So far we have travelled about 2080 miles. Almost the whole width of the country. We started in the wet, humid state of West Bengal. Then travelled up into the forested, mountainous region of Uttarakhand and now we find ourself in the desert – Jaipur, Rajasthan.
We had been excited to arrive in Jaipur, after having so many difficulties up to this point, we hoped Rajasthan would cut us a break. Jaipur is the home to the Pink City, a handful of forts and was home to the Indian Royal Family of Maharajas. It’s famous for its people who are extravagant in their appearance; huge moustaches, over the top jewellery and smothered in gold and jewels. We spent 4 full days in Jaipur and even before we had left the train station we knew we would enjoy it here.
Notably the city has money and the government in charge seems to care for the city. It’s one of the only places we have seen bins line the streets. There are numerous signs urging people to be clean and not litter throughout the city. The people are friendly and whilst we were still cautious, some people seemed to just want to talk for the sake of being nice, not for money.
We stayed in the region of Raja Park which is about 15-20 minutes drive to the Pink City. It was a good location with plenty of nearby food outlets. Plus it’s central to the locations in South Jaipur and North Jaipur. Our hotel Dodas Palace was fantastic value! £13 a night for a suite room which was super comfy and spacious. The staff are also incredibly friendly and a buffet breakfast is included.
There is so much to see and do in Jaipur I’m sure we missed a lot, but we did squeeze in a fair bit too!
You absolutely must treat yourself to some shopping time in Jaipur. Jaipur has become famous for its jewellery shopping with its abundance of gemstones. Whilst all the gems and gold are imported, the jewellery is all hand crafted (most of the time to order) in Jaipur by highly gifted jewellers. We purchased jewellery from 2 shops in Jaipur and both provided us with a fantastic experience with great hospitality and a superb quality piece to take home. Indian women love to wear gold jewellery and so you will find there is a vast amount of 22k gold in Jaipur too.
You can easily waste a full day just browsing the sparkles of the gem shops. Head to Tripolia Market and look for New Maharaja Gem Palace (directly opposite Hawa Mahal) and Maitre DE Bijoux for a trusted shopping experience.
This fort looks directly over Jaipur city and sits just to the north. You can access the fort 2 ways; by taxi it will take 40 minutes to drive round the back of the fort or you can be dropped off at the foot of the walkway which takes you directly to the best viewpoint in the fort. The hill would probably take 15-30 minutes to climb depending on your fitness levels. We got a taxi to the fort and walked down the hill afterwards to get back to the city.
The best time to visit is either sunrise or sunset. The fort has a great view of either. We arrived at around 5:45am for sunrise but were dropped at the wrong point. Advise your driver to drop you at the point which you are asked to pay toll fee and climb up the stairs to your left. This will take you onto the fort walls which you can walk around to find your perfect viewpoint. We even spotted a pair of mongoose as we patrolled the far side of the fort walls!
We were shouted at once by the guards to not sit up on the fort walls. Though once the guard has gone back in for a cup of chai we didn’t have any issues…
Entrance: free (unless you go inside the fort building)
Try to do these next 3 things together for time/money saving as they are all right next to each other!!
Jal Mahal Palace
Also known as the Water Palace due to its location, smack bang in the middle of a lake. Now, we almost didn’t even stop here because we had read on a different blog post somewhere that the lake stunk due to the pollution, this was not the case for us. The lake does get polluted (of course, this is India) but we didn’t find the smell uncomfortable to stand next too. The problem is that many Indians come to the lake to feed the birds and fish so that they will have good karma. Obviously this creates a rotten food issue in the lake, but like I said, it was not too bad when we were there.
There are several viewpoints to watch sunrise. We only found the spot we were looking for after the sun had actually risen so I’ll just map it out for those wishing to shoot sunrise. Walk to the very corner, next to the old boating ticket office. Climb over the wall and walk to the lakeside… that’s the spot.
The stillness of the lake and the water birds flying in for their morning feed is particularly stunning in the orange hues of sunrise. Make this your first stop before heading towards Amer.
Bring mosquito repellant and cover up as this is prime insect territory!
Panda Meena Ka Kund Step Well
Before heading on to Amber Fort make a quick stop to admire the step well round the back. The symmetry of the well is very pleasing to the eye and at this time in the morning (before 7:30am) it is entirely empty of people. You can walk down the steps and relax for a while.
The water at the bottom is a very murky green colour but believe it or not there is life in there! A ginormous catfish or 2 surface for air every now and then. They must be around 1 metre long!
We had a man who was sweeping at the top of the well come down and ask us to pay 5000 rupees for sitting in the well! The well is free of charge. Do not pay anyone asking for money. It’s funny how as we started walking away he suddenly only asked for 500 rupees. It was almost time for us to leave anyway so we walked away but feel free to stand your ground if anyone does ask for money.
Entrance: 100% FREE
Perhaps the more famous fort around Jaipur, it sits at the top of a small hill in Amer. Behind it lays Jaigarh Fort and in front lays Amer town. It opens at 8am hence is not good for sunrise and the, what used to be a lake, in front of the fort is completely dried up. So there really is no good place to watch sunrise here. Opt for Jal Mahal instead.
To reach the fort there are 2 ways up. The first is at the front of the fort on the main road and the second is around the back, near to the step well. I urge you with all my heart please take the back entrance to the fort. Elephant riding has become a huge attraction at Amber Fort and they are used to carry people up and down the hill at the front of the fort ALL DAY LONG. It was a blistering 38 degrees when we were there and they work throughout the whole day. Around 100 elephants treated like slaves to tourists who should know better. The hill is not difficult to climb. When the demand stops, so will the abuse of the animals.
(It has been difficult to witness some of the ways in which animals are treated in India and I fully intend to write about it properly at a later date.)
In the courtyard of the fort a group of friendly langur monkeys provide some entertainment whilst waiting to purchase your ticket! Inside the fort is beautiful. A room completely decorated with pieces of mirrored glass and gorgeous paintings lining the archways.
For some reason the caretakers of the fort have begun re-plastering many of the rooms, which pretty much ruins the experience since all the character disappears. Hopefully it’s only a select few rooms and not the whole fort they plan on re-plastering/repainting. Otherwise there may not be a whole lot of point to visiting it soon.
Entrance: 500 rupees
This stunning gate and the gardens it leads into are found in South Jaipur. The artwork and colours that decorate the gate are breathtaking. It makes for a fantastic photo! Definitely grab an Ola to the gate and once you’ve admired it enough you can take a leisurely stroll through the circular gardens.
Any park or garden space is always full of young Indian couples. Brad and I are left wondering if they’re secretly dating and use the park to have some time alone where their parents won’t find them… just a theory.
Found in the heart of the Pink City you will find this striking building. Beautifully decorated on the outside it was built originally for women to hide away. The windows were then put in so that they could see the outside world.
We were told the inside is not worth viewing so we didn’t bother. Instead we were across the street to a café and had lunch with a great view of the outside of the building.
Note: the locals also told us not to bother going inside City Palace. Apparently it’s been turned into a market for tourists and doesn’t really show the palace for what it is. Since we have visited what feels like 100’s of temples and buildings we were happy to skip.
Jaipur left us feeling warm. We were able to put the challenging weeks behind us and enjoy the city without holding any prior grudges. Knowing that there is so much more we could have seen, should we have wanted to travel a little further from the city centre, is definitely more than enough reason to go back. Next time I’ll budget in a little something for myself!
Does Jaipur sound like it would be your cup of chai?