In the midst of the Thar Desert, there is a city made with sand, in fact, sandstone. When we learned about it. we were clear: we had to go see it, even if it went a little off our itinerary. Jaisalmer was the east end on our trip to Rajasthan. Although we had read wonders from her. Time was short and we only had one day in the city before continuing our journey through India. It was mid-June and, although we knew it would be hot. We discovered a new way of losing fluid through the skin that did not involve sweating: it directly evaporated – advice: do not go in summer, if you can. Taking advantage of the first hours of the day and the shadows. we managed to squeeze the maximum time and complete our list of things to see in Jaisalmer in one day.
What the desert, the temperature, and evaporation can take away the desire to get there either. But when you find the wonders of Jaisalmer – the strong, the Jain temples, the Havelis. You realize that everything has deserved worth it. Until you take a night train to arrive and another to get out and sleep very little, as we did. You can look at our route.
How to Get to Jaisalmer
Our first trip by land in India was the one that took us to the city of Jaisalmer. The day before we had arrived in Delhi and flown to Jodhpur directly. We had bought the night train tickets from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer before we left the house and we still had not ridden on any bus. Then we rode and we couldn’t be happier to have bought the train tickets.
This is how we arrived at Jaisalmer: by night train from Jodhpur. From the station to the monumental area, the fort is just over a kilometre away. The night train arrived at about 5.15 so it was still a good time to walk, and clear after sleeping. In any case, at the station, we found a good amount of tourism agents legal or illegal. That offered us hotels, excursions, guides … and also tuk-tuks wishing to take us anywhere. Welcome to India!
Jaisalmer, the Fort on Jaisal Hill
The name of Jaisalmer refers to Rawal Jaisal. Who founded the city in the 12th century and built the fort. The fort on the hill of Jaisal. Although we had not seen it through the train windows because, first, we were asleep and, second, it was night, we were in the middle of a desert, that of the Thar. So we did not quite understand the need to build a fort there.
It became clear when we read that the battles The warrior caste of Jaisalmer, were enemies of the rathors. The caste of warriors of Jodhpur. If there was a fort there, Mehrangarh fort, Jaisalmer could not be less. That rivalry could have inspired even the nicknames of the cities, both referring to a colour. while Jodhpur is known as the blue city, Jaisalmer is the golden city.
What to See In Jaisalmer: The Fort on the Hill Of Jaisal
There is no visit to Jaisalmer that does not aim to visit the fort, the oldest in Rajasthan. Unlike the Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur, Jaisalmer Fort is “alive”. A quarter of Jaisalmer population lives in it. It is not a monument that looks like a decoration. It is a town where you can still encounter situations that have not had to change much in recent centuries. If you wonder why the golden city is called, you don’t have to think about it much. Jaisalmer is in the desert and its sand, specifically sandstone, with what they are built the fort and the walls of many of its houses, thus giving it its golden colour.
Water is Jaisalmer big problem, rather the lack and excess of water. How can it be that there are a lack and excess at the same time? It is missing because the number of tourists and the population of the city requires more water than the desert can offer. Excess because the sandstone melts with water and the drains of the houses inside the fort are destroying it little by little.
What to See in Jaisalmer: The Jain Temples
Jaisalmer was our first contact with Jainism. The righteousness we understand little about unto that moment. We were not prepared. Although we had read something about their temples. We were not aware of what awaited us inside the seven Jain temples that rise inside the Jaisalmer fort.
Marble and sandstone carved with exquisite taste, with surgical precision, with an art that seems more like gods than mere humans. Difficult to show in words the horripilation. We had in each of those magical and mystical places in similar parts. Perhaps, the easiest feelings to explain are the heat and humidity we had when crossing its doors. It was early in the morning and they were cleaning them. The water almost evaporated as it touched the floor, walls, and columns, turning their rooms into makeshift Turkish baths. But, who is going to worry about these trivialities when he is hallucinating without knowing where to look, and the objective of the camera, before such beauty?
More Things to See in Jaisalmer Fort
The fort was built by a maraja and, as such, had a palace: the Maharaja Mahal. A seven-story building located in front of a square in which the maraja reviewed its troops. Today inside is the fort palace museum. We have to confess that we do not enter. What we read in the guide did not get our attention and Rawal told us that it was not worth it either… but, at the last minute, a German tourist with whom we crossed spoke very well to him. Unfortunately, it was already late, it was closed and we had to take another night train.
The Splendor of Jaisalmer: The Havelis
The commercial routes that passed through Jaisalmer and that turned the city into a business center brought a lot of wealth to its merchants who, to prove it, built large mansions with heavily worked facades, imposing balconies and large windows with stone lattices. They are the Jaisalmer Havelis built between the 19th and 20th centuries outside the fort walls.
The most popular are Patwon Ki Haveli, Salim Singh Ki Haveli, and Nathmal-Ki Haveli, even if there are several other houses. Before the sun made it impossible to move around the city, we passed in front of them admiring its facades.
In Salim Singh, Ki Haveli lived Salim Singh, Prime Minister of Jaisalmer, who was in charge of finding the best for his home. The house has 38 balconies, all with different designs and a unique structure that builds it’s wider on the upper floors.
The facade of Nathmal-Ki Haveli is a great trap: everything that seems symmetrical is not really. The windows, the balconies, the lattices … maintain an asymmetry of position with respect to the axis of the facade but each one has a different form. Like in Salim Singh Ki Haveli, a prime minister, Diwan Mohata Nathmal, Stayed within its walls. The “false symmetry” is because the builders were two brothers, Hathi and Lalu: one excavated the right side and the other the left.
The Sunset in the Thar Desert
The last thing to see in Jaisalmer in one day is the sunset. Either from the fort walls or from the dunes of the Thar Desert. We opted for the dunes and, since Rawal had taken us all day for a walk – in the end, it was a bit awkward to have him stuck almost all the time -, we hired him the excursion to the desert in exchange for us leave a few quiet hours. It was there that we agreed with the German tourist who made us regret not having entered the Maharaja Mahal.
Sleep In Jaisalmer
We arrived on a night train and we went on another night train with what is clear that we did not sleep in Jaisalmer. But we did read that since the fort is almost falling apart by water. It is advisable to sleep in the new city and not stay in hotels, hostels, pensions … that are inside the fort. If you are going to spend more than one day in Jaisalmer, keep this conservation request in mind and look here for a hotel outside the fort.