Did you know India has its very own “Blue City”? It does! Jodhpur, in Rajasthan. I’ve been here years ago as a backpacker and wrote some tips in this article but I recently revisited less on a backpackers budget and more on a mid-range budget. I came for fun but also to do research and see what has changed in Jodhpur since I last visited. I wanted to find the best restaurants, a hotel you guys can afford that is also cute with views, and a few new places to shop. I found all that and more!
Guide to Jodhpur, India’s Blue City
This isn’t the only blue city I’ve visited; I’ve also visited Chefchaouen in Morocco which is totally different. While in Morocco it’s clearly all painted and every single inch is blue and “new” looking – in India, it’s very faded different shades of blue and the blue parts are only in one small part of Jodhpur, not the whole city (which is the second biggest city in Rajasthan).
Why is it blue? Like Morocco, the reasons vary but a lot of people will say that it keeps the temperature down and keeps mosquitos away. There is an incredible fort and palace here but the thing about Jodhpur that makes it SO worth visiting is the REALNESS of it in comparison to the rest of Rajasthan.
I know that sounds crazy but let me try to explain: In Jaipur, it’s a huge city that is very modern, quite clean, and has great infrastructure. Everyone you meet there will speak English with you and you can pop into a huge variety of restaurants for food from all over the world. On the other hand, Udaipur is a tiny little town with a lake in the middle, easy to walk around, and very touristy. Jodhpur is neither of these. Jodhpur is a HUGE city but in a very small space, not with nice infrastructure like Jaipur, the capital.
Jodhpur is like stepping back in time, it’s modern and you’ll have a hard time finding decent Western food here – which is usually an indicator of how touristy a place is. The Old City is jammed with people, cars can’t go in, and the bustling clock tower is so busy that even my friend Tia who grew up in South India and went to school here said she’d never been in a real Indian city like this before. It’s somewhere that will give you a sense of that Indian culture shock that we all get a kick out of but at the same time it’s small enough that if you walk around and get lost you can hop in a rickshaw and they’ll likely know your hotel or at least the area the hotel is in and help you find your way home for just a couple bucks.
While in Jodhpur, you don’t need to think luxury – instead think eating Indian food with your hands, getting lost in the maze of blue buildings, photographing the amazing sights and people, seeing animals in the streets, and staying in a haveli from the 15th and 16th century.
Before You Go to Jodhpur
- Don’t forget your visa! You can use this link to book it the easiest way for a fee. Read more about visas here.
- You’ll also want travel insurance. I use World Nomads (follow this link for a quote). Here’s my article on what is covered by WN insurance.
- For tours in Rajasthan, I recommend the USA company, G Adventures and find one that goes the cities on your wishlist.
- Read my information about getting a SIM card in India or using Trabug.
Getting To & From Jodhpur + Getting Around Jodhpur
Train/Bus to Jodhpur
The option most travelers take who are going to see multiple places in the Indian state of Rajasthan is to travel by either train or bus. As a backpacker, I preferred bus (cheaper and more direct to the bus station usually right inside town). These days, I prefer A/C train journeys so I can watch a movie or something although the train stations are sometimes outside the city and then you need a taxi to your hotel. Here are tips on trains and buses in India. Either option is great for Jodhpur, but I took a taxi from Udaipur to save time.
Flights to Jodhpur
You can check Kiwi.com for flight options – I always use them for the best rates. You won’t want to fly in and out of Jodhpur from within Rajasthan though as it’s usually not direct and you have to go to Delhi between and it costs a load of money, where you could just drive for 5,000 rupees and get pretty much anywhere out of the tourist sites in 6-7 hours.
Taxis in and out of Jodhpur
I chose taxi from Udaipur to Jodhpur and Jodhpur onward to Jaipur because it just made sense money-wise and timewise. Basically, it was 3,500 to drive from Udaipur to Jodhpur with an agency I found on the street (read prices and booking information in my article about Udaipur). Leaving from Jodhpur to Jaipur is about an hour longer and our hotel offered us a rate of 5,000 so we took that. A train would have been about 1,700 Rs for each of us (3,400 Rs) and taken much much longer. While there is a lot to see between Udaipur and Jodhpur to stay awake for, we left for the highway journey to Jaipur at 6 AM and slept through most of it.
Getting around: Uber & rickshaws
You can use Uber anytime you go outside the city which we did for a visit to the Taj for pool time and to Gypsy restaurant. It’s so easy and you will likely meet your driver near the Clock Tower as they cannot drive into the Old City. Although Uber is here and easy, in the Old City you need to use rickshaws as the lanes are narrow and the cars can’t go in plus there is a complicated one-way system until 9 PM.
*TIP* as always negotiate with the rickshaw driver who will likely quote double the cost. They will know “chowks” (the main square “market” or area of each zone) but they won’t know all restaurants and hotels even places that are so popular like RAAS, so it’s best to know what “chowk” you are going to and what chowk your hotel is in. That, they will understand! From there, they can ask a local to that area where the place is you are trying to find. I always have my google maps anyway and just tell the driver where to turn if I am feeling on top of things.
Best Hotels in Jodhpur
I did so much research about the hotel I wanted in Jodhpur and found the key in booking – get an average priced place but splurge for the suite! It’s the same thing we did in Udaipur. The buildings (havelis) in Rajasthan are so stunning and many were palaces so the rooms will be very different and if the place isn’t that popular they can’t put rates too high, so the suite will be the most expensive room in a not so expensive place.
Blue House Guesthouse – $53 USD for the 100 sq. foot suite!
A member of my India Travel Tips group actually told me about this (thanks!) and after checking it out, I was hooked on one specific room: the Jhankar Temple Suite. It was SO cute in photos and looked exactly the same when I arrived. This place is great for ALL budgets. A basic room here is just 1,750 Rs and the suite I got was 3,500 Rs per night. When you book make sure you clarify which room you want as technically all are called suites although on booking sites it will be tiered booking options “standard, deluxe, executive, and suite”. I emailed and called to verify I was getting the room I wanted. The Royal King Suite is also 3,500 which is cute too but I thought the Jhankar was the best. There are other rooms that are 2,400 and 2,900.
The guesthouse when you walk in is not that impressive to be honest because it’s dark and cramped (not an area you’d want to hang out and have a coffee) but that feeling goes away as soon as you start chatting with the Jain family who own it. They were all so friendly and helpful during my whole stay.
As we winding way way way up the stairs in the guesthouse we finally reached out suite and WOW it is imressive. The fact it’s just $53/night is a real steal. The room is ancient and you can just wonder what all has happened there in the 500 years it’s been there – even some movies have used this room for filming. There is an AMAZING view of the fort as well.
We didn’t love the food and chose to eat out after trying the meals – not an issue though as you’ll be out exploring anyway. Plus, in general, we disliked almost all the food we tried in Jodhpur. More about that later. First, check out this cute room!
The only downsides of the room were the A/C did not get very cold and would click on and off making it hard to sleep as we’d get really hot then cold then hot, you get the picture! The other thing is the bathroom had a hole in it for drainage on the floor near the sink which doesn’t look great – but I think was their only way to get the plumbing sorted. It’s a small bathroom but the room itself is huge. There is a TV although I didn’t try it. WiFi doesn’t reach all the way up to the room (same in almost all havelis in Jodhpur).
Check rates, reviews, and book Blue House Jodhpur (with that link)
This is the most popular boutique hotel in Jodhpur and it’s often fully booked, as it was when I was there. Basic rooms start at $323 per night – and in Jodhpur because it’s a dusty chaotic city, I really wanted to stay in a room that was a nice escape and had a lot of character but I wasn’t ready to spend this much in Jodhpur for three nights (that is like a grand)… But, if you have the budget for the RAAS, there is nowhere else you should stay. I went there to check it out and it’s beyond beautiful and is in the perfect location by the stepwell. Read reviews and check availability here.
Umaid Bhawan Palace (the Taj)
The ultimate in luxury in Jodhpur, the Umaid Bhawan Palace is actually a palace and the hotel is one part of it, owned by the Taj Hotel Group. It’s around $700 per night and higher in the peak season (Dec/Jan). Check availability here.
Vivanta by Taj
There are Taj’s everywhere in India and I went to this one to use the pool for the day and the spa. They are the only place I could find that allow outside guests to use the pool for two hours for around 1,000 Rs. I also got a massage and it was something like 3,500 Rs – it was good. The hotel itself seemed a little bland, was really far outside of town and I’m pretty glad I didn’t stay there. While I usually love Taj hotels, this one wasn’t my favorite I’ve visited. It was good for coming to use the pool though! It was basically $65 for the day to use the pool and have an hour massage. Check rates and availability here.
For another budget option, I also stayed at a haveli years back which is still there called Gouri Heritage Haveli which you can book here. Back then it was 500 Rs but now it’s 2,000 for the cheapest room. You can compare their basic room with the basic rooms are Blue House and see which you prefer.
Restaurants in Jodhpur
Well, this is going to be a small section because we ate out 7 meals during our time in Jodhpur and only one was memorable. There were two others that were okay, but others that were “top ranked” online fell flat. Definitely don’t bother trying the western food here.
Gypsy Dining Hall – This place is AMAZING. This is outside of town and you’ll need to take an Uber but it’s so 1000% worth it. The thali is just amazing. Make sure you to upstairs where they serve the thali, not the downstairs restauarant. Every single bit of this meal was delicious. I think it was around 200 Rs and it was all you can eat – they just come around and fill it back up. This is the best place to go to try Dal Batti and get a sense of the local food.
The Curry’s – Near RAAS, Stepwell, and all that popular stuff is a hostel called the Blue Turban and the reviews for this rooftop hostel restaurant were great so we popped in. It was decilious and was a great view of the fort at night, which was straight ahead.
Stepwell – One of the most popular restaurants in Jodhpur. They have a very limited menu of basically an omelette, a pizza, and a cheese or chicken and cheese grilled sandwich, all of which are “okay” but good compared to Indian restaurants nearby trying to make the same things… They had very good coffee, cute ambiance, great A/C on a hot day, WiFi, and views of the stepwell outside. These are the same people who own RAAS.
RAAS – we took a look at the menu at RAAS and after seeing my normally priced 100 Rs Goan fish curry rice at 900 Rs plus 28% taxes, we bounced. It was so overpriced (although luxury which I get) but we felt we could get good food elsewhere and since they also owned the Stepwell Cafe where we didn’t like the food, we figured we’d also be disappointed here but having spent more money. Had they allowed outside guests to use the pool, we would have done lunch here and tried it. At dinner when we came around 9 PM the restaurant was empty.
There are others we tried and didn’t like so I won’t go into detail, except one: Indique, it’s rated VERY well, it’s very expensive, and it was maybe our worst meal, unfortunately. The staff here were so so nice but it wasn’t worth 600 Rs oily biryani.
Soon, Good Earth will be opening a cafe and I have high hopes for that! I saw it and it’s SO adorable plus they are a great brand so I think it’ll be good food. It’s meant to open this season.
Overall, Jodhpur is not known for its shopping. Basically, once you’ve seen the Fort and Palace and scheduled a tour to the Bishnoi tribal areas, then you can see where you have an afternoon to shop.
You won’t find as much of those tourist shops with ali baba pants and elephant print stuff, instead it’s boutiques all in one area, most of which are overpriced. While you will see some tourist shops with that type of clothing, this isn’t the best place for having many options so you might want to wait.
You can go to the market by the Clock Tower to look for cheaper stuff, but I don’t think you’ll find a lot here in terms of clothes or jewelry. You might find some fabric or knick knacks as well as scarves both silk and pashmina (but probably all fake).
For the boutiques I mentioned, definitely check them out as mixed into the expensive stuff are some affordable things. Basically, put “Stepwell Cafe” into your GPS or tell your driver “Sharif Chowk” or “Amar Chowk”; it’s kind of between the two on the map.
Once you reach Stepwell, you’ll see the famous steps down to the well and nearby is RAAS hotel, Blue Turban hostel, and popular Namaste Cafe. This area has many boutiques you can pop in like Good Earth, Haveli Crafts, Via Jodhpur, and more. This is also near the Clock Tower so you can go there too, and to the main Sadar market and even the famous omelette shop in the market (which happens to be near Indique restaurant).
One of the main things to buy in Jodhpur is the traditional wooden furniture which is ancient and collector’s items. It’s quite expensive but a million times cheaper here than some luxury furniture shop in NYC selling the same thing that they send buyers to Jodhpur to purchase and export. There are export stores/warehouses in the city. Just ask your hotel to please give you a few to go to and you can compare prices and buy items to ship home. They ship internationally all the time and it’s not a big deal so don’t let it stress you. Keep in mind a LOT of what you see in shops, even export ones, are “replicas” of antiques.
You can also get in touch with Sambhali Trust, a boutique that stocks things made by local women who are taught to make items to empower them to succeed in life. It’s a great cause and I actually know a girl working with their team now, so I trust this shop. You can check them out on Instagram.
Things to do in Jodhpur as a Tourist & Places to Visit in Jodhpur
Jodhpur isn’t as chilled as Udaipur is. In Udaipur, I wrote about how you can walk around and see signs for pop-in art classes, yoga class, ayurvedic massage, and cooking classes. Jodhpur is more like a real city not set up for tourists, so you aren’t going to see all these “things to do in Jodhpur” like you do in other Indian cities. The best thing to do is to plan out when you want to see the attractions (which I’ll mention below) then spend the rest of your time wandering around.
How long should you stay in Jodhpur? The first time I went there, I stayed 3 nights (5 years ago) and wrote in my journal it was too long and two would have sufficed. This time, I stayed 3 nights again as I was traveling with a friend instead of alone and thought we could spend one day having a pool/spa day. Even with one pool/spa day, 3 nights/days was again, too much. I recommend staying just two nights!
The fort is the #1 things to do in Jodhpur and you couldn’t miss this if you tried. It is ENORMOUS and overlooks the entire city from way up high. Almost every restaurant is a rooftop one so you can look at the fort while you eat. It’s amazing. When you tour, it’ll be 600 Rs. for a ticket and more if you take in a camera (yeah, it’s like this all over India). I didn’t bother with the headset (free) because I listened the first time I went and wrote in that blog post that it was SO boring and reading the signs was more efficient since they said the same thing. You can see the whole city from up at the fort.
There are families that sit at the fort and play flutes and sing and it’s so amazing; it definitely brought on some happy tears!
Aka the “white palace”. I went to this one years back, but did not visit again this year. It’s made of marble and is impressive. If you stay in Jodhpur two days, you’ll have enough time to see this as well as all the other attractions.
Umaid Bhawan Palace
This is where the ex-royal family live (aka the maharaja who lost power once India became a democracy). Fun fact: this palace was built during a famine and was done solely to give the local people some work so they could make money. Like mentioned above, part of this is a hotel and you cannot enter that side you can only go to the museum side.
Bishnoi Village Tour
You MUST do a tour! I didn’t do this my first time into Jodhpur, but our hotel Blue House Guesthouse offered such a good rate of 600 Rs. per person that we thought what the heck, might as well check it out. I’m glad we did. While much of it is just taking you from place to place hoping that you buy stuff (and I’m sure the tour arranger would take a commission) or tip the people you meet – don’t worry, your tour guide will remind you a few times to do this ;) … it’s still worth doing. In India, you’re always dealing with middlemen and people making commissions on things, but it doesn’t make what they are selling bad.
The Bishnoi village or tribe is really unique and on a few hours long tour you can go from house to house to see how they cook, their unique huts, how the make their rugs, and even try some opium with them. During it all, you’ll be driving in nature areas so will see animals. I’ve written a whole article about the experience that you can read here:
- What to expect on a Bishnoi tribal tour (coming soon)
Explore the Blue City!
So, the whole city of Jodhpur is not blue, it’s actually the very oldest bit up near the Fort that you’ll find the blue area. While much of the city is dirty and crowded, once you reach this area, it’s a breath of fresh air. It’s so empty and you can wander and take pictures to your heart’s desire. We saw so many tourists near the crowded Clock Tower, but when we came here to the blue part, there was no one.
The truth is, it’s a MASSIVE city and this blue part isn’t that easy to stumble across if you don’t know where you are going. Ask your hotel specifically where the old city “blue city” is on the map and show that to a rickshaw driver. There is a “chowk” name for this area. It was like Noi chowk? Everyone was pronouncing it differently so I think it’s like Navi chowk but in India some say “Nawi” chowk since they change W and V here a lot.
You could technically MISS THIS if you didn’t look for the blue area. Don’t make that mistake!
Check out the Stepwell
Maybe you’ve seen photos like this before of the huge stairwells in Jaipur, where the ladies do laundry then lay the colorful clothing out on the steps to dry? Here it’s much smaller and there are local kids jumping in for the tourists to video it (aka me, lol). It’s really a beautiful spot and for Instagram, was great for me to get some images.
See a traditional show
You can check Jodhpur’s official tourism page for tips on what shows you could see. I recommend seeing traditional dance. Many restaurants that overlook the fort (which is basically all rooftop restaurants) will have people pop in to do a show, and they are doing it for tips only so if you enjoy it, you can give them money after. There is a festival called RIFF on the tourism page that I just barely missed (darn!) and it’s meant to be amazing.
You can also check out the Mandore Gardens which are beauitful and have temples, ruins, and monuments scattered throughout. The Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower) is an attraction of its own as well. You can also check out nearby lakes Balsamand and Kaylana, both are man-made. For temples, the most famous is the Kunj Bihari temple followed by the Achar Nath Temple. I didn’t make time for either on this trip.
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