Jaisalmer – Heart of Nomadic Rajasthan

My first time in Jaisalmer was as a tourist for two days – the standard itinerary being a day of local sightseeing and an overnight stay in the dunes. But two weeks and eventually two months here, I witnessed a different world within.

Keeping the popular belief true; Rajasthan, no doubt is a land of colours and amidst all the monotony of Thar Desert, Jaisalmer is the heart of nomadic culture – the Thar culture. It’s not simply a place but a feeling – one that only a nomadic, wandering heart will understand 🙂

Synonymous with sand dunes and desert safari; here is a small travel guide on Jaisalmer listing the major tourist attractions.

How to Reach

  • By Road: Road trip to Jaisalmer remains a favourite with many travelers. The open, wide roads are well connected from Delhi and other cities. Overnight buses run frequently on these routes.
  • By Train: Trains to Jaisalmer can be availed from Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner and some other cities of Rajasthan.
  • By Air: Jaisalmer airport has regular or six days in week flights to Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Surat and Agra.

Best Time to Visit

October to March is the best time to visit Jaisalmer. The temperature remains favorable during these months and attracts tourists throughout to enjoy the dunes.

Architecture

The golden sandstone walls with intricate work are the major highlight in Jaisalmer. The architecture of most attractions is dominated by Chhatris or canopy like formation. These are elevated, dome-shaped in the form of umbrellas and widely built over the memorial site or cremation ground of an important person. You might also find these at corners and roof of entrances at major buildings which are decorative in purpose displaying the owner’s status and wealth.

The trademark Dome shaped architecture

Top Tourist attractions In and Around Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer Fort – Though I knew it was grand, it seems somehow didn’t take a notice properly the first time. Wherever you go in Jaisalmer, the fort remains in sight. One of the very few living forts in the world today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. Owing to it’s beautiful golden hues, it is aptly referred as “Sonar Quilla” or the “Golden Fort” by visitors. Details on Sonar Quila “Jaisalmer Fort”.

Fort view at three different time frames on the same day gazing from my rooftop, Ozaki Jaisalmer

Patwon Ki Haveli – Very close to the Jaisalmer fort lies Patwon Ki Haveli – another major tourist attraction in Jaisalmer. A standout structure; this haveli is not a single building but a combination of five different havelis. The countless jharokhas and balconies adorned with mirror work and miniature carvings add to the beauty of this place. The first haveli is the most well – designed and exquisite compared to the other four. Explore the bylanes of “Patwon Ki Haveli” on your trip to Jaisalmer.

Extremely captivating detailed work on the haveli walls

Salim Singh ki Haveli – This haveli was commissioned by Salim Singh, the then Prime Minister of the kingdom when Jaisalmer was the capital. It is claimed that Salim Singh made two additional floors in order to make it as high as the fort but the Maharaja did not take this attempt in good spirit and so with his orders, the extra floors were torn down. Like the other havelis in Jaisalmer, this one is made of sandstone structure too. It is said that the haveli has around 38 distinct balconies. The front facet resembles ship stern and hence also sometimes referred as Jahazmahal; the roof has been constructed in the form of Peacock.

Sunset at Gadisar Lake – A major tourist attraction in Jaisalmer, Gadisar Lake was built by the first Maharaja of the city – Raja Rawal Jaisal as a water conservation reservoir to help major water issues faced by people. It signifies the rich cultural and historical heritage of the state. While here, spend your evenings with boat rides and serene sunsets at the “Sunset Point” near the lake. Watching the sun set, I knew this was going to be my daily ritual until I am here.

Thar Heritage Museum – As the name suggests, the museum preserves the folk heritage and rich Thar culture. A low profile place; it has a varied collection of coins, post cards, ancient manuscripts, weapons, musical instruments and so on. A must-see in Jaisalmer to understand the Thar desert history, culture and people; it would be worth a visit. The evening puppet shows at the museum are a welcome change and kids would certainly enjoy it.

Vyas Chatri – This place is dedicated to the great Sage Vyas as his cremation ground. Intricate carvings and delicate designs form the base of these cenotaphs. Vyas Chhatri has beautiful memorials, and is a cremation ground for brahmins. Private cabs and tuktuks are easily available from the town to visit this famous tourist spot which is a favourable place to see fascinating sunrise and sunset views.

Jaisalmer War Museum – Jaisalmer War Museum was established in order to honour the soldiers of the “Battle of Laungewala” fought in 1971. It was inaugurated and opened for public on 24th August, 2015. It houses two display halls – Indian Army hall and Laungewala Hall. It has an audio visual room, a souvenir shop and a cafeteria. Visual treats are displayed in form of tanks, weapons, guns, military vehicles. It is located near Jaisalmer-Jodhpur highway. Tourists can reach the museum by autos, local buses, and private cabs to reach the museum.

Shifting your focus from the colourful world of Jaisalmer, this place is certain to give you an insight of war. At the end, you are certain to be filled with pride and respect for our armed forces.

Cenotaphs of Bada Bagh – Enroute the dunes, about 6 km north of Jaisalmer on the way to Ramgarh, lies the Bada Bagh garden complex. It literally means a ‘Big Garden’. The garden was commissioned by Maharawal Jait Singh in the early 16th century and completed by his son Lunakaran after his death. The major highlights are a garden, a tank and a dam built out of solid blocks of stone.

Sand Dunes – Mere words cannot describe the grandness of the great Thar Desert. Your trip remains incomplete without a visit to the sand dunes. Mostly all the hotels come with their tour packages for dunes. Get one which suits you; however, plan an overnight stay. A standard Desert Safari includes – Camel and Jeep safari, Dune bashing, Sunset at dunes followed by a beautiful evening of Rajasthani cultural program and authentic Rajasthani cuisines. Do not miss the star gazing experience at night.

Above – Rajasthani cultural night in the winter bonfire (Credits: Suchita Roy)

Below – A silent sunny morning at the campsite (Mohin Desert Safari)

Tanot Mata Temple – Tanot village is very close to the battle site of Longewala and almost near Pakistan border. The shrine gained curiosity post the war as it is believed none of the bombs diffused in the vicinity surrounding the temple protecting civilians and Indian soldiers. The heritage site is preserved by BSF post the 1971 war. A museum is built near the Tanot temple displaying historical artefacts collected from war period.

Visit Kuldhara ruins – About 15 kms from Jaisalmer, this deserted place is considered haunted and visiting hours are restricted per ASI guidelines. According to folklore, Kuldhara was an ancient village of Paliwal Brahmins who had to abandon the village overnight attributed to various causes like drought and earthquake. However, constant persecution by Salim Singh, a powerful minister of Jaisalmer is believed to be the most sought after reason. Today, in ruins, the closed doors of Kuldhara hold the secret to remnants of past.

An early morning shot of sunrise just when the gates are about to open

Beauty in the ruins of Kuldhara

Food and Shopping

Jaisalmer is a paradise for shoppers and foodies alike. There is something or the other around the corner to feast your eyes or taste buds. The market near Gopa Chowk, right next to the fort gate is always buzzing with tourists. Famous for camel leather items and other intricate handicrafts; you will certainly find a lot of souvenirs to take back home.

The market near Gopa Chowk, adjacent to Jaisalmer fort

There are lot of street food joints and nice restaurants to enjoy the local Rajasthani cuisines. Some of these which I frequented are – Thakurji, Chandan Shree, Cafe plus, Green park restaurant.

A glimpse of what all can be bought (Credits: Suchita Roy)

Few more pictures from my Jaisalmer diary:

My only company on Day 1 to watch the sunset near Gadisar Lake

Trying to find my way through the lanes on a deserted afternoon

Capturing the colourful vibes everywhere

Solitude among the vastness of desert

The information provided is based on firsthand experience. For any further queries, feel free to leave a comment below or email. I will revert at the earliest.

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