Jaisalmer: The Desert

Perfect Time to Visit: October to March

Jaisalmer is a former medieval trading center and princely state in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, in the heart of the Thar Desert. Known as the “Golden City,” it’s distinguished by its yellow sandstone architecture. Dominating the skyline is Jaisalmer Fort, a sprawling hilltop citadel buttressed by 99 bastions. Behind its massive walls stand the ornate Maharaja’s Palace and intricately carved Jain temples.

Narrow alleys connect the fort’s many shops, restaurants, and hotels. Dotting the town below are a number of “Havelis,” or traditional Rajasthani mansions. The Patwon Ki Haveli is a notable example, adorned with carved balconies and arches. The Desert Culture Centre contains historic Rajasthani relics, while the Thar Heritage Museum focuses more generally on the region’s history. Gadsisar Lake is surrounded by small temples and the Folklore Museum, a trove of local arts and crafts. The city is also a hub for scenic camel safaris through the nearby sand dunes. it’s the quintessential Jaisalmer experience. A camel safari will also give you the opportunity to witness the rustic, rural desert life of India.

Hordes of people head to the famous and picturesque Sam Sand Dunes, around 50 minutes west of Jaisalmer, at sunset. Cultural performances and camel rides create a carnival atmosphere.

It’s also possible to stay overnight close to the Sam Dunes in a unique, non-touristy experience by bunking at a desert camp for glamping. On the way to the Dunes, Kuldhara Abandoned Village is a spooky but interesting place to visit.

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