Welcome to Jaisalmer, the Golden City of India. Known for its stunning yellow sandstone architecture, vibrant culture, and fascinating history, Jaisalmer is a traveler’s dream come true. My personal favorites in Jaisalmer were the camel safari in the sand dunes and wandering the incredible lanes and stairs of the Jaisalmer Fort. It’s time to embark on a mesmerizing journey as we uncover the best things to do in Jaisalmer.
Best things to do in Jaisalmer
In this blog post, I’ll share all of the incredible activities and things to do in Jaisalmer. You can explore the ‘Golden City’ on your own or join walking tours, camel safari’s and unique experiences by booking online in advance.
The Jaisalmer Fort
Visiting Jaisalmer Fort, an iconic symbol of Jaisalmer, is akin to stepping back in time. Perched on Trikuta Hill, the fort’s majestic yellow sandstone walls glow brilliantly under the sun, earning it the name ‘Sonar Quila’ or the Golden Fort. As you step through the imposing gates, you’re greeted by a labyrinth of narrow, winding lanes lined with intricately carved havelis, temples, and shops. The Private Heritage City Tour is great value, not too expensive and takes you to all of the iconic spots in Jaisalmer including the fort.
A fascinating blend of Rajput and Islamic architectural styles, the fort showcases delicate jharokhas (balconies), stunning jaalis (stone lattices), and ornate chhatris (pavilions). As one of the few ‘living forts’ in the world, it houses nearly a quarter of the city’s population within its ancient walls. Exploring the fort’s rich history, marvelling at its architectural grandeur, and absorbing the vibrant buzz of everyday life within its walls is an experience that encapsulates the true essence of Jaisalmer.
Inside the Jaisalmer Fort resides a group of beautiful Jain Temples, a testament to the religious diversity and architectural brilliance of the region. Built between the 12th and 16th centuries, these temples are carved out of the same golden-yellow sandstone as the fort itself, creating a mesmerizing spectacle of intricate carvings, sculptures, and domes. From the main Paraswanath Temple to the smaller, equally stunning Rishabhnath and Sambhavanth Temples, each temple stands as a splendid example of Dilwara style architecture. The Private Heritage City Tour includes a visit to the Jain Temple along with many other points of interest.
The walls of the temples are adorned with scenes from Jain mythology, bringing spiritual narratives to life in an incredible display of craftsmanship. Despite being centuries old, the temples remain active places of worship. The tranquility that envelops these sacred spaces, particularly during the morning prayers, offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the fort’s bustling streets, making a visit to these Jain Temples a must-do when exploring Jaisalmer Fort.
We rented a motorbike and set off towards Bada Bagh from the city center. It only took us about 15 minutes driving towards the huge wind turbines to find the temple site. Bada Bagh translates to ‘big garden’.
The entrance fee was 100 rupees and not a single tourist was at the site when we arrived in mid-morning. Essentially Bada Bagh is a cemetery. Years ago the founder of Jaisalmer commissioned a dam to create a water tank to be built at the site, which meant it was the only green area in the region at times during the year. It is also the reason why there is a lake next to Bada Bagh, seemingly in the middle of a huge desert. This is how it earnt the name Bada Bagh or ‘Big Garden’.
The Maharajah had a cenotaph built for his father atop the hill and many more cenotaphs more followed after for important figures. A cenotaph is a small temple or tribute statue for a deceased relative. This was one of the most unique things to do in Jaisalmer.
Gadi Sagar Lake
Gadisar Lake is an enchanting man-made reservoir on the outskirts of Jaisalmer. Built by Raja Rawal Jaisal, the first ruler of Jaisalmer, this serene waterbody was once the lifeline of the city, providing much-needed water in the arid desert environment. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction and birdwatcher’s paradise, particularly during the winter months when migratory birds flock to the lake. Surrounded by beautiful temples, shrines, and ghats, the lake offers a mesmerizing reflection of the architectural beauty of Jaisalmer.
Temples sit out in the water, almost as if they were floating and the sound of traffic from the city is too far to break the serenity. Visiting Gadi Sagar Lake would be rated as one of the best things to do in Jaisalmer for sunrise in my opinion. Hanging out on the walls of the fort for sunrise could be epic also.
Enjoy a Meal at a Rooftop Cafe
There are many to choose from. In fact, it is harder to find a cafe inside of a building than to enjoy the views from on top. Our accommodation, Hotel Pleasant Haveli, had an awesome setup with comfy, colorful couches and a good array of food. Having dinner at one of the rooftop restaurants is a must-do activity in Jaisalmer.
My other favorite was Cafe the Kaku, which had stunning views and a perfect spot for a drone launch.
Within the fort we tried Gaji’s Restaurant and Kuku Cafe, both had great views and good coffee. The friendly staff is a constant in Jaisalmer so you can expect a friendly smile no matter which rooftop you end up on. Finding a good view each night isn’t a hard feat and one of the fun things to do in Jaisalmer each day.
The havelis in Jaisalmer are magnificent examples of the city’s rich architectural heritage. These grand mansions, mostly built in the 18th and 19th centuries by wealthy merchants, are renowned for their intricate yellow sandstone carvings and unique design. The most famous among these is the Patwon Ki Haveli, a collection of five havelis standing close to one another. Each haveli, with its intricately latticed windows, elaborately carved pillars, and stunning murals, is a testament to the skill of the local craftsmen.
The ornate balconies or ‘jharokhas’ offer a glimpse into the affluence of the erstwhile merchants. These havelis, with their labyrinth of rooms, hidden staircases, and exquisite detailing, reflect a harmonious blend of Rajasthani and Islamic architectural styles. Walking through these havelis is like stepping back in time, offering an immersive experience of Jaisalmer’s glorious past and intricate artistry.
Walking the streets of Jaisalmer, you are bound to come across some beautiful Haveli’s.
#7 Camel Safari in the Sand Dunes
While exploring the Golden City it’s likely you will be offered a camel safari in Jaisalmer. It’s the most popular tourist attraction in the western region of Rajasthan. The Sam Sand Dunes are on the outskirts of Jaisalmer in the Desert National Park provides the perfect landscape for slow-paced trekking and escaping the city.
I spent three days and two nights sleeping in the sand dunes under the stars on my camel safari. It was one of the highlights of my three months in India. It was incredibly hot, isolated, and barren. However, this is what made it so epic.
Our guide Sambu started a fire with sticks he would find before each meal. Making chai, chapati, and curry from scratch in the heat of the desert was an amazing feat to watch. This would be my number one recommendation of things to do in Jaisalmer!
There are a few ways to experience a camel safari in Jaisalmer. You can go for a half-day camel trek, overnight trek, or a three-day trek. It really depends on your preference. I would advise only adventurous people to do several day journeys as it can be a bit uncomfortable and hot at times but very fun.
I have put down below several of the best available tour options to book your very own camel safari depending on how long you want to spend in the desert. The half-day tour can be less than $30 while the overnight treks depend on the quality of the camping and sleeping arrangements.
- Recommended Sunset Tour: Half-day Sunset Camel Tour
- Recommended Overnight Tour: Overnight Camel Safari Tour
- Recommended Three Day Tour: Three Day Camel Safari Tour
Read the full blog post about my Camel Safari in Jaisalmer.
Shopping at Local Bazaars
Shopping in Jaisalmer is a treasure hunt. You’ll find everything from leather goods and silver jewelry to colorful textiles and intricate miniature paintings.
Experience of Shopping in Jaisalmer – Bargaining is key! The vibrant Sardar Bazaar and the quieter Bhatia Bazaar are must-visits. Being immersed in the buzz of the markets and interacting with the vendors is one of the must-do activities in Jaisalmer.
Attend the Desert Festival
The Desert Festival of Jaisalmer is a vibrant, annual event that showcases the rich cultural heritage and folk traditions of Rajasthan. Held over three days in the month of February, the festival transforms the golden sands of the Thar Desert into a riot of color, music, and laughter. Traditional music fills the air as folk artists mesmerize the crowd with performances of folk dances like Ghoomar and Kalbeliya. The festival is renowned for unique and exciting events such as camel races, turban-tying competitions, and Mr. Desert contests.
One of the most anticipated spectacles is the “Fire Dance,” performed by the Banjara community. The festival culminates with a mesmerizing performance under the moonlit sky against the backdrop of the enchanting Sam Sand Dunes. The Desert Festival of Jaisalmer offers an incredible opportunity to experience the cultural richness of Rajasthan, making it a must-experience event for any visitor.
The Ghost Village of Jaisalmer
Kuldhara Village, situated around 18 kilometers west of Jaisalmer, is a fascinating yet eerie site. Established in the 13th century by the Paliwal Brahmins, the village was once a prosperous community. However, it was abruptly abandoned overnight, and today, stands as a ghost village. Legend has it that the entire village was deserted due to the oppressive tax regime and cruelty of the local ruler. The village has been uninhabited since, and locals believe it to be cursed.
As you walk through the empty streets lined with dilapidated homes, you can still sense the echoes of the bustling life that once existed here. The ruins stand as silent witnesses to the village’s mysterious past, adding to the enigmatic allure of Kuldhara. A visit to this abandoned village offers a unique experience, blending history, mystery, and a touch of the supernatural.
Frequently Asked Questions About Jaisalmer
- What is the best time to visit Jaisalmer?
The best time to visit Jaisalmer is during the winter months from October to March.
- Is Jaisalmer safe for tourists?
Yes, Jaisalmer is generally considered safe for tourists. However, like any destination, it’s important to be mindful of your belongings.
- What is Jaisalmer famous for?
Jaisalmer is famous for its golden sandstone architecture, beautiful havelis, stunning Jain temples, and the Sam Sand Dunes.
- How many days are sufficient to visit Jaisalmer?
A trip of 2-3 days is typically sufficient to visit the main attractions of Jaisalmer.
- What can I bring back from Jaisalmer?
You can bring back handicrafts, leather goods, silver jewelry, textiles, and miniature paintings from Jaisalmer.
Best Time of Year to Visit Jaisalmer
The best time to visit Jaisalmer is during the winter months, from October to March. During this time, the temperature drops, making it pleasant for sightseeing and exploring the city’s rich heritage and stunning landscapes. Days are warm, with temperatures hovering around 24°C (75°F), while nights can be quite chilly, often dropping to 5°C (41°F), so packing some warm clothing is advisable.
Winter is also the time when Jaisalmer comes alive with the vibrant Desert Festival, a cultural extravaganza showcasing traditional music, dance, and local arts. Additionally, this period is ideal for outdoor activities like desert safaris and camping under the starlit sky at the Sam Sand Dunes. The monsoon months (July to September) see minimal rainfall due to Jaisalmer’s arid location and can also be considered for travel, though the weather may still be quite hot.