Jaisalmer is the most western city in India, right in the middle of the Thar Desert. It is also known as the “Golden City” due to the fact that the buildings and the fort are built with golden sandstone.
Totally different from the other cities we visited in India, Jaisalmer impresses with its monochrome architecture. It is a small town that becomes very active in the tourist season.
The most beautiful places to see in Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer Fort and the Palace Museum
The Fort of Jaisalmer looks like a sandcastle due to the material it is built from and is the central point of the city. What really distinguishes it is that itis a living fort. It is among the only forts still inhabited in the world, including stores, hotels, and restaurants. A quarter of the original population still lives in this fort of generations.
The range of souvenirs is not very varied but the prices are decent. And depending on the store you can negotiate or not the price. You can find products with traditional patterns such as: pillows, clothes, scarves, leather bags, locks, etc.
Also, inside the fortress, there is a palace we have not heard great things about. Adding to this the slightly big entry price, we have chosen to pass it.
Jaisalmer Fort: Free entry
Palace Museum: 500 rupees / foreigner (includes audio guide) + 100 rupees / camera
In the fort, you can admire a number of temples. They are incredibly beautiful sculptures and were built between the 12th and 15th centuries. As in any Temple in India, it is forbidden to enter with shoes, so the shoes will remain outside with any other leather object. Temples can be visited by foreigners between 11:00 and 15:00.
300 rupees for foreigners
Entrance for Indians is free
As I said at the beginning of the article, the architecture of this city is incredible. Both within the fort and outside, you can admire Havelis with fairytale design. If admiring them from outside is not enough, there are such mansions that can be visited because they have been transformed into a museum: Kothari’s Patwa Haveli; Salim Singh Haveli; Salim Singh Haveli.
Vyas Chhatri – sunset point
To the north of the fort is the perfect spot to admire the sunset. Vyas Chhatri is a crematory and contains many empty burial moments, raised for noblemen. We know, crematorium can sound dubious, but the golden sandstone structures are incredible. We have witnessed a photo/video shoot for two lovers here, so it’s a nice place like any other.
50 rupees per person
50 rupee – photo fee
Located southeast of the fort, there is an artificial lake built in the 14th century. Gadsisar Lake has in the past supplied the whole city with water. Now it’s a place to relax where you can feed the fish in the lake or take a boat ride. There is no entrance fee.
It’s almost impossible to get to Jaisalmer and not visit the desert. With or without a camel. One day or a month. Single or in a group. There are a multitude of options that everybody is going to sell you, even if you do not want to.
But you have to take care of who you choose to go with because the guide can make your experience 10 times more enjoyable or unpleasant. At the same time, you should research (read reviews) about how they treat their camels.
One night Safari and camel riding was one of our most beautiful experiences in India. We chose to go to a “non-touristic” safari (as promoted by the hotel). The distinction was that the location was more secluded and far away.
It was the first time we ride camels and it was incredibly beautiful. Our legs hurt after (and a little muscular fever), but it was worth it, is a unique experience.
We had the following itinerary:
- Pick-up from the hotel with jeep
- Visit Khaba Fort
- Walk one and a half hours with the camels to the camping area
- Tea + snacks
- Many pictures (on dunes and at sunset)
- Helped the guide to make roti
- Sleep until 6 o’clock when we admired the sunrise
- And back to the hotel (one hour with camels + two hours with the jeep)
The food was cooked in front of us for a small fire, is a great experience. We learned a little about Indian cuisine and even learned/helped to prepare the roti.
We slept outside, on quite interesting beds, cover with 3 blankets. In the desert, the night is quite cold, especially in the winter.
The sky was quite covered and we did not enjoy the full potential of the stars.
This safari took about 24 hours. We left at 13 o’clock from the hotel, the climbing on the camels was around 16 o’clock. The next day, we left the camping area was at 9 o’clock, after one hour being taken over by the driver and brought back to the accommodation at 12 o’clock.
Left 200 years ago for reasons that are a mystery (drought, persecution, earthquake), Khaba Fort still contains the ruins of 80 houses.
You can visit the minuscule museum inside the fort, walk among the ruins and admire the pawns (they are incredible).
There are several abandoned villages in the area, but besides the Khaba Fort, one can also be visited and a haunted village, Kuldhara.
Sleep and food
Accommodation in Jaisalmer
If you expect to spend a lot of time in the fort then it would be better if you book accommodation closer to the entrance in the fort that is right in the middle of the city. The other tourist attractions are further away and you will need transportation to reach them. The nearest ones are Vyas Chhatri and Lake Gadsisar, which can be reached in half an hour’s walk.
Near the main entrance, we have chosen our accommodation. We wanted traditional accommodation in the area but that did not kill our budget and we found: Tofu Hotel & Safari. The compromise was that it looked a bit more modern, but the room was great. Perhaps it was not the most perfect accommodation, but it compensated by an owner who did everything he could to make us feel comfortable. Including transport from the bus station and to the train station, for free. What we have rarely met in India, you usually have to pay for anything. :))
Where to eat in Jaisalmer
In terms of food, we had some difficulty finding quality restaurants at affordable prices. We have tested a few places both in and out of the fort but we weren’t impressed. It was good food in general, we can not complain about this, but prices have been bigger than in other cities in India.
How to get to Jaisalmer
The city is close to the border and is in the desert, it is tourist enough to have good connectivity with the rest of the country. It has an airport, train station and bus stop that makes life a lot easier when you think of what to get here.
We arrived here by bus from Jodhpur on a freshly paved road, the trip is quite relaxing compared to the rest of our bus travels.
When we left, we chose to test the renowned train to Delhi. It’s famous because it’s one of the cheapest connections between the two cities and it’s an experience to sleep on a train, especially in India. Officially this train takes 16 hours, but most of the time it accumulates delays. The official excuse is that the fog prevents it from moving at the set speed. We have done about 21 hours, so we can consider ourselves fortunate, we have heard stories of much longer delays.
In order to have a more comfortable night, we chose to go to AC1 (the highest class available in India). You find the assigned seats when you get to the station (you have to go to the desk and ask). We were assigned to a four-person compartment, both of which had the upper beds The train offers you clean, sealed covers (bedding, envelope, and towel), pillow and blanket.