Jaisalmer, the "Golden City," is located on the westernmost frontier of India in the state of Rajasthan. Close to the Pakistan border, the city is known for its proximity to the Thar Desert. A camel safari in the sand dunes of Jaisalmer is an unforgettable experience.
The city is dominated by the Jaisalmer Fort, also known as Sonar Qila (Golden Fort). Unlike most forts in India, the Jaisalmer Fort is a living fort. There are shops, hotels and age old havelis (homes) inside the fort area where families have lived for generations.
A military airstrip has recently been opened to limited civilian flights. A new, dedicated airport is planned for 2011. As of end of 2014 it's still not open, so flying to Jaisalmer is still not possible.
There is a direct train service from Old Delhi. The Delhi-Jaisalmer Express, departure time at 17:30 (from Delhi Jn station) via Jaipur, Jodhpur and Pokharan (India's nuclear testing area) reaches Jaisalmer at 11:30 next day. In the other direction the train leaves Jaisalmer at 17:15, reaching Delhi Jn at 11:15 next day. This train has 2AC, 3AC, Sleeper and unreserved classes. It is very often 3-5 hrs late. Once you get to the station, it is about a 40Rs auto ride to the center of town as of Jan 2013.
In addition there is a daytime slow train (unreserved, stopping at all stations) and a night express train (with 3AC, Sleeper and unreserved classes) between Jaisalmer and Jodhpur.
Every Sunday the luxury train Palace on Wheels stops at Jaisalmer.
Various tour operators and travel agencies offer chauffeured car-taxi services; these are charged on a per km, per day basis. You can plan to take one to arrive into the city or take one for sightseeing in and around the city.
There are many car rental services in Delhi which can provide chauffeur driven cars to Jaisalmer.
Approximate road distances from various destinations are
|New Delhi||800 km|
Another option is to arrive by camel; Jaisalmer is famous for camel trips. The most grueling is the 14 day trip from Bikaner. When booking a few days in the desert on a camel, remember to shop around in order to get the quality you pay for.
The small city can be easily covered by foot but bikes are also available for rent (near Desert Boy's) to explore the city and outside
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Unlike Jaipur and Jodhpur, with populations in the millions, Jaisalmer is very much a tourist town, with a population of about 80,000. In fact, a significant portion of the population is only there in the tourist season, four months out of the year. The rest of the time they go off to find work in larger towns in Rajasthan. Thus you can expect to see that the inhabitants are very intent on selling you things. As anywhere in India, try to stay calm and not get irritated, as getting angry never helps the situation. Keep in mind that they can also be extremely friendly, chatty, and genuinely helpful, so be positive when in the city and have a good time!
One of the most magnificent attractions is the Jaisalmer Fort, also known as "Sonar Qila," due to the yellow stone with which it was built.
Gadisar Lake: is a rainwater lake which supplies water to the city. It is surrounded by temples and tombs of saints. Boat rides are offered. Nearby is the desert cultural centre and a local museum built out of the collections of a local schoolteacher, Mr. N.K. Sharma. This centre conducts puppet shows in the morning and evening. There are people who will try and sell you bread to feed the huge number of catfish in the lake.
Jaisalmer Fort: Colourful shades of the setting sun and golden hues of the desert ambience give a fairy tale look to this mega structured fort. The interior of the fort is amazing. It is a 'working fort,' meaning that unlike every other fort in India, there are people living and working within its walls. Tourists can also visit many havelis of rich merchants, which are also having a touch of great classical interior and design.
There are numerous lookouts (at least five) within the fort that give a great view out across the city and desert.
A tour of the royal section of the fort is available from a starting point just to the right up the stairs as you enter the main square of the fort). The audio tour takes about one hour and 15 to 30 minutes. At the final few sections, there are two advertisements in it - not a must, the view is what you come for. It is however not possible anymore to opt out of the audiotour, it is included in the Rs 300 ticket. They do charge Rs 100 extra per camera.
Jain Temple: There are seven beautifully carved temples built inside the fort walls. These temples were built between the 12th century to 15th century. All the temples are connected by walkways and corridors. It is compulsory to remove your shoes and all other leather articles (belts, wallets, purses, etc.) before entering any Jain temple. The very first temple which a tourist can visit is dedicated to Chandraprabhu, who is the eighth tirthankar (Jain God). The symbol of the God Chandraprabhu is the moon. This temple was built in 1509. It is built with fine stones. They are only open from 8am to midday. Leave a good hour to see them. Entry is Rs 200 (including camera). Take your shoes off and leave them near where you bought the tickets (a small tip is welcomed).
Havelis: Patwon-ki-Haveli is a ten-minute walk from the main gates of the fort and quite magnificent. It's a collection of five houses, each one for the son of a wealthy trader who made money lending to the government. One of the havelis (closest to the street) has been restored and turned into a government museum. Expect to spend two hours there. Great view back towards the fort. Entry Rs 120 (foreign tourist). Guides wait around outside and offer their services for as little as Rs 50. However, they offer a rushed tour, and there is plenty of information on signs inside.
Renovated streets and houses: The city is currently undergoing quite extensive renovations, and particularly the small streets on the way to the Patwon-ki-Haveli have been redone with many houses now showing off exquisitely carved front sandstone walls. The houses are much more intricate and interesting from street level than they appear from the fort
- Suryagarh, Sam Road. It's "only" a hotel, but you still wonder how they built it in the middle of the desert. Lush gardens, lovely pools and fountains, impressive stone carving techniques. While most cannot afford to stay there, stopping to have tea is an option that allows you to have a look at lesser cost! edit
Jaisalmer is a lovely and very relaxing place with a great small-town feel. Plan at least two days, and add time if you want to explore the desert. Go for a stroll, visit the palace and do the camel safari (trips available from a few hours to 14 days). If you do not feel remotely attracted to camels, try a jeep safari into the desert to see the scenery and watch the sun go down. Below the fort are several magnificent havelis with intricate stone carvings. Several can be visited for minimal charges and are well worth seeking out. It's more comfortable to wander in the city before 9:00 am when there are not many tourists, fewer shops opened and still fresh air.
Camel safaris are organized by different tour operators and travel agents in Rajasthan. Most of the camel safaris are organized in Bikaner, Osian, Jaisalmer and Pushkar. A camel safari trip can be of two to seven days and if someone wishes to extend it, it can go up to one month. Short trips give a glimpse of the desert to the tourists. Jaisalmer is the land of desert and most of the camel safaris start from this city. In most of the trips, one camel is allotted to one person and a camel cart is also provided with the group which carries all the food, tents and other supplies.
Typical operators for desert/camel safaris in Jaisalmer are
- Sahara Travel, Near first fort gate, gopa chowk, ☎ +91 9414319921, . Off the beaten trek camel safari. Village tours. Comfy beds and hygienic food with plenty of mineral water. ~1500Rs/pers/night (non-negotiated price). edit
- Trotters Camel Safari. Meals and water provided. ~Prices range from 950Rs for daily trips per person off the beaten track to 1500Rs-1900Rs per person for trips with overnight stays. Cost depends on departure and return times. edit
- Indian Crafts Boutique-Museum, Sadar Bazaar (Gopa Chowk, near Fort gate, on the way to Patwon Haveli). 9-21. Nice informative brochures available about jewelry making and different jewelry styles in India, detailed explanations about textile production. Insight into Indian history and local history as well: Jaisalmer, the silk trade, etc. For those interested in alternative medicine, there is even information about ayurveda, chakras and meditation tools. Nicely presented and fairly well researched. We had a good time and learned plenty. free. edit
- Sunset point, Bada Bagh (Ram Gargh Road (take a taxi)). sunset!. Lovely cenotaphs. Fantastic pictures. edit
- Desert Safariors Jaisalmer, Sam Road Near Kanoi Village (MDR 53), ☎ 09799394263, . 24X7. Desert Safari, Camel Safari, Camel Ride, Over night stay in Swiss tents, Dune Bashing, Parasailling ,Rajasthani Cultural Evening. Contact -09799394263 edit
- Real Desert Man Camel Safari (Real Desert Man Camel Safari), Near Madrsa Road (Near Fort Parking), ☎ 09649865500, . 24x7. Real Desert Man Safari has been in operation in Jaisalmer for well over two decades, a continuance of a long line of camel drivers dating back centuries in the heart of Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer. Nice camel ride and adventure safari. 850Rs-1700Rs. (26.911125,70.916968) edit
In Jaisalmer they are known for items made of leather, silver jewelry and embroidery on silk and cotton. Most of the works are done locally or by the widows of villages. There is a shop inside the fort just opposite the German bakery which has a good collection of the handcrafted garments and bedsheets.
Within the fort there is an amazing silver artist named Roop Kashore. His custom, hand made rings are worth checking out. Local advice is to seek out shops outside of the fort for better value and service.
- Silver Jewelry, Bhatia Market. Silver Rajasthani jewelry (necklaces, bangles, pendants, earrings, rings), gemstone jewelry (rings and pendants), and Tibetan jewelry (turquoise & coral inlaid jewelry). edit
- Bronze statues, Bhatia Market (ask for Talib Bhat). Hindu statues in bronze or silver plated Buddha statues. Various collectibles such as prayer mills, thangkas, mandalas. edit
- Silk & Cashmere, inside the fort, near Sunset Place Restaurant, behind the Jain temples. (behind jain temples), ☎ 09414150621, . 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.. Scarves, shawls, stalls, kurtas. Silk and cashmere blends, with or without embroidery edit
- In general Regardless if shops are inside or outside of the fort, the shop´s first price carries a markup of between 375% to 400%. The tourist should be well aware of this fact and rather walk away from a deal than being ripped off. Most of the time the shop owner will ask you to come back and offer you the product for 25% of the original asking price.
Lots of local eateries which offer sumptuous lunches and dinners. Many of the restaurants are directed towards Western tourists, so authentic Rajasthani food can sometimes be surprisingly hard to find! Note that many of these prices are out of date since there has been significant inflation in India in the past few years.
- 8 July, Just inside the fort walls. Owned and run by a lovely husband and wife couple and boast home made apple pie and vegemite toast, mostly organic and all prepared fresh to order. They also make their own homemade ice cream. There is outdoor seating that overlooks the bustling rickshaw pickup and drop area just inside the fort walls which is fun to watch. The spaghetti and pizza are highly recommended!! edit
- Anchal Sweet Shop, In main market. Fresh kachori and samosas. edit
- Artist Hotel Restaurant. Near the sunset view point in the middle of the Jaisalmer artist colony. The very best food in town (50Rs). Everything is made fresh. You will get western (also nice Austrian food) food as well as very nice Indian dishes. The restaurant is on the rooftop, and you can enjoy your meal while listening to Rajasthani music performed live! edit
- Free Tibet Restaurant, (Near two of the main lookouts from the fort). This place has a great view out over the fort walls. The food is a mix of Tibetan, Indian and Continental. Cheaper than other 'lookout' restaurants nearby. Family run. Rs 30-120. edit
- German Bakery, Gopa Chowk (Near fort gate). Good lemon cake. Decent croissants. Almond cookies. Delicious tea. Great place to have a "western-style" breakfast. edit
- Jaisal Italy, Fort gate (gopa chowk), ☎ 9928592525. Excellent Italian food. Pizza with good quality mozzarella cheese. Very decent pasta as well. Amazing view of the Fort from the terrace, fun traditional seating inside. edit
- La Purezza, On Fort Vyasa para jaisalmer (Ristorante Italiano La Purezza, Jaisalmer Quilla, Jaisalmer, RJ 345001), ☎ 02992-250884, . edit
- Lakeview Lounge Restaurant, On Fort, Kotri Para, Jaisalmer (On the fort and attached to Hotel Surja), ☎ 0091-02992-254138, . 24 Hours. The porridge with banana honey (40rs), mushroom cheese tomato burger (65rs) and the 'Speghatti Spinesh Tomato Cheese' (70rs) are highly recommended. Delicious and reasonably priced for the area. The service is excellent as well because of the speed and courtesy of their staff. The restaurant has some of the best views in all of Jaisalmer, at the second level of the restaurant. They also have free wifi at the restaurant and the attached Hotel Surja. Mains 40-90. edit
- Midtown Restaurant, gopa chowk (Main Gopa Chowk), ☎ 94 1405 2144. 7AM-11PM. Situated in front of the Golden Fort. The view is amazing, and the food is awesome with friendly service. The homemade Dutch apple pie is delicious. Pullavs are great. edit
- Milap Restaurant, Near Amarsagar Gate, Bhaskar Mohella. The locals highly recommend this home style vegetarian eatery run by a Brahmin family. No menu, just a thali of whatever is on offer for 70Rs (as of Jan 2013), with 10Rs refill for the sabzi of your choice. Dal bati churma (a local Rajasthani specialty) is available on special order. Delicious authentic home-made food. The rotis with fresh ghee are to die for! edit
- Restaurent Desert Eves (Desert Eves), on Fort, Next To Jain Temples, Opposite Hotel Suraj. (Just across from the Jain Temples inside the Fort of Jaisalmer, with a very large entrance Gate.), ☎ 09928738269, . 7a.m. to 11 p.m.. A beautiful rooftop cafe with great views of the Jain temples, sunset and havelis. There are nice cushions to sit on the floor as well as a tables and chairs for great candle light dinners, or enjoying beers at sunset. Good wifi connectivity also. Food ranges from Indian, Chinese, Italian, Continental. 20-150. edit
- Ristorante Italiano Om, Jaisalmer Fort (Inside fort near Canon Point), ☎ 09828809980, . 0700 - 2300. Serves real Italian food, real Italian espresso as well as a good selection of Indian food. Om Vyas runs this restaurant with his son. Recent renovations also include a guesthouse. Rooftop seating with great views of the sunset as well as of the inside of the fort including the Jain temple. Prices are reasonable. 50Rs. (26 54 46.65,70 54 42.23) edit
- Royal Rasoi, Fort Road, across from Hotel Sohan Deep (near the Fort), ☎ +91 94146 61008. open 24 hrs. Constructed with traditional building material, the casual atmosphere gives no hint as to the fabulous authentic Indian food you will have here. Lal maas and dum aloo are excellent, as are the aloo paranthas. Whether you are vegetarian or not, Royal Rasoi will leave you more than satisfied. Prices are very reasonable. Open early, open late. edit
- Seema Restaurant, Just outside the fort.. The main appeal is everything is made fresh. Only bad thing is the restaurant is a little dingy. Really good and cheap food (50Rs). edit
- The Seven Spice Restaurant, Gandhi Chowk (Maansarowar Guest House), ☎ 9571634057. 0700 - 2300. The Seven Spice Restaurant gives you a real taste of Indian spices with Indian cuisine or Tibetan food. Located at the heart of the city with a nice market view. best sunset location 100 - 350. edit
- Trio, Hanuman Chowk. Nice food. Reasonable prices. Amazing view of the fort and fairly upscale/stylish in feel. The tandoori vegetarian thali is recommended. 200-400Rs (as of Jan 2013) edit
Drink delectable bhang lassi at the government authorized shop close to the entrance of the fort. Packs of bhang-infused cookies and chocolates are also available for takeaway, and can be savored on trips into the desert to great effect. A word of caution, it can take a while before you get high from Bhang, hence you should not take multiple drinks in quick succession. Excessive consumption of Bhang dehydrates the body and one can experiance effects like high sweating,anxiety,increases palpitation,halucinations etc ,these effects varies from person to person and depends on the amount of bhang consumed, to overcome the adverse effects of high Bhang consumption drink plenty of water with glucose ( Not for diabitics patients) and have food along with Bhang (try not to take bhang in empty stomach).Not more than a glass should be consumed by first timers unless you want to spend next day holding your bed trying not to fall.
One can buy alcohol at various Government-authorized "wine & beer" shops around the city. They often charge a bit of a premium so it is possible in some situations to haggle down the price a little.
- Hotel Jaisalmer Palace, near Gadisagar Gate. Dibha Pada Jaisalmer- 345001, ☎ 0091 9828178063, . For beautiful ethnic styled rooms, this is your option!!! Awesome hotel, close to the market and 2 mins from the fort. The hotel's terrace restaurant has a brilliant view of the fort. edit
- Jaisalmer Desert Camp. Jaisalmer Desert Camp is a deluxe safari camp at the famous Sam Sand Dunes at Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. It is located 42 kms from Jaisalmer in the midst of the wilderness of the Thar Desert. The Camp consists of deluxe tent accommodations. The tents have large bedrooms with well-appointed ensuite bathrooms, shower and hot/cold running water. The public areas of the camp consist of an open-air restaurant which offers fabulous views of the desert. The Camp comes alive in the evening with a campfire, mashaals, musicians, dancers, camel safaris and traditional live cultural entertainment. edit
- Mandir Palace, Gandhi Chowk Jaisalmer Rajasthan India 345001. edit
- Mystic Jaisalmer, near air force circle (dhibba para, Jaisalmer), ☎ 9672730954, . checkin: 9:00 am; checkout: 9:00 am. 1200. edit
- Raj Resorts Jaisalmer (Family Resort), Sam Road Near Kanoi Village Jaisalmer, ☎ 09799394263, . checkin: 14 hrs; checkout: 10 hrs. Raj Resort is located at the Sam Road, on the way to Thar Desert. The resort provides all the comforts required by a modern day traveler. The accommodation consists of luxury huts & tents with attached permanent baths having running hot & cold water. AC huts are also available with Rajasthani theme. In the evening many activities are arranged like campfire, live music and dance program by the Langa and Manganiars tribe of professional singers of Rajasthan. 5000/-. edit
- Shanti Residency, S-5, Transport Nagar, ☎ +91-9414149138, . checkin: 12PM; checkout: 12PM. Located at a very approachable area on the State Highway No.11. Has 24 well equipped and well furnished rooms. Facilities include a multi-cuisine restaurant and banquet hall with capacity of 70-90. Rs. 1250. edit
- Star View Guest House, Near Madarsa Road, Fort Parking, Dhibba Para, Jaisalmer 345001, ☎ 0091-9828623438, . checkin: 06:00; checkout: 11:00. Guesthouse in Jaisalmer is perfect for the budget-minded traveler. Ideally located, just steps away from the Fortress, Gadisar Lake and Train Station. A top choice for vacationing visitors to Jaisalmer offers clean and comfortable rooms, very affordable rates, camel safaris, a friendly multilingual staff and much more 150INR to 800INR. edit
- Suryagarh Jaisalmer, Kahala Phata, Sam Road Jaisalmer-345001 Rajasthan, India, ☎ +91-02992-269269, . At Suryagarh, they combine the modern and the medieval, the timeless and the timely, the spartan and the sumptuous. edit
- Titanic Hotel, Shiv Marg (near Fort), ☎ +91 9414760047. Comfy, relaxed place, very entertaining owner Polu will pick you up from train station if you call in advance. Rooftop restaurant with Indian and Korean food. Nice old building with some fort view. It would be uncomfortable staying there if you don't eat at the expensive rooftop restaurant. That is why rooms are cheap. Singles: Rs.100, Doubles: Rs.200. edit
- Hotel Pol Haveli, Near Hanuman circle , Dedansar road, Jaisalmer -345001, ☎ +91-9414391149, . Hotel Pol Haveli is a beautifully carved sandstone guesthouse with fort views. Each room is nicely decorated with a Rajasthani flare. Hot water, a\c rooms, rooftop restaurant, free Wifi. Prices range from 750-1550 rps per night. edit
- Shahi Palace, Near S.B.B.J Bank & Near Govt. Bus Stand, ☎ +912992255920. checkin: 12hrs. Beautiful family run hotel with very comfortable rooms at affordable rates. Amazing roofftop restaurant with views of the fort. great food, hot showers and friendly staff. 250. (1000,) edit
- Hotel The Silk Route, Patwa Haveli Road, Kalakar (Artist) Colony, Jaisalmer (Near sunset point, next to artist colony.), ☎ 912992251213, . checkin: 24 hours; checkout: 10AM. Elegant new hotel with a roof terrace, excellent views of sunset and fort. Right next to artist colony, perfect for learning local Rajastani music. Ask for Harri Ram, he lives next door, great teacher and lovely family. Owner Dileep knows everything about local culture and history, and very happy to chat to you! Beautiful rooms with hot water, air con, satellite TV etc. Safari etc can be arranged. Bus / train station pick up possible. 750-950. (26.918825,70.911509) edit
- Hotel Fifu, OPP. NAGARPALIKA BERA ROAD, ☎ 02992254317, . checkin: 12.30pm; checkout: 10.30am. Located a little outside the city (40rs. with rickshaw) but an outstanding luxury hotel special of their dedicated hospitality by Mr. Fifu himself. Clean and comfortable rooms with all the facilities like AC, WiFi, rooftop restaurant, own bathroom, TV, and special organized safari/bird-spotting trips. If it fits your budget it's definitely worth it. 2950. edit
Outside the cityEdit
- Mirvana Nature Resort and Camps, , Sodakore 00919414440799, 1 hr from Jaisalmer along the road to Jodhpur. A luxury desert resort tented camp attached to a desert farm with nice swimming pool. Meals are served under the stars with Rajasthani folk music and dance and camp fire!
- Moonlight Khuri Resort, 40 km far from Jaisalmer at Khuri village, surrounded by natural sand dunes. Accommodation in mud cottages Huts and Tents with Camp- Fire, Dinner, Music & Folk Dance & Camel Ride.
- The Royal Courts, , New Civil Airport Road Jaisalmer +91-141-2231581/681. 15 min away from Jaisalmer town, a quiet location equipped with rooms that have been designed in a modern style, a nice pool, multicuisine restaurant and all type of facilities required by the current traveler.
- Khuri from where you can get cheaper camel rides and easy access to sand dunes. The bus leaves from a 'bus station' 100m east of the entrance to the lake, on rd '15', just after it splits from Gadisar Rd. You'll know you're in the right place if there is a small shrine at the base of a sloping tree. Buses leave from that side of the road on a rough schedule, so you'll have to ask. The ticket sellers on this route are particularly fond of overcharging, so be sure to not overpay, currently Rs35 each way (2012).
- Bada Bagh About six km out of town is an isolated cenotaph garden at the bottom of a hill where several dozen chattris stand to memorialize local rulers. No bodies are buried here: these are empty "tombs." The tradition of constructing these cenotaphs was discontinued in 1947. There is a small fee to enter. The gardens are largely untended, but the beautiful chattris are quite interesting. Screaming peacocks will be practically the only sound you will hear. Not many tourists come out here, making it a very peaceful place to visit. There are no facilities here: no toilets, no vendors, no food and no water, so plan accordingly.
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