Exploring Jaipur, Rajasthan, India – during the peak tourist season

Part of the famous Golden Triangle, Jaipur is a beautiful city definitely worth visiting.  It gives an excellent insight into Rajput history.

It is easily accessible by road and by air.  Only thing – allocate enough time depending on when you visit Jaipur.  Lean tourist season?  2 days should do the job.  Peak tourist season?  Give yourself 3 days to thoroughly explore the city.

The mistake we made was that we allocated only 1 1/2 days to explore Jaipur during peak tourist season and as a result could not see everything on our wish list.  Having said that upfront, this is what we were able to accomplish.

Day 1

We arrived in Jaipur around noon.  We first headed to the hotel to check into our rooms and eat lunch (we had a bad experience in Ajmer where despite fully paid rooms we were left without a room when we got there late — it was due to overbooking by the hotel).  As a result, by the time we left our hotel to explore, it was 2:30pm.

By the time we reached Hawa Mahal is was close to 3:45pm.  The main reason?  Traffic.  Lots of it.  We realised there would be a lot of climbing involved in exploring Hawa Mahal.  So, we split up into two groups.  One group went into Hawa Mahal while the other went to the City Palace in Jaipur (both are in close proximity).  We had no choice but to do this because these attractions close between 4:30pm and 5 pm and we were very short on time.

Hawa Mahal

One word:  crowded.  This iconic structure (outer facade) is identified with Jaipur, the Pink City. It is believed that Royal women used to sit and watch the parades and everyday life go by from behind the stone and stained glass window screens without being noticed from the outside.   So, when you take the time to explore the structure, you get an idea of life behind the “curtain”. 

The large courtyard has a pretty fountain and today has a coffee shop as well.  As you climb up the stairs and ramps to explore each floor, you discover intricate stone carved screens and stained glass windows.   You cannot get too close to the actual windows… they are roped off for safety reasons. 

From the upper most floor, you get clear views of the forts at a distance, the City Palace and Jantar Mantar nearby.

All in all, a nice place to spend about 1 1/2 hours exploring and understanding the life of folks from years gone by.

City Palace

The city palace has a museum along with the palace

A must see museum, if you are an arms/armoury enthusiast. In the arms museum, the guns, flintlocks, swords, shields, etc., provide a unique perspective into the weapons of the time.  In addition there is a textile and an art museum – good places to spend time and learn about the times.

The palace itself is a good place to spend time, you can hire a buggy for a ride and be transported back in time.  The Chandra mahal, Diwan -e khas, Diwan-e am are good place to soak in the architecture of an era gone by.

Once again, we did not have enough time to explore, but, if you do plan, spending two to three hours is a no-brainer.

Jantar Mantar

It features the world’s largest stone sun-dial and is an UNESCO World Heritage site.  While we did not get enough time to explore it this time around, several members of our group, including myself had visited it earlier.  It takes about an hour to explore the site.

By the time we were done exploring this core area of the Pink City, all of the attractions pretty much were closed.  So, we drove around the city soaking in the sights and vibes.  We drove past Albert Hall (we couldn’t go inside as it was closed on that particular day) and finally ended up at a foodcourt called “Masala Chowk” close by. 

After dinner we headed back to our hotel and called it a night.

Day 2 – Amber Fort and travel day

We started off the day thinking that we will be able to visit Amber Fort, Nahargarh Fort and Jaigarh Fort.  Unfortunately, traffic had other plans for us.  After three hours of stop and go traffic, we finally made it to Amber Fort.

Amber Fort is a truly spectacular fort and deserves the UNESCO World Heritage tag.  You have two options when you reach the outside of the fort:  you can slowly walk up the winding ramp or drive up in a car 3/4’s up and then walk the rest of the way.  Poor judgement on our part – we decided to take the car and that decision set us back by 2 1/2 hours in total (1 hour going up and 1 1/2 hours coming down).

When you enter the main courtyard, you notice the large gates and the fort wall beyond it.  There is also a viewpoint from which you can see the nearby Jaigarh Fort.  Within the fort, there are many areas to explore.  A guide’s help is well worth it.  From the large courtyard you can enter the inner parts of the fort.  On the way, you go by a temple adorned with silver doors.  When inside the second courtyard, you can experience two halls of pillars and the sheesh mahal (mirror hall)… truly spectacular. 

Ganesh pol – Amazing and beautiful paintings.  No words can describe the beauty of the artwork.

There is another inner section within the fort where you can explore the “summer” retreat and the “winter” retreat with a beautiful Mughal style garden in-between. 

All in all, you can easily spend about 2 hours exploring the fort before heading to your next destination.  Unfortunately, we had to head to the airport due to lack of time (rather fear of traffic) after we were done exploring the Amber fort.

Lessons learnt

  • We stayed in the Bani Park – while the hotels are affordable and the area is nice, there is a significant problem – during peak tourist season, you will be paralysed by the traffic.  You end up going through the Pink City area to reach Amber Fort and as a result, you will waste too much time.  When picking a hotel, try to pick one that is placed between the Pink City area and the forts you want to explore.  Examine and understand the traffic intensity via Google maps before you book a hotel.  The traffic is very poorly managed within the Pink City area and you can lose a lot of your valuable time.  I cannot stress this enough.
  • Most places start closing down between 4:30 pm and 5pm.  Plan accordingly.  To do justice, you need to spend at least one hour at each of the sites.  Once you reach the Pink City area, you can easily walk between Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar and City Palace.  The only problem – signage is not clear and you will end up asking a lot of people for directions.
  • Comfortable shoes – An absolute must.  Without proper shoes, walking around will be a problem.
  • Shopping – lots of small stores surround you in the Pink City area.  Shop if you are interested and have time.
  • If you are exploring Jaipur as part of the Golden Triangle tour, my suggestion would be:  2 days in Delhi, 1 to 1 1/2 days in Agra and Fatehpur Sikri and 2 days in Jaipur.  Do checkout my blog posts on Delhi and Agra to better understand the reasoning.

Delhi:  https://wanderingtalestraveldreams.com/2018/12/20/the-best-of-new-delhi-india/

Agra and Fatehpur Sikri:  https://wanderingtalestraveldreams.com/2018/08/04/agra-and-fatehpur-sikri-india-three-unesco-world-heritage-sites-in-one-day/

You will notice a lot of similarities between the forts in Delhi, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri and Jaipur, but, you will also discover some of the unique differences in the Hindu vs Islamic architecture.

Bottomline:  An interesting city with many interesting sights.  Just make sure you allocate the time it deserves.

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