Jaisalmer is one of the princely cities of Rajasthan located in the Thar Desert. It stands true to its name of being called the Golden City. Sandstone architecture, a key city for trade during the olden days, this city will, for sure, take you back in time. To cover all the places mentioned below, you will easily need three full days. Read more to know the top 10 things to do in Jaisalmer.
Read more: Things to do in Jodhpur, India
Key places to visit in and around Jaisalmer
- Jaisalmer Fort aka Sonar Quila and Jain Temple
- Bada Bagh aka Bara Bagh
- War Museum
- Patwon ki Haveli, Nathmal ki Haveli, Salim ki Haveli
- Gadi Sagar Lake
- Vyas Chhatri
- Sunset Point
- Desert Safari in Sam or Khuri
- Kuldhara Village
- Tanot Mata Temple and Indo-Pak Border
Note: Before we read about the touristy places in Jaisalmer, please note we did not choose to take a guide. However, it’s completely up to you to take one or not. Also, the places mentioned below are in no particular order.
Best time to visit Jaisalmer: October – February
1. Jaisalmer Fort / Sonar Quila / Golden Fort
Timings: Summer – 7:30 AM – 6 PM | Winter 8:30 AM – 6 PM
Standing tall on the Trikuta Hill, this fort was built by Rajput Rawal Jaisal, the founder of Jaisalmer. Built-in 1156, this is famous for being one of the biggest living forts in India. Unlike many forts, you will find many temples, shops, restaurants, homes, hotels etc., all within the fort.
Interesting things to know about Jaisalmer Fort
- This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the second largest fort in Rajasthan.
- King Jaisal’s roots are traced back to Lord Krishna. There is an interesting art piece in the form of a family tree inside the fort which explains the connection.
- The Fort has changed several hands, including Alauddin Khilji, who attacked this fort and captured it for 9 years.
- You can find both Rajput and Mughal architecture due to various rulers taking control and expanding the fort
1a. Jain Temple (within the Fort)
There is a deep history when it comes to Jains and Jain Temples in Jaisalmer. The Jains were very rich (traders in the silk route) and gave money to King Jaisal to build the fort. This is why we see so many Jain Temples inside the Fort. All seven Jain temples were closed when we visited. We heard that the intricate designs, the architecture, the history and the documentation that one can see here, the existence of secret tunnels etc makes these interconnected temples a must-visit. Gives us a reason to visit again 🙂
2. Bada Bagh
Also known as Bara Bagh, the translation means Grand Garden. Nowhere close to a garden, this place is a burial place of the Royals of Jaisalmer. A mixture of Hindu and Muslim designs, this is another photo-worthy place. Don’t miss the intricate designs on the roof as well.
The guides here also help you take your pictures and videos with a Hindi song in the background. Bada Bagh is far away from the city in comparison to the other key places in Jaisalmer.
3. Havelis in Jaisalmer
One of the most pretty sites to visit in Jaisalmer is the Patwon Ki Haveli. Said to be the largest in Jaisalmer, Patwon Ki Haveli comprises of 5 Havelis. Only Kothari’s Patwa Haveli is open to tourists. The four other Havelis are shut and guides may cheat you by saying they are open, so please do check once with a local. The architecture and the artwork, including the paintings inside, will definitely wow you. You can see the things used by the haveli residents, making you understand the rich lifestyle they once led. A non-electric fan that was designed to work without electricity is something that one should not miss here.
Very close to Patwon ki Haveli is the Nathmal ki Haveli. Nicely decorated elephants welcome you from the outside. As the owners live here, only the ground floor is accessible to the public.
While we did not visit the Salim ki Haveli aka Moti Mahal, this structure can be seen from the fort. Salim Singh, who was the Prime Minister when Jaisalmer was the capital, built this. A unique structure of those days, Salim ki Haveli is around 300 years old.
4. War Museum
Jaisalmer War Museum or JWM is 10 km away from Jaisalmer. The most interesting thing on display is the Hunter Aircraft which destroyed Pakistan’s army tank columns during the Longewala Battle. This museum is dedicated to Indian army heroes who fought the battles and won the wars. There is also a sound and light show which showcases the bravery of our armed forces.
5. Gadi Sagar Lake
This is the most picturesque place in the whole of Jaisalmer, according to many. As Jaisalmer was and is dry land, the then king built this man-made lake in 1367 for water supply. An interesting story is that a prostitute named Tilon built the gateway. Gangaur Festival happens here, sometime in the months of March/April. There is a small Shiva temple, opposite to that is a nice cafe which overlooks the lake.
Go early in the morning to get inside the Chhatris for clicking that picture of a lifetime or just boat around the lake to immerse yourself in the beauty of the lake. The best time to visit this place is at sunrise or sunset.
6. Vyas Chhatri
These are Golden Cenotaphs representing Rajasthani architecture overlooking the city. The Chhatri is dedicated to Sage Vyas from Mahabharata and therefore the name. This is a burial place for Brahmins. Many people go here to witness the sunset. We hardly spent about 5 minutes here.
7. Sunset Point
This is the best location one can head to sit, relax and enjoy the sunset and witness how the golden city shines bright across time. Ask a local and head to this place. Local kids were singing here and having a merry time. As the evening progresses, one can enjoy witnessing the Golden Fort shining bright under the night sky.
8. Desert Safari – Sam and Khuri
This is the best adventure activity you can do in Jaisalmer. You can choose between Sam and Khuri. Sam has more dunes while Khuri is lesser in comparison. However, for a more quiet experience, I have heard a friend recommending Khuri. Dilbar organized everything for us in Sam as you pay for everything mentioned below. We chose Swiss tents while you can also sleep under the stars.
So what all can you do when you set out for a desert safari in Jaisalmer?
- The drive from the city starts post-lunch.
- You get to see how suddenly the landscapes become completely open with the desert on either side.
- Spot those camels tanning outdoors – they are like the starters for what’s coming 🙂
- Get ready for one of the bumpiest rides on the Thar Desert, and don’t forget to scream and have a jolly good time. (Jeep Safari)
- Even before you know it, you are in the midst of a desert with many camels slowly joining the party.
- Small chai shops are there to keep your tummy happy. The food you eat here is over and above the package.
- You can go on a camel ride/camel safari, while we chose not to. The camel owner usually expects a tip – not included in the package.
- Local ladies come over and take your permission to dance and sing in exchange for money – not included in the package.
- You can choose to paraglide or ride the ATV in the desert.
- The sunsets are truly mesmerising. Take those amazing silhouettes, selfies with the camel etc to make the most of Thar.
- You reach the camps around 7 PM. Freshen up and get ready to see the local people who are already singing and dancing away.
- After the show, DJ night starts and you can shake a leg or two. Dinner.
- You have breakfast and leave the camp.
9. Kuldhara Village
A quick detour to or from the Desert Safari will lead you to this so-called Kuldhara Ghost Village. When you ask the locals there, they laugh over the story that has spiralled for many years now. They say Pali Brahmins who used to stay here moved away from Kuldhara due to lack of water. Another popular story is about a Muslim King wanting to marry a girl from the Pali community. Not wanting to face the wrath of the King, the entire village moved overnight. However, it’s an interesting place to see and imagine how people of those days would have lived their lives here and how dilapidated it now looks.
10. Tanot Mata and Indo-Pak Border
Have you heard of the Battle of Longewala which was fought between India and Pakistan? Located in Tanot, this temple is dedicated to Goddess Awad who is believed to have protected the soldiers during the 1965 and 1971 war with Pakistan. Many bombs that were dropped in around the temple did not explode. The BSF built the temple here and has become a famous place to visit when in Jaisalmer. There is also a museum that showcases the unexploded bombs fired by Pakistanis. To visit the border, you need to take prior permission from the Military forces.
You will need a full day here as its 150 km odd one way from Jaisalmer.
Bonus: You can also visit the Mandir Palace which is a part of the Welcome Group’s WelcomeHeritage Mandir Palace hotel. Some of the royals stay here even today. There is a small museum and you will need to pay to enter unless you book a room with them. We thoroughly enjoyed going around Mandir Palace and the museum within.
Our reel on Instagram (below) has one more thing you can do in Jaisalmer. Check it out!
Stay in Jaisalmer
We stayed in a small hostel run by Dilbar with bare minimum facilities (which we are okay with), there are many other nice hotels in and around the Fort. We booked our Desert Safari with him as well. He was a gem. For other properties, click here.
Food in Jaisalmer
We loved the food in Jaisalmer. For lunch, we dined at Swagatam near our hostel and Shree Ji Excellency. For dinner we chose Cafe De Kaku. We also drank plenty of fresh orange juice from the stalls outside Patwon ki Haveli and Jaisalmer Fort. Don’t miss the only government authorised Bhaang shop in Jaisalmer, that is if you are up for it. The guy who runs the place talks so well, explains and understands before offering the lassi of your choice. He also makes Bhaang cookies and chocolates.
Transport in Jaisalmer
You can rent two wheelers if the weather is not hot. We rented an Auto / Tuk tuk to explore the city of Jaisalmer. For the desert safari, Dilbar drove us from and to the city including Kuldhara.
Do ping us for any information and will be happy to help.
Dilbar Contact: +91 9571559453
Auto / Tuk Tuk : Sattar Khan Contact: +91 7340206397