Traveling in Rajasthan is a ton of fun but planning is essential because there is so much to see, do and experience.
Here are some Rajasthan travel tips.
When to visit Jaisalmer
The best times to visit Jaisalmer is during their winter, November through February. We visited in December over Christmas weekend. It was crowded in the Fort and the Havelis. We were told that desert safari were packed. Otherwise it was lively and the weather was perfect with warm days and cool morning & evenings.
Possibly October and March may be bearable and less crowded. Besides those months, Jaisalmer would be extremely hot.
Where to stay and eat
Jaisalmer has a large number of hotels and Airbnb units.
We stayed at Hotel Gulaal and we loved it. It is a small boutique hotel with 12 rooms on two floors, built in a traditional Jaisalmer haveli style. It has beautiful common spaces and a rooftop restaurant. We were a family of 14 people, so we got almost the entire ground floor. Their rooms and bathrooms were spacious, clean and comfortable to international standards.
Above all, the hotel staff was absolutely outstanding. Everyone including Virender and Chandan Singh, the bell boys, the restaurant servers and managers were awesome. They gave us tips on Jaisalmer, answered all our questions and catered to all our needs with a smile.
The rooftop restaurant has amazing views of the fort, the town, pool & spa and surrounding areas. Most importantly they serve delicious food, everything made to order, even the breakfast. So, it takes a little time but is fresh and delicious. We had a hearty breakfast every morning, a light lunch and a good dinner at the Gulaal.
Places to visit
Jaisalmer has lots to see, especially the surrounding regions. We had just 2 days so we saw the important sites but there wasn’t additional time to explore the history of the region. The must see attractions are –
- Jaisalmer Fort – is a rare living fort where the people still live and work. It offers majestic views of the region, palaces, temples and souvenirs.
- Haveli– Havelis of the Jain merchants is a must see. More on that in Haveli.
- Jain temples– the Jain temples are a treasure from the past. They are some of most beautiful and well preserved temples of their age. They have certain hours reserved only for worshippers. As Jains, we went at 7am, before any tourists arrived so we had the fort and temples to ourselves. We could meditate, talk to the priests and see the underground treasures.
- Gadisar lake – the huge man made lake is famous for sunset photography with the chatris, temple and boats in the lake. A couple of us explored the surrounding structures while the rest of our group enjoyed a wonderful boat ride on the lake.
- Desert Experience – the desert safaris at Sam or Khuri are a lot of fun, as I’ve heard. We skipped the crowds in favor of our own outing, described in Dunes and Villages. But, to enjoy the rustic countryside its best to with a local with passion for and knowledge of Rajasthan, it’s culture, vegetation and eco system.
- Longewala – visitors with an Indian ID, can visit the military areas. Longewala is acres of space converted to a museum from the 1971 conflict, when a Pakistani battalion surprise attacked and the Indian forces were able to defend.
- Tanot Mata Mandir – Tanot mata is regarded as a patron Devi of the soldiers. During one of the Pakistani attacks, none of the bombs targeting the temple area exploded. The bombs and pictures are on display in this otherwise clean and unassuming temple. Since then, soldiers care for the temple and come for blessings before heading to the front.
- There are many historic sites, old capital and Jain temples around Jaisalmer that sound fascinating. I’ll have to return to Jaisalmer to discover them.
Probably the best way to travel in Rajasthan is rental car with a driver. The roads are now excellent with little traffic, thanks to increase in military presence. There are trains and buses too.
Within Jaisalmer, auto-rickshaws are plentiful. If someone has trouble walking between the old city and fort, rickshaw is the best option as cars can’t go inside.
We came to Jaisalmer with an SUV that met us in Jodhpur. It was organized by our cousin in Sardarshahr. But, certainly there are car rental companies everywhere that come with a experienced driver that speaks Hindi, Marwari and sometimes English.
Sample 2 day itinerary
- Jain temples and Jaisalmer Fort in the morning.
- Havelis in the afternoon.
- Gadisar lake for sunset.
- Wake up late, enjoy a brunch, pool, spa
- Desert safari from 3pm to 10pm
- Jain temples and Jaisalmer Fort.
- Gadisar lake for sunset.
- Old town and Havelis walking tour.
- Desert safari from 3pm to 10pm.
We got lucky and found a really good guide at the entrance of the fort. But there are tons of guides and picking one can be intimidating.
In general all the locals (guides, storekeepers, hotel staff) we met were honest and friendly. Not once did we feel cheated or misled, by anyone.
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