Jaisalmer is the only city in India where the forts are still alive. This is the city where one can discover wooden fossils and can trace mysterious tragedies that occurred 180 million years ago. Above all, this is a hassle free city where one can truly enjoy the desert experience of our country.
The best way to reach the place is through a train journey, as it goes through some of most beautiful villages of the state. I boarded an early morning train from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer. The train chugged off in the Thar desert breaking all the stereotypical notions of a desert journey. One gets to see the never ending desert, dotted by the vibrant settlement of traditional mud huts and camels grazing all over the place. The major attraction of the journey was the brilliant desert sunrise that happened on our way towards Jaisalmer.
After reaching Jaisalmer, I stayed in a hotel which was a 15 minute walk from the fort and a 10 minute walk from other major attractions in the city. Nestled within the quiet and charismatic streets of the old city, hotel Shahi Palace was the most comfortable choice of the lot. This is a 500 years old haveli that has intricate interiors and comes at a pocket friendly cost. I stayed in Jaisalmer for 3 days exploring the western India’s frontier extensively. Each place is rich in culture and stocks a legendary history to it. I have penned down the places that I covered during my course of stay in the golden city.
Sonar Qila (golden fort)/Jaisalmer fort is the most prominent landmark in the city. This is not just a tourist spot but a place that houses livelihood. The fort looks like a mirage of a sandcastle that is brought to life. This fort comes under the world heritage site and shines even brighter with the setting sun. Apart from the beautiful architecture, rich culture and traditional heritage, Jaisalmer also boosts high tourism. “The major occupation here has become tourism in the recent years. There is a good chunk of localities who leave the town to the nearby cities in search of jobs during the off-season” was what my tour guide cum Hindi teacher told us during our tour through the fort.
Patwon ki Haveli
History has it that the patwas were asked to leave the city by their priest, in order to flourish in their business. Eventually Patwas rose to great heights once they left Jaisalmer and were called upon to finance the state deficit. On return the head of the family gifted his five sons a separate mansion each facing the fort. These havelis are now called as Patwon Ki Haveli
Salim Singh Ki Haveli
This haveli has the most distinct architecture of all. It is constructed in the form of a peacock. It is made of sandstones and has close to 38 balconies each having a unique design for themselves.
Nathmalji Ki Haveli
This five storey building is situated in a narrow lane near the fort. This haveli served as a residence to Diwan Mohata Nathmal, the then Prime Minister of Jaisalmer. The craftsmanship of the haveli is an amalgamation of Rajput architecture and Islamic art.
This was the lake that once quenched the thirst of hundreds of people. There are small temples near the lake. Boating can be done but the best way to enjoy is to just chill at the banks of the lake, feeding the pigeons nearby and soaking in the golden rays of the setting sun.
Desert Culture centre and Museum
This place has exhibits around the history of Jaisalmer along with a puppet show. The entry ticket to the place is 100 rupees. Since I got there early I was able to see around the musem before the show began. The material isn’t very interesting and the puppet show was average when compared to the one I saw in Udaipur. I wouldn’t suggest going out of your way to see the place, if you have all the time in the world, then do visit else you can happily skip.
Bada bagh or bara bagh or big garden. I tell you, this place is nothing close to a garden. These are cenotaphs built in memory of the Kings and Queens. Basically these are tombs built for the royal family by their sons. The first one was built for Jai Singh II by his son Lunkaran in 16th century. Henceforth the tradition followed, for every death in the royal family, a chhatri was raised ( forgot to mention, these cenotaphs are known as chhatris). This process continued till 20th century up until the sudden demise of Maharawal Jawahar singh’s son.
The place has two rows of cenotaphs, each with a distinct craftsmanship. There are so many Indian movies that were shot here.
A little over 15kms to the west of Jaisalmer , lies the haunted and abandoned village of Kuldhara. An eerie feeling creeps in as you walk through the village hearing the horror stories of this place. It is said that nobody has been able to spend a calm night in the village. This place is now under archaeological surveillance. Get to know the detailed story of this cursed village from “Kuldhara -The story of a haunted Village”
Khuri is a small village that lies 50 kms from Jaisalmer. This place is famous for its sand dunes. I chose Khuri village over sam sand dunes because Khuri is less crowded and provides tranquil and enjoyable experience. Sam sand dunes on the other hand is more popular and commercialised with exotic swiss tents and resorts. People who love little crowd and want to explore more on the country side, head to Khuri. If you’re someone who seeks luxury during travel, sam is your place.
If Khuri is already on your mind, check “A trip to Khuri Village: Life under the stars” to know more about the desert lifestyle, way and means to reach the place and things to do there.
I stayed overnight at Khuri village, camping under the stars. Reached Jaisalmer around noon the next day, relaxed for a while checking out the fort from the rooftop café and did a little bit of shopping near the fort area. I finally boarded the bus towards the last destination of my trip, Jaipur.
Restaurants to try
Roof top café at Shahi Palace
This is one the best spots to chill and sip your espresso looking at the fort. The view is breath-taking. The owner Hemant himself takes care of all the diners, ensures good atmosphere and quality food for the guests who come to his hotel.
Desert Boy’s Dhani
If you’re in mood for trying local Rajasthani cuisine, head to Desert Boy’s Dhani to indulge in the local flavours set in a very relaxed ambience of this courtyard restaurant. Cultural performances are done every evening to entertain the guests at the restaurant. Since it’s an open air restaurant, camp fire is also available during winter season.