-This post is written by Claudia of My Adventures Across the World –
I have never thought of myself as a city kind of girl. A couple of days would usually be enough to get a good feel for a capital, and then I”d get itchy feet and feel the urge to move to a different place where I”d get an opportunity to appreciate the nature around me.
With this in mind, I really didn’t think I’d like Indian cities. I pictured them to be chaotic and crowded, dirty and polluted. And to be fair, they are. Yet, I enjoyed them. But there is one that I really fell in love with: Jaisalmer. I concluded that this is one of the best places to visit in India.
The city was founded in 1156 by Jaisal, leader of the Bhatis Rajput clan. The clan ruled the city until Indian independence, in 1947. Jaisalmer is located in the middle of the Thar desert, and it’s actually quite close to the border with Pakistan. It prospered in the past thanks to its strategic position along the trading routes between India and Central Asia.
Unfortunately, under the British rule of India, Jaisalmer lost its powerful position as the use of railways and sea trade became more common. It however became once again important during the 1965 and 1971 wars. Nowadays, the main source of revenue for Jaisalmer is tourism, and it is easy to understand why. So, here’s a few reasons not to miss Jaisalmer during a trip to India.
It’s the starting point to incredible adventures
Jaisalmer is the starting point to incredible adventures and is included in all Rajasthan Holiday Packages. Jaisalmer is the perfect access point to the Thar desert. It’s where camel safaris start, stopping in some fabulous desert lodges. Most of them actually are glamping sites, with really fancy tents and the charm of it is just glaring at the stars at night when all the lights go off.
Camel safaris are a fun thing to do, and here’s a tip to make them a bit more comfortable. For some reason, in India most of the time camels carry two persons. It is way better when there’s only one, because the best way to ride a camel is having one leg crossing the hold of the saddle. The leg acts as a safety belt and it makes riding way easier and less bumpy.
The best time to ride a camel is either at sunrise or at sunset: seeing the sunset from the sand dunes of the Thar desert is simply memorable. Rajasthan Holiday Packages
It’s much smaller than most Indian cities
To Indian standards, Jaisalmer is pretty much a village: only 80,000 people live there. But worry not! It is just as chaotic as the other cities. In fact, I came to the conclusion that Indians do love and enjoy chaos even when there’s really no need for it. Imagine the regular honking of cars, motorbikes, scooters and buses, the firecrackers being popped at any time of day or night. This is what an Indian city looks like and if this is the case, Jaisalmer is a city proper.
There is a gorgeous fort
The biggest attraction in Jaisalmer is the beautiful fort. This looks like a huge sandcastle which rises against the sky from the middle of nowhere. The interesting fact in the case of Jaisalmer fort, however, is that people actually still live there. To date, there are still 3000 residents. Inside the fort, there are temples, palaces, havelis, museums, shops, and even restaurants and boutique hotels.
However, the local authorities try to discourage tourists from staying at these hotels because the increased use of water is somehow having an adverse effect on the conservation of the fort, which is collapsing onto itself.
It’s tiny alleys galore
One of the most fun things to do in Jaisalmer is to get lost in its narrow alleys. This is the kind of place where at each turn a new scene opens up: a cow placidly walking or chewing on something; a dog resting in the middle of the street, completely oblivious of passersby, scooters, bikes; a gypsy child performing some circus art.
There’s a cool lake
Gadisar Lake is actually an artificial lake built in the 1300s, and one of the few heritage lakes that still remain in Rajasthan. It’s a lovely place to visit in the morning, when a few people (usually locals) go to the temple right by the water and feed the fish. And from there, there is a nice view of the fort in the distance.
It’s shopping heaven
Indian cities can be somewhat overwhelming: big distances, lots of things to see and do, and lots of touts. Jaisalmer is just the perfect size to enjoy a nice stroll and spend some time browsing through the many shops. This is a great place to buy cotton items, like a shalwar kameez, or a traditionally made (usually patchwork) spread for the bed.
There is a great food scene
Jaisalmer is a fabulous place to try all sorts of Rajasthani dishes. And as if this was not enough to keep foodies happy, there’s also a good selection of restaurants that serve international food. And good coffee shops (which by the way doesn’t go without saying in the Chai country!).
It’s noisy, yet chilled
I visited Jaisalmer on the very last day of the Diwali Festival, commonly known as the Festival of Lights. I am actually wondering why it is not called the festival of noise as this would definitely be a more appropriate name. While buildings are decorated with beautiful lights, what is striking about Diwali is the amount of firecrackers people pop just about anywhere, including the tiny alleys of Jaisalmer.
This makes the city even more noisy than it actually is. Yet, despite the mayhem, Jaisalmer keeps a chilled aura.
Have you ever been to Jaisalmer? What did you like the most about it?
Inspired to visit Jaisalmer? Here is a guide on how to get a tourist visa for India to get you started with planning your trip.
Claudia Tavani has abandoned her academic career in international human rights law to pursue a life of travel. She believes that traveling can help build bridges and fill gaps and she is on a mission to learn about the many beautiful cultures of this world. Follow her on her website, My Adventures Across the World as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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