Jaisalmer, Travel Guide for The Golden City of India
Jaisalmer is a town located in the State of Rajasthan and is also called the golden city; famous for its royal palaces, the town is a major tourist attraction in India. This town lies in the heart of the Rajasthan desert and is dotted with many Jain temples which are famous for their exquisite carvings and art. Even though Jaisalmer is sparsely populated, the town is thronged by tourists due to its history and austere desert surroundings. The city is dominated by the Jaisalmer fort that is a living fort which has shops, hotels and houses inside it. Hotel accommodation is also available in the fort as well as outside it.
Jaisalmer is accessible by air from Delhi; however only Kingfisher Airline provides the service. There is only one airport near the city which is a military air-strip because Jaisalmer is a border town between India and Pakistan. The town is also accessible by railroad and is connected to Delhi in a direct manner. The town is also easily reached by road and regular bus and taxi services are available from cities of Jaipur, Bikaner, and Jodhpur which are some of the bigger cities in the state.
Getting around the town is easy on foot and is an enjoyable experience as tourists can absorb all the beauty and royal attractions that this town has to offer. Jaisalmer is located near the Thar Desert and the Sam sand dunes are only twenty five miles away; a camel ride to the desert can be an unforgettable experience. Some people even undertake long journeys using camels to get into the city. However these are only recommended for people who are ready for some inconvenience. The nearest camel trip can be undertaken from Bikaner which takes around 14 days and can be a grueling experience for novice travelers.
One of the most famous attractions is also known as the Sonar Quila or the golden fort which is a part of the Jaisalmer fort. It is admired by people for its fine carvings in a yellow stone; thus the name Golden Fort or Sonar Quila. Gadi sagar is a lake that uses rainwater for supply to the city and is surrounded by temples and tombs of saints. A boat ride is also offered in the lake and a desert cultural center is located near the lake.
The Jaisalmer Fort
The fort is an exquisite work of art and has been preserved for many centuries; carvings on the yellow stone walls resemble carvings on gold. This is the reason that the fort is also called the Sonar Quila or the golden fort. This fort was built in 1156 and is made up of massive sandstone walls and some of the other attractions in the fort are the Laxminath temple, the royal palace, and the Jain temple.
A Haveli is a royal residence that was used by rich merchants and the higher echelons of the society in the era of Kings. These are beautifully designed houses that have become major tourist attractions in the last few decades. Some of the most famous attractions are Patwon Ki Haveli, Salim Singh Ki Haveli, and Nathmalaji Ki Haveli. These three are the most popular among the various Havelis in the town and can be visited for taking a glimpse into the royal history of this place. Most of these Havelis were built for Prime Ministers and wealthy merchants who frequented or lived in the city. These are a must-see if you are visiting Rajasthan or India for the first time.
The Jain Temple
The Jain temple is another attraction that is not to be missed and is actually a combination of seven temples inside the fort. The temples were built between 12th and 15th century and are among the most frequented places for Jain worshippers and tourists alike. The exquisite carvings are breathtaking and are an epitome of the quintessential architectural art that is endemic.
The town provides a good opportunity for exploring and enjoying the sights of the desert and camel rides can be taken from Bikaner and can also be locally booked. The camel trip from Bikaner takes around fourteen hours and is not recommended if you have comfort on your mind rather than adventure. Smaller rides can be undertaken from the city that will give you the opportunity of enjoying a sunset among golden sand dunes. Another option is the Jeep safari which is a comfortable albeit expensive option to explore the desert.
Sam Sand Dunes
The Sam Sand dunes are located approximately twenty miles from the city and the local tourism board provides entertainment in the form of traditional dances and cultural programs. However accommodation is not easy to find here and has to be booked beforehand in order to enjoy a couple of days on the dunes. Khuri sand dunes are another tourist attraction and are similar to the Sam sand dunes; however the place is not as crowded as the Sam sand dunes and is still being developed by the local tourism board. This is an ideal place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the town.
The town has a rich cultural heritage as well as cuisines that are different from the spicy food that is found in other parts of India. The best places to eat are the in-house restaurants that are hygienic and are good for people who have a sensitive stomach. Other options include the ‘Trio’ which is one of the popular restaurants in the town. It provides a plethora of Rajasthani culinary delights that are different from North Indian food. Chokhi-Dhani is also one of the popular restaurants; however it is not as good as the trio but offers many delicacies that can only be enjoyed in Rajasthan.
Some of the most famous and luxurious hotels in Jaisalmer are Hotel Rang Mahal, Hotel Fort Rajwada, Hotel Himmatgarh Palace, Hotel Mahadev Palace, Hotel Mandir Palace, and Hotel Narayan Niwas. All these are near the town and are easily reachable; these are the most elegant and expensive hotels that are recommended for foreigners and people who are ready to spend a little extra for the comfort and the service provided by these hotels.
Jaisalmer is a perfect place to shop for souvenirs and pieces of art that are influenced by local as well as Mughal traditions. The best things to buy in Jaisalmer are embroidery, Mirror work, artifacts, antiques, and old stonework. The best and economical option for buying these things are the government operated stores which are low-priced and do not try to swindle unsuspecting foreigners. The Khadi Gramudyog Bhavan is a place where you can buy garments at a very low price at an economical rate. The shopping can be done within the fort and some of the Bazaars include Sadar Bazar, Sonaron ka Bass, Manak Chowk, Pansari bazar, Gandhi Darshan, Seema gram, Rajsthani Govt. shop and Khadi Gramuddyog Emporium.