Situated in the heart of the Thar Desert and close to the India-Pakistan border, Jaisalmer, founded in 1156 by Rawal Jaisal, is carpeted with golden sand and almost every house is built with the yellow Jaisalmer stone thus, making it the ‘Golden City’. The city still exudes an age-old aura of valor and royalty. Bold Rajasthani attires and the golden landscape of the city form a distinctive contrast. Jaisalmer literally meaning ‘the Hill Fort of Jaisal’ is a destination where camels are seen in abundance, an iconic hill-fort stands above the city with imposing walls where the best examples of par-brilliance inscriptions are found. Jaisalmer has come a long way from being an important town along the ancient camel-train route that ran through India and Central Asia to being one of the largest towns of Rajasthan and a popular destination among tourists.
Nestled amid the golden sands of Thar Desert, Jaisalmer Fort is one of the most renowned forts in the world exhibiting brilliant craftsmanship and aesthetic beauty steeped with rich past and heritage. Built in 1156 by Raja Jaiswal, the fort is 250 foot tall which is protected by 30 feet long walls and constitutes 99 bastions. Perched atop Tirkuta hills, the fort houses prominent structures like the Raj Mahal, which had been the royal palace of the fort, aesthetic Jain temples, Laxminath temple and four massive gateways. Apart from these, Jaisalmer fort is also famed for its carved yellow sandstone merchant havelis which are still in possession of the original builders. A UNESCO World Heritage site merging brilliantly with the golden hues of the desert, Jaisalmer Fort boasts of various attractions that reflect the majestic life of which the fort was once a part of.
Salim Singh haveli (Pictured Above) was built in the first half of the 18th century and a part of it is still occupied by descendants of the original residents. The high arched roof is supported by carved brackets designed in the shape of peacocks. This mansion was not created with the help of cements and mortar- the stones are connected with strong iron rods.
Nathmal Ki Haveli was built by two Muslim jeweler brothers and not stone carvers on the order of the then prime minister. The brothers started working on the opposite sides of the building which lead to a similar but non identical left and right side.
Patwon-Ki-Haveli is located in the main city and was built by a famous trader named Guman Chand and his sons. This massive five-storied construction has five intricately decorated huge suites. The large corridors and the decorated walls are excellent representations of the art form that prevailed. The entire construction is made of yellow sandstone.
The Gadsisar rainwater lake is a popular picnic spot, owing to its cool and scenic surroundings. In fact, it is a great vantage point to sight the spectacular Jaisalmer Fort from , when it is bathed in the glorious hues of the golden sun at sunrise. The lake sits just outside the city walls and was once the sole reservoir that controlled the entire supply of water to the arid city of Jasialmer! Located in the southern part of the city, the entrance to the lake is marked by beautifully carved yellow stone archway known as Tilon-ki-Pol. Contrary to the popular belief, it is not an oasis but a water conservation tank made around 1400 AD by the then maharaja of Jaisalmer, Maharwal Gadsi Singh.
On the outskirts of the city of Jaisalmer lie the ruins of the abandoned village of Kuldhara that have captivated the minds of travellers for centuries. Back in the 1800s, the village used to be a prosperous town but, it said that after some unfathomable tragedy, the town was abandoned overnight. Legend says that no one saw the inhabitants leave the village and no one knows the reason for the mass exodus. Since then, no one has been able to settle here. The many stories of how a region of almost a thousand residents simply vanished, makes it a top priority for history buffs and thrill-seekers alike. A walk through this desolate, abandoned village in the desert with its houses, roads and a temple is an experience that takes you back in time. Some interesting water conservation techniques have been unearthed amongst the 200-year-old ruins, a remarkable feat in such a water-scarce desert terrain.
The pristine, breath taking, expanse of the unbroken sand dunes of Sam makes it a great desert safari spot. One can enjoy desert safari by either riding a camel or by hiring a jeep. While camping in the desert, surrounded by the golden sands of the Thar desert, visitors can get an immersive insight into life in the desert. There is a lot to learn while travelling through the remote areas of Jaisalmer and absorbing the rich culture of the region with its folk-dance performances, puppet shows and other open-air cultural extravaganzas.
This traditional dance form is performed by the Kalbelia community of Rajasthani snake-charmers. It consists of swirling and graceful movements that make this dance a treat to behold. This form is joyous and a vigorously performed art, where women in flowing black skirts and gleaming jewellery swirl and sway trying to replicate the movement of a serpent dancing to the beats of traditional musical instruments that are played by men. The dance is the community's tribute to their centuries-old cultural heritage. As the performance progresses, the tempo of the Kalbelia dance increases and so does the pace of the dance steps. Due to the demanding nature of the dance, the performance is usually carried out in pairs with at least two pairs who swap stage-presence seamlessly.
Representing the unique cultural traditions of Jaisalmer, the Kathputli dance reflects the artistic imagination of the organisers of the show, who creatively choreograph a dance drama of puppets for the entertainment of the audience. String puppets or Kathputli dance in Rajasthan is an old tradition, which features a well-known ballad or a lyrical story to narrate the events of historic times. These stories or tales of romance and chivalry are told with movements of string puppets. During historic times the art was practiced by the Bhat society. After them, this art was also performed by influential families in the state and became well-known in the region not only for entertainment, but also to provide moral and social education to the society.
There are many vibrant options for shopping in Rajasthan. And shopping in the fort city is among the best things to do in Jaisalmer for the shopaholics. With so many options and varieties of handmade products including clothes, jewellery, accessories, bags, footwear, etc, shopping is one of the best things to do in Jaisalmer. What To Shop: Puppets, Rajasthani textiles, jootis, decorative items, local handicrafts, camel leather items, yellow sandstone showpieces, wooden items, and ornaments
For the people traveling to Jaisalmer during the months of October to March, dinner at the Sand dunes is one of the unique experiences to cherish. The visitors can experience the royalty and enjoy a meal just like the royals do amidst the lamps and bonfires. The entire menu boasts a nomadic hunt menu which is prepared on-site by a number of professional chefs. The visitors can enjoy the delicious food along with folk singers uplifting the ambiance.
Situated on the outskirts of Jaisalmer, the deserted ruins of Lodhruva, are famous for a Jain temple and a wishing tree called Kalp Vriksh. The temple is dedicated to the 23rd tirthankar (saint), Parshwanath. The architectural beauty of the temple can be seen on each finely carved stone that was used to construct it. The intricate stone carvings and large, spacious interiors make for a pleasant and relaxing time at the complex, which has been reinstated to its pristine condition after extensive repairs and restorative work carried out over the years. Lodhruva is said to be the setting of the doomed-love story of Princess Mumal and Mahendra, the prince of Aamarkot, recounted in local folklore and songs across the region. Lodhruva is known as the ancient capital of Jaisalmer.
Thalis have always been an important part of the Rajasthani culture. It is one of the best ways to experience the culture and traditions of this place. These thali’s have multiple food items on the list and are loaded with ghee, spices and loads of love. Every item on that plate will leave you asking for more and under its spell
Lassi is the famous street food in Jaisalmer and it is the Indian style yoghurt beverage made by beating yoghurt and dress up with extra cream served with so much affection in Kulhads (earthen glasses).
This delicious platter comprise of a combination of three different items namely a spicy Dal, a deep-fried Baati and a mouth-watering and slightly sweetish churma cooked uniquely with different ingredients. The baatis are baked flaky round breads made of gehun ka atta (wheat flour), rava (semolina), besan (Bengal gram flour), salt, milk and ghee that are typically served after dipping with ghee. The unsalted version of the baatis deep fried in ghee are crushed and mixed with jaggery and sugar thus forming the churma. The dal item is prepared of five different dals namely chana dal (split Bengal gram), toovar (arhar) dal, moong dal (split green gram), urad dal (split black lentils) and whole moong (whole green gram) and referred as panchmel dal or panch kutti dal.
If you want to get high in Jaisalmer – then there is no better option than the savoury sweetened Bhang lassi. Made from the local cannabis – bhang – the lassi prepared out from it is highly popular in this part of the country. There are few shops in the city of Jaisalmer which can sell legally and are authorised to sell bhang lassi.
A mutton curry cooked in yogurt and typical Rajasthani spices especially red chili resulting a die-hard spicy dish on your plate, but a must try out for its royal flavor. This tantalizing dish best goes with handkerchief thin Roomali Roties (Indian bread).