India was on my husband’s bucket list for a few years now, so when the opportunity to visit India became a reality, I quickly made a list of all the places I’ve wanted to visit since I was a child (but we don’t have to tell him that, right?). Jaipur was on the top of my bucket list for India for almost 20 years, so I’m so glad we got do this together. There are a couple of options if you’re planning on visiting Jaipur. The first option is to cover Delhi, Agra and Jaipur together, also known as the Golden Triangle tour in 6-7 days, or the second option is to visit these cities separately. We chose to break it up and cover Delhi and Agra at the beginning of our 3 week trip to India and Jaipur at the tail end of our trip, so we can spend time with our family back home.
Doused in an appeasing blush champagne color, Jaipur, also known as the “Pink City”, is located in Rajasthan, India. The forts, palaces and even the stores in the bazaar are all in pink color, which adds to the charm of the city. Jaipur lies on the edge of the Thar Desert and is surrounded by the Aravali hills. The Pink City is dotted with grand palaces, well-preserved hilltop forts and bustling bazaars. The city is rich in its historical heritage, and every corner is beautiful and colorful. It has a touch of old-world charm in every building, street, store and it’s a visual delight to your eyes.
Resplendent in the hues of its noble and magnificent past, the historic city of Jaipur stands out as one of the most spectacular and culturally vibrant destinations in the world. — Kate Smith
What to see?
Palace of the Winds or Hawa Mahal, was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh for royal women to view the busy streets of Johari Bazaar, while staying veiled behind the jharokhas, a type of overhanging enclosed balcony. The top of Hawa Mahal offers stunning views of Jantar Mantar and the City Palace.
Amer Fort (also known as Amber fort) was built during the 16th century and is located on top of the Aravalli Hills in Amer, Rajasthan. The fort was built using red sandstone and marble, and it was amazing to walk through the many passages and gates; we could have easily explored for hours. Amer and Jaigarh forts are connected by a subterranean passage that was used to escape during wars. Sheesh Mahal or the chamber of thousands of mirrors is the most beautiful of all of the inner rooms inside the fort.
Patrika Gate was one of the most beautiful structures during our trip. The Patrika Gate is the 9th gate of Jaipur. Jaipur city was built based on the principles of Vaasthu Shastra, an ancient Indian science to enhance abundance & prosperity by making auspicious buildings. The number nine holds great significance in our traditions such as the Nine Gates, Nine Planets, Navratri (Nine Nights) etc. It is considered an auspicious number. The planner of the Pink City, Vidyadhar Ji, paid special attention to the number 9 in the city’s architecture.
City Palace is a palace complex situated in the heart of Pink City. The City Palace was once the seat of kings that ruled the region. The palace was constructed by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II and reflects the fusion of Mughal and Rajput architecture. Chandra Mahal (requires additional ticket for entry) and Mubarak Mahal are some of the significant structures in the complex. The royal family still lives in the palace today.
Jantar Mantar is an astronomical observatory located next to the City Palace, so it would be the best use of time to visit both attractions on the same day. Built in the early 18th century, the instruments at Jantar Mantar are fascinating for their ingenuity. The Samrat Yantra located at Jantar Mantar is the world’s largest sundial and it can be used to tell the time to an accuracy of about two seconds in Jaipur local time. Ideally this is a place you want to visit early in the day to allow you plenty of time to see most of it before the sun becomes a negative factor, as it did for us.
Jaigarh Fort located on the outskirts of Jaipur city is home to the large 18th-century weapon – the Jaivana Cannon, which was only test fired once and is said to have a range of ~25 miles. The top of the fort offers 360 degree view of the Jaipur city, which is fantastic! Note that the entry ticket to the city palace is a composite ticket that also gives you access to the Jaigarh fort, so remember to save your ticket.
Birla Mandir is one of the coolest temples we’ve visited so far… Besides being beautiful, the temple has columns all around with various deities and persons from all faiths. The columns include carvings depicting: Jesus Christ, Madonna and Jesus, Saint Peter, Moses with the ten commandments, Swami Vivekenanda, Buddha, Hanuman. This is one of the most progressive temples we have ever seen… so inclusive!
What to do?
Shopping in Jaipur: It is a known fact that INDIA is a shopper’s paradise and Jaipur is no exception. You can find a variety of beautiful items such as jewelry, handicrafts, textiles, furnishings and much more on display in the street bazaars and emporiums. Some of Jaipur’s best bazaars can be found within the old city. We visited Bapu Bazar and Johari Bazar during our trip. Bapur bazaar is an excellent place to find local Rajasthani products such as Mojari footwear, Rajasthani clothes, souvenirs etc. Johari Bazaar consists of rows upon rows of jewelry shops, embroidered apparel, precious stones etc. Be prepared to bargain if you plan on shopping at these bazaars. As an alternative, you can visit the emporiums where the prices are fixed. If shopping is not your thing, we still recommend you visit the bazaars for a first-hand experience of the city’s tradition of craftsmanship and experience the true essence of Jaipur at its best!
Elephant ride to Amer Fort: So we hired an elephant to ride up to Amer fort, but it was not an easy decision. We did our research before the trip, and we felt better knowing that the Jaipur government has imposed limits on the number of rides per day and the number of people the elephant can carry. Amer Fort has also made major changes in the treatment of their elephants and ensures that they are well protected. So is it OK to ride a horse, but not an elephant? There is no easy answer and to be honest, we aren’t sure if we would do this again. Elephants are beautiful beings and we love all animals. The other available options if you choose to skip the elephant ride is to either walk up to the fort (keep in mind that it’s an uphill hike plus walking around Amer Fort on its own would take 1-2 hours) or hire a taxi. You can choose what works best for you.
What to eat?
We decided to play it very safe when it came to food during our Jaipur trip. We are NOT kidding when we say this… We ate the exact same food at the exact same place for lunch and dinner for all 3 days of our trip. The name of the restaurant was KHANA (meaning food in Hindi) and it was located right across from our hotel. They served a quick and deliciously fresh North Indian thali, a meal made up of a selection of various dishes which are served on a platter, so we were able to maximize the time spent outside. The sweet lassi at this place was to die for, it helped calm our stomachs and also give us some relief from the scorching heat in Jaipur. So why not eat the same amazing food again and again?
How to save money?
Now, how do you save money at a tourist location? The sales people would take one look at my Venezuelan husband, and we had a zero chance of bargaining with them. The bazaars of Jaipur are catered for tourists and they know that you are from out-of-town or out of the country, so just be prepared to spend your money. And it’s okay for them to make a little additional money from the tourists, but just make sure that they aren’t ripping you off. Be patient in your bargaining and walk away if the price is not moving, if they chase you it typically means they have not reached the bottom price.
If you are planning on spending a few days in Jaipur, you’ll save money by buying the composite ticket, which gives you access to the following monuments in Jaipur – Amber Palace / Amer Fort, Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar, Albert Hall and Nahargarh Fort.
May we recommend?
- Our #1 recommendation is to time your travel during the cooler months as it can get really hot during summer. It is ideal to travel between September and February and do not attempt to do what we did… It was a mere 112° F (43° C) during the day when we were in Jaipur (not very smart, but our travel dates didn’t allow it).
- Be mentally prepared to be swarmed by men selling trinkets who won’t accept no for an answer, and men offering to be your tour guides for a cheap price. This is common at most tourist locations in India, but they seemed extra aggressive in Jaipur. The best thing is to ignore everyone and keep walking. It does get annoying, but don’t let it ruin your experience. You have one chance to make this a beautiful memory, so don’t let anyone ruin it.
- Remember that there’s no such thing as a public bathroom or a clean bathroom (if you’re lucky enough to find one) once you step outside the hotel. Be prepared is all we can tell you. TMI? Well, you’ll thank us for this little bit of advice.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times for pick pocketers and other unsavory characters. Always carry your wallet in your front pocket or in a special hidden pouch. Avoid street food, do not drink anything but bottled water that you open and avoid ice in your drinks.
To summarize, we had an amazing time in the Pink City! Jaipur stands out as one of the most spectacular and culturally vibrant destinations in the world, so check it out. You’ll love this location as much as we did!
As we always say, Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer!