have time on your hands and enjoy road trips ( I would always vote for a road trip!), then Jaisalmer is a 6-hour drive from the next big city of Jodhpur or an overnight bus journey from Jaipur.
Train connectivity is great too, and all big and small cities connect to Jaisalmer.
What´s The Best Time To Visit Jaisalmer.
That Jaisalmer is a desert city, so plan your trip in the cooler months. If you’re not used to the heat – avoid summer travel.
With a very dry climate and scorching hot summer months, you’ll risk falling ill if you can’t adapt too well to the heat. Winter months are greater, and you’ll be best able to enjoy the city between November and February.
If you happen to visit in February, you’ll be in for a treat of a lifetime with the famed Desert Festival that runs in February.
But be prepared to shell out more for everything – its peak tourist season for the city! But it’s worth it.
Whenever you decide to travel, you’ll be sure to come away with lots of great experiences from your travels through Jaisalmer.