HOW TO SPEND 2 DAYS IN INDIA’S GOLDEN CITY
Did you know that India has the Golden city? Neither did I, but apparently you can find it in the western part of Rajasthan and its name is Jaisalmer! So India has its Pink city (Jaipur), Blue city (Jodhpur), White City or City of Lakes (Udaipur), and Golden City (Jaisalmer). Exciting isn’t it? Jaisalmer is pretty known for its impressive Golden sandstone fort and is famous for overnight camel safaris in the desert.
Originally I didn’t plan on visiting Jaisalmer, so it didn’t go as smoothly as I would like it, but I’m glad I had a chance to see this beautiful place. I think sleeping under the stars in a desert was the highlight of my journey (when I unpacked after my 2-month trip I still could feel the smell of bonfire on my jacket and found some sand in my pockets). I believe spending a night or two in a desert should be on every traveler’s bucket list because it is an experience that one will never forget!
Anyway, I think you need some info about this beautiful town in the middle of the Thar Desert, don’t you? So Jaisalmer is known as the Golden city because of its unique sandstone architecture. It is a charming little (Indian little) town rich in history, pretty calm and vibrant. Jaisalmer Fort is very popular among travelers because it is one of the few ‘living forts’ in the world and you can actually spend a night or two there! Although, if I could turn back time, I wouldn’t stay inside. I read some articles saying that travelers should choose to stay outside the fort because by staying inside we are literally damaging the thousand-year monument. Its ancient drainage system can’t cope with all the water and other waste that tourism brings and some parts of the fort had already collapsed, so in a long term, this fort might be just a memory… Travel responsibly!
HOW LONG YOU SHOULD STAY IN JAISALMER?
In my opinion, Jaisalmer isn’t a place to stay for longer than 3 days. There is really not much to do. Well, we can always argue about this, but if you are on a tight schedule – 2 nights is plenty of time to do it all!
WHERE IS IT AND HOW TO GET THERE?
Jaisalmer is located 575 km west of India’s state of Rajasthan capital Jaipur (the Pink city) and around 120 km from India’s border with Pakistan. There are a few ways how you can reach the Golden City:
- Hire a private driver. Safe and expensive (compared to other options). You can ask your hotel about it.
- Flight. Jaisalmer has its own airport 17 km away from the city, so it’s easy to reach it from any part of India. Check the flights here.
- Bus. There are some buses that go from Jodhpur, Jaipur, and Bikaner (check for tickets and journey time on 12go.asia or redbus).
- Train. Jaisalmer is well connected via rail from Delhi and Jodhpur. The train ride takes around 5-6 hours from Jodhpur. Get your tickets here. In case you need more info you can read about Indian train rides here.
- A one-day (or more days) tour. You can book it in your hotel on TripAdvisor or any other travel agency that you like.
HOW TO GET AROUND JAISALMER?
I guess you’re wondering how to get around Jaisalmer. Jaisalmer is a small and kinda walkable city (that’s the best for me!), but in case you want a vehicle any way you can always use Ola app which is amazing and works exactly like Uber (which is also good to use), you are able to see how much the journey will cost you and it’s pretty safe. Note that cars can’t go inside the fort, they will drop you off outside the fort and you have to climb up the hill to reach it.
Also on your way you can always hop on one of million auto-rickshaws, just don’t forget to haggle the price before you get on it! The best part about it is that you can always ask the driver to wait for you somewhere near to bring you back!
Another option is to ask the staff in your hotel to organize and hire a private vehicle for you, the price depends on whether it’s a car or a tuk-tuk or any other.
JAISALMER TRAVEL GUIDE
This is my recommendation for how to spend two days in Jaisalmer. You don’t have to follow it blindly as I wrote it down, you are more than welcome to change it the way it’s more convenient for you!
DAY 1 – WHAT IS JAISALMER
- JAISALMER FORT
One of the most interesting forts in all of Rajasthan is Jaisalmer fort. This fort is the oldest one in Rajasthan, built in the 12th century, and believe me when the sun is setting down the view of the fort rising from the golden sand desert is something magical! As I mentioned before, Jaisalmer fort is one of the few forts in the world where people actually live to this day. So it’s not only stunning architecture, beautifully carved arches and windows, and uniquely decorated walls that you will see, but also you will have a chance to see daily locals’ life, smell the home-cooked food, and peak into their homes through the open doors.
In fort you will find a lot of cafes and restaurants, most of them has rooftop terraces, cute little shops selling Rajasthani clothing and all kind of souvenirs, beautiful Havelis, quite a few temples, and lots of viewpoints where you can stop and enjoy the surrounding landscape.
Opening times – 24/7. Entry fee – free.
2. JAIN TEMPLES
While wandering around the streets you can’t miss visiting at least one of the seven Jain temples that are located inside the fort. These temples are dedicated to different Jain Thirtankharas (teachers). The biggest and most visited temple among these is the Parsvanath temple, others are Rishabhdev temple, Chandraprabhu temple, Shitalnath temple, Kunthanath temple, Sambhavanth temple, and Shantinath temple. You don’t have to remember the names, I just left it here in case you want to know. These temples are built out of yellow sandstone perfectly matching all of the fort styles with beautiful carvings all over it, so it’s a real deal, my friend.
Opening and closing time: 8 AM to 3 PM. Entry for foreigners is just after 11 AM.
3. CHASE THE HAVELIS
I think you already know what is a Haveli as a number of these buildings can be found all over Rajasthan and especially in Jaisalmer. If you’re not sure – Havelis are what we know to be mansions, beautiful houses with a number of rooms, balconies, terraces, unique architecture, and subtle details!
Patwon Ki Haveli is the largest and the most important Haveli inside Jaisalmer Fort. The entire structure is built out of yellow sandstone, it is a real eye-catching architecture masterpiece for its stone carvings, wall paintings, doorways, cute balconies, and all the other small details. You can enter this haveli as part of it is a museum now, but I think admiring it from the outside is more than enough.
Opening times – 9 AM to 6 PM. Entry fee – 20 INR for Indians, 100 INR for foreigners (around 1.05£; 1.20€; 1.30$).
Nachna Haveli is now been converted into a hotel and you can have a royal dining experience even if you do not spend a night here. The Saffron restaurant which is a part of this Haveli now has a terrace area with a beautiful view of the Tazia tower and the Mandir Palace.
Nathmalji Ki Haveli is another famous haveli in town. It was built for Mohota Nathmal, the Prime Minister of Jaisalmer. It was built by two architect brothers who happened to be carving the details on their own separately, so if you observe carefully enough, you can see that some shapes are the same but different. Also, there are two huge elephants guarding the entrance which gives a really royal look.
That’s just a few Havelis of hundreds that can be found in Jaisalmer! You don’t even have to look for them, they will be everywhere you go.
4. GADISAR LAKE
Once you wandered around the fort, make your way out of it and down the hill to Gadisar Lake. I would really recommend walking there, it’s just a 15-20 minute walk down the street, and you have the freedom to explore local life, stop at Manak Chowk or Hanuman Chowk to wander around the shops, try street food or sit down somewhere and have a drink, but of course, you can take an auto if you’re not into that.
Gadisar Lake is a manmade lake that was constructed in the 14th century by Maharawal Gadsi Singh to provide his town with much-needed water. You will see Tilon Ki Pol gateway with enchanting lattices and balconies made of yellow sandstone. The beautiful structure marks an entrance to the lake, which apparently have been built by a famous local prostitute in those days. Later in years many small temples and shrines were constructed all around the shore which made the lake a pilgrimage center and now a well-known tourist attraction.
There is a lovely Halo cafe on the very side of the lake where you can enjoy delicious food with a beautiful view!
Opening times – 24/7. Entry – free.
5. VYAS CHHATRI
Another beautiful place worth visiting is Vyas Chhatri. You can walk or grab an auto to get there! The big area of yellow sandstone cenotaphs, built on a hill on raised platforms with beautifully designed chhatris (umbrella-shaped domes) on top of carved pillars. Vyas Chhatri is dedicated to Sage Vyas, who wrote the poem Mahabharata, and is a cremation ground for Brahmins (the highest caste in Hindu tradition, which involves only priests and teachers). You can see the Golden Fort in the distance and it is amazing how magical this place becomes during the sunset!
Opening times – 8AM till 7.30 PM daily. Entry fee – 100 INR for everyone + 100 INR for the camera (in total around 2£, 2.40€, 2.60$).
DAY 2 – DESERT SAFARI
But before – SUNRISE AT THE FORT
I would offer to wake up early and make your way to any corner of the fort where you can see the sunrise. Absolutely breathtaking experience to see every building getting the vivid golden color!
Bumpy gravel road ride through the desert, camping, and bonfire somewhere far away from civilization, no internet connection, no toilet or comfy bed, breathing in the magical smell of the golden dunes, sleeping under the stars, sandy hair, and free soul. That’s how I describe this experience. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? You should definitely take this opportunity and experience it yourself!
READ MORE ABOUT THE OVERNIGHT DESERT SAFARI HERE.
I booked an overnight tour with my hostel without even thinking, our group was joining the group from another hostel and a few people from other hotels too. It might be a very private company, that isn’t advertising anywhere else, I don’t even know the name, guys might just drive us to the desert and leave us there to die (hahaha), BUT it’s not a problem to find a counter where you can book this adventure in Jaisalmer.
We returned around 1-3 PM which is a pretty good time to get yourself ready for an overnight train to your next destination or you can just chill and stay another night in Jaisalmer. I wanted to check the other side of India so I stayed for another night and had a flight to Bengaluru the next day!
OTHER JAISALMER TIPS:
Try a Bhang Lassi or Cookie
Jaisalmer is one of the few cities in India where it is legal to consume Bhang. It has its own government-approved bhang shop! If you don’t know what it is – it is an edible form of cannabis. Bhang takes a big part in ancient Hindu tradition and is believed to cure some diseases. It is commonly found in Bhang Lassis, a milk-based beverage with sugar and fruits or it might be added to cakes or cookies.
WHERE TO STAY IN JAISALMER?
Backpackers – Zostel – the minute one friend of mine showed me the pictures of this hostel I knew I won’t consider anything else – located inside of the fort, with authentic architecture and spectacular views from all of its terraces. Absolutely gorgeous!
Budget private – Bohemian Guest House – lovely guest house located outside the fort. Affordable, clean, and comfy private rooms, friendly owners.
Luxury – Suryagarh Jaisalmer – if you’re looking for the best of the best, this is the one. The 5-star hotel is a lovely gift for yourself and a good runaway from the rest of the world!
GENERAL TIPS FOR SAFE TRAVELS:
- Travel insurance is a must!
- Apps to help on your way:
- Maps.me – amazing app for using the city map while you have no connection to the internet.
- Ola app – for booking cabs (or even auto-rickshaws)
- There is a general dress code for female travellers while wandering around India. I am sure you heard that India is known as more conservative than western countries in all ways, so keeping your shoulders and legs from the knee upwards covered would not only show the respect for the culture but also saves you from unwanted attention.
- Be aware of common scams. If it seems to be to good to be true – it’s a scam.
- Pickpocketing is a thing all over the world. Especially in the busy places, near tourist attractions keep your belongings close to you.
Send You loads of Love!
Stay adventurous and see you on the road! x