The ‘Golden City of India’ as it is lovingly called, Jaisalmer in Rajasthan lies stretched across the Thar Desert in a sheet of golden sand. Dating back to 1156 AD, the city has witnessed its fair share of Rajput Monarchy and holds quite a few significant footmarks of it. Its ancient monuments such as the Jaisalmer Fort, the numerous temples and some other structures are cut out from golden yellow sandstone adding further justification to the name ‘Golden City’. The Rajputs are famous for their unique and colorful culture and there is much to see and learn while on a vacation to this magnificent city.
As with all desert regions, Jaisalmer is an arid and dry region that experiences scorching heat during the summer months and very little rain. The most pleasant season is the winter when the cooler weather makes site-seeing and safaris much more enjoyable.
Best time to visit (November to March) – November to March marks the winter months when the temperature hovers around 24 degrees Celsius. A light breeze blows during the evening and nights become cooler raising the need for some light woolens. The massive Desert Festival is held during February in the Sam Sand Dunes region. The carnival-like festival showcases authentic Rajasthani music and dance and the ‘The Moustache Competition’ is one to definitely watch out for!
Good time to visit (September to October) – Though Jaisalmer gets very little rainfall, the monsoon months of September and October are good to visit the city. Humidity might be a little on the higher side, however evenings and nights are pleasantly cool and good for outings.
Visit with Caution (April to August) – The summer months are scorching hot as temperatures reach up to almost 44 degrees Celsius. Site-seeing and safaris can prove to be difficult and light cotton clothes and lots of sunscreen are advisable if visiting during this time.
By Rail – The Jaisalmer Railway station is connected with most other cities of India by several trains and is the best way to reach the city. The famous luxury train ‘Palace on Wheels’ also halts at this station.
By Air – Jaisalmer has a military operated airport that allows only chartered flights to land on it. Sometimes commercial flights are also allowed to land during the peak tourist season from November to March. Check with the airport authority for availability.
Alternatively: The nearest commercial airport is at Jodhpur, about 285kms from Jaisalmer and takes around 4.5hrs to drive down to the city.
By Road – Jaisalmer is well connected with all major cities of India through the network of National Highways. The nearest city is Barmer at 156 kms and is located at a 2-hour drive from Jaisalmer.
Jaisalmer, with its old world charm and the unique grandeur of its erstwhile Rajput Rulers have several interesting places to check out:
Must Visit Places in Jaisalmer
1. The Golden Fortress
The majestic Jaisalmer Fort, built in 1156 AD and located in the heart of Jaisalmer is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and an absolute photographer’s delight. The fort made of golden yellow sandstone that shines brightly in the sun is lovingly hailed as the Golden Fortress by the Rajasthanis. The sprawling campus of the fort is a maze of narrow lanes and by-lanes lined with small shops selling unique Rajasthani handicrafts and memorabilia. There are also several eateries inside the campus that offer mouth-watering global cuisine like French and Italian, apart from the Indian delicacies. Around 3000 people live inside the campus that is always bustling with throngs of tourists all day. The Fort itself is an architectural beauty for its immenseness and exploring through its ornate interiors throws a deep insight into the Royal history of the Rajputs.
- Opening Timings – 6:00am to 5:00pm IST on all days (including holidays)
- Entry Fees – INR 250 per person for Forein Tourists
INR 50 per person for Indian Citizen
- Photography – Allowed
2. Salim Singh-Ki-Haveli
The Rajputs, known for their Royalty and grandeur, have left a string of footmarks in the form of their massive residences that clearly reflect their way of living. One of the most notable and magnificent residence is Salim Singh’s Haveli (Hindi word for House) located just near Jaisalmer Fort. The intricately designed arches over the windows and the pillars perfectly cut out of the stone of this 300 year old palace are testimony of great architectural efficiency of the past. The exterior of the monument has a unique shape; the front face in the form of a ship’s stern while the roof is shaped like a peacock. A guided tour around the Haveli unravels the history of its past residents and provides with the scope of some beautiful photography.
- Opening Timings – 8:00am to 6:00pm IST on all days
- Entry Fees – INR 15 per person for Foreign Tourists
INR 10 per person for Indian Citizen
- Photography Charges – INR 50 for still camera
INR 100 for video camera
3. The Thar Heritage Museum
The Thar Heritage Museum, though quite small in area, has on display an impressive collection of items that reflect the true face of the colorful Rajasthani culture. Browsing through the string of photographs, coins, manuscripts and weapons takes you on a walk down the history of a bygone era. Rajasthan is rich in its culture and has quite a few unique facets to it like their colorful frilly dresses and massive turbans. It is also famous for the bulky jewellery known as Kundan made from colorful stone settings on precious metals like gold and silver. Examples of these dresses and jewellery also form a part of the display in the museum.
- Opening Timings – 9:00am to 6:00pm IST on all days
- Entry Fees – INR 70 per person for Foreign Tourists
INR 30 per person for Indian Citizen
Should Visit Places in Jaisalmer
4. Jain Temples
The Jain Temples are a series of seven temples constructed inside the sprawling campus of Jaisalmer Fort. The temples, built around 12th to 15th Century, attract quite a lot of pilgrims who come looking for devotional peace. The temples hold special significance in its architecture that represents the world famous ‘Dilwara’ style. Stone carvings of animals and human forms adorn the walls of the temples. The ritual like grinding of sandalwood by the priests before the morning prayers is fascinating to watch. Adding to the intrigue of the temples is its underground library known as the Gyan Bhandar that holds an impressive collection of old illustrated manuscripts and holy books.
- Opening Timings – 8:00am to 12noon on all days
- Entry Fees – Free for Indians
INR 10 per person for Foreign Tourists
- Photography Charges – INR 50 for still camera
INR 100 for video camera
5. Sam Sand Dunes
Covered in extensive sheets of golden sand rippled by wind, the 2kms stretch of Sam Sand Dunes is located about 41kms from Jaisalmer city. The open area with miles to look out into provides a stunning view of sunset in the horizon. However, contrary to the common assumption that such a deserted region would reflect solitude the Sam Sand Dunes is quite a busy place. The region is thronged by large groups of camel caravans that offer you a desert safari around the dunes. The groups of Rajasthani local people clad in their colorful frilly Rajasthani attire complete with the massive turbans are an entertaining lot with their traditional dance and music performances. In fact, the sand dunes area takes on a carnival-like atmosphere every evening until late at night. Camping is available at the dunes along with campfire, music, dance and mouth-watering Rajasthani delicacies.
Can Visit Places in Jaisalmer
6. Kuldhara Village
An abandoned village that is known to be haunted, Kuldhara is located 15kms from Jaisalmer. The story of Kuldhara village is a fascinating one and has enough intrigue in it to make you want to take a sneak peek into the village. It is said that after being inhabited for 7 centuries, all the residents of this village suddenly disappeared one night and since then no one has lived there. There are several building structures as well as temples and step-wells still standing in the village, though in ruins and crumbling state. The entire area is engulfed in an eerie silence. If you consider yourself a daredevil and have a knack to explore such ghostly places, a visit to this village is worth an experience!
7. Gadisar Lake
Serving as an oasis in the middle of the desert city of Jaisalmer lies the beautiful and serene Gadisar Lake. The lake was initially constructed for the purpose of reserving rain water and its significance lies in the fact that the lake never dries up even during the scorching summer months. Apart from tourists, the lake is also visited by a large number of pilgrims looking for devotional peace as there are quite a few small temples surrounding it. The lake is full of catfish and one can buy bread from one of the stalls to feed them while taking a blissful boat ride on the lake. You can also listen to the boatman explaining the interesting story behind the lake’s arched gateway called Tilon-ki-pol.
Tip: Keep your eyes open and cameras poised for glimpses of some rare species of migratory birds that are often sighted near the lake!
The colorful ambience coupled with the flashing golden tinge of the silky sand cover surely makes Jaisalmer one of the most glorious experiences of an extremely fulfilling vacation!