Situated in the heart of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, Jaisalmer is a city that appears to be straight out of an Arabian Nights tale. Renowned as the "Golden City" for its unique yellow sandstone, Jaisalmer is not only a place of remarkable beauty but also holds immense historical significance. Beyond the traditional attractions such as its impressive fort and ornate havelis, there are several unique experiences to be discovered for those who venture off the beaten path. Here are five amazing things to do in Jaisalmer.
1. Roam the Jaisalmer Fort
A visit to Jaisalmer Fort, an iconic symbol of the city, is like taking a journey back in time. Perched on Trikuta Hill, the majestic yellow sandstone walls glow brilliantly under the sun, which earned it the moniker "Sonar Quila" or the Golden Fort. Upon entering through the imposing gates, you find yourself navigating through a maze of narrow, winding lanes adorned with finely carved havelis, temples, and shops.
A captivating blend of Rajput and Islamic architectural styles, the fort boasts graceful jharokhas (balconies), stunning jaalis (stone lattices), and ornate chhatris (pavilions). As one of the few 'living forts' globally, it accommodates nearly a quarter of the population of the city within its ancient walls. Exploring its rich history, witnessing its architectural beauty, and immersing yourself in the lively buzz of everyday life within its walls is an experience that captures the true essence of Jaisalmer.
2. Find Spirituality in the Jain Temple
Within the boundaries of Jaisalmer Fort, you will find a cluster of exquisite Jain Temples, telling the tales of the religious diversity and architectural brilliance of the region. Constructed between the 12th and 16th centuries, these temples are crafted from the same golden-yellow sandstone as the fort itself. From the famous Paraswanath Temple to the smaller yet equally stunning Rishabhnath and Sambhavanth Temples, each structure is a splendid example of Dilwara-style architecture.
The scenes from Jain mythology, carved on the temple walls, bring spiritual narratives to life in outstanding craftsmanship. Despite their age, these temples still welcome worship and prayers. The serenity that surrounds these sacred spaces, especially during the morning prayers, provides an escape from the bustling streets of the fort.
3. Bada Bagh
Hop on a motorbike from the city centre and head towards Bada Bagh; it is just a 15-minute ride towards the wind turbines. Note that the entrance fee is 100 rupees, and encountering many tourists mid-morning is quite rare. Bada Bagh, translating to 'big garden,' essentially serves as a cemetery.
Years ago, the founder of Jaisalmer initiated the construction of a dam to create a water tank at this location. This also explains the presence of a lake adjacent to Bada Bagh, seemingly amidst a vast desert, which earned it the name 'Big Garden.' The Maharajah erected a cenotaph for his father atop the hill, and subsequently, many more cenotaphs were built for other significant figures.
4. Gadisar Lake
Gadisar Lake, situated on the outskirts of the city, is a captivating man-made reservoir with a rich history. Constructed by Raja Rawal Jaisal, the first ruler of the city, this calm waterbody was a water source for Jaisalmer in the challenging desert climate. Today, it is a popular tourist destination and a haven for birdwatchers, especially during the winter when migratory birds grace the lake.
Surrounded by well-decorated temples, shrines, and ghats, Gadisar Lake reflects the stunning architectural beauty of the Golden City. The temples appear to float on the water and thus create a picturesque scene of serenity. During sunrise, the lake takes on a magical form. The peaceful atmosphere, the architectural beauty, and the glimpses of migratory birds make Gadisar Lake a must-visit destination.
5. Savour Cuisines at a Rooftop Cafe
Sitting on comfy, colourful couches while enjoying a meal against the backdrop of the unique architecture creates a memorable dining experience. Also, consider trying different nearby cafes, each with its own charm and serene settings. If you have a drone, capturing the beauty of Golden City from a rooftop vantage point can be a fantastic way to preserve your memories made here. The combination of mouth-watering food and the golden colour of the skyline make rooftop dining a highlight of your visit.
6. Haveli Hunting
The Havelis are impressive examples of architectural history. In the 18th and 19th centuries, wealthy merchants put up these big structures, famous for their detailed yellow sandstone carvings and special designs. The Patwon Ki Haveli is the most popular one, a set of five havelis close to each other. Each haveli presents its fancy latticed windows, well-carved pillars, and beautiful murals. They prove how skilled the local craftsmen were.
The balconies, called 'jharokhas,' let you see how rich the merchants were back then. These havelis have lots of rooms, hidden staircases, and beautiful details. They mix the styles of Rajasthan and Islamic architecture. Walking through them gives you a close look at the impressive history and detailed art.
7. Camel Safari in the Sand Dunes
When you explore the Golden City, you should not miss the chance to go on a camel safari. The Sam Sand Dunes, just outside the city in the Desert National Park, are perfect for leisure trekking. One can choose a half-day trek, an overnight trek, or a three-day trek. It depends on what you like. We suggest that only adventurous folks go for several days because it can be a bit uncomfortable and hot at times, but it is a lot of fun.
Sleeping on the sand dunes under the stars during the safari is a memorable experience. It might feel a bit isolated, empty, and hot, but that is what makes it so awesome. Seeing people make chai, chapati, and curry from scratch in the desert heat is quite impressive.
Jaisalmer is a gem waiting to be explored. From the breathtaking architecture of its golden fort to the tranquillity of the desert, there is something for everyone. So, pack your bags, prepare for the unique experiences, and create memories that will linger long after you leave the Golden City.