Jaisalmer is at the edge of the Thar Desert close to the Pakistan border. One would be well served to book inside the Fort – one of the few places where people still live within a fort and offer tourists an experience unmatched for it’s charm and timeless beauty.
The city is built entirely of sandstone. This gives it a ‘golden demeanor’ dazzling to the eyes as the Westerly sun cloaks it in it’s coveted rays. While summers can get very hot, end of winter months offer California like ‘perfect’ weather to visit (at least it was that way when we visited in March).
A key criteria for our visit was to ensure we stayed inside the Fort. We stayed at a homestay hotel within the Fort called Shreenath Palace. Our 12th century house with residents in the ground floor offered us a room with a view – of the Jain temples around the fort. The room was entirely made of stone as was the building with intricate carvings adorning all parts of the structure.
The stay at the fort is surreal. Narrow alleyways make up for streets. The narrow streets provide room enough for motorcycles & autorickshaws with cows fighting for space. The streets are lined with souvenir shops all over the place. A number of beautiful Jain temples can be seen in the fort.
Tourist guides offer camel safaris. When I asked a local tourist operator how long a safari would take – he answered anything from a half hour to thirty days if one chooses. Overnight tents can be availed if one wants to get the desert experience. We took a shorter version of the Camel Safari and witnessed probably one of the most memorable sunsets.
The Fort dominates the facade of Jaisalmer unlike any other as it sits elevated at a height of 30M above the town. It is also referred to as “Sonar Quila” by the locals. In addition to all the golden views during the day, the lit up Fort during nightime is a sight to behold.
Patwon Ki Haveli
Jaisalmer town has some renowned havelis (mansions) built by prosperous businessmen. No visit to Jaisalmer is complete without a visit to the eloborately carved Patwon Haveli. The entire last inch of the building is carved inticately. Five stories tall, it is divided into six apartments. Apparently two of these are occupied by the Archealogical Society of India.
We took 2 camels for a half hour ride into the desert to the closest dunes called Sam Dunes. The atmosphere was almost festive – filled with tourists encountering camels for the first time. Tourists had gathered in the cool desert waiting for the sun to go down. We were treated to some amazing sights as seen below.
The sand was cool to the touch. There was a tinge of chillness brought about by a gentle breeze against the desert sun. Silhouettes start rising in the distance. Kids running & playing in the sand, informal camel races to one side, footprints on the sand, local folk dancers entertaining tourists – all great memories of our visit to the desert. This must have been the longest sundown that I have seen.
[This article was contributed by Vijay Ramanathan – a Technology/Gadget enthusiast and Blogger. You can follow his tweets at http://twitter.com/tekdude & his blog at http://tekdude.wordpress.com/ ]