I dare say that no Rajasthan tour would be complete without a Jaisalmer trip. The city’s history, its culture, the legends surrounding it, and its intricate architecture deserve your full attention. India’s Golden City has been on our list ever since we decided to explore India. However, it took us three trips to Rajasthan to finally step within the area of Jaisalmer.
And boy, we weren’t disappointed! Jaisalmer city, with its shimmering golden colors, stole our hearts. The blue of Jodhpur got us day-dreaming, but the sand-colored buildings of Jaisalmer are no less impressive. Wandering inside the Jaisalmer Fort, you will feel as if floating in a desert dream, living one of the Arabian nights.
About Jaisalmer – a pinch of history
Before planning a Rajasthan trip, I would recommend taking your time and indulging in Indian legends and tales. Because India’s largest state boasts some impressive stories that are still sung and told during festivals and local celebrations. And for our Jaisalmer history class, we should start with the famous Lord Krishna, the avatar of Lord Vishnu.
Jaisalmer was founded in 1156 A.D. by Raja Rawal Jaisal, a Bhatti Rajput ruler. The Bhatti was the clan ruling in the area which is now Jaisalmer. They claimed to be descendants from Krishna and the Yadu. Raja Jaisal was looking for a new place for the capital of the Bhattis, to install a proper defense against the enemy clans.
He met with a hermit named Eesul, as the legend goes, on top of the Trikuta Hills. Upon discovering the Raja’s descent, the hermit told him about a prophecy. Lord Krishna himself had predicted that one day a ruler from the Yadu clan would set his kingdom on top of the hill. And so, empowered by this omen, Raja Jaisal decided to establish his capital on top of the Trikuta Hills.
This is how what we call today Jaisalmer took birth, the ending ‘mer’ meaning rocky, the Rock of Jaisal. When looking at a couple of Jaisalmer photos, you can easily relate to its name, as the fort is spread on the rocky hill rising 250 ft above the ground.
Where is Jaisalmer?
Yes, Jaisalmer is in Rajasthan. But it is also hiding right in the middle of the Thar Desert. This is why fans of sand dunes and camels are easily attracted to this ancient city. In fact, its location was a central factor in the wealth of the fort.
Jaisalmer lies at the crossroads of important trading routes. It connected India to the richness of Persia, Africa, Egypt and the western nations. This translated into a vast number of caravans passing through the area of Jaisalmer. Rajasthan was a strategic trading area and the wealth of some of its forts derived from this. And now you will easily find it in almost all suggested itineraries for Rajasthan.
The weather – when is the best time to go on a Jaisalmer trip?
You may have already imagined the drawback of Jaisalmer’s location. Being right in the middle of the desert comes with extreme temperatures. The Jaisalmer weather is characteristic to arid desert regions. As such, the differences between day and night temperatures vary a lot.
The best time to visit Jaisalmer would be in the winter when temperatures don’t go higher than 23-25C. The Jaisalmer desert safaris are also more enjoyable then as the nights are colder. So unless you want to endure the heat, try and plan your trip between November and March.
We were in Jaisalmer in August, and I can positively assure you that summer is not the best season to visit Jaisalmer. We could barely breathe during the day, we had to stop each hour to enjoy an ice cream or a cold drink. Trust me, when you check the Jaisalmer temperature, and you see 40C on your screen, you will boil in a matter of seconds.
The only advantage of having visited the Golden City in the summer was the lack of tourists. We were told that Jaisalmer in December is packed. So you have to weigh the joys of wandering in a tourist-free area and sweating like a horse, versus cool temperatures and hoards of people.
How to reach Jaisalmer?
Depending on your starting point, you have some options for getting to Jaisalmer. The most common ones are:
Delhi to Jaisalmer
The Delhi to Jaisalmer distance is of 806km, making it too time-consuming and exhausting for a car/bus ride.
But instead, you can take a Delhi to Jaisalmer flight. Direct flights to Jaisalmer take around 1 hour 45 minutes and are operated daily by SpiceJet.
Given the distance, you can also opt for a train ride. There are a couple of night trains departing Delhi in the afternoon and reaching Jaisalmer the next day around 11 AM.
Jodhpur to Jaisalmer
The Jodhpur to Jaisalmer distance is of 285km, making it easily reachable from the Blue City.
The Jodhpur to Jaisalmer bus is a pleasant 5-6 hour-ride. We bought our bus ticket from a travel agency in Jodhpur and got on the early morning bus (leaving at 7:30 AM). For the return, the Jaisalmer to Jodhpur bus didn’t require booking, we just went to the bus station around lunch and arrived later in the evening.
You also have the option of taking a Jodhpur to Jaisalmer train, but it will not get you there faster. Most trains take around 6 to 7 hours to reach Jaisalmer (without counting the delays).
Unfortunately, there is no Jodhpur to Jaisalmer flight available (only via Delhi and Jaipur).
Jaipur to Jaisalmer
The Jaipur to Jaisalmer distance is of around 550km. As such, the best option would be to either take the night train (the fastest one taking you there in 12 hours), or the plane. There are direct flights that will get you to Jaisalmer in one hour and a half (SpiceJet). So if you opt for flying, you can easily include a stop in the Golden City in your Jaipur trip.
Places to visit in Jaisalmer
There are plenty of things to do in Jaisalmer that will unveil the city’s mysterious vibe. Most people choose to spend two days exploring the city and another night for a desert safari. However, as always, our recommendation would be to try and stay longer, to explore past the famous Jaisalmer attractions.
Places to see in Jaisalmer
The Jaisalmer Fort and Palace
This is India’s oldest living fort (some say it’s even the oldest living one in the world), as one-third of the city’s population still resides there. And it is also the second oldest fort in Rajasthan (after Chandigarh). The fort was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013. And as with all UNESCO sites, it cannot disappoint you.
You can easily spend one day just wandering inside the fort, admiring its intricate architectural details that seem carved out of sand and watch the people’s daily routines. The Jaisalmer Fort has 99 bastions (circular structures having a significant role in the defense mechanism), and its golden sandstone walls hide some remarkable attractions. There are four gateways through which visitors can enter; you can visit the Jaisalmer Palace, the Jain Temples, as well as the Laxminath temple and the fascinating havelis.
Given the increasing number of tourists and the fact that probably all Jaisalmer packages include a visit to the Fort, you can now easily find all types of restaurants inside its walls. You can choose from North Indian specialties to French cuisine and even Italian specialties. So you have no excuse to not fully explore it, there is no risk of starving. The best options are the rooftops, as they provide an exquisite view over the Fort.
- Entrance fee: Rs. 250
- Opening hours: daily from 6 AM to 5 PM
No Jaisalmer sightseeing would be complete without a stop at one of the fairytale-like havelis. These are located both inside the Fort and outside its walls, and they are remarkable examples of Rajputana and Mughal architecture. The havelis are actually mansions, residences of the landlords and ministers.
If you don’t have much time and need to stick to just one Jaisalmer haveli, then go for the Patwon Ji Ki Haveli. It is situated around 400m north of the Forth, within walking distance from it and it is actually made of five havelis, all covered in golden carved facades. It is open for visitors daily from 8 AM to 6 PM and foreigners will be charged Rs. 100. A visit inside is well worth it, as it will take through the mundane objects of its inhabitants.
Another beautiful haveli is the Salim Singh Ji ki haveli, located near the Railway station.
Explore a Jain temple
Jaisalmer is famous for its Jain temples, and you should definitely include them on your things to see in Jaisalmer list. Inside the Fort, you will find 7 temples, which were built between the 12th and 15th century. They are dedicated to various Jain hermits, and they also depict the intricate architectural details specific to Jaisalmer.
You might want to talk to a caretaker or try to get a guide if you fancy finding out more stories about Jainism. It is an enchanting ancient religion whose core belief is represented by a genuine concern for the welfare of all human beings in the universe.
If you wish to visit a Jain temple, you will be asked for an entrance fee (Rs. 200 for foreigners) and make sure to check the schedule with the caretakers, as it changes a lot.
Don’t forget to take off your shoes and show your respect when inside the temple (remember to be silent and try to wear appropriate clothing).
The Gadsisar Lake
This is an artificial reservoir built in the 14th century. It was an essential source of water for the locals up until 1965. It is one of the more relaxed places in Jaisalmer, as you can just unwind and enjoy the temples surrounding it.
Places to visit near Jaisalmer
- Try a Jaisalmer desert safari – Unfortunately, we skipped any activity outside Jaisalmer, as the weather was way too hot. You can also opt for a camel safari. Jaisalmer is filled with agencies providing various packages that are either a one day trip in the desert or multiple-day ones. If you go for the multiple-day option, you will get to camp in Jaisalmer, in the middle of the Thar Desert.
- Explore the Sand Dunes – Jaisalmer is famous for its Sam Sand Dunes, located at around a 50-minute drive from the city. This is one of the perfect spots for watching the sunset when in Jaisalmer.
- The Bada Bagh – this is a complex whose name translates to the Big Garden. It is located at only 6km north of Jaisalmer and comprises a number of carved sandstone cenotaphs.
Where to stay in Jaisalmer?
As mentioned before, Jaisalmer tourism is significantly growing year after year. As such, the number of Jaisalmer hotels are also increasing and trying to allure as many tourists as possible. I will not give you the best hotels in Jaisalmer, as we didn’t have enough time to visit so many, but I can recommend the one that we chose – the Moustache Hostel. It is one of the budget hotels in Jaisalmer, but for us, it was a very comfortable stay. The room was very tidy and big, and it is located very close to the Fort, walking distance.
Inside the Fort, we spotted some 5 or 4-star hotels but didn’t have enough time to check them. However, you will surely find all types of accommodation, the availability only depending on the season when you are visiting.