“Jaipur is the finest jewelry ever created on Earth,
where King was the jeweler and bricks his gems.”
Jaipur was, perhaps, my favorite city in India, and the most spur of the moment visit. I remember sitting in my room with the other girl I was volunteering with in Delhi, and we were discussing how I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to complete the ‘Golden Triangle of India’ before heading off to London. I had seen Delhi and Agra, and I wanted so badly to go to Jaipur. Our host mother happened to come up to our room and heard our discussion; we had found a tour that would take us to Jaipur for 2 days 1 night that was in budget, and she insisted that we go. We booked the tour through Travel as Volunteer and were to be picked up the following day by private car to drive out to Jaipur from Delhi. I have compiled a list of my favorite things we did in Jaipur!
Ride to the top of Amer Fort atop an elephant
So, in hindsight, this wasn’t humane. After reading about the mistreatment of elephants in India, I wouldn’t do it again and would walk up on my own two feet. When the elephants are young, they are beaten into submission so they are “tame enough” to carry people on their backs, then forced to carry groups of tourists until they are too exhausted to move. I only included this bit on this post to emphasize just how wrong it is to do this, and I certainly have learned from my mistakes. The line for the elephant ride was ridiculously long, and my heart aches to think about the amount of times these elephants did this in a day. According to the Jaipur Travel Guide, they have reduced the amount of times the elephants can carry passengers and how many passengers they can carry at a time, but I still don’t recommend this method of arriving to the top of the fort:
The Jaipur government ensures that the animals are healthy and performs routine inspections. Things are still not perfect, as herders can be aggressive towards the elephants and do hit them, while the hot summer weather is also punishing for the animals. The attitude with the animals in India is not the same, as in the western countries and certain visitors may be disgusted by the treatment.
So, please, take care whilst in India and think about the repercussions of your actions on these animals! I certainly regret my own.
Take in the views from Amer Fort
Once at the top of Amer Fort, the views are positively breathtaking. This part of India was so different than Delhi and Agra; the lush greenery combined with the view of the Jaigarh Fort’s defensive walls surrounding the city. While you’re exploring the Amer Fort, definitely take in the views!
Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds
The Hawa Mahal is perhaps Jaipur’s most distinctive landmark, with its red and pink sandstone walls and honeycomb-inspired design. It was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh for the royal ladies to observe everyday life or festivals in the street below without being seen, since they were forbidden to appear in public without face coverings- “purdah”. We didn’t have enough time in the itinerary to stop in and see the interior of the palace, but our driver was kind enough to stop and let us snap all the photos our hearts desired of the 953 windows and stunning exterior. If you do have the time to go inside, local Indians can expect to pay 10 rupees, while foreigners are expected to pay 50 rupees.
Tour the City Palace
The City Palace was established by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, at the same time as the city of Jaipur, in 1727, when he moved his court to the city of Jaipur, and the City Palace was the ceremonial and administrative seat of the Maharaja until 1949. However, it still houses the Royal Family of Jaipur today. There are three main entry gates to the City Palace- the Udai Pol, the Virendra Pol, and the Tripolia – but commoners and visitors can only enter through the Udai Pol or the Virendra Pol, as the Tripolia is used by only the royal family. My favorite part of the City Palace are the four gates of the seasons that are located in the inner courtyard, Pritam Niwas Chowk. The Peacock Gate, on the northeastern side, represents autumn and is dedicated to the Lord Vishnu; the Lotus Gate, on the southwest side, represents summer and is dedicated to the Lord Shiva; the Rose Gate, on the southeastern side, represents winter and is dedicated to the Goddess Devi; and the Leheriya Gate, on the northwest side, represents spring and is dedicated to the Lord Ganesha. These gates are the perfect spot for the most Instagram-worthy shots! Local Indians can expect to pay 190 rupees, while foreigners can expect to pay 500 rupees.
Play with adorable monkeys at Galtaji, the Monkey Temple
This was perhaps my favorite experience in Jaipur! When our guide told us we were visiting Galtaji on the second day of our trip and that we would get to feed/play with monkeys, the little girl in me practically squealed with excitement. I stocked my bag full of hand sanitizer and Indian rupees (to purchase bananas, of course), and we set off on the 10 kilometer journey to the Monkey Temple. A series of temples were built into a narrow crevice in the hills surrounding the city, and a natural spring fills a series of sacred kunds (water tanks) where pilgrims bathe- we saw quite a few people enjoying the water. The area is mostly abandoned and only partially restored, giving it an almost-haunting vibe as we picked our way through the temples. The monkeys are completely fearless when it comes to tourist and have sticky little fingers that will nab at you when you reveal that your have sweeties for them- so be careful of your belongings but don’t fear the little cutiepies! They like to climb on you and perch on your shoulders while they nibble away at bananas and other treats for sale in the surrounding area- in the third picture above, you can see my surprise and glee when one of the monkeys decided to scale my body! Ironically, the temples are dedicated to Ganesha, the elephant god, and not Hanuman, the monkey god.
Wander the stunning Jagat Shiromani Temple
The Jagat Shiromani Temple is a bit off the beaten path from the typical tourist attractions, but it certainly needs to be on your list! This temple dates back to 1599 AD and was built in memory of Maharajah Sawai Man Singh I’s eldest son Jagat Singh by his mother Rani Kanakwati. Four different types of architecture come together to form this stunning temple- Jain, Hindu, Mughal and South Indian- and three types of materials are used- local stone (some sort of sand stone), marble, and black stone (granite). The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu but also has monuments to Lord Krishna, who is supposedly a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. The atmosphere at this templed is quiet and peaceful, unlike some of the more popularly visited temples in Jaipur; there wasn’t a soul in sight when we visited!
Admire the Jal Mahal, the Water Palace
In the middle of Man Sagar Lake lies the Jal Mahal, or the Water Palace; the red sandstone palace consists of five floors, four of which are under water when the lake is full. After experience a day of chaos in the city, the Jal Mahal is a welcoming and serene sight to behold- and is possibly one of the most photographed sights in Jaipur, next to the Hawa Mahal. Unfortunately, exploring the palace itself is off limits to tourists, so we must stick to observing its beauty from afar. Alas, even the gondola rides across the lake have even stopped running.
See Birla Mandir, the White Temple, at night
So, I’m going to apologize ahead of time for the shot above because it certainly doesn’t capture the beauty of the Birla Mandir at night, but I was snapping shots with a fairly horrific cell phone camera… whoops. Total fail on my part, ha! Anywho… the Birla Mandir in Jaipur was built with a more modern flair than the other Hindu temples in the city and is constructed completely out of white marble. It is dedicated to the Lord Vishnu and the Goddess Lakshmi, and this is only one of a series of Birla Mandir Temples across India. The inside is absolutely stunning, with sculpted idols of the Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi, carvings of Hindu symbols, and iconic mythological events engraved into the walls. This is quite a busy temple, and it’s hard to find it void of admirers- but don’t let that deter you! It’s a must see, especially since it is so different architecturally from the other temples around the city.
Explore the Jantar Mantar
The Jantar Mantar is an outdoor observatory that hosts a collection of nineteen astronomical instruments and was completed in 1734 by the Rajput King Sawai Jai Singh II. It holds the world’s largest stone sundial and is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you’re anything like me and absolutely horrid at astronomy, it will do well to either read up on the instruments or hire a guide to explain how they work! Each instrument has its own use, of course: measuring time, tracking the location of major stars while the earth orbits the sun, predicting eclipses, determining the celestial altitudes, and the declinations of planets. It’s certainly an interesting and educational site to visit! Foreigners can expect to pay 200 rupees, while local Indians can expect to pay 50 rupees.
Eat everything and drink all the masala chai
And, finally, as I will say in every post about India, eat, eat, eat everything in sight- well, maybe not everything. But seriously. You will never taste Indian food as good as it is in India. As obvious as that may sound, I’d like to think there are pretty darn good replications of Italian/English/French/etc foods out there, but I have never come close to tasting anything as good as the food I had in India. Whilst in India, I had a love affair with two specific things: fresh mangos and masala chai. I had already had a deep love for mangos, but I have never tasted any as sweet as the ones from the markets in Delhi. But masala chai… if I was any good at writing sonnets or any form of poetry, I would write about the masala chai from India!
Have you visited Jaipur? What are some of your favorite spots to see in the city? I’d love to hear your opinions, so pop a comment below!