7 Incredible places to visit in Jaisalmer

Rajasthani woman in Jaisalmer

7 Incredible places to visit in Jaisalmer

Are you heading to western Rajasthan? Well, let’s talk about the best places to visit in Jaisalmer and what you need to know before you visit. Jaisalmer will feature on many travellers’ bucket lists and for an excellent reason.

Jaisalmer is a whimsical little town that shimmers in the desert sunshine. The town centre is a maze of winding lanes and marketplaces crowned by a magnificent fort. The golden city of India is sure to impress even the most hardened of travellers.

A picture of Amar Sagar in Jaisalmer

What is this blog about?

The main content I want to cover here is the best places to visit. I also want to look at ways to help you get the most out of your time and money.

If Jaisalmer is on your route, it is a good idea to read this to the end, as I have been to Jaisalmer multiple times. That means I have seen the town in-depth. I think it’s reasonable to assume that I have some piece of information that would be useful to you, so do read on.

The best places to visit in Jaisalmer

Let us start with what it says on the tin. We will now talk about the best things to do in Jaisalmer and in the surrounding area.

A local man In Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer Fort

Of all the attractions in Jaisalmer, the massive and imposing fort is at the top of the list. If you plan to visit Jaisalmer, it is almost certain you will be coming here. I mean, it stands out a bit.

Why is Jaisalmer Fort famous?

Jaisalmer Fort is the second largest in Rajasthan. It was built by Rajput Rawal Jaisal in 1156 AD. The city stands at the intersection between essential trade routes. The fort is composed of yellow sandstone and that makes that bold golden hue. Hence its name, the Sonar Quila or Golden Fort.

It will take the best part of the day just to see the many Jain temples, Havelis, battlements and of course, the crowning palace. The architecture and views inside the fort will keep you busy for hours on end.

Ancient ruins in Jaisalmer India

Do people still live in Jaisalmer Fort?

Jaisalmer fort was considered one of India’s most important fortresses. A whole society formed that is totally unique. In all fairness not much has changed. It is still inhabited by approximately 5000 residents whose descendants primarily came from the Brahmins and Rajputs who once grew up there.

Patwaon-Ki-Haveli

Patwaon Ki Haveli is well justified as being one of the most beautiful Havelis in Jaisalmer. The Havali is located actually inside the walls of the fortified structure. The architecture of this palace is the crowning glory of the whole city. In fact, I would go as far as to say it is one of the most magnificent buildings in India.

Sand dunes in the thar desert Rajasthan

I consider this Haveli to be a separate attraction from the rest of the fort despite being part of it. Entrance into the fort is free, but this palace costs money to enter and is essentially a massive museum.

The building is large and imposing. On the other hand, the Ki haveli is intricately carved and elegant. The entire building was built to impress, and it still does centuries later.

Entrance fees to Patwaon Ki Haveli

Entry Fee

Camera Fee

Indians: INR 50 per person Still Camera: INR 50
Foreigners: INR 250 per person Video Camera: INR 100

musician in Jaisalmer fort

The Jain temples inside Jaisalmer fort

Jaisalmer has been enriched by its Jain community, which has adorned the city with seven beautiful temples situated within the fort. These Jain temples were built during the 12th and 15th centuries.

Respecting local customs when inside a Jain temple

Remember, when visiting any Jain temple, you are not allowed to wear any leather products. Also please cover up to respect local customs. Menstruating women are also not allowed inside any Jain temple, although I have no idea how that could ever be checked.

Jaisalmer fort Rajasthan

Entrance fees for the Jain temples

Entrance Fee Camera fee
Free for Indians 50 INR per still camera
100 INR for foreigners 100 INR per camcorder.
  • Visiting Time: Early morning to noon

Gadisar lake

Gadisar lake was once the lifeblood of Jaisalmer. Well, the truth is, local people still depend heavily upon it in this harsh desert landscape.

It is a short walk from the palace gates and well worth the effort to get there. The views are amazing at sunrise or sunset, despite the massive telegraph tower that creates an eyesore in an otherwise flawless landscape.

Camel Safari at sunset Rajasthan

History of Gadisar lake

The lake was excavated in 1367 by Rawal Gadsi Singh and obviously built to collect Rainwater. It has been so important to the local people over the centuries that its shores are full of shrines to Amar Sagar.

Due to an increased water demand for agriculture, the lake has increasingly threatened to dry out. Spelling a disaster for the local people.

Things to do at the lake in Jaisalmer

Impressive buildings and temples surround the entrance to the lake. I love to walk around the lake as it attracts many birds and there are truly fantastic views.

local woman in Rajasthan

Many tourists enjoy floating around the lake on pedal-driven swans or taking short camel rides around the lake. While this is not my thing, if it is yours, then knock yourself out.

A solitary temple is located across the lake that is home to a very pushy baba. However, the views from his temple are some of the best in Jaisalmer. It makes for a relaxing location for any traveller, so take your time to take it all in properly.

Salim Singh Ki Haveli Jaisalmer

This Haveli is known for its distinctive and eye-catching architecture. It was built by Salim Singh, who wanted to make it as high as the fort but was prohibited by the king. It has 38 balconies with its own distinctive style of Rajput ruler grandeur.

Entrance fee to Salam Singh Ki Haveli

Entrance fee Camera cost 
INR 10 for Indians INR 50 per standing camera
INR 15 for foreigners INR 100 camcorder

Nathmal ki Haveli

7 Incredible places to visit in Jaisalmer

 

The Nathmal Haveli is a palace! Set right in the heart of the town, it is a pleasure to explore. It is over 500 years old and every inch is carved. The rich heritage of this place is screamingly evident.

The entrance is free, although I swear I had to pay something? The views from the roof of the surrounding town are well worth the effort to get to the top. The building is fascinating and it will take some time to see it all.

a picture of a camel safari Rajasthan

The doctor Bhang shop in Jaisalmer

The Bhang shop in Jaisalmer has become an iconic yet highly controversial establishment. Bhang in Hindi means marihuana and it is legal in Rajasthan for meditative purposes. Don’t get me wrong. I would not walk down the street puffing a joint, but it’s perfectly ok from licenced premises.

The shop is located near the main entrance to the fort and right across the road from the police station. You can find all kinds of things on the menu, from magic milkshakes to space cookies. Please note that some travellers have had adverse reactions to this as they can be super strong.

Many tourists buy “safari packages” for going out in the desert. It can be a lot of fun, but please be cautious with this. 😊

Young girl collecting fire wood Rajasthan

Jaisalmer travel infomation

Let us have a quick look at some helpful travel information about Jaisalmer. After all, we all want the best from our travel experience of the remarkable golden city of India.

Where should I live in Jaisalmer?

I only have one recommendation as I have only ever stayed in one hotel when I visit. While it is only one, it is a firm recommendation.

Hotel desert is right in the heart of Jaisalmer. The hotel is fantastic and the price of accommodation is very reasonable. The more expensive rooms are well worth the spend as they overlook the fort battlements and I think any traveller would find it romantic. The view in the night from the beautiful restaurant terrace is one to savour.

lake in Jaisalmer Rajasthan

Ajit (the owner) is very knowledgeable and hospitable. I have taken many camel safaris with him and I have never been disappointed. He can arrange local sightseeing tours or a sunset safari on the dunes.

For the more adventurous of you, he is an expert at organising multiday camel safaris. These will take you deep into the desert, where you can visit one incredible village after another. Your adventure into the desert is organised every step of the way. From camping on the dunes to food and water. If you take your tour with him, you are likely to be able to get far off the tourist track.

woman in the Thar desert west Rajasthan

An ethical consideration

Hotel desert is located inside the fort and many people oppose staying inside its walls. The building is a UNESCO world heritage site, yet many families live inside. The general wear and tear of living inside a living museum has its costs.

There has been extensive water damage. The structural integrity of the fort has been compromised, so many people advise against staying inside when you visit to prevent further damage.

However, I see the other side to the story—the people who live inside need to make a living and their families have lived inside its walls for centuries. I would go as far as to say the local people are part of the history of Jaisalmer fort.

Should it be left as a museum and all those families relocate? For me, I want to support the people who have had their homes invaded by the scores of tourists daily, but it’s a personal choice.

Entrance to Jaisalmer fort Rajasthan

Places to eat in Jaisalmer

Finding good food in Jaisalmer is not easy. I have not found a restaurant I want to recommend as everywhere sells the same tourist food and I am not a fan. Don’t get me wrong, tourist food has its place, but I love to sample the local cuisine if I can, but it seems almost impossible to find.

The primary industry of Jalsamier is definitely tourism. People flock here from around the world for sightseeing, so every restaurant is geared towards tourist food. Pizza and pasta are available everywhere. Even the curries are not very nice. What is more, the price of dinner in Jaisalmer seems more than elsewhere in Rajasthan.

However, we have not come to this part of Rajasthan for dinner. A traveller visits here for the history, landscapes and culture of this unique part of India.

It is so hard to experience the culinary heritage of the golden city. I am sorry I can not be of more help. I don’t want to recommend something just for the sake of it.

Of course, you are free to explore your chances to find a good dinner and I wish you luck! If you do find a decent restaurant for a proper dinner and at a reasonable price, please let me know about your experience, as I am returning Jaisalmer myself soon enough.

stripped hyena Rajasthan

Desert Festival in Jaisalmer

The famous annual desert festival in Jaisalmer is one of the most photogenic in India. Yet as far as I can tell, it was set up by the Jaisalmer tourist board? The festival takes place three days before the full moon on the Hindu month of Magh (February.)

The last one was held from the 14th to the 16th of February 2022. The date of the next one is yet to be confirmed, although it’s not hard to work out.

It is a day of intense culture and colour. The desert festival is celebrated in both the city of Jaisalmer and the beautiful sam sand dunes.

It is a photographer’s dream with all of this against the golden backdrop of the dunes. The camel races are exciting, and the people’s roar in support of their favourite camel is intoxicating.

It is a fantastic chance to experience the local culture and I wholeheartedly recommend timing the date of your trip with the desert festival if you can.

village in the Thar desert of Jaisalmer

Places of interest near Jaisalmer India

As well as the town itself, there is a lot to grab your attention outside of Jaisalmer. It is much easier to organise private transport as the public options are ahem…… unreliable.

Bada Bagh

Bada Bagh, or the grand garden, is located about 7 kilometres from the town. A dam was constructed near Jaisalmer that created the Amar Sagar.

The lake made the surrounding area green and the people built Bada Bagh to celebrate its importance. The fantastic garden of Bada Bagh stands out along its banks. Initially constructed in the 18th century, it was added to in the centuries since.

The Amar Sagar has provided a valuable water source to the local people throughout centuries. The Bada Bagh may be a little outside of town, but it is well worth the effort to get there. The Bada bagh will always be the underdog of the best places to visit in Jaisalmer just because of its location.

The city of Jaisalmer India

Jaisalmer desert national park

Deep in the sands of the Thar, you will find Jaisalmer desert national park which is oddly abundant in wildlife. People who visit the desert may well be expecting sand dunes that stretch off into the sunset.

If this is the case, you will probably be disappointed as there are few sand dunes. The Thar desert is mostly arid scrubland. Hence there is so much wildlife. The national park is fringed by one fascinating village after another.

There is also an eerie abandoned village for you to explore. Ask the person organising your desert camp for details. The culture in this part of Jaisalmer is quite unlike any other in India as it merges with that of Pakistan.

You will not be able to take a camel safari actually inside the jaisalmier desert national park as it is restricted. Still, you can circle around its parameters and you are likely to see the wildlife anyway. Please keep your eyes peeled for the long-eared foxes of Jaisalmer desert national park, as they are super cute!

Indian desert foxes in Jaisalmer

Sam sand dunes

Sam sand dunes are an area of outstanding beauty. A road leads almost all the way, so it is unsurprisingly popular with day-trippers who just want to see the sunset on a camel safari. While sam sand dunes are beautiful, they are by far the busiest.

Camel safaris

The best way to see the desert is on the back of a camel. Catching a ride on the back of one of these sleepy-eyed beasts is an adventure you will not forget. You will witness incredible sunsets and sleep under the crystal clear skies on the sand dunes. The camel drivers will always find a patch of dunes to camp on as the wildlife tends to be reluctant to go on the bare sand.

To see anything that would feel authentic would mean you are taking a multiday desert safari deep into the countryside. You will have to arrange your desert safari from either Jaisalmer or Khuri.

friendly camel driver in Jaisalmer

Booking your desert safari

Your Camel safari will be all-inclusive as you don’t have many options to take your business elsewhere anyway. Shop around for the best deals as prices vary and so does the quality.

I have done many safaris and always gone with the same person. See my recommendation for your hotel for details.

 

Khuri

Khuri is an alternative base to Jaisalmer. It is a small village that was once lost in the Thar desert. Today it is a bustling little village full of homestays, hotels and camping. It is easy to arrange accommodation or food here.

However, your stay can feel like one hard sales pitch and the experience can feel a little tacky. There is also a sizable litter problem if that bothers you.

Its proximity to the Sam sand dunes and a direct road to Jaisalmer make it popular. Some buses infrequently ply this route, making Khuri accessible to independent travellers.

front gate of Jaisalmer fort

How many days in Jaisalmer are enough?

As you can see there is a lot to explore in Jaisalmer. You can probably guess that a couple of days is not enough to see very much in-depth.

Budget five to seven days to see the fort, town, surrounding lake and take a multiday desert safari. It is better not to rush things as you will probably never go to Jaisalmer again and there is so much to experience.

Young Indian girl smiling

How can I spend 2 days in Jaisalmer?

Many travellers will not have much time to dedicate to any one destination, so you will be forced to make a rush trip. If this is all you have, then get ready for no sleep.

Check out the fort, Jain temples, Havelis and grab a sunset tour on the Sam sand dunes. It is not ideal, but what can you do? Sam sand dunes are still magnificent and you can do a lot worse than make a desert safari there.

Goat in village outside Jaisalmer

Getting to Jaisalmer-Rajasthan by train

Jaisalmier is well connected to New Delhi by direct train. These trains all stop at Jaipur and Jodhpur. Getting the train is both fast and convenient as you can come from the big city to the sand dunes of the Thar desert overnight.

However, Jaisalmier is at the end of the line and getting away by train leaves you with just a few options. Getting to Jaisalmer by train is still the most comfortable way to do it.

Aerial shot of the Thar desert Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer Train station Scam warning

As you arrive in Jaisalmer by train, you will be greeted by a wall of touts. Taxi drivers and hotel representatives will all want to sell you a room or desert safari. This can be overwhelming as you have just finished a long train ride and you probably won’t want to think of your camel safari just yet.

You can get around this in two ways. The first way is to book a room online then contact your chosen hotel in Jaisalmer to get them to pick you up.

The second is to ask to be dropped at the main gate of Jaisalmer fort. The gates are right in the heart of town and you will be able to shop around for hotels at your leisure, although it will probably push the cost of your initial fare up as there will be no commission here.

Camel driver Thar desert Rajasthan

Getting to Jaisalmer-Rajasthan by bus

Jaisalmer is connected by bus to most major cities around Rajasthan by both public and private options. If you do this, I would like to point out that travelling around the desert with AC makes a lot of difference. Public busses do not have this luxury.

However, the government bus station is in the middle of Jaisalmer and you probably will not need a taxi anywhere as you can simply walk to your hotel.

Desert children posing for the camera Rajasthan

Getting to Jaisalmer-Rajasthan by plane

Jaisalmer is now connected by plane and if you are in a hurry, this can make the world off difference. The costs are not overly high and you can easily book from any one of India’s budget airlines.

Taking this option will undoubtedly leave you more time for your Jaisalmer tour and save you from having to make your way across the Thar desert on public transport.

old man smoking a bidi Rajasthan India

Further reading

Now I have covered what you need to know about India’s golden city, why not check out some more of the highlight in Rajasthan. Click this link to find out all about tourism in Rajasthan to find out more. Until the next time, happy planning, guys. 😁

Woman collecting water in Jaisalmer

local children posing for the camera

Indian owlet in the Thar desert Jaisalmer Rajasthan man in traditional dress Rajasthan

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Gary Mason

Hi, there, folks. My name is Gary Mason, and as you can see, I have created a blog about travelling to South Asia.

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