Jaisalmer has an appeal that is irresistible and scores over other destinations. Founded by Rawal Jaisal in mid-12th century, Jaisalmer is the ‘Golden City’ of Rajasthan owing to its location close to the Thar Desert. It is extremely popular amongst tourists because of its natural landscape as well as rich heritage.
Practicalities related to connectivity, accommodation and transportation do not pose a problem as Jaisalmer has trains and buses linking it from a number of cities like Jaipur, Jodhpur and Delhi. The now operational Jaisalmer airport also makes it convenient for travellers from few cities to reach here.
Jaisalmer is a tourist town and perhaps a lot of development must have taken place; still there is a positive feeling of being in a small town – away from the cacophony of a metro. The impression is that of peace. There is not much traffic and crowd around. Barring few tourist places (like the fort, haveli and the lake) the rest of Jaisalmer appears to be rather quiet. Life moves on at an unhurried and relaxing pace. No shopping malls, branded stores, Mc Donalds and Pizza Huts – the local feel stays intact.
The epithet ‘Golden City’ seems just apt. The yellow sandstone structures are ubiquitous. They keep the aura of the city intact for their guests. The fort located on the top of Trikuta hill dominates everything around.
Here’s a list of the most popular places to visit in Jaisalmer:
It figures on the top of list of most popular places to visit in Jaisalmer. The fort built by Rawal Jaisal is unlike any other fort in India – it is a living fort. Houses, still occupied, stand on both sides of narrow alleyways. A number of them have been turned into hotels and shops selling clothes, souvenirs, jewelleries, paintings and many more such things.
Small vehicles like scooters and cycles keep on moving without difficulty and sometimes are just parked, leaning against the wall, in the side spaces. The exteriors of some houses are painted. The locals explain – as per tradition, any house having wedding paints the house with the names of the groom and bride written along with the date and year of marriage.
The group of Jain temples, a major attraction within, are exquisitely carved. Every inch of the temples exhibits the talent of the skilled craftsmen who built it. Very close to the entrance, at Duesshra Chowk, there is the Queen and Kings Palace. The King’s marble throne is displayed at this chowk over a flight of steps, albeit in an enclosure so as to prevent tourists from sitting on it.
The fort palace has a museum that displays a rich variety of exhibits from the bygone era – from the royal throne to weapons, palanquins and bed. From the roof top excellent views of the town and the area ahead can be enjoyed.
The fort is beautifully lit up during night. To enjoy it, try to have your dinner on a rooftop restaurant that gives a good view of the fort. It is wonderful experience!
The fort apart, Jaisalmer is known for its havelis, the most popular ones being the Salim Singh Haveli and Patwon ki Haveli. The former, an easy walk from the fort, is the haveli of former Prime Minister of Jaisalmer – Salim Singh – and is still occupied. A small portion is open for public viewing.
The Patwon ki haveli is a group of five havelis, though again not all are open for tourists. However, this haveli, built in yellow sandstone by Patwa Guman Chand for personal use, does prove why Jaisalmer is so well known for its havelis. The affluence of the merchants who built them is pretty evident here. The exteriors are lavishly carved. Inside, the ceilings and walls are brilliantly painted and have embedded ivory and mirror work on them.
There is a whole range of items on display –drawing room with furniture like carved sofa, chairs, centre tables along with decorative items like antique clock and old fashioned camera, games for entertainment; kitchen equipment like huge utensils, an old refrigerator; dressing rooms with all its paraphernalia like dressing table, cosmetics, combs, perfumes, jewelleries and jewelleries box, cloth chest, irons and sewing machine; saris and turbans.
The most interesting of all are the cleverly concealed safes. It was here that the merchants kept all their money and valuable belongings for safe keeping, veiled behind colourful paintings and carvings. Then there are locks small and big, and also one with two keys. Only when put together did the locks open. The haveli also has store rooms, basement area and an accountant’s room. It is in every sense beautiful, rich and a gem of Jaisalmer’s heritage.
Sam Sand Dunes
It is quiet unthinkable for any tourist to visit Jaisalmer and skip a visit to the Sand Dunes. These dunes lend Jaisalmer its unique identity and visitors a chance to spend a night in the desert atmosphere. A pleasant drive along vast stretches of empty land interspersed with little patches of greenery here and there and a number of windmills take one to the Sam Sand Dunes.
Various operators arrange for an entire set of activities here – camel safari, jeep safari, traditional folk dance performance, dinner and even an overnight stay in camps. While camel safari or a camel cart safari offers a more authentic/rustic experience and ensures ample time to soak in the beauty of the surrounding, jeep safari/dune bashing, with its speed, keeps you on the edge of your seat. It is excitement to the core as the driver skillfully manoeuvres the vehicle up the dune in high speed and then plunges it down with equal efficiency. Watching the sun set over the golden sand of the desert further makes this a more rewarding experience.
There are a few attractions close to Sam sand dunes which can be visited along with it – Kuldhara and Khaba Fort being the primary ones. Other than the most popular places to visit in Jaisalmer, there are few more attractions in the town that can be enjoyed. Read about them in the article Jaisalmer – More to Explore