Top attractions and places to Visit in Jaisalmer
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.
Jaisalmer is one of the most visited places in Rajasthan during the peak tourist season that commences from October and continues till February. The city, also dubbed the “Golden City”, was established in the mid 12th century by Rawal Jaisal and today with many artistic structures, monuments of local historical importance and abandoned villages, Jaisalmer has emerged as a slice of royal heritage from incredible Rajasthan. So before you pack your bags for a trip to Jaisalmer in the coming tourist season… chalk out your itinerary with the following 15 best tourist attractions in Jaisalmer.
Jaisalmer fort is the second oldest in Rajasthan after Chittor and commands the desertscape from its 250 feet high perch on the hill. Three strong walls protect the citadel. The first buttress wall was constructed by the local Jain panchayat in the 15th century. The Rawals built subsequent additions and fortifications. The steep cobblestone pathway leading to the royal palace passes through four gates-Akhai Pole (Ganesh Pole), Suraj Pole, Bhuta Pole and Hawa Pole. Sharp turns on the road topped by high defence gateways made it invincible. At the highest point of the place can be seen an umbrella-Meghadamber symbolic of Krishna.
Palaces in the Jaisalmer Fort
The fort has five palaces called Sarvottam Vilas, Akhai Vilas, Gaj Mahal, Rang Mahal and Moti Mahal-all interconnected behind the seven-storied façade. Small stairs take you from one court to another with superb jail screens shading interiors from the fierce heat and desert wind. The Rang Mahal built by Mool Raj II has some exquisite murals painted on arches and spandrels. Music and dances soirees were held here for royal ladies. From the balconies you get a terrific view of the mammoth ramparts below guarding the small city. Balconies at the Gaj Mahal are also breathtaking beautiful, if only the English Romantic poet John Keats had seen them. The fort contains one third of the city’s population within the small houses on the narrow lanes. Many houses provide budget accommodation to visitors and house curio shops.
Being in the city of shifting sand dunes, you can’t escape the saddle journey. A bumpy ride on a camel in the Thar Desert is one of the exciting things to do in Jaisalmer. It allows you to explore the remote and isolated places tucked in the midst of the desert. Certainly, the more time you devote on your safari, the more remote places you are likely to see and the more you may adjust to and enjoy the desert tranquility.
Sam Sand Dunes
Approximately 42 kilometers from the fort city of Jaisalmer, the SAM Sand Dunes in the outskirts… is for sure the best recommended places to see in Jaisalmer. The exanimate ambiance with stretches of sweeping dunes, camel safari along the breathtaking crests and troughs and crimson horizon at the sunset altogether drops you to a pleasing hinterscape. Don’t miss the rustic and earthy music and folk dance of the gypsies that depicts the rural culture of the Rajasthani folk. The best time to visit the SAM Sand Dunes is at the time of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival, which is usually held in the month of February every year.
Gadi Sagar Lake
One of the most well-known tourist attractions in Jaisalmer, Gadi Sagar Lake originally was a man-made reservoir that was founded to provide a source of water to the people of Jaisalmer. Founded in 1367 by the first ruler of the city Maharawal Jaisal, this reservoir was revamped by Maharawal Garsi Singh. The banks of the Lake consist of shrines, temples, ghats and Chattris. Placed southwards of the city, this Lake has an entry archway in yellow sandstone, Telia-Pol, which was made by Telia, a royal courtesan. One can indulge in boat riding here or simply enjoy a leisure walk. The Jaisalmer fort in the backdrop, offers an amazing view. This Lake is largely visited during the yearly celebrations of Gangaur festival.
Salim Singh Ki Haveli
A distinct architecture that you will come across in Jaisalmer city is the Haveli of Salim Singh from the 17th century which has an extended arched roof in the shape of a peacock. It is an incredible silhouette that is crafted with 38 balconies, each having distinct designs. Salim Singh Ki Haveli is one of the heritage attractions to explore when you are travelling to Jaisalmer.
Patwa Ki Haveli
An impressive example of intricate architecture that unwrap the passage of a wealthy trader, Guman Chand Patwa of the 19th century, the Patwa ki Haveli is one of the must places to visit in Jaisalmer. It is one of the largest Havelis in Rajasthan that maintains fine wall paintings, beautiful jharokhas (balconies), archways and gateways. The Patwa ki Haveli is a cluster of five grandiose havelis which were gifted by Guman Chand Patwa to his sons. History reveals that the ‘Patwas’ left the Havelis at the mercy of care takers who in due course became the owners. Later, the first haveli was sold to Mr. Jeevanlalji Kothari… and thereafter Patwa ki Haveli was renamed as the Kothari’s Patwa Haveli.
Tanot Mata Temple
Your Jaisalmer travel guide is incomplete without the Tanot Mata Temple that is located approximately 150 kilometers from Jaisalmer city and lies close to the battle site of Longewala of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. The temple is currently maintained by the Border Security Force of India and it preserves a collection of unexploded bombs dropped by Pakistan during the 1971 war. The Tanot Mata Temple is one of the least explored tourist places in Rajasthan due to its remote location and hence you can make your holiday in Jaisalmer a penetrating one by visiting the Tanot Mata Temple. A glimpse of the Tanot Mata Temple was shown in the popular Bollywood movie Border.
The Jaisalmer Fort houses a group of Jain Temples that dates back to the 12th and 15th century. The group of Jain Temples is a fine example of Dilwara style of architecture that uses yellow sandstone. The temples are dedicated to various Jain Tirthankars. With detailed architectural work having carved animal and human figures on the wall, a dome that is covered by an amalak and a water pot containing lotus flower…the Parshvanath Temple is the most prominent one. Further, the Rishabnath Temple and Sambhavanath Temple in Lodurva, which is 16 kilometers from Jaisalmer city, are two other Jain temples that one can visit during their trip to Jaisalmer.
The Vyas chhatri is a marvel in the midst of the sand dunes and exhibits the typical Rajasthani style of architecture. Dedicated to sage Vyas, who completed the Hindu epic Mahabharata, Vyas chhatri is the Rajasthan’s spin to monuments. It is also popular as one of the best places in Jaisalmer to observe a sunset.
One of the finest examples of craftsmanship, having ornate balconies, canopies and intricately carved screens, the Mandir Palace is a popular tourist attraction in Jaisalmer. It was built between the 9th and the 10th century and was the residence of the rulers of Jaisalmer for over 200 years. The Mandir Palace features the ‘Badal Vilas’, which is a tall sandstone structure below the hill top city fort.
Another least explored place around Jaisalmer city that is located in the outskirts is the ruin of Kuldhara village that dates back to the 13th century. It was the largest village in the community that consisted of 84 villages but in the early 19th century all the people in Kuldhara and nearby 83 villages vanished in the dark. The reasons are still being undisclosed, but it is being said that the village was cursed and hence is considered as one of the haunted villages in India. Nonetheless… the place still retains some fine architectural works like temples and step wells that assures a planned settlement over 7centuries.
Located 6 kilometers away from Jaisalmer city, Bada Bagh, which literally means ‘Big Garden’, is located on the Ramgarh road. It was commissioned by Maharawal Jait Singh in the early 16th century and completed by his son Lunakaran after his death.
The site has three different things to watch, a garden, a tank and a dam. In the vicinity itself you will find Govardhan Stambh (pillar). This pillar was constructed to commemorate the construction of the Dam and the tank. In the local dialect the Dam and the tank are known as Jait Bandh and the Jait Sar respectively. It is believed that these are based on the name of the man who constructed them. The Jait Bandh is a dominating structure. It is about 1,200 feet in length and 350 feet in width. If you observe it closely you will notice that this has been built out of solid blocks of stone. The same material has been used for the construction of well as well as the tank.
One of the entrances to Jaisalmer Fort, Surya Gate is a popular attraction in Jaisalmer that is another example of intricately carved architecture. It is a narrow gate that was built in the 12th century with the aim of preventing enemies from launching a surprise attack and charging inside the fort.
The Thar Heritage Museum
The Thar Heritage Museum in other words is a house of antique that preserves several historical and ancient folk art of Thar Desert, turbans, musical instruments, fossils and kitchen equipment. It is one of the prominent tourist attractions in Jaisalmer city that is located close to Gandhi Chowk.
Yet another spooky tale from the Rajasthan tourism… the Khaba Fort that was once inhabited by the Paliwal Brahmins for over 200 years is today an abandoned fort with sparse human activity surrounding it. Well… the location is perfect for photography and chills. After taking a walk around the fort structure, you can also visit the small museum that preserves several antiques.