Jaisalmer is located in the heart of the Thar Desert. In this arid wilderness, former rulers and merchants of Jaisalmer built magnificent houses and mansions (“havelis”) carved from wood and sandstone. Nicknamed the “Golden City”, it stands on a ridge of yellow sandstone, crowned by Jaisalmer Fort, which contains the palace and several ornate Jain temples. Jaisalmer is said to have been founded in the 12th century A.D. and in medieval times, Jaisalmer prospered due to its location on the main camel-train route linking India to Egypt, Arabia, Persia, Africa and the West. This is an exotic trade route town.
Our itinerary ideas for your tailor-made holiday in Jaisalmer
Standing proud at a height of hundred metres over the city, Jaisalmer Fort is a splendid sight in the afternoon sun. About 25% of the old city’s population resides within its walls. Its carless streets are packed with houses and shops set on narrow, winding lanes. Within the Fort is the Rawal’s seven-storey palace with beautifully carved balconies and exquisitely carved Jain temples and havelis built by the Jain community. The fort walls provide superb views over the old city and surrounding desert – it’s especially enchanting to stroll around the outer fort ramparts at sunset or at night, when it’s lit up under a clear sky full of stars.
Jaisalmer has some of the most magnificent havelis with intricate carvings. The havelis worth visiting are the Salim Singh-ki-Haveli, Patwon-ki- Haveli and Nathmalji-ki-Haveli.
This private haveli has an amazing, distinctive shape – the top storey is a mass of carving, with graceful arched balconies surmounted by pale blue cupolas. It was built about 300 years ago; part of it is still occupied.
Most magnificent of all the havelis, Patwa-ki-Haveli towers over a narrow lane. It was built between 1800 and 1860 by five Jain brothers who were brocade and jewellery merchants. It’s most impressive from the outside, but the fort view from the roof is superb, and the interior richly evokes 19th-century life.
This late-19th-century haveli was also a Jaisalmer prime minister’s house and is still partly inhabited. It drips with carving, and the 1st floor has some beautiful paintings that used 1.5kg of gold. A doorway is surrounded by 19th-century British postcards from the prime minister’s time.
Trip to the dunes via Kuldhara
No visit to Jaisalmer is complete without a visit to the most picturesque dunes which are located just outside the city. At the dunes you will also get an opportunity to enjoy short camel rides.
En route to the dunes, you will be taken to see the mesmerising abandoned village of Kuldhara. For seven centuries, the Paliwal Brahmins had made Kuldhara their home. The story goes that in early 19th century the stunningly beautiful daughter of the village chief fell prey to the all-powerful prime minister of the king of Jaisalmer. The village people had two options – either surrender the girl to the minister or face his threats of harassment. The villagers packed up all their belongings, abandoned their homes and left Kuldhara overnight and left a curse behind that anyone who tried to live in the village would perish. Since then, the area remained uninhabited.