Beyond the dazzling royal cities of Rajasthan lies Jaisalmer, the gateway to the Thar Desert and a popular tourist destination in India that is notable for its incredible yellow stone architecture, the Jaisalmer Fort, also known as ‘Sonar Quila’. 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.
Built in the 12th century by the Bhati Rajput ruler Rao Jaisal, the Jaisalmer Fort is a massive yellow sandstone fortification that maintains the Raj Mahal and several havelis, gateways and temples. The tawny-brown rampart that turns into honey-gold at sunset, justifying the name “Sonar Quila”, is undoubtedly a blazing instance of visual perception. The architectural design of the fort having intricately carved windows, doors and walls is one of the fine examples of the rich heritage in India. Located on the Trikuta Hill and overlooking the Jaisalmer city, the Jaisalmer Fort is thus one of the popular tourist attractions in Jaisalmer. Moreover, the two canon points, located at vantage points within the fort, give you an amazing panoramic view of Jaisalmer city. Today… in the midst of the royal yellow sandstone architecture, Jaisalmer Fort boasted as one of the fortified cities in Rajasthan housing numerous eateries, including Italian, French, and native cuisines; hotels; and museums.
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.
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.
Built in the 14th century as a water conservation tank, the Gadi Sagar Lake is the best place to visit for sightseeing tours in Jaisalmer, which is today a popular tourist hangout. The lake encircles several temples with the most notable being the Krishna Temple that is located on top of the Tilon Gate. During the winter season, migratory birds flock the region and bird watching becomes a favorite activity in Jaisalmer. Further, boat riding in the Gadi Sagar Lake is yet another exciting thing to do in Jaisalmer. The best time to visit the Gadi Sagar Lake is during the Ganguar Festival, which is usually held in March or April.
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.
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.
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 is a beautiful place that houses several cenotaphs of the royal families from the 16th century to 20th century. It also maintains several other attractions like a garden, a tank, a dam and the Govardhan Stambh (pillar).
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 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.