Jaisalmer Padhaaro Saa! Come a tourist, leave a friend!
Every old city has facts to declare, tales to impress, uniqueness to wonder and spirit to live. Jaisalmer in Rajasthan is one such city, which offers facts about the courageous rulers and citizens of the bygone era, tales of unequalled valor, unique in its beauty and undaunted spirit to keep us alive and kicking. The city is located deep inside in the famous Thar Desert.
The fort of Jaisalmer is a breathtaking sight: a massive sandcastle rising from the sandy plains like a mirage from a bygone era. No place better evokes exotic camel-train trade routes and desert mystery. Ninety-nine bastions encircle the fort’s still-inhabited twisting lanes. Inside are shops swaddled in bright embroideries, a royal palace and numerous businesses looking for your tourist rupee. Despite the commercialism, it’s hard not to be enchanted by this desert citadel. Beneath the ramparts, particularly to the north, the narrow streets of the old city conceal magnificent havelis, all carved from the same golden-honey sandstone as the fort – hence Jaisalmer’s designation as the Golden City.
Towering over the fort’s main square, and partly built on top of the Hawa Pol (the fourth fort gate), is the former rulers’ elegant seven-storey palace. Highlights of the tour include the mirrored and painted Rang Mahal (the bedroom of the 18th-century ruler Mulraj II), a gallery of finely wrought 15th-century sculptures donated to the rulers by the builders of the fort’s temples, and the spectacular 360-degree views from the rooftop.
The biggest fish in the haveli pond is Patwa-ki-Haveli, which towers over a narrow lane, its intricate stonework like honey-coloured lace. Divided into five sections, it was built between 1800 and 1860 by five Jain brothers who made their fortunes in brocade and jewellery. It’s all very impressive from the outside; however, the first of the five sections, the privately ownedKothari’s Patwa-ki-Haveli Museum, richly evokes 19th-century life and is the only one worth paying entry for.
Within the fort walls is a maze-like, interconnecting treasure trove of seven beautiful yellow sandstone Jain temples, dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. Opening times have a habit of changing, so check with the caretakers. The intricate carving rivals that of the marble Jain temples in Ranakpur and Mt Abu, and has an extraordinary quality because of the soft, warm stone. Shoes and all leather items must be removed before entering the temples.
Gadsisar Lake is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Jaisalmer. Leaving the crowd away, there is Gadsisar lake, which is the symbol of peace and prosperity. It was once a water reservoir to the whole of Rajasthan.The major tourist attraction of the Gadsisar Lake is the lake surrounding temples and migratory birds. If you are lucky enough you might just be able to spot a migratory bird. There are a number of temples around it making it a famous pilgrimage spot.
There is much in terms of architecture and historical reasures that have to be seen to be believed in Jaisalmer, but this little town also boasts of some extraordiary adventure sports. Try Dune Bashing or quad biking, sports considered restricted to the Gulf and Arab countries, and is rapidly picking up in this quaint town. Go parasailing or paramotoring over the golden dunes of the thar desert.
The silky Sam Sand Dunes, 41km west of Jaisalmer along a good sealed road (maintained by the Indian army), are one of the most popular excursions from the city. The band of dunes is about 2km long and is undeniably one of the most picturesque in the region. Some camel safaris camp here, but many more people just roll in for sunset, to be chased across the sands by tenacious camel owners offering short rides. Plenty more people stay overnight in one of the several tent resorts near the dunes. Desert safaris on camel back galore, and stay in a swiss tent for the night and enjoy the Arabian desert unfold in all its glory under the starlight.
After a spiritual visit to the Tanot Mat Mandir and the museum, you can make it to the Indo-Pak Border and witness the international borderline between India and Pakistan. However, before visiting the border, one needs to get proper documentations and permissions from the Indian Millitary and the local authority.
Just inside First Fort Gate, Jaisal Italy has a decent vegetarian Italian menu, including bruschetta, antipasti, pasta, pizza, salad and desserts, plus Spanish omelettes. All this is served up in an exotically decorated indoor restaurant (cosy in winter, deliciously air-conditioned in summer) or on a delightful terrace atop the lower fort walls, with cinematic views. Alcohol is served.
A fine dining restaurant, that attracts a large number of clientele is the Trio, an old restaurant featuring a high ceilinged tent and windowed walls that allow guests to enjoy some amazing views of the old bazaar. Enjoy a spicy dal tadka and an achaari chana here. Try the malai kofta, bajre ki roti, laal maas, which literally translates to red meat, which is mutton cooked in red chillies and other rajasthani spices, and other rajasthani delicacies like the Daal, baati, churma, gatte ki sabzi and kadhi pakodi at the Desert boy’s dhani.
Café the Kaku, a 853 year old bastion offers a beautiful view of the golden city. This pan continental place offers a great variety if the heavy rajasthani food is taking a toll on your palate.
Bhaang, the elixier of lord Shiva!
Jaisalmer’s licensed Bhang Shop is a simple, unpretentious place. The magic ingredient is bhang: cannabis buds and leaves mixed into a paste with milk, ghee and spices. As well as lassi, it also does a range of bhang-laced cookies and cakes – choose either medium or strong. Bhang is legal, but it doesn’t agree with everyone, so go easy.
A city that has come back almost from the dead in the past half-century, Jaisalmer may be remote, but it’s certainly not forgotten – indeed it’s one of Rajasthan’s biggest tourist destinations.The name Jaisalmer itself brings out the vibrancy and charm. It floods the heart with the true feeling of culture at one end and the feeling of royal exuberance on the other. The daylight hues, the yellow sands, the pink and red forts, the royal palaces, and the Arabian night dances are set to capture your hearts.
Getting there: Most commercial airlines run flights to Jaipur or Jodhpur connecting it to most domestic and international cities. The Jaipur junction railway station serves as the headquarters of the Northwestern railway zone of the Indian railways and is connected to most major cities in India.
The interstate bus terminus is located at Sindhi camp and is also close to the railway station.
By train: Jaisalmer is well connected with a wide network of trains covering most of the Indian cities like Delhi, Jodhpur, Jaipur and others.
Once you reach the station, there are many auto-rickshaws and private taxis standing outside the station that will take you to the city on a nominal fare.
By road: The Jodhpur airport is 5-6 hours drive away from the town of Jaiselmer. A prepaid or hired taxi is the best way to reach Jaisalmer from Jodhpur.
Time to Visit: The ideal time to visit Jaisalmer is between the months of September and March when it is not too warm.