“I find Jaisalmer too touristy… you can’t really enjoy it”
Blah, blah. Not true!
I loved Jaisalmer with a passion. I’m going to tell you 6 reasons why you’ll LOVE Jaisalmer, plus some Jaisalmer travel tips! I didn’t only love this desert town for the famous camel safari. It’s also got a still inhabited fort with massive imposing walls and surrounding mazes of alleyways. Such a fun place to explore and daydream.
The fort is literally a giant real life sandcastle. It’s magical. It was bustling with trade to Persia, but eventually Bombay took over, and now Jaisalmer is like an ancient town stuck in the past.
IS the camel safari touristy? Well, if only I had a hobby of riding camels around the world so that I could do a comparison for you guys. In reality, I don’t decide if something isn’t worth my time by how touristy it has become. All that matters: it’s a fabulous escapade over soft rolling sand dunes just kilometers from Pakistan. That’s pretty cool.
Like all great attractions in the world, it has brought in curious people, but I’ve expressed before how you CANNOT let the threat of being labeled a tourist stop you from seeing the wonderful world!
You do NOT have to constantly “stay off the tourist path”. Sometimes, what the tourists are doing is a great adventure, and even without the safari, Jaisalmer is that, an adventure.
6 Reasons You’ll Love Jaisalmer
1. The camel safari.
Of course! This is the number one reason because it was incredible and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I have another post dedicated to the details, read it here tomorrow.
2. The landscapes.
Remember the sandstone buildings I told you about in Jodhpur? Times that by ten! I don’t care if there are 10 million tourists (there weren’t), I felt like I was in an ancient hidden town of India. Granted, I was there October, just before the crowd comes rolling in.
I could wander the streets all day, not see hardly any other western faces, gaping at the intricate carved details on the havelis that have magically held up over time.
Each state in India varies so drastically in food, dress, and customs; Jaisalmer is no exception. The further into the desert I got, the darker and prettier their skin, the brighter their eyes, the more colorful the turbans, and more sequined the sari.
The women just keep layering on the gold and I couldn’t help but wear a couple jiggling anklets myself. I got more henna, more piercings (my friend had her nose pierced with a nail on the street!), and more photographs of kids.
It is truly like walking through a movie set. I have to pinch myself to make sure it’s real. I didn’t take classes here or try anything new, other than the Fort… I really just spent my time sitting around, drinking chai, and people watching.
Someone would bump into me with a basket, and before I knew it a cobra would be feet from my face. I didn’t have to find adventure; it came to me in Jaisalmer.
3. The Fort “Jaisalmer Fort”.
I loved touring through this old fort, and people still live in it. It used to hold the entire town, but now only 4,000 people live there, mostly Brahmin, the highest caste. The sandstone the fort is built from took the color desert sand, so as the sun changed it stayed cleverly camouflaged and giving it the name the “golden fort”.
Tourists are allowed to stay in the fort as well as a very decent price. There is substantial overcrowding and deteriorating plumbing. It is considered a little unethical to stay in the fort, and I found just touring it was fun enough for me.
The fort is busy with people and full of merchants as well as positive vibes! It’s a strange thing to be in a still in use fort, that hasn’t been turned into a museum.
Be ready to tell vendors no on repeat. I have never seen such lighthearted jokesters of merchants like here. They had funny signs about ripping tourists off, Viagra, magic bed sheets, and it made it much more relaxed.
there are views of the fort from every angle! even when I hang my clothes out to dry
4. Bhang Lassies.
Bhang is from the cannabis plant and is prepared and mixed in a yoghurt fruit drunk for your pleasure. This is considered a drug in many eyes, but not in India. This is part of the religious culture in India and shops are government approved.
There are a couple shops right before the entrance of the Fort. Prices are insanely cheap. You can get cookies as well. I have a list of tips, but please do be safe because they make these very strong, sometimes so they can take advantage of your state of mind.
5. The Shopping.
Like everywhere else on the planet, I found good shopping here. Jaisalmer is known for it’s camel leather. They say they wait until the camel is dead, so no harm is done. Some say it’s not even camel leather at all.
Either way, I got lots of braided leather bracelets as gifts, a purse, and shoes for my mom, a couple cotton tank tops, and a leather crocodile Dundee hat for my brother, which was a massive hit! I purchased my leather from Vijay Leather Works on Asani Road. He does wholesale. You can call him at 02992 252 247 or e-mail him at [email protected]
What is THE BEST BUY in Jaisalmer, or all of Rajasthan? Hand embroidered wall hangings. I think Jaisalmer has the most beautiful of them all. Of all the ones I examined in Rajasthan, here had the most options and detail in design. The problem is, they are quite pricey being near a tourist attraction. It’s up to you! I’m actually going to write an entire post of this in the future!
6. Dinner with a view.
Like Jodhpur, Jaisalmer has many rooftop restaurants that offer views of the Fort while you eat. I wanted to branch out a little, and had dinner at a Royal Hotel by candlelight with a new friend, Beth.
I tried jeera rice (rice with cumin and peppercorn) instead of regular, but stuck with my favorite order of palak paneer, cheese naan, and dal.
As for where to stay…
& one thing I didn’t love about Jaisalmer
My bad experience with Hotel Garden City
After almost missing my bus from Jodhpur, and a horrible bus journey, I came into Jaisalmer at around 4 a.m. Traveling solo, I like to arrange a pick up from the hotel I’ll stay at. In India I usually pick a place to stay ahead of time just by calling and confirming they have a room.
Rates are low and competitive, so most will offer a free pick-up to make sure you stay with them instead of one of the other hundreds of guesthouses in the area. The hotel agreed to pick me up at 4 a.m. For the first time, a hotel disappointed me with pick up and I had to haggle with loads of rickshaw drivers in the dark, not even sure where the hotel was.
The room was to be 400 a night, and I paid half that for the rickshaw to go 2 minutes up the road.
don’t forget this is what a bus ride is like overnight in India!
Now for the bad part, the nightshift guy woke up, let me into my room, and went back to bed. The room was horrible. I do NOT have high standards when I’m traveling budget, especially in India. I mean this was a cheap room; I wasn’t expecting much.
Maybe a sheet or blanket… a towel… working water… a fan.
I digress. So I got in my sleeping bag and slept for 3 hours. When I got up, I couldn’t get out of my room! It had not been communicated to the day-shift worker that I had checked in.
My room had been dead-bolted from the outside.
Being too far away to be heard, I had to crawl out the window after a 10 minute call for help.
My tired grumpy ass got the key, got my stuff, and told them they weren’t getting a penny before I stormed off.
I always have back-ups in case a guesthouse doesn’t work out and I headed there. I stayed at Hotel Swastika (a peaceful sign that Hitler twisted into a hateful reminder). I was greeted with green tea and a cute little room right across from a bookstore. Thanks to hot water, I finally got my clothes a little cleaner (I’m not a great hand washing… I’m more of a swisher). The room was 250 rupees (5 USD) a night. Contact for reservation at 91 2992 252 483.
Extra tip: ATM’s often run out of money here so get enough out before you come in case there’s an issue.
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