Touring the Forts and Palaces in Jaipur, India’s Pink City
Jaipur, AKA the Pink City, sounds like it must be a fairly romantic and relaxing stop on the Rajasthan tourist trail. It is indeed pink (well, parts of it are), but it’s also a traffic choked metropolis which has seen better (and you’d imagine cleaner) days. Jaipur is home to some special sights though, including luxurious palaces, forts which ramble into the distance and some of the most detailed doors you’ll ever lay eyes on.
Here are some of the best places to see in Jaipur, a city overflowing with history and colour. It’s also full of traffic and trash, but let’s not focus on that…
Amber Fort / Palace
Don’t you hate it when words include unnecessary silent letters? Take the B out of Amber and you’ll say it right, but however you choose to pronounce it, Amber Fort is quite a sight. We hired a rickshaw driver for the day and he dropped us off below the fort. Seeing the walls, ramparts, gates and towers of this sand coloured masterpiece slowly grow closer was worth risking heat stroke for (it was over 40 degrees outside).
Amber Palace is intimidating from the outside, but it shows its softer side once you breach the main defences. Courtyards, finely painted walls, scores of arches, and peaceful gardens are the main features of Amber Palace. The heat was oppressive but the lack of crowds made up for it. Everyone advised me against visiting Rajasthan in June but it was definitely doable.
You’ll notice the ring of defensive walls above Amber Fort, but climbing up there is no easy task. Luckily there’s a little golf cart type thing that can take you most of the way (for a price). The inside of the fort / palace isn’t of much interest but it’s worth trekking up there for the views. The walls of the fort wind their way over the low hills — it could be a finalist for the reality show “India’s Got a Great Wall” (if that actually existed).
This iconic building in the heart of Jaipur’s old city used to house the royal women. It’s pretty amazing from the outside but there’s not too much going on inside. It’s definitely worth visiting though and there’s nothing else like it in Rajasthan.
If you’re a fan of doors (the ones that open, not the band fronted by Jim Morrison) you’ll love exploring Jaipur’s City Palace. The details and colour of the doors are incredible, as are some of the other pieces of architectural art on display. We spent a good hour looking around the palace before the heat took its toll and we retired back to our mansion (did I mention we were staying in a 124 year old mansion / palace?).
Sleeping in historical luxury
We were lucky enough to be invited to stay at Alsisar Haveli, a luxurious mansion which has been converted into one of Jaipur’s best hotels. It’s the kind of place I would have paid just to look around — it’s not often you get to sleep in a hotel that would be a tourist attraction in most other parts of the world. The whole complex is adorned with yellow arches, colourful paintings and countless little places to sit and relax, safe from the chaos which lurks just outside. It’s a really special hotel — if you’re planning on splurging in India this is the ideal place to do it (and it’s not even that expensive).
Further reading: Check out Gia’s review of Alsisar Haveli over at Mismatchedpassports.com
Other things to do in Jaipur
We visited another couple of historic sights in Jaipur, mainly because the ticket we bought at Amber Palace included them. First up was Jantar Mantar, an ancient observatory full of strange contraptions. A guide would make a visit more meaningful — we had no idea what was going on.
We also visited the Albert Hall Museum. It’s decent enough but it can be skipped, but make sure you at least drive past it as it’s a really nice building.
Touring the forsts and palaces in Jaipur with an auto rickshaw
I got talking to Babu, a young rickshaw driver with a Mexican girlfriend, after I caught a lift with him from the train station to the hotel. He quoted a great price (700 INR) to show us around Jaipur’s top sights, including the trip out to Amber. It’s a great way to do it, especially if you find yourself in Jaipur during the scorching summer months.
Jaipur is an interesting place and deserves its reputation as one of India’s most popular tourist cities. It’s part of the popular “Golden Triangle” (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur) — which is a popular route for those on tight schedules. We spent 3 weeks there and saw lots of massive forts, opulent palaces and historic havelis. We also met heaps of friendly locals and unfriendly train station employees. I’ll be writing about my trip to Rajasthan in chronological order — next up is an unsuccessful (in a tiger spotting sense) tiger safari in Ranthambore National Park.
Are you thinking about visiting Rajasthan? Where are you planning to go? Let me know in the comments below!
I was hosted by Alsisar Haveli during my stay in Jaipur. All thoughts and opinions are my own.