Jaisalmer is the westernmost full fledged city of Rajasthan, close to international border with Pakistan. Jaisalmer is 124 km from Longewala, a border town where the famous Battle of Longewala took place during Indo-Pakistani War 1971. Most of the road network around Jaisalmer city is maintained by Indian Army so the road conditions are good and ideal for road trips around the city.
Jaisalmer Places to Visit and Things to Do
Jaisalmer is a lively interesting city with lot of places to see, umpteen things to do and experience. The first part of this blog consists of 10 best places to see in Jaisalmer and the second part deals with top 10 experiences in Jaisalmer.
10 Best Places to Visit in Jaisalmer
This list of top 10 attractions of Jaisalmer city has a good mix of history, temples, architecture, science and natural sites like lakes and sand dunes.
This is largest living fort of India, continuously inhabited fort ever since it was made in 12th century. Even half a day would be insufficient to tour the beautiful golden fort. Include the Jain temples and popular haveli (mansions) of medieval times in your tour itinerary within the fort. There are plenty of small hotels to stay and restaurants serving different cuisines within the fort.
Even if you are not religiously or spiritually inclined this temple is a must visit for its beautiful architectural details. The delicate and detailed craftsmanship on yellow stone leaves one spell bound! Lodurva was the first capital of Bhatti dynasty before they shifted to Jaisalmer, 16 km away. Ask a temple priest and he will tell you the stories related to the temple and the place Lodurva.
Amar Sagar Jain Temple
Yet another ridiculously bewitchingly beautiful Jain temple, close to Lodurva Temple is the Amar Sagar Jain Temple. I almost swooned seeing the intricate stunning details. The arches, the ceilings, the jharonkha (windows), pillars are infused with designs. You are here in the westernmost city of Rajasthan, don’t give this architectural gem a miss, a must visit if you love Rajput architecture.
This is the smallest fort of Rajasthan.
Khaba Fort was the Sarai Fort (fort at the frontier). The traders who entered Rajasthan from neighbouring countries via the Silk Route trade stayed inside this fort for a night. Only after they paid taxes to the ruling king they were given the permission to go ahead for trade.
It was never cared for really well as it was never used during wars. Today major renovation work is on. There is a museum with information on fossils found here. Suryagarh Resort arranges experiential dining destination to this place, you can have breakfasts with peacocks of Rajasthan here.
Kuldhara Haunted Village
In for little scary adventure? Make a night visit to Kuldhara village which is believed to be haunted. You can make a day trip too to see how a village lays abandoned, all houses vacant with no roofs. It gives an eerie feeling to be roaming within the walls of the ruins.
Akal Wood Fossil Park
This Fossil park has a very well preserved collection of wood fossils. It surprised me to see the fossil trees are caged, an indication how precious they are. There are no animal fossils on display only wood fossils, nothing to second this anywhere else in India! But it is believed once this area was under ocean. The park keeper guides the visitors. The park has a few emus which roam around the park, making it more interesting for the kids.
Akal Wood Fossil Park is located about 15-20 minutes drive from Jaisalmer. This a good place of interest for students and all those who are interested in archaeology, fossil study, science and history.
It was so enchanting to see Gadsisar Lake with its beautiful heritage monuments. Lakes are always pleasant but one that is in a desert makes it extra special and beautiful. The ethnic structure placed so elegantly in the middle of the lake makes it like a scene from fairy tale. Ideal place for sunset photography and bird watching.
There are boating facilities and small souvenir shops have mushroomed around the place. During peak hours it is hard to find boats free, so time yourself to avoid disappointment.
Sam Sand dunes
Sam Sand dunes is the most ideal destination near Jaisalmer for authentic experience of sand dunes, sunset and sunrise photography behind the dunes. You can choose to spend a night in one of the desert camps there. It is a kind of cultural hub of the Jaisalmer city. Plan a visit during Desert Festival in months of Feb-Mar to see variety of entertainment programs with traditional dances.
Sam Sand Dunes are 45 km from Jaisalmer city. Road trip is the only option. You get state transport buses and private taxis to reach the place.
Bada Bagh Cenotaphs
Bada Bagh, the big garden as it is locally called, has garden, a tank and a dam. But it is the cenotaphs nearby which are more popular. These cenotaphs, sandstone chhatris, are dedicated to male members of royal family. Each chhatri has a stone slab with the image of a king. Interior is devoid of design, very plain and simple. But as a group, they make a wonderful photo subject especially during sunsets.
Nothing much is around, very solemn sombre kind of place. No tickets are required and no timings are specified. But it is advisable to leave the place before it gets too dark.
Desert National Park
The Desert National Park stretches between the cities Jaisalmer and Barmer. It is in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, Category: Natural since May 2009. This park is barren with several sand dunes. It is possible to do a road trip through this region. 60 species of mammals, 8 species of amphibians, and 51 species of reptile are known from the Thar Desert. It has been recorded that 14 species of lizards and 7 species of snakes have been found in this area. Chinkaras and Black Bucks are the most easiest to spot.
10 Best Things to Do in Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer Local Bazaar – Shopping
Shopping in Jaisalmer can never be a disappointing affair. Jaisalmer is well known for its silver jewelry and leather works. Besides these there are lot of handicraft home decor items, golden sandstone artifacts.
Some specific markets are popular for each of these items which can help you decide what to shop in Jaisalmer. But in general you will find all these in little souvenir shops near the tourist sites like Jaisalmer Fort, Gadisar lake and Sam sand dunes.
The popular local markets for Jaisalmer shopping are:
- Seema Gram and Pansari Bazaar for handicraft and home décor items.
- Manak Chowk is stuffed with leather based items.
- Sonaron ka Baas as the name indicates is famous for jewelry.
- You must head to ‘Bhatia Bazaar’ if you are looking for silk fabrics and Mirror Work Embroidery. The famous mirror work embroidery on vibrantly colored fabrics reflects the colorful culture of the state of Rajasthan.
- Sadar Bazaar is famous for paintings and carpets.
Desert Cultural Center & Museum
This place showcases the desert culture and puppetry. It has a large collection of traditional instruments, medieval coins, ethnic artifacts, weapons and fossil works. You will be blown away at their collection of ethnic Rajasthani jewelry and handicrafts. It is a long list of collections there worth seeing to understand the rich heritage of the city.
Highlight of this museum is the hour long puppet show in the evenings, a major hit with tourists travelling with families and kids.
Rajasthani Cuisine in Jaisalmer
There are excellent vegetarian and non vegetarian restaurants in Jaisalmer. The street food of Jaisalmer too are popular with both locals and tourists. You can also take Jaisalmer food tour that will help you taste what is special in Jaisalmer.
Nevertheless if you are on your own try the famous food of Jaisalmer
- Rajasthan Thali
- Dal Baati Choorma, lentils cooked in Rajasthani spices with round balls of hard unleavened bread and sweet dish with jaggery (molasses).
- Kadi Pakora, prepared out of flour dumplings and yogurt, an ideal Jaisalmer dish.
- Bhanon Aloo, a veg dish – potatoes stuffed with mint paste cooked in thick gravy.
- Gatte ki Sabzi, a dish of Gram flour sausages dipped in creamy yoghurt gravy.
- Murgh-e-Subz, a popular local non veg dish, is prepared out of boneless chicken pieces and chopped vegetables.
- Famous local drink Makhania Lassi which you cannot drink! Surprised? It is served with heaps of dry fruits; you will need a spoon to finish it.
Jaisalmer Desert Festival
Desert Festival Jaisalmer is a popular annual cultural of Rajasthan. It almost seems like a festival! Dates of the festival depend on lunar calendar; 3 days prior to the full moon in the Hindu month of Magh, that is usually between last week of Jan to first week of February. Venue of the festival is amidst the beautiful Sam sand dunes of the Thar Desert. Jaisalmer Tourism has done well to promote this yearly event.
Enjoy dinner amidst sand dunes or lunch beside an oasis or breakfast with peacocks in an old historic fort. Suryagarh Resort offers some of the best destination dining experiences in whole of India. They offer several packages to accommodate the different requirements of tourists and tour groups.
Adventure Activities in Sam Sand dunes
If you are keen in some adventure activities in desert Sam sand dunes has plenty of options to choose from. Parasailing, Quad biking, dune bashing are some of the activities offered by safari organizers in Jaisalmer. Each of them is charged separately and is for different duration. So depending on the time you can spare you can choose the adventure activities.
Jaisalmer Desert Camps are best way to experience desert atmosphere in luxurious surroundings. Far away from the din of the city, under star lit skies, surrounded by 30 to 40 m tall sand dunes; it is a different experience altogether. They arrange for evening musical dance program and camel safaris.
Camel Safari Tours
Desert tour organizers curate different kinds of Safari – expeditions – to experience the natural habitat. Camel safari tours offer an hour of camel ride through the dunes of the desert. The camel owner too accompanies you by foot.
You can decide the time of tour and accordingly you are charged. Full day ride option too is available. The hourly rates are about 150INR per camel. It is a means of livelihood for the locals who own camels. A place devoid of any kind of vegetation they have to depend only on camels for their daily survival.
Desert Jeep Safari
Desert Jeep Safaris take you through desert national park, Sam sand dunes and to Padholi, a bird sanctuary 150 km from Jaisalmer. It is a fun filled trip in an open top jeep. You can feel the wind brushing your cheeks and blowing your hair as the jeep speeds through the sandy roads of Thar Desert.
Longewala War Memorial
Longewala Border post is 124 km from Jaisalmer. The memorial here is in memory of heroic battle won by the Indian Army over Pakistan Army in the year 1971.
2000 Pakistan soldiers with a tank brigade faced a humiliating defeat from Indian detachment of only 80 soldiers. A war museum there displays the captured Pakistani Tank. Longewala Tourism includes this in its tour itinerary.
If you are serious about visiting the site you need to take prior permission from Jaisalmer Military headquarters and plan ahead. I came to know this very late and had to miss my visit to Longewala War Museum and battlefield.