The medieval city of Jaisalmer lies in the heart of India’s Thar Desert, and is affectionately referred to as Rajasthan’s “Golden City”. Jaisalmer is a golden oasis in the centre of the Thar, with a backdrop of shimmering dunes that roll away as far as the eye can see. The area is home to a variety of desert wildlife, including the mysterious Indian gazelle. No Rajasthan expedition is truly complete without a visit to Jaisalmer; sleep under the stars in a luxurious desert camp, trek the golden dunes on a traditional camel ride at sunset, explore the intricate Rajasthani havelis (mansions) and climb the grand Jaisalmer Fort.
The history of Jaisalmer dates all the way back to 1156 AD. Like all other cities in the ‘Land of Kings’, Jaisalmer too has its own glorious past. In medieval times, caravans would pass through Jaisalmer on their way to Persia, Egypt, Africa and the west. Jaisalmer made its fortune not only through the hefty taxes they imposed on passing caravans, but also by looting their goods such as expensive silks and spices. The riches they gained can be seen in the beautifully extravagant havelis scattered throughout the city.
What to see
The shifting Sam dunes are best explored on camel back at sunset. Camel treks can be just a couple of hours, or you can even spend a night camping in the desert under the stars with a royal feast prepared for you in the open. Riding a camel through the golden sands at sunset is the perfect way to experience the heart of Rajasthan, and is an utterly romantic experience.
Built in 1156 by the Bhati Rajput ruler Jaisal, Jaisalmer Fort is situated on Meru Hill. Its magnificent sandstone walls are a tawny lion colour during the day, and turn into a magical honey-gold as the sun sets. The fort has a royal palace and selection of Jain and Hindu temples inside.
Where to stay
The Serai is undoubtedly Jaisalmer’s most luxurious desert camp, and is set on a hundred acres of private desert land. There are 21 Tents with a unique style and charm, followed by 14 Tented Suites offering space of over a thousand square feet. The Luxury Tented Suites each have their own secluded walled garden and sunken heated Jacuzzi pool. The Serai’s most lavish offering is the Royal Suite; an isolated encampment with private garden, spa, outdoor pool and separate tents to both dine and recline.
The luxurious Suryagarh resort is a true testament to the lavish lifestyle and pomp of Rajasthan’s regal past. Traditional medieval trimmings are perfectly contrasted with a fresh and modern appeal. The Jaisalmer Suite pays tribute to the city of Jaisalmer that never once surrendered to invaders or foreign rule; interestingly, Jaisalmer was one of the last states to sign a treaty with the British. This elegant suite is bursting with unique and historic collectibles and art work. Carved out of native Jaisalmer stone and embellished with rich local textures, the rooms look out onto the endless golden expanses of the Thar Desert. The Jaisalmer Suite offers a living room and dining room along with his and hers dressing rooms, a private pool and a dedicated butler.
Jaisalmer’s isolated location and harsh surroundings make it rather difficult to reach, although is it certainly worth the long road journey. The closest major city to Jaisalmer is Jodhpur, also known as Rajasthan’s Blue City. The most efficient way to visit Jaisalmer is after spending a night in Bikaner, and then departing to Jodhpur after a two night stay in Jaisalmer. Alternatively, take a domestic flight from Delhi to Jodhpur airport before heading on to Jaisalmer.
Rooms at Suryagarh and The Serai start from £146 and £350 per night respectively.
Madeleine Hann is CEO and Co-Founder of Indian Excursions Co.