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Best Overall: Exotic Luxury Camps - See Rates at TripAdvisor
Best Runner-Up: Sand Voyages Camp - See Rates at TripAdvisor
Best Budget: Oasis Camp Sam - See Rates at TripAdvisor
Best Location: Prince Desert Camp - See Rates at TripAdvisor
Best Luxury: SUJÁN The Serai - See Rate sat TripAdvisor
Best Boutique: Damodra Desert Camp - See Rates at TripAdvisor
Best Near Khuri: Pal Rajah Resort - See Rates at TripAdvisor
Nicknamed the Golden City, the Rajasthani settlement of Jaisalmer occupies a sandstone ridge above India’s magnificent Thar Desert. Visitors flock from far and wide to admire its ancient fort, and to venture out into the desert on a camel or jeep safari. The best way to experience the wonder of the desert, with its rolling sand dunes and star-studded night skies, is to stay at one of the region’s many glamping camps. Most are situated near the Sam Sand Dunes, although the Khuri Sand Dunes have become a less commercialized option for travelers wanting to step off the beaten track. In this article, we look at a few of our top picks across seven different categories.
Best Overall: Exotic Luxury Camps
Located approximately 20 miles from Jaisalmer, near Kanoi village and the Sam Sand Dunes, Exotic Luxury Camps receives flawless TripAdvisor reviews for its cleanliness and hospitality. Unlike many of the Sam Sand Dunes camps, it’s set back from the main road for a valuable sense of peace and seclusion. At night, the lack of light pollution makes for some spectacular stargazing. There are 26 luxury tents to choose from, each with antique furniture and beautiful blue stenciling on the canvas walls.
Choose whether you want a room with air-conditioning or not, then opt for a tent with a king bed or two twins. Either way, you can expect premium linens and an ensuite bathroom with a western-style toilet and hot water shower. The tents are arranged around a central performance space, where guests are treated to displays of traditional Rajasthani folk dancing and singing around the bonfire each evening. Afterward, sit down to a delectable buffet of authentic Indian cuisine in the dining tent. Your stay also includes a buffet breakfast, a welcoming ceremony, and a 45-minute camel ride into the dunes to watch the sunset.
Best Runner-Up: Sand Voyages Camp
Similar in many ways to Exotic Luxury Camps, Sand Voyages Camp is also set back from the main road that connects Jaisalmer to the Sam Sand Dunes. Located near Kanoi, the camp offers camel and Jeep safaris into the dunes, as well as cultural walking tours of a traditional Thar Desert village, and Museum and Temple tours of Jaisalmer city. If you’d rather make yourself at home and enjoy the novelty of camp life, games including cricket, badminton, and volleyball are available for your entertainment.
However you choose to spend your day, mealtimes are a highlight. The camp restaurant serves authentic Rajasthani and pan-Indian cuisine in the form of buffet breakfasts and dinners, and a la carte lunches. In the evening, opt to eat inside or outside around the bonfire, where you will be serenaded by the camp’s excellent folk musicians. In-room dining is also offered. All 20 luxury tents are decorated in Rajasthani style with hand-stitched and printed canvas walls. Amenities include a private veranda, a king bed, and an ensuite bathroom with 24-hour hot and cold water.
Best Budget: Oasis Camp Sam
Oasis Camp Sam is located on the main road near the Sam Sand Dunes and is both louder and more commercialized than the others on this list. However, it also receives rave reviews for its friendly staff and is considered one of the best options for those on a budget. Highlights include the complimentary sunset camel safari, and the Rajasthani cultural program hosted around the campfire each evening. The latter tends to evolve into a lively Bollywood dance party, which could be a pro or a con depending on your perspective.
Tents are simple yet comfortable and equipped with all the basic amenities you need to feel at home (including a private flush toilet and washstand, and a large bed). Outside, a table and pair of chairs give you a place to sit and observe camp life in relative peace. For those that don’t love the idea of sleeping under canvas, the camp also offers a range of permanent cottages (although these are more expensive). Packages include welcome drinks, a buffet dinner with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, and a buffet breakfast the following morning.
Best Location: Prince Desert Camp
If location is your top priority, Prince Desert Camp can’t be beaten. In addition to being situated far enough from the area’s larger, louder camps to ensure peace and quiet, it has the privilege of overlooking the Sam Sand Dunes themselves. This means you have hardly any distance to travel when embarking on a camel safari or high-octane Jeep adventure. You can even walk into the dunes in time to catch the sunrise each morning. Alternatively, lie back and admire them from the comfort of your own bed.
The evening draws to a close with cultural dances and folk performances around the bonfire, although the real stars of the show shine brightly in the dazzling night skies above the camp. Your stay includes non-alcoholic drinks and buffet-style Rajasthani breakfasts and dinners. The camp’s cuisine gets mixed reviews on TripAdvisor. There are 30 Swiss tents to choose from, all with an ensuite bathroom, 24-hour electricity and hot water, and an electric heater to ward off the cold at night.
Best Luxury: SUJÁN The Serai
For the last word in luxury, choose SUJÁN The Serai, a Relais & Châteaux property located on a 100-acre private estate to the east of Jaisalmer. Rendered in tones of white and gold, it’s completely separate from the desert’s other tourist camps and dedicates itself to providing the most opulent experience imaginable. All 21 tents are outfitted in regal style. Six of them have their own private walled-in garden and sunken, heated plunge pool; while the Royal Suite has its own spa, outdoor pool, and tents for dining and lounging.
There are many ways to spend your time in the desert. Indulge in an Ayurvedic massage or reflexology session at SUJÁN spa, or get in touch with your spiritual side during the daily yoga and meditation classes. Local artisans conduct workshops on pottery spinning, wood carving, and weaving; while camelback jaunts take you into the dunes in time for romantic sundowner ceremonies. In the evening, traditional Manganiyar folk singers entertain guests as their ancestors have done for 13 centuries. Feeling hungry? Homegrown organic ingredients are used to prepare the very best local and international delicacies.
Best Boutique: Damodra Desert Camp
Although none of the camps on this list are huge, Damodra Desert Camp offers the most boutique experience of all with just 10 luxury tents. Located roughly 18 miles from Jaisalmer in a peaceful setting off the main road to Sam Sand Dunes, it prides itself on the warmth of its traditional Indian hospitality. Each of the Swiss tents is air-conditioned and ensures your comfort with deluxe linens, premium Ayurvedic toiletries, and a Western en-suite bathroom. Spend quiet moments sitting out on your private patio.
During the day, grab one of the camp’s complimentary sandboards and head out into the dunes; or save your dune experience for the included sunset camel trek. Damodra also offers overnight and multi-day camel safaris for those with more time on their hands. In the evening, the campfire is lit, and traditional Rajasthani folk singers and dancers entertain while you sip chai and savor Indian appetizers. An authentic dinner is served in the air-conditioned dining area and the following morning, you’ll be treated to a buffet breakfast with local and continental options.
Best Near Khuri: Pal Rajah Resort
If you’d like to explore the quieter Khuri Sand Dunes, Pal Rajah Resort is an excellent place to make your base. Located almost 30 miles southwest of Jaisalmer near Barna village, the resort is laid out in the style of a traditional Thar Desert camp with a campfire in the center of the tents and plenty of wide-open spaces for admiring the desert scenery. In the evening, the campfire area doubles as a stage for authentic Rajasthani singing and dancing displays.
Other activities include Jeep and camel safaris, with the latter ranging from half a day to a week in length, depending on your preferences. If you only have time for a single night at the camp, don’t worry – a sunset camel ride into the dunes is included in your package. Also included are welcome drinks, an Indian buffet dinner, and a breakfast buffet with tea and coffee. All food is vegetarian. In terms of accommodation, choose from eight Swiss tents and a handful of traditional mud huts, all with carpeted rooms and artisan furnishings. En-suite bathrooms promise running hot water.