Jaisalmer - India

Rising from the dunes of the ‘Great Indian Desert’ like a mirage, sandstone fortress and all, this is a city with more to it than just good looks. Fleur Rollet-Manus explores

Travel Time 8hrs 10min

Why go?

Western Rajasthan’s serene desert city of Jaisalmer is a destination rich in heritage. Dating back to 1156AD, its streets, temples and breathtaking fort – often bathed in golden light – could easily have been pulled from the pages of a storybook. Carved entirely from custard-cream-coloured sandstone, its narrow winding lanes lead to towering havelis with elaborate facades, hidden shops draped in intricately embellished dupattas and the odd sleeping cow. It is simultaneously calm yet chaotic and insanely beautiful. Temperatures are at their most manageable from November to March. While you never need an excuse to visit, 7 February sees the annual Desert Festival take place in the Sam Sand Dunes, with lively events ranging from camel races and camel polo to snake charmers and a tense turban-tying contest.

What to do

Fencing the city with its 99 turrets, Jaisalmer Fort rises like a sandcastle from the Thar Desert. Built in the 12th century by Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal, it’s the city’s thriving hub – a honeycomb of lanes leading to rooftop restaurants, brightly coloured boutiques and artisan jewellers. Make time to visit the Fort Palace Museum and stop by the mirrored and painted Rang Mahal – once the bedroom of the 18th-century ruler Mularaja II. Scattered across the city are numerous havelis – the ornately decorated private residences are an iconic part of its architecture. Patwon Ji Ki Haveli is one of the most extravagant, with its intricate latticework, decorative balconies and soaring turrets. Equally stunning are the seven Jain Temples which are covered in marble carvings from the 15th and 16th centuries. You’d be remiss not to include a trip to the Thar, too, a 20-minute drive away. Go for dune bashing, camel safaris or camping, with the chance to dine beneath the stars and enjoy Rajasthani folk music and dance. Desert Safari Camp desertsafaricamp.in is one of the most professional companies to book with – expect stylish Bedouin tents with a decadent breakfast from £48 for two. Drop by Dhanraj Bhatia Sweets on Shiv Road to pick up ghotua ladoos (sweetmeat balls) before your adventure

Where to stay

As imposing as it may seem, the Jaisalmer Fort is collapsing in on itself due to overconstruction and the pressures of tourism. It’s best to stay outside of its walls in order to preserve it. Casa De Kaku 00 91 967 270 3070, casadekaku.com is a homely bolthole on the outskirts of the city, its rooms bedecked with Indian handicrafts. Constructed stone by stone in the style of ancient Rajasthani forts, the Suryagarh 00 91 782 715 1151, suryagarh.com is a luxurious desert hotel located on the Old Silk Road. Its spa offers a pummelling sand scrub that’s worth booking in for. At SUJÁN The Serai 00 91 11 4617 2700, thesujanlife.com you’ll find 21 well-appointed tents, some with pools, all set amid 40ha of desert scrub. Star-gazing opportunities here are unrivalled.

Where to eat and drink

You’ll find most of Jaisalmer’s exciting dining options on the rooftops of the city’s many havelis. Wyra 00 91 299 226 6688 is smothered with potted plants and puts on nightly cooking demos. Try the laal maas, which is as fiery as the display. Overlooking the fort’s western side and benefitting from kaleidoscopic sunset views, Sunset Palace 00 91 979 919 6436 dishes up the city’s finest baked sattu, a simple, lightly spiced dish made from chickpeas and shaped like a dumpling. For a mix of Western and Indian cuisine, KB Café 00 91 2992 253 833 is one of the prettiest places to perch. Order the ker saangri, a vegetable dish made with desert beans, capers and dhal. Then, sip the locally brewed Kesar Kasturi wine, made from 21 spices. It’s methodology is a carefully guarded secret but if you ask the bartenders at Suryagarh restaurant nicely, they might share one or two tips.

Time running out?

Rent a pedal boat for a sunset trip around the Gadisar Lake (from £1), a 1367-built reservoir surrounded by holy shrines, temples and families picnicking on the sand.


Travel Information

Travel Information

Currency is the Indian rupee (INR). Time is 5.5 hours ahead of GMT. Flight time from London to Delhi is around 8 hours. From there it’s a 2 hour flight to Jaisalmer Airport.

Getting There

Air India flies direct from London Heathrow to Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. airindia.in

SpiceJet offers a connecting flight on to Jaisalmer Airport, which takes around 2 hours. spicejet.com


Tourism Rajasthan is the official tourist board and its website offers plenty of sightseeing inspiration and handy tips on getting around the city. tourism.rajasthan.gov.in

Average daily temperatures and rainfall

Min Temp8111622262727252420139
Max Temp242733384241383636363126

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