Friday, September 12, 2008

Jaisalmer: A Dream in the Desert

Tomes have been written on Rajasthan with travel writers having written ad nauseam on the desert capital and its magnificent cities but nothing can surpass the first hand experience of Jaisalmer. The crowning glory of Rajasthan rises like a dream in the desert as it unfolds its magical desert charm on the tourist. A town of many paradoxes, Jaisalmer juxtaposes the barrenness of the desert with the hustle and bustle of a popular tourist destination, while local colour and warmth blend with the seemingly formidable grey terrain.

Founded in 1156 by Rawal Jaisal, a descendant of the Yadav clan, Jaisalmer lies close to the Rajasthan border with Pakistan. The best way to see this desert city is on foot. A walk through the lanes and bylanes, streets and alleys of Jaisalmer is a uniquely rewarding experience as one can savour the city's rich cultural heritage as well its glorious historical past.

Winter is the best time to pay a visit to Jaisalmer, especially the months of January/ February when the Desert Festival takes place. At the time of this annual ritual, the desert seems to bloom in a thousand colours. The air reverberates with music and dance, camel races, contests, games and the local craft bazaar that displays the talent and creativity of the artisan further enhances the city's vibrant and lively culture. And no visit is complete without witnessing the spectacular light and sound show on the Sam sand dunes.

How to get there

Jaisalmer is well-connected by train and is about 570 kms from Jaipur. A good network of roads joins Jaisalmer with Jodhpur (308 kms) and many other destinations in and around Rajasthan.

What to See

Modern day Jaisalmer and its surroundings are truly fascinating and worth all the desert grit and grime and a camel safari is the best way to explore Jaisalmer.

Jaisalmer Fort: Rising like the phoenix, the Jaisalmer Fort seems to rise out of the desert and awes the first timer with its sheer brilliance. Also known as Sonar Kila or the golden fort because of its yellow sandstone walls that reflect the rays of the sun. Outside the fort is the main market called Manek Chowk.

The Havelis of Jaisalmer: Jasialmer possesses some beautiful and exotic mansions or havelis that are covered with intricate lattice work and have beautiful and elaborate facades. Salim Singh ki Haveli, is one such popular haveli.

Jain temples: An absolute must-see because of exquisitely carved interiors and superb architecture.

Lodurva: Once the capital of Rawal Jaisal, Lodurva has ruins of the ancient township and is an important center for the Jain community.

Sam Sand dunes: About 42 km from Jaisalmer, this is the closest point to witness the sandy desert. Sam (pronounced 'sum') has a truly magnificent stretch of sweeping dunes, with little or no vegetation.


Jaisalmer has a number of hotels to suit every pocket and budget.

No wonder then that Jaisalmer is sheer poetry etched in history and a favourite hot spot with both Indian and foreign tourists. Its marvelous forts and palaces, endless expanse of sand dunes and rustic flavour make this oasis-in-the-desert a truly memorable experience.

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