A Jaisalmer Story
The idea of visiting Jaisalmer evokes the thought of the golden and mighty Thar Desert and within its cocoon a golden city, as if it rose from the sand under it, itself. Jaisalmer is a beautiful city that borrows the hues of the sun that strongly beat down upon it for most summer months. For me though, the idea of staying in a desert for a night and sleeping on sand was the most inviting.
For reaching Jaisalmer, I first travelled to Jodhpur, where the terrain is wrought with Xerophytes and dry bushes growing in an array of hills and rocks. From Jodhpur, I took a taxi straight to Jaisalmer. There is no direct bus, flight or railway route to Jaisalmer from Delhi. One must travel to Kota, Bikaner or Jodhpur to find connecting transport. It's not very hard to find a taxi in Jodhpur. There are various taxi stands near the railway station or the bus station.
This time, Twesha, my sister and Shashank, a fellow photographer friend were accompanying me on my road trip. Once in Jaisalmer we asked our taxi driver to take us to Sam Sand Dunes (pronounced Summ).
Sam Sand Dunes is a desert area about 15 km ahead of Jaisalmer, where one can experience the feeling of being surrounded by sand dunes, and of course go Dune bashing, with the wind blowing sand in every possible direction. Once in the desert area, you'll feel that there is an essence of sand in the air, in the tea that you drink, some granules of it in your eyes and ears, your hair and of course your shoes! To best experience the desert up close, you must try Desert Safari and night camping in Jaisalmer.
There are various camps ahead of Jaisalmer and close to Sam where you can stay for a night to experience the same. However, I reserved us at Winds Desert Camp for the night. It is one of the best camps in the area, with clean rooms and great service. Also, I liked the food they served us.
On reaching the Camp, I was aghast to see the beautiful Bedouin tents that awaited us. We were going glamping (Urban dictionary defines glamping as: glamorous campaing)! The tents were built on a concrete platform, with a wooden door. Although, the walls of the tent were tarpaulin and the adjoining bathroom was connected through a zipper to provide the feel of a tent. Also, the tarpaulin walls were adorned with block print to provide a rustic feel.
But quickly after dropping off the luggage, we headed for some dune bashing (Go to http://www.jeepsafarisam.com to book your ride!) and Camel riding amidst the golden sand. We reached just in time because the sun had not set yet. And boy, dune bashing was the highlight of my trip. Our driver took us through unbelievable inclines, which looked impossible to traverse and bashed sand on the way. He took steep turns, bounced over dunes, and drove at a maniacal speed on straight roads. It was so exhilarating! And I think I was clutching on to the top handle bar of the jeep tightly the whole time. We kept squealing with joy and exclaiming throughout! I've affixed some photos of dune bashing below.
After Dune bashing we rode camels in the sand with the setting sun in the background. All of it felt surreal and right out of the movies. The whole sky looked crimson and pink against a golden dazzling sand.
The desert camp, where we spent the following night was a quiet and restful place. It was a chilly night and we sat by the bonfire and watched Rajasthani folk performers throw a little color and cheer to it. The evening was organized by Winds Desert Camp for their guests. This was followed by a buffet meal with Rajasthani delights! The food and service at the Camp was amazing. For dinner we had, khair Sangri, Gulab Jamun sabzi, papad sabzi, dal bati churma, bajre ki roti, chicken and paneer. I was truly thrilled by the whole experience and would recommend booking a camp to anyone who is traveling to Jaisalmer.
The Village of Kuldhara
The following morning, we visited the village of Kuldhara after checking out from Winds Desert Camp.
Kuldara is an ancient 13th century village which was once left abandoned overnight and is claimed to be haunted now. Legend has it that there was a very beautiful girl in the village that the King's Capricious, womanizing brother fell for. To protect the girl from his shackles, the entire village was just vacated overnight. There are other stories, legends and myths connected to the history of the village too. Simplified versions of the story just say that the village was vacated because there was no water nearby. But partly because the reason is unknown, the village is probably called haunted now.
We roamed the village of Kuldhara for a few hours, astounded by the color of the yellow bricks that lay precariously in all directions. The little doors and windows that still stand amidst fallen walls, the stairs that dissolve into nothingness and the rooms that seem to levitate in mid-air are a stark reminder of how fragile life, humanity and civilizations are.
We next headed to Jaisalmer city and visited the Golden fort, that is perched on a hill and visible from a distance as we approach it. The fort's massive yellow sandstone walls are a tawny lion colour during the day, fading to honey-gold as the sun sets, thereby camouflaging the fort in the yellow desert. For this reason, it is also known as the Sonar Quila or Golden Fort. The skyline looks like its painted golden, with all its buildings and the sand that encapsulates it. It offers a great view of the city from the top. Also, a tour of the fort will feel like you're at a place right out of the sets of Aladdin. The contrast of the honey-golden stone walls against glassy blue sky is unimaginable.
At the exit of the fort, there is a jewelry store called Om Jewelers and they sell some great silver pieces. I saw a silver hand crafted ring that had the seven wonders of the world depicted in it! I bought a cute little camel locket for myself. Don't forget to visit the shop if you like jewelry. (Read my TripAdvisor review here)
After the fort we visited a small cafe, called Bloody Good Cafe, which served some nice multi-cuisine vegetarian food. To be honest, I love Rajasthani food. But by this time I had had too much Rajasthani food in my belly! So I ordered some spinach Macaroni, and Thupka. The cafe has an excellent view overlooking the fort and the meal felt great sitting in the balcony. Visit this cafe if you're a fan of great views while enjoying your meals.
If you're on a short trip to Jaisalmer too, voila, you can easily travel around like me. Let me know what you think in comments below!
But while you are in Jaisalmer, here are a few more things for you to do:
- Visit Gadhisagar Lake
- Visit Bada Bagh
- Go on a biking trip from Jaisalmer to Tanot Mata
- Go haveli hopping to Patwo ki Haveli, Salim Singh ki Haveli, Natmal ki haveli, to name a few.
Best time to visit
Anytime from November to March, as the summer months tend to get really h0t in the Indian state of Rajasthan.
What to wear
If you are traveling in winters, carry sweatshirts and sweaters, because it gets cold with temperatures as low as 2 degree Celsius.
For the summer and autumn months, in the day time wear tanks or camis paired with dhoti pants or loose cotton pants for women and shorts with casual shirts or t-shirts for men, to beat the heat.
All the best for your travels ;)