Jaisalmer is called India’s golden city because of the yellow sandstone buildings and sandy desert landscape. Located on the far end of the state of Rajasthan and in the heart of the Thar desert, it feels miles away from everywhere else in the subcontinent. It’s also very close to the Pakistani border. The city was founded in 1156 by Rajput king, Maharawal Jaisal Singh. Here are 20 magical pictures of Jaisalmer.
One of Jaisalmer’s trademarks is Sonar Quila or the Golden Fort. This UNESCO World Heritage site commands the horizon and looks like something straight out of a fairytale. Although it was built in 1156, it’s one of the few forts in the world that people still live in! There is a palace, many temples, havelis, and alleys to explore within.
Colorful handmade Rajasthani string puppets or kathputhlis line the external fort walls near the main entrance.
The narrow and winding alleys of Jaisalmer Fort. Notice how close the houses are built to the main path. You always have to be on the lookout for stray dogs, scooters, wandering cows, and poop!
Another deserted street within Jaisalmer Fort. And yes, that’s silver tinsel strung from house to house! It sparkled so beautifully under the desert sunshine.
Jaisalmer Fort looks completely different when darkness falls. Doesn’t it look like something straight out of Arabian Nights?
The extremely detailed sandstone facade of one of Jaisalmer’s famous havelis, Patwon ki Haveli. It is actually a collection of five smaller havelis. It is also the oldest haveli in Jaisalmer.
This is the exterior of another famous haveli in the city, Salim Singh ki Haveli. Our guide also mentioned that haveli means house of wind ( hawa) and sunlight ( veli).
The inside of Patwon ki Haveli. There are so many chiseled windows, doorways, and arches!
Looking out at the street scene below from a beautiful window frame in Patwon ki Haveli.
Bada Bagh is located a few kilometers away from the city center. Its name means Big Garden. This cenotaph complex is dedicated to Jaisalmer’s dead royals. It is made up of chhatris (dome-shaped pavilions that memorialize a person’s death).
One of the best times to visit Bada Bagh is near sunset when the structures turn a beautiful golden color. You can rent a taxi or rickshaw from the city to get there.
One of the highlights of Jaisalmer is Gadisar Lake. This manmade lake used to be the main source of water for the city. There are small temples and shrines on its shores and the water is teeming with catfish. If you go at certain times, you can see people at the temple feeding the catfish! It is a spectacle not for the squeamish! You can also rent paddle boats here.
This is what modern-day Jaisalmer looks like.
One of the most popular things to do in Jaisalmer is to go on an overnight camel safari in the Thar Desert. There are many tour operators in the area so ask your hotel or guide to recommend a good one.
This is Jesse’s camel, Victoria. He was so sweet-tempered throughout the journey.
Camels resting after a morning ride. Surprisingly, these camels didn’t behave as badly as the ones I encountered in Egypt!
On an overnight camel safari, you get to sleep under the stars on a sand dune! You also get to listen to the tinkling of the bells around the camel’s necks. What more could you ask for? #bestsleepever
This is the main entrance to Kuldhara, a deserted village about 20 kilometers away from the city. It has been abandoned since the 19th century. According to local legend, the village was abandoned because Salim Singh, a rich man from Jaisalmer, wanted a beautiful girl from the village and sent his guards to force the villagers to hand her over. The villagers asked the guards to return the next day and they abandoned the village overnight. It is also reputed to be haunted and cursed by the former inhabitants so no one else can live there.
You can climb the rooftops of some houses and buildings in Kuldhara. In the foreground is an ornate temple roof. Kuldhara used to be inhabited by Brahmins.
Some of the structures in the village are still standing, like this sandstone stairway to the roof of one of the houses.
Photos: © Live Lyfe Photography
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