Jaisalmer – the golden city situated right in the heart of the Thar Desert, lies in the western Indian state of Rajasthan. Jaisalmer gets the golden city tag from the magnificent sand dunes of the desert that go as far as one’s eyes can see. The dunes give the effect of glittering gold under the sun and have a magical radiance under the moonlight. The other unmissable reason because of which the city gets the title is the yellow sandstone architecture that’s so prominent throughout this place. But the highlight of the city is the spell-binding Jaisalmer Fort or Sonar Qila, which rests atop a hill in the center of the city.
History And Culture Of Jaisalmer
The Fort was built in 1156 CE by Rawal Jaisal, who also founded the city and named it after himself (Jaisalmer: Hill Fort of Jaisal). Your first thought upon seeing this yellow sandstone fort would definitely be that it looks like a life-sized sand castle! And that’s not just the only fascinating thing about the fort. The most interesting fact is that it’s the only living fort in the world. Jaisalmer Fort is home to over 4000 people who’ve lived in the fort and that is the only life they have ever known. A lot of people not only reside but also have their business within the fort. So when you visit the fort, you can find local shops, restaurants, hotels, houses, children playing around. Even the ornate Maharaja Palace and intricately sculpted Jain temples stand behind the massive walls of the fort. Get onto rooftops of the houses/cafes here for a bird’s eye view of Jaisalmer and amazing sunrise and sunset views.
Jaisalmer is resplendent when it comes to culture, the crown jewel in the fabled history of the Rajput kings. One thing that you will instantly realize is that the people in Jaisalmer are extremely polite and courteous. Hospitality is second nature to locals and that is what makes Jaisalmer really special.
The people of Jaisalmer have always had a keen affinity towards poetry and music. A lot of songs and poems are inspired from legendary Rajput kings and queens. They’re actually depictions of the stories of their reign or glorious victories. Jaisalmer hosts two of the coolest festivals in the country. The Ragasthan is a glamping (luxury or glorious camping) music festival in February. The Desert Festival that takes place every winter is the more traditional festival which pays homage to camels. It’s a great way to get a perspective on how colorful Rajasthan’s culture truly is. The Thar Desert National Park has exhibits of their flora and fauna that date back to millions of years. Fossils of dinosaurs have also been excavated from the Thar.
Food In Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer has some really great food options. The cuisine isn’t particularly very different from the rest of Rajasthan. But just like any other city, Jaisalmer has a few mouthwatering dishes you must try. The Laal Maas (the royal mutton dish cooked in yogurt, red chillies and garlic) and the Mutton Saag (Mutton in spinach puree) are primary non veg dishes. Gatte ki Sabzi is a curry made from gram flour, while the Jaisalmer ke Channe is a curry made from chickpeas, flour and curd. Then of course, there’s the staple dal baati choorma which you’ll find hard to miss!
Don’t forget to have the Makhaniya lassi when you’re in Jaisalmer. It’s a lassi topped with a variety of dry fruits that’s absolutely amazing. Just so you know, Bhang is legal in Jaisalmer as well! You can have Makhaniya lassi in its regular form or the special kind (laced with Bhang variant) at the government authorized Bhang store, right outside the fort. Safe to say, you’ll be in high spirits!
How To Get To Jaisalmer
By Air – Jaisalmer has a commercial airport, albeit a very small one. It’s part of the Jaisalmer military base. The airport opened for commercial use only a few years ago. Flying into Jaisalmer from Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Delhi is quite straightforward as there are quite a few direct flight options.
By Rail – Jaisalmer has a decent train connectivity with the rest of Rajasthan. You can take a five-hour-long day train from Jodhpur. Taking trains from other places like Jaipur, Delhi or Mumbai, takes from 12 to 22 hours.By Road – Jaisalmer is quite far to the west, so driving there isn’t as straightforward as some other cities. And there are some long distances one must cover. However, if it’s a short drive you crave, we recommend driving from Jodhpur or Bikaner. You can also take an overnight bus from Jaipur and Ajmer or a day bus from Jodhpur.
Best Time To Travel To Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer is slightly hot in the beginning of October. However, it gets amazing from late October onward. The weather stays this way till the end of March. The winters in Jaisalmer are quite cold but that’s more owing to the cold winds that originate from the west. Also due to the terrain being that of the desert, the land does not trap any heat, which means post sunset it only gets colder. A lot of sunlight and yet pleasant temperature makes Jaisalmer one of our favorite places in the winter.
Like for most of Rajasthan, we strongly recommend you avoid the months from April to October, as the summer in Jaisalmer is extremely hot. There’s even a risk of sunstroke. Rajasthan has a monsoon during which Jaisalmer gets some respite from the extreme heat, but it’s not the best time to go to the desert, as there’s a bevy of insects due to the rains and it distorts your experience. Also, irregularity in rains means it is hot and sticky if it rains sparingly.
Getting Around Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer is really small. So we recommend walking around the fort, which is pretty much the old city. There’s the option of an auto rickshaw within the fort and outside, if your legs give way, but they’re too far and few in between. Ola and Uber aren’t available in Jaisalmer. You can, however, book a prepaid cab from the airport and ask the hotel to organize a cab for you. Since it’s a small city, the costs of hiring a cab are very reasonable.
“Jaisalmer is just the sand dunes and the desert.”
While the sand dunes definitely add to Jaisalmer’s charm and beauty, the city and its surroundings also have a lot to offer, and you should definitely make the most of it. Explore the only living fort in the world, and the cafe’s and temples that are in it. Head to Gadisar Lake, the best place in Jaisalmer to catch a sunset from. A walk around the mazy lanes of the old city can be uplifting in its unique way. And check out some of the prettiest houses of the people who call this city home.
Go Check Out
Jaisalmer quite a lot of tourist attractions, but we highly recommend these locations:
Jain Temple in Jaisalmer Fort – While the fort has a lot to see, the Jain temple in Jaisalmer is one of the prettiest temples you’ll come across. It’s carved out of beautiful yellowstone and influenced by the Dilwara temples of Mount Abu. You should definitely check these out.
Sunrise/Sunset at Jaisalmer Fort – There’s something in Jaisalmer you shouldn’t do; like missing the sunset from the fort. The sun setting over ‘The Golden City’ is an extremely pretty sight to behold.
Sunset at Gadisar Lake – The sunset at Gadisar Lake offers a different setting than that of from the fort. The sun sets over the lake and makes for a great opportunity to take that perfect sunset picture.
Spend a night at Sam/Khuri Sand Dunes – Spend a night in the sand dunes of The Thar Desert, gazing at the stars under the open sky, your only source of light. Here, as far as the eyes can see, you only see a sea of sand dunes (no pun intended). A great place to unwind and an experience you mustn’t miss. But if you’ve got a taste for adventure, set out on a desert safari!
How Many Days Should I Spend In Jaisalmer?
3 days should be enough for you to spend in Jaisalmer. Spend one full day exploring Jaisalmer Fort and the city, including visiting the Gadisar Lake and the Bada Bagh. On day 2, you can visit the border town of Longewala, the Indo-Pakistan border and return to camp at Khuri/Sam Sand Dunes. Here you can vibe to Rajasthani folk music and dance. On Day 3, set out on a jeep safari.
What Is The Best Time To Visit Jaisalmer?
The winter months of November to March are the best time to visit Jaisalmer. The temperatures are quite mild during the day, but nights can get really cold. Visiting in summer is not recommended because being in the Thar Desert, Jaisalmer can get blazing hot.
Is Jaisalmer Worth The Trip?
Absolutely! The stunning beauty of the Jaisalmer Fort and the adjoining areas, the great food scene and vibrant culture make Jaisalmer a great place to visit. This city is where you can have an authentic desert experience. But if you don’t like the desert, this might not be the place for you.
Jodhpur and Jaisalmer both have their own charm. While Jodhpur beautifully offsets the landscape with its blue buildings, Jaisalmer radiates the majesty of the desert with its yellow sandstone structures. Jodhpur has many palaces and forts, while Jaisalmer has one, in which people still live and make a living out of, which makes for an interesting sight.
What Is Special In Jaisalmer?
Jaisalmer is a thriving city that’s quite remote and located deep in the Thar Desert. If you want a memorable desert experience, then this is the place to be. Over a quarter of the population lives within the magnificent Jaisalmer Fort. Being in the desert means you get to experience a unique life, and the nearby sand dunes make for a breathtakingly beautiful sight.
How far is Jaisalmer from Jodhpur?
Jaisalmer is about 280 km away from Jodhpur, and it’ll take you roughly five hours by road. There are buses and cabs that ply between the two cities.
How Far Is Desert From Jaisalmer?
Jaisalmer is located within the Thar Desert. But if you’re talking about the sand dunes and desolate landscape, the Desert National Park is about 10 km away from the city proper. The popular Sam Sand Dunes and Khuri Sand Dunes are 38 and 50 km away respectively.
Is Jaisalmer Safe?
Jaisalmer is a safe city for tourists. With the exception of the Indo-Pakistan border (where you aren’t allowed to go without permission from the military), you can explore Jaisalmer without any fear.
What Is Sam Sand Dunes In Jaisalmer?
Sam Sand Dunes is one of the most popular places in Jaisalmer where you get to see the beauty of the Thar Desert’s sand dunes. It’s about 38 km away from the city center. You can stay the night here at one of the many camps under the canopy of stars, and in the day, tap into your adventurous spirit by going dune bashing.