Jaisalmer: Things to know before you go

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I had visited the beautiful fort of Jaisalmer as a kid and I remember my mother mentioning Shonar Kella or the Golden Fortress, a mystery novel written by Bengali writer and filmmaker Satyajit Ray. After many years I visited this fort with my children and it brought back such lovely memories.

Are you planning a visit to the “Golden City” of Jaisalmer? In this post read about yellow sandstone architecture, things to eat, what to wear, how to stay safe & places to visit in Jaisalmer.

If you want to experience the charm of the land that can serve as a backdrop for the fairytales full of golden palaces, sand dunes, and romantic landscapes, Jaisalmer is the place to go.

One of the most beautiful cities of the Indian state of Rajasthan, Jaisalmer, is the place frequented by travelers for getting the taste of the only desert in India- Thar desert which is spread over 200,000 sq km.

I had always wanted to visit Jaisalmer for its vast desert and sand dunes. During my stay, Jaisalmer made me feel like I had traveled back into time.

Havelis, ancient temples, street markets bustling with people clad in colorful traditional outfits speak of the old times and place where life seemed unhurried. I loved strolling through the streets and exploring most of the places walking around in the city.

Why is Jaisalmer called Golden City?

Jaisalmer is also known as the golden city because of the yellow sandstone that is found in the area and is used vastly for construction. Sand dunes also add to the golden hues of the city.

Most of the buildings are made up of yellow sandstone, lending the city a golden hue. It looks like a place brought into life right out of a fairytale. Located in the Thar desert of Rajasthan, it used to be a famous trade center.

There is a charm in this city that makes you slow down your pace and not rush into things.

How many days are sufficient for Jaisalmer?

2 to 3 days are sufficient to explore the fort, havelis, museums and to enjoy the desert safari. In case you plan to visit nearby towns or experience village life in the thar desert, that may need some additional time.

What is Jaisalmer famous for?

Jaisalmer is famous for its fort and havelis which are stunning architectural marvels, for desert safaris and rich cultural heritage. It attracts photography enthusiasts and history lovers from all over the world with its captivating landscapes and monuments.

It contains everything a keen-eyed photographer will ever need. Many museums and art galleries have recently sprung up that give an insight into the cultural heritage and local life of the people. Some activities and places that are must-do and must-visit in Jaisalmer, are listed below.

Rajasthan has it all – Palaces, forts, desert, camels, elephants, and perhaps even snake charmers. Here are 10 awesome tourist places that you shouldn’t miss to visit in Rajasthan, India.

Jaisalmer Fort

The magnificent structure of yellow sandstone that stands strong in this desert city, is often known as the Golden Fort or Sonar Quila. It is one of the living forts in the worlds as many local people still live inside the fort. The fort was built by the Bhati Rajput ruler Maharawal Jaisal in 1155 AD and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite facing several attacks by foreign invaders, it managed to survive and stand strong. It houses many old Hindu temples, Jain temples, houses, and havelis. The Palace houses a wonderful museum that showcases arms, dresses, ornaments, utensils of the royal kingdom. Many tourists choose to book their stay inside the fort but it is considered unethical because the building is getting old and it is no more able to support additional burden of people staying in. With more people staying in and due to lack of maintenance, the condition of the fort is deteriorating.

Opening and closing time: 9 AM to 6 PM

Address: Fort Road, Near Gopa Chowk, Khejer Para, Manak chowk, Amar sagar Pol, Jaisalmer

Contact No. 2992252981

Website: www.tourism.rajasthan.gov.in

Jain temples

These temples date back to 15th and 16th centuries and are situated inside the Jaisalmer Fort complex. There is a group of seven temples dedicated to different Jain Tirthankars. The biggest temple among these is the Parsvanath temple, others being Rishabhdev temple, Chandraprabhu temple, Shitalnath temple, Kunthanath temple, Sambhavanth temple and Shantinath temple. These temples are built out of yellow sandstone and carvings on the intricate carving on the stones is very attractive. These temples are famous for their architecture and as pilgrimage centre for Jains.

Opening and closing time: 8 AM to 3 PM. Entry for foreigners after 11 am

Address: Khejer Para, Manak chowk, Amar sagar Pol, Jaisalmer

Contact No. 8003094507

Patwon ki Haveli

Patwon ki haveli is considered to be one of the most popular places to visit in Jaisalmer. It is a cluster of a few havelis constructed by Ghuman Chand Patwa in 1805. He constructed five separate sections for his five sons. The entire mansion is made up of yellow sandstone. It is a magnificent piece of architecture famous for its stone carvings, wall paintings, jharokhas, doorways, balconies. A part of this haveli has been converted into museum for visitors that displays a vast collection of antique pieces, furniture, decorative items etc. Another section houses items of traditional art and craft work of the local craftsmen.

Opening and closing time: 8 AM to 6 PM

Address: Amar sagar Pol, Jaisalmer

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Salim Singh ki Haveli

Salim Singh ki haveli was built in 1815 CE by Salim Singh who was the Prime Minister of the kingdom. The architecture of the haveli is inspired by the dancing peacock. It has five storeys and the structure is narrow at the first floor and the upper storeys spread out with the gracefully arched balconies.

Two huge stone carved elephants are placed at the entrance of the haveli. Imperial paintings adorn the walls of the haveli. It is said that Salim Singh wanted this place to be as high as the king’s palace and added two wooden storeys to it. The king didn’t like it and got those destructed.

Opening and closing time: 8 AM to 5 PM

Address: Amar sagar Pol, Jaisalmer

Nathmalji Ki Haveli

Nathmalji ki Haveli was constructed by Maharawal Berisal in 1885 CE which was to serve as residence for Diwan Mohata Nathmal, the then Prime Minister of Jaisalmer. The construction work was given to two brothers who started from two different ends of the building.

The end result was two similar but non-identical sides. The haveli reflects and amazing amalgamation of Rajput and Islamic architecture. The beautiful carvings on the jharokhas and balconies resemble magnified pieces of intricately carved jewellery. Walls are adorned with the pictures of flowers, cattles, horses etc.

Opening and closing time: 8 AM to 5 PM

Address: Amar sagar Pol, Jaisalmer

Camel ride

A ride on the camel-back is a must do to experience the desert life of Jaisalmer. Often camel ride a part of the complete package of desert safari. I had my first experience of camel ride in Jaisalmer.

I still remember the name of the camel that I rode on was ‘Rocket’. The ride may seem a little scary initially but soon you start enjoying the bumpy ride. I felt like a happy kid and enjoyed every moment of it. You just have to be careful and hold strong when the camel gets up and sits down.

Gadsisar Lake

This is a manmade lake built in the 14th century by the then Maharaja of Jaisalmer, Maharwal Gadsi Singh. It was used as a water conservation tank and supplied water to the entire town.

It’s a popular tourist spot where you can rent paddle boats in the water. The lake is surrounded by many shrines and temples. It becomes a festival spot during Gangaur celebrations. The place looks very picturesque at sunset. Many migratory birds can also be seen around the lake.

Folklore museum

This museum is situated on the banks of the Gadsisar lake. It was founded in 1984 by a local connoisseur. N.K. Sharma. It is a good place to know about the traditions, culture and life of the local people.

The museum exhibits a vast collection of costumes, paintings, jewelry and other lifestyle items. Many such other museums can also be found in the city that adds to the knowledge of travellers about this place and its history.

Opening and closing time: 8 AM to 7 PM

Address: Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer

Bara Bagh

This is a place with many cenotaphs in a big garden. These cenotaphs were erected in honour of the rulers of the city from 16th to 20th century. The oldest cenotaph belongs to Maharawal Jait Singh. Many cenotaphs were built later on by the subsequent rulers.

Maharaja Jawahar Singh was the ruler who reigned after India’s independence and the last cenotaph to be built was dedicated to him. It remained incomplete as his son who ascended the throne after him, died within one year of his ascension. This was considered a bad omen and since then the tradition of erecting cenotaphs at bada bagh was discontinued.

Opening and closing time: 8 AM to 6 AM

Address: Ramgarh road, Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer War Museum

This museum is located at the Jaisalmer Military Station on the Jaisalmer- Jodhpur Highway. It’s a must visit place for people who are interested in history, Indian Army and it’s soldiers. It was established by the Indian Army in 2015 and was inaugurated by Lieutenant General Ashok Singh on 24th August.

The museum is spread over an area of 10 acres. Along with war trophies, weapons, equipment and military vehicles, the museum showcases tales of bravery and sacrifice of heroes of the wars. There is an audio-visual room where movies about battles are screened.

Opening and closing time: Open everyday 9 AM to 6 PM

Address: Jaisalmer- Jodhpur Highway, Jaisalmer

Contact No: 9116113959

Rooftop Restaurants

Like many other tourist destinations in Rajasthan, rooftop restaurants are very popular among tourists in Jaisalmer. During the day you get the view of the city and Jaisalmer fort which converts into ‘meal under the stars’ at night. Tourists like to spend their time here in the open area with a view of the city and fort in the backdrop.

The Lal Garh, Restaurant Romany, Pol Haveli restaurant, Pleasant Haveli are some of the popular places to eat and hang out. There are many restaurants that provide wide variety of food like Indian, chinese, continental etc. catering to all budgets.

Jaisalmer Desert Festival

This is an annual event that is organized for three days during the month of February in Jaisalmer. The festival is celebrated amidst the dunes of the desert. It exhibits the traditional culture of Rajasthan.

It gives the tourists a chance to look at the real culture of this place very closely and be a part of it during these three days.

Tourists from India and all over the world attend this festival to enjoy this extravagant event. Folk dances, local music, art, camel races, turban tying competition, and mustache competition adds to the fun of this festival. Many live performances are hosted under the night sky of the desert.

Glamping or desert camping

If you are the kind of traveller who prefers to stay at luxurious places wherever you go, Glamping or glamorous camping under the stars in the desert is an experience not to be missed. Spend a night sleeping in the desert looking at the constellations.

Camps in the desert provide almost every amenity like bed, bathroom, meals, running water etc. There is a lot of competition and almost every hotel provides packages for desert camping, safari etc to its guests. Ask about all the details of the package, what’s included in the price and what’s not.

Tanot Mata temple

This temple is situated 120 km north west of Jaisalmer in Thar desert. Tanot Mata is believed to be a reincarnation of Goddess Hinglaj. Located near Longewala, the temple is a sacred place for the Border Security Force and is well maintained by them. This temple became famous due to the belief that during 1965 war with Pakistan, many bombs landed in the temple but did not explode. It is now a tourist destination but tourists can not go beyond this temple.

Kuldhara

Kuldhara is an abandoned village situated at a distance of 32 km from Jaisalmer. It used to be a prosperous village inhabited by Paliwal Brahmins. Popular belief about this village is that the then minister Salim Singh wanted to marry a girl of this village and issued an ultimatum the to villagers to succumb to his demands or face circumstances. The villagers collectively abandoned the village overnight and cursed this place to never become an inhabited place again.

Lodurva

It is a small village in the Jaisalmer district which is famous for Jain temples and other historical monuments. It is located at a distance of 15 km from Jaisalmer city. Lodurva was the ancient capital of the Bhatti dynasty till 1156 AD when Rawal Jaisal shifted the capital to Jaisalmer. There are a number of temples dedicated to different jain tirthankars. Most of these monuments are in ruins now but there is no doubt that in older times they stood in all their beauty and grandeur.

How far is desert from Jaisalmer?

Desert is around 42 km away from the city of Jaisalmer. Many travel agents and tour operators provide daily excursions to the desert from Jaisalmer. You can also opt to stay overnight in the desert camps.

What is the best time to visit Jaisalmer?

Winter season, that spreads from November to February, is the best time to visit Jaisalmer. Days are filled with sunshine and are pleasant. Nights may get very chilly and temperature may vary from 24 degrees Celsius during daytime to 7 degrees Celsius at night. Tourist season starts from October and lasts till March.

What can I buy in Jaisalmer?

Shopping in the streets of Jaisalmer has its own rustic charm. Be it the bohemian jewelry, antique pieces, precious jewelry, traditional cloths, silk scarves, shawks, embroidered handbags, wall hangings with mirror work, leather items, puppets or kathputlis, carpets, paintings, shoes, souvenirs, you can find it all here.

You would not be able to resist shopping looking at so many attractive things at display in the shops and street markets. Sadar Bazar, Bhatia Bazar, Pansari Bazar, Manak chowk are some of the popular markets for shopping. If you are interested in buying some precious jewelry like gold, silver or precious stones, Sonaron ka Baas is the place to go to.

Bargaining skills come handy while shopping in the local bazaars and streets. Have a look at various shops and variety of things available, compare prices and products, do some bargaining and then buy. It’s almost impossible to return from Jaisalmer without buying anything from these markets.

If this is your first trip to India you will find these posts helpful:-

What is desert safari in Jaisalmer? How far is Sam sand dunes from Jaisalmer?

A desert safari is an adventure activity in desert that includes camel ride on the sand dunes and/or jeep safari along with other activities like folk music, dances, village tour, parasailing, drinks, meals. It can be customised for a few hours to many days as per your preferences or you may choose to go with other travellers in a group. The price for desert safari starts from around 1000 rupees per person and goes up according to the number of days and activities involved.

Sam sand dunes are situated at a distance of approximately 42 km from Jaisalmer. A trip to Sam sand dunes can be arranged through any travel and tour operators in Jaisalmer. They provide all the facilities like pick up and drop, stay, meals etc.

Is Jaisalmer safe for tourists?

Yes, Jaisalmer is very safe for tourists. Many tourists from India and foreign countries regularly visit Jaisalmer. Travellers loitering in the streets and other tourist spots in the city, is a very common sight here. Being located near to the Pakistan border, there is a military base and a lot of security near the border areas. Visitors are not allowed to wander around sensitive areas.

These posts will help you plan your trips so that you stay safe and healthy.

What should you wear in Jaisalmer?

Jaisalmer is a city that has kept its culture alive. You can find local women wearing traditional Indian outfits that can be purchased from the markets of the city. You can wear clothes that cover you decently and your shoulders, legs, cleavage is not exposed.

Opt for light breezy clothes during summer and carry some woolens if traveling during winter.

Due to the harsh sun during the day, one should protect the skin and head from direct heat. It’s good to cover the head with a scarf or hat and wear sunglasses with UV protection. When in the desert, wear open toe sandals because a lot of sand gets inside shoes.

Does Jaisalmer have an airport?

Yes. Jaisalmer Airport is located 17 km southeast of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. The airport operated as a civil enclave on an Indian Air Force Base. It has regular or six days flights to Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Surat, and Jodhpur.

One should check for the latest updates about the Jaisalmer airport before planning. Its operations often get affected due to security reasons being at the border and Indian Air Force Base.

The other nearest airport is Jodhpur Airport which is located at a distance of around 275 km from Jaisalmer.

Jaisalmer is also a famous location for film shoots. Many movies like ‘Hum dil de chuke sanam’, ‘Bajrangi Bhaijan’, ‘Badshaho’, ‘Airlift’, ‘Parmanoo’ etc have been shot here. Jaisalmer is also getting popular as a destination for pre-wedding and post-wedding shoots. Golden sand, clear blue skies and lots of picturesque locations attracts photographers and travellers to this land.

Spend a night under the open sky counting stars, satisfy your adventurous soul with Jeep safari and parasailing in the desert.

To me, Jaisalmer is not a place that I can get over with ever. I would love to revisit this place, not for any specific thing but for the vibes I get when I’m there and for being surrounded with so much of well-preserved history, culture, art and architecture.

If this is your First trip to Rajasthan, you will find these posts helpful as well:-

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