Out of the over half a dozen times that I have been to the Pink City as it is called, Jaipur has never failed to impress or amaze me.. An extremely colourful city, it always has a sense of festivity to it. Rajasthan may be known as a desert, but in complete contrast, Jaipur is lush green with a richness of palaces, forts, historical places, flora and fauna and natural beauty, all rolled in one, which very few places can compete with. I recently took another trip to this place with my hubby to celebrate his birthday and this time, I couldn’t resist writing this piece on Jaipur and sharing my experiences in this capital city of Rajasthan!
So here are the top 10 ‘un-missables’ in my opinion, if you are to visit Jaipur:
1. The Forts:
The city hosts three forts – Jaigarh, Nahargarh and Amer Fort. Each of them have their own history and intriguing stories. The Jaigarh fort, named after Maharaja Jai Singh II, was built to protect the Amer fort which is right opposite Jaigarh. This fort is also known as Victory fort and once housed a canon foundry which used heat from the various mountains around and created temperatures high enough to melt metals needed for making canons! Nahargarh fort, which is located right behind city palace, has a secret tunnel linking it to the city palace as an escape route for the royal family to go into hiding in case of an attack. Amer fort acted as a former capital of Jaipur, from where the Maharajas used to run operations. The Amer fort – with such a glorious past, revering architecture, mesmerizing sheesh mahals, deewan-e-khaas, deewan-e-aam, royal entrances, Maota lake and kesar garden below, a fascinating view of the Aravallis from all corners – does not get any more grand!
2. The luxury of the palaces
As if the magnificence of the forts was not enough, Jaipur is even home to several palaces whose royalty talks about and displays the grandeur and the lifestyle of the kings at the time. Most of them have now been converted to 5-star, if not 7-star hotels.. Rambaugh palace is the grandest of all and is a 7 star Taj hotel now. Some of the other palaces are the city palace, amber palace, hawa mahal, jal mahal, narain niwas palace, Raj mahal palace, Samode haveli.. only to name a few! The luxury, opulence, splendor and majesty that they display are truly unparalleled.
On our last visit there, we decided to experience some share of the royalty and stayed at the Taj Ramgarh Lodge, which is a branch of the Taj Rambaugh palace. So Taj Ramgarh lodge was actually built at the time of Maharaja Mansingh who used to come to Ramgarh (of Sholay fame, located on the outskirts of Jaipur) for hunting – a sport he was extremely passionate about. The lodge was used as an abode for him to stay when he used to come to Ramgarh along his British friends to go hunting in the neighbouring area which was a complete jungle at the time. The lodge still houses a display of heads, skins and even stuffed and preserved bodies of his prized huntings. The lodge is still a property of the royal family which is leased by Taj. Following are some pictures depicting the beauty, comfort, luxury and royalty of the place:
3. City Palace
The city palace was where the maharajas and their families used to reside. While the royal family still stays here, most of the palace has now been converted into a museum. It is actually a series of asymmetric buildings, courtyards and gardens and the museum has a comprehensive display of several ancient artefacts, a full armoury showcasing weapons of all shapes and sizes, canons, royal chandeliers, old utensils and even the royal attire and jewelry that was worn at the time. An enchanting place which actually makes you feel like you have entered the 18th century..
4. Raj Mandir Theatre
A theatre is an unlikely item to be on the list of must-do’s in a city which is so rich in heritage. But honestly, you gotta see this place to believe it! I promise you there is no place like it.. definitely not a movie theatre! It is probably the largest single screen theatre in the country and its hugeness is not the only factor that sets it apart. The interiors, the carvings, the subtle lighting, the way the curtain raises at the start of the movie, the pandemonium that the crowd creates when Salman comes on screen for the first time are all unparalleled experiences that you get here. Even if it takes a good 2/3 hours of your time, watching a movie here is a must!
5. The Landscape
Like I mentioned earlier on, Jaipur is lush green and the landscape is truly picturesque. The hills, the Aravalli mountains, the sun disappearing behind these very mountains at sundown, the royal structures, the festive atmosphere collectively contribute to the beauty of the place. You have to enter the original, old Jaipur as it is called, through huge entrance gates and once you enter, all buildings and shops will be the same pink colour. Jaipur looks even more beautiful at night when all its gates, museums and palaces get lighted – a great idea would be to go atop a hill and take a bird’s eye view of the place at night. (You won’t regret it, I assure you!
6. Jal Mahal
This is an another one of the wonderful mahals that Jaipur has. Unfortunately tourists can’t enter the Jal Mahal coz it has also been converted into a luxurious hotel. But the area in which it is located is beautiful enough to guarantee you a romantic evening just sitting by the water and watching the jal mahal and its reflection in the water while you sip nariyal pani or eat the famous papad with lasoon ki chatni or have an icecream or just walk along the edge of the water clicking some stunning shots.
7. Local Markets
Jaipur local markets are popular enough and much talked about as well. Apart from their colourfulness, you also get several beautiful items like bandhni sarees and dupattas, handmade artefacts, traditional jholas, bangles, Rajasthani bed sheets, camel leather shoes and so on. It is like having a ‘mandi’ experience walking the sidewalks of johri bazaar and baapu bazaar – the most famous local markets of Jaipur. You would also see a hoard of foreign tourists exploring the markets for souvenirs to take back home 🙂
8. The Flora and Fauna
The flora and fauna are in abundance in jaipur! It is actually needless to say this as our national bird (peacock) as well as national animal (the royal tiger) are found here. Of course, there are several other bird and animal species too that I have noticed on my numerous trips here like the roufus treepie, flycatcher, nilgai, all forms of deer, aligators, etc. The Sariska and Ranthambore National parks are not too far from Jaipur and so is the Bharatpur bird sanctuary! (If you are a wildlife or photography enthusiast, you could actually spend a blissful day each for all these three locations!)
9. Albert hall museum
This is the oldest museum of Jaipur which was built in 1887. The museum was built at the time to acquaint local craftsmen with the best art in the country and inspire them to better their skills. The museum has a rich collection of sculptures, paintings, international art, blue pottery, metal and marble artefacts etc. But a unique exhibit of this museum is the Egyptian mummy. This is one of only 6 mummies that are present in India. The museum is again a symbol of the rich heritage of this city.
Lastly, no post can be complete without a special mention to the cuisine of the place! Food here is delicious and meals are sumptuous – be it the royal meals of 1135 AD (a lavish royal restaurant) or the thali of Chokhi Dhani or the chole puri, chaat, mirchi vadas and samosas of the streets or the ghevar and gulab jamuns of the local sweet shops. Whatever you try, it will definitely not disappoint!
There are also some other places that one can go to from Jaipur like Bhangarh Fort, which is declared as a haunted place by the government but is open to tourists during the day, jantar mantar which is a UNESCO world heritage site and is an huge astronomical observatory, Birla Mandir for its marble architecture and peaceful atmosphere..and so on.
All in all, Jaipur is a brilliant destination for a royal holiday and has a host of touristy places to choose from. How many ever times I go, there is always something which makes me wanna come back 🙂