Jaisalmer means ‘the Hill Fort of Jaisal’. Jaisalmer is also called the “Golden City of India” because the yellow sand gives a yellowish-golden shade to the city and its neighbouring area. Jaisalmer is a land of fascinating sand dunes, magnificent havelis (huge bungalows), bewitching palaces and stunning Jain temples. Jaisalmer is situated in north Indian state in the Thar desert of Rajasthan. Jaisalmer is known for its sand dunes and camel safaris.
Jaisalmer district is blessed with art, architecture, culture and traditions which are colourful. The folk music of this desert area is an amazing combination of traditions and classical music which gives you a taste of the desert life. In spite of the life being very difficult, it is interesting to see that the people are satisfied and happy. The language, culture and traditions of the people of the district are influenced by the culture of the neighbouring Sindh area.
Go for a camel safari through the sand dunes. Visit the Gadsisar Lake which is a popular hangout for birds and water-lovers alike. Do visit the Desert National Park, which is one of a kind. Other places to visit are the Jaisalmer fort and a number of Havelis to experience the old-world charm. Jaisalmer also has a number of handicrafts and antique shops.
In and Around
The most famous landmark in the city, Jaisalmer Fort is one of the largest forts in the world. Built in 1156 AD, the fort is also popularly known as Sonar Qila. Unlike other forts in the country, Jaisalmer Fort is a massive fort with a museum, shops, hotels, houses and eateries housed within. One of the biggest tourist attractions of the city, it is also a delight for photographers.
Patwon Ki Haveli
One of the largest havelis in Rajasthan, Patwon ki Haveli is a cluster of five small havelis. Started by Guman Chand Patwa, a wealthy banker, Patwon ki Haveli took almost 55 years to be built and was completed by his sons. The haveli is dipped in an enchanting shade of gold and instantly draws your attention to the intricacy of its architecture. It is most famous for its fine wall paintings, beautiful jharokhas (balconies), archways and gateways. A walk through the haveli should not take more than an hour, and this can easily be covered in a city tour.
Salim Singh ki Haveli
Salim Singh ki Haveli was built by Salim Singh, who was the formidable prime minister of Jaisalmer when it was the capital of the princely state. Almost 300 years old, the haveli adorns a beautiful, arched roof in the shape of a peacock. A part of the haveli is still occupied. Salim Singh ki Haveli is a must-visit, when in Jaisalmer.
Nath Mal ki Haveli
Once the residence of Diwan Mohata Nathmal, who was the Prime Minister of Jaisalmer, this grand haveli has an interesting story behind it. It is said that the construction of this structure began from two sides at the same time. With huge life-size elephants carved out of yellow stone and intricately carved exteriors and interiors, this haveli is one you just can’t afford to miss!
The Jain temples are the most important religious attractions in Jaisalmer. Constructed in the 12th century, the temples are situated within the Jaisalmer Fort campus. The Jain temples are famous for their intricate carvings and architecture and bear striking similarity to the Dilwara Temples near Mount Abu, Rajasthan. The Jains worship Chandra Prabhuji, a Jain prophet in these temples and there is also an ancient temple dedicated to Laxmi Nath within the fort.
Located approximately 6 kilometres off Jaisalmer, Bada Bagh is a popular attraction that is frequented by tourists who come to visit the various chattris or royal cenotaphs which exist here. The Jait Sar Tank and the Jait Bandh are also popular attractions to check out while visiting Bada Bagh.
Desert Culture Centre and Museum
Located close to the Jaisalmer city centre, Desert Culture Centre and Museum houses a large collection of traditional ancient scriptures, artefacts and instruments in addition to a vast collection of weapons, jewellery and handicrafts. The museum is maintained by the tourism department and is a must-visit for history buffs.
Jaisalmer Fort Palace Museum and Heritage Centre
Situated inside the majestic Jaisalmer Fort, the Jaisalmer Fort Palace Museum and Heritage Centre was an erstwhile royal residence, which was later converted into a heritage centre and museum. The museum houses a great collection of artefacts depicting the rich culture and heritage of Jaisalmer. It is a must-visit for history buffs and those keen on learning about the heritage of Rajasthan.
Sam Sand Dunes
The most exciting excursion that you can plan around Jaisalmer would have to be to Sam sand dunes. A vast area covered with rolling mounds of fine sand, Sam is barely 42 kilometres away from the city and is very popular for day trips as well as overnight camp excursions. You can drive there in a sturdy SUV, jeep or similar vehicle. Taxis can be hired in the city for the same as well. Ideally, you should opt for an overnight camping that typically includes transfers to and from Sam besides a short camel safari followed by dinner on the dunes with live folk performances, in addition to accommodation.
A man-made water reservoir, the Gadisar Lake was once the only source of water in Jaisalmer. Constructed by the first ruler of Jaisalmer, Raja Rawal Jaisal, it is surrounded by temples and ghats (banks). One can spend some peaceful time in the serene surroundings of the lake or choose to go boating as well. Boating and watching calm water in their natural surroundings can be a great experience with everyone at Gadisar Lake.
Desert National Park
An brilliant example of the ecosystem of the Thar Desert, the Desert National Park in Jaisalmer is one of the largest national parks in the area with an area of about 3162 square kilometres. The landform primarily comprises rocks and compact salt lake bottoms. Sand dunes form only 20% of the park. The park has an abundance of flora and fauna and is home to a number of migratory birds. Some of the birds found here include the short-toed Eagles, tawny eagles, spotted eagles, laggar falcons and kestrels. The highlight is the Great Indian Bustard, the endangered bird. As for the animals you can spot the blackbuck, the desert fox, cat and wolf. You will also find a number of fossils of animals, birds and plants that date back to some 180 million years.
Jaisalmer Desert Festival
Celebrated in the month of February every year, this three-day festival depicts the rich heritage and culture of what Rajasthan symbolises. Watch folk singers and dancers performing on the lyrical Rajasthani songs. Some of the other activities to watch out for during this festival are the traditional acrobatics by locals and gymnasts (known as Kalabaaz), snake charmers, puppet shows and ballads. Don’t miss the competitions at the festival- turban tying competition, longest moustache competition and Mr. Desert contest. And yes, camels aren’t left behind in this festival- camel races, camel polo, camel decoration and camel dance is a common sight here.
Amar Sagar Lake
Amar Sagar Lake is a lake retreat situated next to the 17th century citadel- the Amar Singh Palace. The palace was constructed by Maharawal Akhai Singh in honour of his predecessor Amar Singh. You will see pavilions with stairs next to the palace that will lead you to the lake. The palace, which is a 5-storey building famous for its murals, has been constructed in a pattern of apartments. The area has several ponds and lakes and an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. You will also see figureheads of animals carved in stone around the lake. It is believed that these figureheads are the protectors of the royal family.
A 12th century gate, the Surya Gate is found at the famous Jaisamler Fort popularly known as ‘Golden Fort’. Located on top of Trikuta Hill, the fort has four gates that you have to cross before you get to the palace. These are – Akhai Gate, Surya Gate, Ganesh Gate and Hawa Gate. Surya Gate is narrow and is decorated with stone carvings. As you go from the first gate to Surya Gate you will also cross small gift shops. Once you get to the fort, you can also visit the palaces and the Jain and Hindu Temples located inside.
Dussehra Chowk is a huge courtyard inside the famous Golden Fort or Sonar Kila of Jaisalmer. It is known to be the perfect place to marvel at the architecture and craftsmanship of the palace. Dussehra Chowk can be reached through Hawa pol, the last of the four gateways in the palace. The courtyard was especially used for Dussehra festivities during the Rajput reign in Jaisalmer. There is a marble throne here, which is where the king supposedly sat while watching the proceedings in the complex. The charming views from the chowk make it a popular spot for tourists to lounge and admire the surrounding beauty.
Kuldhara (Abandoned Village)
Another one of Jaisalmer’s ancient and abandoned villages, Kuldhara once had Paliwal Brahmins as its residents. The curious thing about these Brahmins was that unlike their usual occupation, these Brahmins were actually traders and farmers. The settlement, which had some 84 villages, was abandoned almost overnight as the villagers mysteriously left their homes in Kuldhara. The town lies about 20 kilometres away from Jaisalmer and now lies in ruins frequented by tourists. The sandstone buildings including homes, temples and other structures are found intact all across the town giving it a spooky air. The roads are wide and connect every house to a drainage system and the walls have inscriptions written in Devnagari script.
Tanot Mata Temple
Tanot Mata Temple is located close to the Indian border with Pakistan in Jaisalmer District. The temple has an interesting history as it is believed that during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, the Pakistani Army dropped many bombs at the temple but none of them met the target and many of the bombs aimed at the surrounding region of the temple did not explode at all. The temple now has a museum that exhibits collections of the unexploded bombs that were dropped by Pakistan. You are not allowed to go beyond this temple to see the Indo-Pak Border unless you have the relevant documentation from the District and Military Authorities. It takes about two hours to reach the temple from Jaisalmer by road, which is surrounded by miles of sand dunes and sand mountains.
A popular Hindu folk deity of Rajasthan, Ramdevji has a temple dedicated to him at Ramdevra. He was a Rajput who dedicated his life towards the upliftment of the oppressed classes. He has a large following in Rajasthan. The temple structure is supposed to have been built in 1931 around the deity’s final resting place by Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner. It also has the Samadhis of some of his chief disciples and the tombs of five Muslim Pirs, who had come from Mecca. Sometimes, this place is also known as the Samadhi Mandir.
Yet another fascinating and slightly spooky fort in Jaisalmer, Khaba Fort, was once inhabited by the Paliwal Brahmins. It was then suddenly deserted for mysterious reasons. The fort still has the ruins of the homes of some 80 families that used to live here more than 200 years ago. When you visit the fort, you can take a walk around the crumbling structure and then take a tour of the small museum that carries ancient artefacts. Khaba Fort still carries an abandoned feel with very minimal human activity in the area. While you will see very few humans, you would be pleasantly surprised to see a number of peacocks around the fort. You can combine your visit to Khaba Fort with a trip to Kuldhara Village.
Shopping in Jaisalmer
The place is well-known for its tablecloths in mirror work and jewellery. Puppets and footwear are also popular. The puppets from Jaisalmer serve as an excellent memento. Other items include textile, camel leather items, woven jackets antique stonework, lamps and wooden boxes. Some of the most renowned shopping destinations are Manak Chowk, Zila Khadi Gramodan Parishad, Pansari Bazaar, Sadar Bazaar, Khadi Gramyodyog Bhawan, Gandhi Darshan, Sonaron Ka Bas.
Boating in Gadisar Lake
An enjoyable activity especially recommended when travelling with children is the scenic boat-ride at Gadisar Lake. The lake also serves as a birdwatcher’s paradise, and a session of boating at sundown gives the perfect ending to your day tour of Jaisalmer.
Jeep safaris are the perfect way to get some thrilling adventure in Jaisalmer. Just rent one of those SUVs through an adventure tour operator and gear up for some action in the deserts of the surrounding region. Jeep safaris can be booked through local tour operators.
A camel safari is the most original way of exploring Jaisalmer. Trudging through the Thar Desert on the back of a seasoned camel is an experience that you would remember for years to come. Add to that the aura of nothingness that the desert creates, and you have the perfect recipe for some adventure! The camel safaris in Jaisalmer range from half-day and one-day tours to week-long safaris. A camel ride through the desert is highly recommended on your next trip to Jaisalmer. Camel safaris can be booked through local tour operators.
The ideal time to visit Jaisalmer is from October to the month of March, although the city remains bustling with tourists through out the year. If you are here not for mere fun but to try for adventures then Jaisalmer is worth visiting round the year. Nevertheless, in summers there are chances you might get affected with heat stroke.
How to Reach
Jaisalmer does not have any airport within the city. The nearest airport to Jaisalmer is Jodhpur airport which is situated at a distance of around 275 kilometers. The Jodhpur airport is connected with domestic and international flights to and from major destinations.
Jaisalmer’s railway station is 2km east of the city. The city is well connected by rail with Jodhpur as well as other major cities of India including Agra, Jaipur, New Delhi and Mumbai.
Bus runs to and from Jaisalmer by Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation on daily basis. Jaisalmer is connected to the cities of Gujarat and Rajasthan by ewll maintained roads. The two main bus stands in Jaisalmer are Golden Bus Terminal and Roadways. The bus and taxi services are frequent for the visitors.
Stay / Eat
Where to Stay
Rajasthan, India 345001
Opp. Head Post Office, Near Hanuman Circle ,
Rajasthan, India 345001
Hotel Marina Mahal
Rajasthan, India 345001
Where to Eat
Kanoj Village, Near Sand Dune