A visual spectacle of Thar: Jaisalmer #rajasthaninphotos

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Photo of A visual spectacle of Thar: Jaisalmer #rajasthaninphotos by Tanushree Jain

Come Christmas and New Year, everyone starts to scramble for a perfect destination for their much deserved vacation. Rajasthan often features as the top most option during this season. Likewise, we also planned our first (but surely not the last) visit to the Golden City of Jaisalmer in the last week of December 2018.

The largest district of Rajasthan, Jaisalmer is located in the heart of Thar desert. The architecture of this significant city is characterized by a special golden/yellow stone, something that is peculiar to this region. Trust me, the sheer beauty of the place and simplicity of locals will never cease to captivate your imagination.

People of Jaisalmer are completely reliant on tourism for their income as arid nature of the land leaves them with no alternate business opportunity. However, they have developed and promoted tourism very well, even though it is restricted to a few months because of inhospitable temperatures in summers. Foreigners flock this place, as a result you will see even a street hawker comfortably conversing in basic English. Please be ready to shell out at least 50% extra for every thing - accommodation, safari, food, etc., with December being the peak season.

Below is a day-wise itinerary that we followed, along with a visual glimpse:

Day 1 (Arrival in Jaisalmer and local sightseeing)

We reached early morning at the train station and directly checked into our hotel inside the Sonar Qila (Golden Fort).

Golden Fort is a city within the city and is one of the UNESCO World Heritage site. What differentiates it from the other forts in Rajasthan is that this structure is still inhabited. There are close to 95 accommodation options for tourists, approx. 1,500 houses with local population, number of souvenir stores and eateries. Staying inside the fort is an experience itself, although some may debate whether we are putting extra pressure on the foundation of this old structure. I would leave that choice up to you - but definitely there are ample number of residents of this fort relying on tourists to make their earnings in just one season to sustain themselves for the entire year.

We started our day by taking a stroll inside the fort. The first site that we visited was a complex of eight Jain temples. The temples are indeed an architectural marvel and would leave you spellbound at the intricacy of carvings and location within cobbled narrow streets. A must visit if you truly want to see why India was referred to as "sone ki chidiya" (a bird of gold).

Later we headed towards the outskirts of the city to visit Fossil park, Gadisar lake and Jaisalmer War Museum. Jaisalmer War Museum is located on the highway and houses some of the tanks/victory mementos that were captured during Indo-Pak war. Do visit this place just to pay homage to all the valiant defense personnel guarding us.

We then visited the three famous havelis (mansions), namely Patwon, Nathmal and Salem Singh. These havelis are again an architectural splendor and would provide you an insight into the lavish lifestyle of ministers of Rajput Dynasties. Patwon ki havelis are a cluster of five mansions belonging to five brothers. These are most extravagant and well kept structures out of all the havelis. We ended our day with a visit to King and Queen Palaces inside the fort complex.

For food, you can try eating at Cafe La Purezza (inside the fort) if you want to enjoy good food at a reasonable price amidst glistening city view. Do try street food such as Kachoris, chana jor garam, etc.

Day 1

Intricate carvings of Jain temple (inside the fort complex)

Photo of Golden City Fort Jaisalmer, Khejer Para, Manak Chowk, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Architecture of Jain temple

Photo of Golden City Fort Jaisalmer, Khejer Para, Manak Chowk, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Traditional system of rain-water harvesting in arid zone

Photo of Gadisar Lake, Postal Colony, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan by Tanushree Jain

Moment of glory!

Photo of Jaisalmer War Museum, Thaiyat, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Cenotaphs of royal family members

Photo of Bada Bagh, Bada Baugh Chhatris Road, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain
Photo of Nathmal Ki Haveli, Sadar Bazar, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Inside view of the main Patwon ki haveli

Photo of Patwon Ki Haveliyan, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Complex of Patwon ki haveli

Photo of Patwon Ki Haveliyan, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain
Photo of Patwon Ki Haveliyan, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain
Photo of Salim Singh Ki Haweli (Moti Mahal), Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

This is how king and queen used to converse

Photo of Salim Singh Ki Haweli (Moti Mahal), Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Night view of Raja ka Mahal

Photo of Golden City Fort Jaisalmer, Khejer Para, Manak Chowk, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Narrow cobbled lanes within the fort

Photo of Golden City Fort Jaisalmer, Khejer Para, Manak Chowk, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Fort entry

Photo of Raja Ka Mahal, Khejer Para, Manak Chowk, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain
Photo of Raja Ka Mahal, Khejer Para, Manak Chowk, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain
Photo of Raja Ka Mahal, Khejer Para, Manak Chowk, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Day 2 (Visit to International Border and dune bashing)

We headed to see Indo-Pak International border guarded by BSF (approx. 140 km from Jaisalmer city). Excellent road conditions and windmills on either sides will make you want to cruise your vehicle. It is heartening to see women guarding our borders, however due to sensitivity of the region, you will not see any pictures of this border in my blog. Enroute we stopped at Tanot Mata temple, a deity revered by locals and BSF alike. The temple complex is maintained by BSF as they believe the goddess to be their protector in this sensitive area. This is also the point, where you will have to submit your ID proof in lieu of border entry pass. The application for seeking permission to visit the border needs to be submitted at the BSF center in the Jaisalmer city.

The road journey will take you through Ranau village, where one can see the best sand dunes of the region.

After our excursion to the border, we headed towards our camp in Sam Sand dunes for a night stay in the desert. We grabbed a quick lunch at Ramgarh, our best bet along the sparsely populated route.

After checking into the camp, we went for a jeep safari - the highlight of our trip to get to the sunset viewing point. Jaisalmer open jeep safari is a more rustic version of dune bashing of Dubai. It is indeed adrenaline pumping and can be made as daring as you want it to be with the driver's skills. Watching sun setting over the desert could be a surreal experience and could bring the much needed tranquility, giving ample time for introspection. One can also enjoy activities such camel ride/race, camel cart riding at this point.

We then returned to our camp to enjoy cultural program followed by traditional Rajasthani dinner.

Day 2

Morning scenes from the terrace of our hotel inside the fort

Photo of Golden City Fort Jaisalmer, Khejer Para, Manak Chowk, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

The extravagance of the fort

Photo of Golden City Fort Jaisalmer, Khejer Para, Manak Chowk, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Sun rising over the golden city

Photo of Golden City Fort Jaisalmer, Khejer Para, Manak Chowk, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Ranau village - enroute international border

Photo of Tanot, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Not a bad place to catch up on your work out - ain't it?

Photo of Sam Sand Dunes, Sand Dunes, Sam, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Camel ride over the dunes

Photo of Sam Sand Dunes, Sand Dunes, Sam, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Treading the known path

Photo of Sam Sand Dunes, Sand Dunes, Sam, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Leaving footsteps for others to follow

Photo of Sam Sand Dunes, Sand Dunes, Sam, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Perfect sunset shot

Photo of Sam Sand Dunes, Sand Dunes, Sam, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Day 3 (Desert sunrise and checkout)

We woke up early to take a camel safari to reach the sunrise point. We witnessed a spectacular play of colors over the verdant skies. Then we checked out from the camp to visit Kuldhara, the abandoned village of Paliwal Brahmins, being restored by the authorities. Enroute you will see people offering activities such as makeshift parasailing (sailing equipment attached to a moving jeep), quad biking, etc. You can choose to end your trip with some more adventure.

One can also visit Lodurva - the erstwhile capital of the kingdom before shifting base to Jaisalmer. It is interesting to note that during invasion, sculptures of Jain gods were transported via an underground secret tunnel from Lodurva to Jaisalmer.

We proceeded for our return journey after experiencing adventure, nature and history, with a hope to come back again.

Day 3

An active morning for camel riders

Photo of Sam Sand Dunes, Sand Dunes, Sam, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Nature's play of colors before the sunrise

Photo of Sam Sand Dunes, Sand Dunes, Sam, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Nature's wells - is it not reminiscent of the great Sahara desert?

Photo of Sam Sand Dunes, Sand Dunes, Sam, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Sun trying to peep out - a breathtaking experience

Photo of Sam Sand Dunes, Sand Dunes, Sam, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

A picture postcard worthy view

Photo of Sam Sand Dunes, Sand Dunes, Sam, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Scenes from the haunted village

Photo of Kuldhara Abandoned Village Well, Jiyai, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Description stone

Photo of Kuldhara Abandoned Village Well, Jiyai, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Erstwhile capital of the kingdom - famous for kalpatru tree and toran

Photo of Lodurva Jain Temple, Lodurva, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain

Uniquely carved Toran/arch at the temple entry

Photo of Lodurva Jain Temple, Lodurva, Rajasthan, India by Tanushree Jain
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