Subtly mixing history, architecture, elegance and culture is this amazing city of palaces, Jaisalmer. Located nearly 575 kilometers away from the capital of the state, this remote territory is brimming with a unique charm-a charm that any quintessential desert city would possess. Exclusive hues, cultures, structures and lifestyles define its elements as the nearby “Great Indian Desert” Thar cast its golden radiance into which the entire place seems to be subdued.
A stunning place to visit in Rajasthan on your North Indian Sojourn, Jaisalmer will take you on an exotic ride to let you experience its incredible vibrancy, its unique tastes and its fascinating peoples. From visiting the city’s historical landmarks to getting to know its astonishing stories and history, here are our list of Top Things to Do in Jaisalmeror Tourist Attractions in Jaisalmer….
1. Jaisalmer Fort
Jaisalmer Fort is the central and most important icon of the city. Rising from the sandy desert plains, in all its majestic splendor, the fort looms in all its glory with massive battlements, thick walls of crenelated sandstone and has about 99 bastions around its imposing façades. The city was founded by Raja Rawal Jaisal, a Bhatti ruler, who ruled somewhere around 1156 AD.
Today the Fort is one of the most important tourist spots and still houses the following generations of the original inhabitants of the city. Inside amidst the crumbling shacks and colorful stalls one may find instances of exquisite architecture in its numerous havelis and various other structures.
The wells within the fort are still an important water source. Being situated on the top of the trikuta hill, the fort immediately commands attention. It has many gates and the structure within is beautifully embellished with mansions and palaces, sandstone figures, delicate pavilions, beautiful balconies. The fort stands nearly five stories tall and is frequented by both local and international travelers.
A camel safari is one of the best way to explore the vast sands dunes and stretches of isolation and remoteness as far as the eyes can go. There are a number of tour operators that arrange these safaris, from a single day sojourn to excursions for over a month during which necessary items like food, water and shelter etc. are taken along. An escort is most certainly provided while most operators also ensure local entertainment for the guests in the evening.
For most of the travelers, this is one of the most memorable experience of Jaisalmer or may be of India as well. Enjoying the local culture, views and sights during the day while sleeping under the canopy of stars at night is wonderfully amazing. Therefore, camel safaris are also most eagerly looked forward by the tourists and it is usually their first impression of the city. Thus, this amazing experience should not be missed.
3. Gadsisar Lake
Gadsisar Lake – A scenic rainwater lake surrounded by small temples and shrines.
Located on the outskirts of the main Jaisalmer town, Gadsisar Lake is another of the major tourist attractions for the people arriving in “The Golden City”. The Lake, however, is not an oasis but in fact a water conservation project, established around 1400 A.D by the then maharaja of Jaisalmer, Maharwal Gadsi Singh. At that time it served as the only water supply for the Jaisalmer town and due to its natural inclination and surroundings, also furnished as a site for rainwater conservation.
In later years, however, a number of temples and religious shrines were added around it and it gained prominence as more of a pilgrimage spot. Now popular as a tourist point, visitors can venture out to the Lake in winters and if they are lucky enough, can get to see a variety of migratory as well as local birds, who descend here due to its proximity to the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. Do not forget to carry a good pair of binoculars and a quality camera to capture some really stunning pictures, catching the mesmerizing essence of the place.
4. Sam Sand Dunes
Camel Safari in Sam Sand Dunes, Jaisalmer
Any excursion to the town of Jaisalmer is incomplete without venturing out to see the great deserts of Rajasthan and the Sam Sand Dunes is just the place to arrive for that. Sam has some really spectacular views of expansive sand dunes and layers upon layers of sand, stretching as far as the eye could see, with little or no vegetation dotting the area.
Therefore, it’s a perfect place to enjoy the Desert Safari, which is organized here for travelers and guests, and is a leading tourist attraction. Visitors can join the Camel Safaris, taking them deep within the heart of Thar, where pitched tents are fastened, allowing them a comprehensive Indian desert experience. Watching the sun set behind the horizon and observing the fantastic view of the stars rising in the sky is breathtaking.
During the months of February and March, entire area turns into a cultural hotspot with a number of festivals and events being organized, showcasing the colorful Rajasthani glory and way of life. Numerous attractions like various cultural competitions, camel races, folk dance performances, puppet shows other such festivities are hugely favored amongst the locals and travelers who turn up here to revel thoroughly in the surrounding ambience and a unique and distinct atmosphere, eminently characteristic of the area.
Rajasthan is one of most amazing places to enjoy incredible delicacies which are characteristic of the region and are especially appetizing and lip-smacking. There are delicious varieties for both vegetarian and non-vegetarians and street food is famous throughout the city. For vegetarians, there is delectable Ker Sangri, a dish made with desert beans and capers, while daal bhati churma is acclaimed throughout the country and then Panchkoot, which is a five desert vegetarian dish, cooked in yoghurt.
For Non-Vegetarians, laal mass is a favorite, which is a meal of lamb cooked in hot chilli peppers. Due to hot weather in Rajasthan for most of the part of the year, a drink of cool lassi with a lot of cream pervades everywhere in the market while a delight of ladoos made of gram flour are always there to please your sweet tooth.
6. Jaisalmer Desert Festival
Attracting tourists and explorers from far and wide across the country and the world, The Jaisalmer Desert Festival is a major highlight of the city, which is loaded with amazing draws and extravaganzas to keep you busy and thrilled on your vacation. Cultural events organized during the Festival include camel races, turban tying competitions and the best of all- the tournament to judge the best moustache of all.
Over the course of three days during which the festival is celebrated, numerous folk songs and dance performance are organized that focus on the traditions and heritage of Rajasthan. Contests such as the turban tying and moustache competition are especially popular amongst the foreigners.
Another famous draw of the festival is the daredevil acts of fire dancers which are very much favored. This exotic and colorful affair finally comes to an end with a musical performance by folk singers under the moonlit sky on the Sam sand dunes, just outside the Jaisalmer City.
In addition to the enjoying at the festival, tourists can take camel safaris for Thar and revel in the picturesque desert views and get entertained by the local folk performances. The event is organized with all the necessary and through arrangements keeping in mind the comfort and experience of the tourists. There are specially installed tourist help cells for foreign guests while medical emergency vans are parked to attend to any casualty. Thus, tourists can have all the fun and adventure with a free mind and without stress.
7. Salim Singh Ki Haveli
Constructed with a unique structure with an amazingly elegant architecture, Salim Singh ki Haveli is quite an attraction. The haveli which stands today at the site is built on an older haveli which was a late 17th century structure. The present structure was commissioned in 1815 by Salim Singh who was the Prime Minister of the kingdom, of which the Jaisalmer City was the capital at that time. The haveli is adorned with an excellent and magnificent design.
The roof of the structure is built in the form of a peacock while the front facet resemble the shape of a ship stern, due to which the building is also called the Jahaz Mahal. There are in total of 38 balconies all with a distinct and intricately designed framework and style. Like all havelis dotting the area, Salim Singh ki Haveli is also embellished with sand-stone made tuskers which look quite charming. The site remain open from early morning till 5 in the morning and remains buzzed with visitors all throughout the day.
Though almost a ruined structure now, Khaba fort was once a bustling area of residence of nearly 80 families of Paliwal Brahmins, who lived here for nearly two hundred years. However, for reasons unknown or best known to them, they deserted the place all at once and went on to settle somewhere else, the location of which is again not known.
Therefore the place has a spooky connotations and the silence looming around the area feels mysterious sometimes. Although the place has not been isolated and deserted for always, but the story still invokes enigma and puzzle. Nevertheless, the fort has now been converted into a museum and a site for exhibiting ancient village art and talent. Visitors can see hundreds of peacocks pervaded around the ruins that makes a pleasant sight. Otherwise, a wonderful dose of history awaits them by moving around the location and seeing the traces of lifestyles and habits of people who lived here centuries ago.
9. Patwon Ki Haveli
Patwon Ki Haveli in Jaisalmer
Patwon ki Haveli is one of the most important structures in Jaiselmer, being one of the most architecturally rich and historically valuable Havelis in the city. The structure assumes importance, primarily due to the fact that it was the first haveli constructed in Jaisalmer and also it is an assembly of 5 havelis constructed together, which is unique. The first of these structures, which is also the biggest grandest of all, was constructed in 1805 and 5 more stories were added later on. The whole edifice was however completed in about 60 years’ time.
Today, it is a frequently visited spot and attract visitors to its threshold due to its exquisite architecture and elegant views. It is however currently in use and office of both The Archeological Survey of India and the State’s Art and Craft department are located inside the building itself. But its frequent use and consumption notwithstanding, it still has enough charm in the form of beautiful paintings, mirror world and elegant depictions on the walls to captivate its admirers.
10. Gangaur Festival
Gangaur Festival in Jaisalmer
Gangaur festival is one of the most famous and cherished festival in Rajasthan that is celebrated with great pomp and fervor and is eagerly awaited by the locals. The festival is organized in the honor of Hindu deities of Lord Shiva and His Consort Lord Parvati from whose names the name of the festival is derived. The festival is mainly celebrated by the womenfolk who worship Goddess Parvati, praying for the welfare, success and long life of their husbands while unmarried girls pray for a good-looking and understanding partner.
During the festival, women and girls keep a fast and decorate themselves with new clothes, jewelry and apply henna on their hands and feet. On the 7th day of the festival, women carry earthen pots which has several holes in it, on their heads and sing the praise of their Gods, while they are given gifts in the form of money, sweets, jaggary, etc. as a gift of love by the elders of the family. On the 10th day, according to the ritual, women break the pots and their pieces are thrown into a well or a tank, while the idols made by them are also immersed in the same.
A grand procession takes place which incorporates colorful elephant shows, bullock carts, palanquins combined with the folk dance and performance by the artists. The festival attracts many tourists from in and outside the state to witness the vibrant atmosphere. It is celebrated in the month of Chaitra according to the Hindu calendar, which falls between March and April according to the Gregorian calendar.
A site of admirable structures and spots, Bada Bagh or literally the “The Big Garden” is a prominent tourist destination within Jaisalmer and has wonderful frames and complexes within its environs. Bada Bagh was ordered by Maharwal Jait Singh in the early 16th century but was completed by his son Lunakaran after his demise. Bada Bagh primarily has three major attractions; A garden, a tank and a dam. Besides there is a central pillar called Govardhan Stambh, which was built to commemorate the construction of the dam and the tank.
The most enormous structure is however the dam measuring about 1200 feet by 350 feet. Another major highlight of the Bada Bagh is the number of beautifully carved Cenotaphs scattered all over the area. These cenotaphs or chattris as they are called locally are structures representing the rulers of the area, oldest amongst it being that of Maharwal Jait Singh himself who ruled somewhere around 1470-1506. The unique historical significance of the area combining with the allure of its surrounding area draws a large number of travelers to this place.
12. Maharaja’s Palace
Maharaja’s Palace in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
Located at the main chowk (square) of the city, The Maharaja’s Palace is an elegant structure of five stories with carefully crafted stone balconies and window arches, making it one of the famous traveler destinations in the city of Jaisalmer. The Place or Jaisalmer Fort Palace Museum and Heritage Center, as it is now officially called, was the erstwhile residence of the Maharaja or Rajmahal but was later converted into a museum and heritage center.
The museum now exhibits various specimen, models and artefacts of the centuries of Rajput period, showcasing the cultural heritage, history and accomplishments of a wonderful era. The palace is open from 9 am to 6 pm for visitors and entry fees is nominal which incorporates the camera charges and charges for the audio guided tour. The topmost point of the palace is one of the highest points in the Jaisalmer city, offering a wonderful panoramic view of the entire area, which looks mesmerizing. Visitors are advised to arrive early to the site to avoid delays and rush which gather in the later part of the day.
13. Tanot Mata Temple
Tanot Mata Temple in Jaisalmer
The incredible rendezvous of Indians with magic and supernatural have been known since the time immemorial and there are numerous tales of such kind in the popular folklore throughout its history. Tanot Mata Temple is also associated with one such fascinating story due to which it has now become a popular tourist spot for the curious visitors, both local and international. According to the legend, during the contentious India-Pakistan War of 1965, the Pakistani Army dropped several bombs to destroy the temple, fortunately and surprisingly none of which hit the temple.
Moreover, several bombs which fell in the vicinity of the temple did not even explode. Thus, the temple came to known in the area as acquainted with divine or magical powers. After the war, the management of the temple was handed over to India’s Border Security Force, whose jawans (soldiers) now man the temple. The temple now has a museum that showcases the several of the objects reminiscent of the war including the diffused and unexploded bombs.
14. Kuldhara Chudail Trail (Visit the ghost town)
One of the most popular sites in Jaisalmer, Kuldhara Chudail Trail is associated with one of the most mysterious and incredible tales which has been source of wonder and amazement for the visitors arriving in the town. Though the site now lies in the ruins, the legend associated with it has such a charm, which has made Kuldhara, a frequently visited tourist destination. The story connected to the place goes like this: Kuldhara was the dwelling place of Paliwal Brahmins since the 12th century. The village was well-planned with perpendicular streets, ending in houses along with proper rural facilities for water etc.
However, after living in the place for many generations, one night the villagers suddenly vanished without a trace. Questions like where and why did they go kept scientists, historians and ordinary people puzzled for a long time. However, a story that is conjectured about Kuldhara is that the minister in the kingdom ruling at that time saw the young daughter of the village head at that time and wanted to marry her. He forced a 24-hour ultimatum on them to either marry the girl to him or he will forcefully enter the village and take the girl off.
It was for saving the pride and honor of their daughter that the heads of all the 84 villages met and decided to abandon the area. But questions like how did they managed to flee all at once, that no one saw them go and could not find where they went still baffles many people who visit and get to know about Kuldhara. Out of curiosity or allure of the spooky, the place has become a famous spot and a station for offbeat travelers to Jaisalmer.
15. Paliwal Villages and the Silk Route
The Paliwal Brahmins were one of the important and well-known people of Rajasthan who used to dwell around 11th to 16th century, in this part of the state. They were merchants and part time cultivators who designed and developed indigenous irrigation systems which are still useful for the modern generation in cultivating crops like bajra, chana and vegetables in the desert region. Besides, the Paliwals were also successful businessmen and traded in various items along the famous Silk Route with China and the Middle East.
But unfortunately one day, their drinking water supply was poisoned and they all left the village and abandoned it. However, traces of their life, history, and their irrigation systems etc. are still conspicuous here and demonstrates a flourishing city and society. Thus, the site provides an important dose of history to the tourists and archeological students arriving here to witness or study the ruins.
16. Jain Temples
Also included in the itinerary of the tourists thronging to the Jaisalmer town are the number of Jain Temples, located within the premises of the Jaisalmer Fort. These Jain Temples are very old (dating back to 12th and 15th century) and are an important part of pilgrimage with some archeological significance attached to them. Dedicated to the various Jain Tirthankaras (Spiritual Heads), one may easily find various animal and human figures carved on the walls.
The temples are constructed in the famous Dilwara style of architecture and are carved out of yellow sandstone in such a style as to furnish you divine peace and harmony. The temple gates are open for visitors throughout the morning till 12 in the noon. It also hosts a library, called the Gyan Bhandar Library, which contains some of the rare manuscripts belonging to the history.
17. Retail Therapy or Shopping in Jaisalmer
A trip to any city in Rajasthan would be incomplete without taking a part of the city with you in the form of gifts and souvenirs for yourself and your near and dear ones. There is a whole variety of goods, items, show-pieces and durables etc. you can purchase from Jaisalmer. The city is famous for numerous items such as embroidery, rugs, blankets, Rajasthani mirror work, antiques and old stone work. There are both government run as well as private shops, but purchasing from any government run store will get you a better deal.
Gifts items such as tiny, intricately-carved wooden boxes are a popular take away besides other famous items like shawls, weaves and blankets, traditional rugs etc. find a lot of buyers. Famous bazaars from where you can pick up these items are Sadar Bazar, Manak Chowk, Pansari Bazar, Sonaron ka Bass, Seema Gram, Gandhi Darshan, Khadi Gramudyog Emporium in addition various government shops. The markets are particularly buzzed during the festival times like Rakhi, Holi, Diwali, Navratri etc. where one can actually witness the vibrancy and energy of the beautiful and exquisite Rajasthani Culture.
18. Vyas Chhatri
Vyas Chhatri in Jaisalmer
Vyas Chattri is an assemblage of little, elaborately designed canopies of golden colored sandstone, which is a popular sunset point for people arriving in Jaisalmer. It was in fact used as a “Cremation Place” for the dead bodies of Pushkarana Brahmins over which artistic cenotaphs were built. Later on as this practice came to an end, the place became popular as a sunset point.
The site is mainly a calm and serene point and watching the sunset from this spot is an amazing and memorable experience. Vyas Chattri is located at Bara Bagh, about a kilometer away from the main Jaisalmer city. Designed with an intricate and refined carvings, the site is named after the Sage Vyas, who wrote the famous Indian epic of Mahabharatha. This 15th century spot is now a tourist destination and is full of mesmerizing art and close carvings.
19. The Thar Heritage Museum
Moving around Jaisalmer and catching sight of its various spots, one will come across The Thar Heritage Museum, a private museum founded and guided by a local historian and folklorist Mr. L.N Khatri. The museum hosts an amazing collection of items ranging from musical instruments, turbans, artefacts including coins, post-cards, ancient manuscripts, weapons and various sea fossils of over millions of years ago as well as kitchen equipment to be displayed on marriage, birth and death and opium customs.
A major attraction at the museum is the daily one hour puppet show at 6.30 PM organized with the narration of Mr. Khatri. The museum remains open for visitors from Saturday to Thursday from 10.00 AM to 5 PM and is an interesting place to visit.
20. NathMal Ki Haveli
Nathmal ji ki Haveli – One of the most amazing and interesting structures in Jaisalamer
Nathmal ji ki Haveli is one of the most amazing and interesting structures in Rajasthan which was commissioned initially by the Maharwal Beri Sal and which was to be the residence of Diwan Mohata Nathmal, who was the then Prime Minister of Jaisalmer. The Haveli was designed by the architect duo of Hathi and Lulu who also happened to be brothers. Complementing its intriguing structure is an interesting tale delighting the heart.
It is said that the two brothers started the construction of the building simultaneously with different facets. However, since in those days there was no means to match and track the continuity, the final structure of the building turned out to be of irregular shape. Apart from this there are many other aspects of the building worth appreciating, particularly the minute detailed work and pictures of horses, cattle and flora depicted on the walls.
Another aspect of the haveli worth noticing is the illustration of modern (relative to those times) amenities like cars, fans etc. on the walls which the architects had never seen but only heard of. The life-size sandstone elephants located outside are amazing to observe. Overall a classic structure worth a tourist spot that should not be missed.