14 Top Things to Do in Jaisalmer, India

A beautiful detail on a building near Jaisalmer Fort, Jaisalmer, India

Marc Guitard / Getty Images

The mirage-like golden city of Jaisalmer conjures up images of an Arabian Nights fable. Located in Rajasthan's Thar desert, this former medieval trading center's most notable characteristic is the abundance of structures built using distinctive yellow sandstone, making any location here a picture-perfect spot. To avoid the searing summer desert heat, visit between September and mid-March; the best time to experience the full splendor of the city is during the Jaisalmer Desert Festival, typically held in February. Here’s how to make the most of your time in the "Golden City of India."

01 of 14

Take a Gander at Tazia Tower

Tazia Tower in Jaisalmer, India

Dan / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Tazia Tower, Khejer Para, Manak Chowk, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan 345001, India

Constructed by Muslim artisans in 1886 as a gift for the reigning Hindu ruler, Maharawal Berisal Singh, the five-story Tazia Tower is a striking sight, emerging from the Badal Palace grounds in a break from the traditional Rajasthan and Rajputana architecture you'll find elsewhere in Jaisalmer. Located near the Amar Sagar Gate, Tazia Tower features individually designed balconies on each of its five floors, with the entire structure built to mimic a traditional Islamic mausoleum.

02 of 14

Check Out an Old Abandoned Village in the Desert

Kuldhara Abandoned Village in Jaisalmer, India

Keith Levit / Design Pics / Getty Images

VQ9P+W2J, Jiyai, Rajasthan 345001, India

According to local lore, the once-prosperous city of Kuldhara (25 minutes from Jaisalmer) was abandoned overnight by its townspeople after a minister announced his plans to marry the village chief's daughter, threatening them with a harsh response if they disobeyed. On their way out, they supposedly placed a curse on the city so that no one would ever live in the town again; so far, it seems to have worked.

Nowadays, the creepy ruins of the abandoned village make a great pitstop for visitors traveling from Jaisalmer to the Sam Sand Dunes (more on that later), especially since many people claim that they've experienced bizarre paranormal behavior during their stay. Villagers from neighboring towns are also known to close the gates to Kuldhara at sunset since the area is believed to be visited by supernatural beings after dark.

03 of 14

Unleash Your Inner Shopaholic at Local Markets and Bazaars

Bazaar in Jaisalmer, India

Travel Wild / Getty Images

Sadar Bazar, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan 345001, India

For a chance to experience market life and end up with some killer souvenirs, head to Jaisalmer's fabulous and colorful bazaars and markets. Start at Sadar Bazaar, where you can pick up everything from jewelry and traditional-style clothing to leather products, carpets, and paintings. If you have your heart set on buying a saree while you're in India, head to Bhatia Bazaar, one of the city's oldest shopping areas and a great place to find garments made of silk, cotton, and other fine fabrics. Otherwise, try Sonaron Ka Baas for all things silver jewelry, Pansari Bazaar for authentic handicrafts and handmade puppets, Manak Chowk for more leather goods, and Seema Gram for colorful scarves.

04 of 14

Visit the Jaisalmer Fort Palace Museum and Heritage Centre

Jaisalmer fort in India

Wigbert Röth / Getty Images

Fort Rd, Dhibba Para, Manak Chowk, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan 345001, India

Jaisalmer's ethereal sandstone fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site built in 1156 by Rajput ruler Jaisal, resembles a massive sandcastle rising from the desert. What really makes the site unusual, however, is that it's one of the few living forts left in the world, with thousands of people currently residing within its impressive walls. The fort is also home to the former Maharaja's palace as well as several hotels, guesthouses, temples, shops, and restaurants. Unfortunately, the fort’s condition is deteriorating, as time goes on and more drain water makes its way into the foundations. For this reason, many visitors opt to stay in nearby hotels offering evocative views of the structure instead of accommodations inside it.

The price of entry includes an audio guide, but you'll need to pay extra to take your camera inside (video cameras cost a bit more). If you’d prefer a guided experience here, tour company Jaisalmer Magic runs a three-hour daily heritage walking tour.

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05 of 14

Explore the Jain Temples Inside Jaisalmer Fort

Jain temples at Jaisalmer

Godong / Getty Images

Desuri, 4F8F+749, Ranakpur Rd, Sadri, Rajasthan 306702, India
Phone +91 86964 53616

One of the most interesting attractions inside Jaisalmer Fort is the stunning series of seven interconnected Jain temples that date back to the 12th and 15th centuries. Carved out of sandstone, the intricate details they exhibit rival the marble Jain temple complex at Ranakpur. You'll need to remove your shoes and all leather items before entering; there is a small fee to enter (local residents need not pay for entry) and it'll cost a bit more for the privilege of bringing in your camera.

06 of 14

Discover the Majestic Havelis (Mansions)

Upward view of Patwa ki Haveli, Jaisalmer

Emad Aljumah / Getty Images

No. 3129, opposite Choora Paada, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan 345001, India
Phone +91 98281 45552

Jaisalmer is also known for the fairy-tale architecture of its magnificent historic havelis (mansions), located both inside and outside the fort. Many can be found in the narrow lanes just a 10-minute walk to the north. In this area, the 19th-century Patwa Haveli is the city's biggest and most important, consisting of a cluster of five mansions built by a wealthy Jain trader and his sons. The site, which has since been converted into a museum, is particularly impressive, with intricate stonework and artwork on full display. Nearby, the distinctively shaped Salam Singh Ki Haweli (Moti Mahal) and Nathmal Haveli are worth visiting as well—inside Nathmal Ki Haveli, the beautiful gold paintings are a highlight.

07 of 14

Embark on an Epic Camel Safari

Tourists Riding Camel through the Thar Desert near Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

Pintai Suchachaisri / Getty Images

Gopa Chowk, Dhibba Para, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan 345001, India
Phone +91 94143 19921

Most visitors will opt for a camel safari, a quintessential Jaisalmer experience since it provides a rare opportunity to witness the rustic, rural desert life of India. Everything from quick one-day safaris or ones as long as 30 days are typically available. Whichever you choose, be sure to pick your provider carefully, as the safari business is extraordinarily competitive and you will definitely get what you pay for. Recommended vendors include Sahara Travels (located next to the Fort gate), Trotters Independent Travel, and Real Desert Man Camel Safaris.

08 of 14

Spend Some Time in the Thar Desert

Dancers at Sam Sand Dunes near Jaisalmer, India

Ayan82 / Getty Images

Dhibba Para, Manak Chowk, Amar Sagar Pol, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan 345001, India
Phone +91 70238 14843

Most visitors will head straight to the famously picturesque Sam Sand Dunes, located about 50 minutes west of Jaisalmer, at sunset, where cultural performances and camel rides create a carnival-like atmosphere. It's also possible to stay overnight close to Dunes by glamping in style at a luxury-style desert camp (there are several in the area to choose from). Also worth checking out on the way to Sam Sand Dunes, the Kuldhara Abandoned Village is a spooky but interesting place to stop by for a visit.

If you'd prefer a more peaceful desert sojourn, the dunes around Khuri Village in Desert National Park, located about an hour southwest of Jaisalmer, would certainly be more suitable. Accommodations are available in small resorts and traditional-style huts (Badal House is recommended for an authentic local experience), and you can go on a camel safari.

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09 of 14

Eat Breakfast Among the Peacocks at Khaba Fort

Peacock in Rajasthan near Jaisalmer, India

Danita Delimont / Getty Images

Khaba Fort, Dedha, Rajasthan 345001, India

If you don't mind getting up early, the luxurious Suryagarh Hotel offers guests the chance to enjoy breakfast at the ruins of an old desert fort while marveling over the remarkable spectacle of a huge flock of peacocks being fed by a local boy. At sunrise, these magnificent birds arrive at Khaba Fort, located in an abandoned Paliwal village about 40 minutes west of Jaisalmer (toward the Sam Sand Dunes). In addition to seeing the peacocks and feasting on a wealth of Indian-style breakfast items, you'll get to enjoy evocative views of the village and explore the rest of the fort afterward.

10 of 14

Watch the Sunset at Vyas Chhatri

Sunset point, Jaisalmer

Beyondmylens / Getty Images

Dhibba Para, Manak Chowk, Dr. K. L. Achalvanshi Colony, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan 345001, India

Vyas Chhatri, an impressive sandstone cenotaph located on the edge of Jaisalmer (north of the Fort), is dedicated to the great sage Vyasa, who authored the Hindu epic "The Mahabharata." This haunting place is used as a cremation ground for Pushkarna Brahmins and contains many empty tombs erected in honor of notable ones. The specially crafted cenotaphs are referred to as chhatris (umbrellas) because of their domes. Head here for spectacular sunsets.

11 of 14

Admire the Cenotaphs at Bada Bagh Temple

Bada Bagh at sunset in Jaisalmer, India

Ayan82 P / Getty Images

XV4Q+23X, Rajasthan 345001, India

Jaisalmer is home to another group of similar-looking cenotaphs in a large garden about six kilometers away, erected in honor of the city's royal rulers from the 16th to 20th centuries. The last cenotaph to be built is dedicated to Maharaja Jawahar Singh, who reigned after India’s Independence; it remains incomplete, however, due to his death a year later, which was seen by the family as a bad omen. Most intriguing are the plaques on the cenotaphs, which show both the maharaja and maharani together, indicating that the queen threw herself on her husband's funeral pyre. In contrast to the ancient cenotaphs, modern wind turbines also populate the breezy hill to help generate electricity.

12 of 14

Chill by the Water at Gadisar Lake

Gadsisar Lake in Jaisalmer, India

BremecR / Getty Images

Gadisar Lake Rd, Postal Colony, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan 345001, India

Gadisar Lake is a huge artificial reservoir on the southeastern edge of the city that was built by Maharawal Gadsi Singh in the 14th century; it provided the only water supply to the town until 1965. The many small temples and shrines surrounding the lake make it an inviting place to relax. Migratory waterfowl are an added attraction in winter, along with the numerous catfish swimming by that love to be fed. Boats are available to rent as well.

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13 of 14

Learn About Local Heritage

Rajasthan puppets in Jaisalmer, India

Mark Hannaford / GettyImages

Near, Gandhi Chowk Rd, Sadar Bazar, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan 345001, India
Phone +91 94141 50762

You'll find a few small, privately-owned museums in Jaisalmer where you can learn more about the area’s local history and culture. The Thar Heritage Museum contains an eclectic assortment of artifacts including fossils, documents, portraits, photos, sculptures, coins, manuscripts, turbans, weapons, and kitchen equipment. All were collected by the owner, who provides informative and entertaining guided tours, and also runs the nearby Desert Handicraft Emporium.

The Desert Culture Center and Museum near Gadisar Lake is deservedly popular, operated by a local historian and teacher who also presides over the Folklore Museum. Its diverse collection includes regional musical instruments, former currencies, traditional jewelry worn by desert women, textiles, hunting items, royal memorabilia, artillery, and armor. The entry fee covers both museums, each of which holds a puppet show in the evening.

14 of 14

Dine at Rooftop Restaurants

Jaisalmer Fort from Jaisal Italy restaurant

Maremagnum / Getty Images

Mandir Palace, Gandhi Chowk Rd, near Bank Of Baroda, Sadar Bazar, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan 345001, India
Phone +91 2992 252 733

Jaisalmer's atmospheric rooftop restaurants are ideal for a special meal overlooking the fort and market. If you'd like to sample some local cuisine, head to The Trio at Gandhi Chowk. Nearby, the friendly Pleasant Haveli Hotel rooftop restaurant is recommended for its fresh north Indian cuisine and views. Gaj's Restaurant, a few minutes north on foot, is the only place serving Korean food in Jaisalmer, although its Indian food is great, too.

Cafe the Kaku on Patwa Haveli Road is an appealing restaurant and a great place to enjoy the sunset while feasting on fine global cuisine. c is situated on the fort's boundary wall just inside the First Fort Gate and specializes in Italian food and coffee. The restaurant atop the boutique Hotel First Gate Home Fusion is also excellent, with tasty fusion dishes inspired by Italian and Indian vegetarian food. The hotel’s cocktail bar features live music as well. On the outskirts of the city, Wyra Rooftop Restaurant at the Jaisalmer Marriott Resort and Spa is worth a splurge; reservations are required and it's only open for dinner.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • When is the best month to visit Jaisalmer?

    The most popular time to visit Jaisalmer is between October and March, when the desert city is at its coolest. If you want to avoid the crowds, though, plan your trip during the September shoulder season.

  • What are the top foods to try in Jaisalmer?

    Some of the top foods to try in Jaisalmer include Haldi ki Sabji, a tumeric yogurt curry best enjoyed during winter, and Ker Sangri, a traditional local dish made from pickled Indigenous berries and beans grown in the Thar Desert. For street food, try Pyaaz ki Kachori, deep-fried pastry discs stuffed with a spicy onion filling.

  • What is the most famous attraction in Jaisalmer?

    Jaisalmer is perhaps best known for the Jaisalmer Fort, built in 1156 by Rajput ruler Jaisal. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's one of the only remaining living forts left. During your visit, be sure to visit the seven interconnected Jain temples, which are housed within the fort's walls and date back to the 12th and 15th centuries.

Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. UNESCO. "Hill Forts of Rajasthan." Accessed September 8, 2022.

  2. Rajasthan Tourism Office. "Jain Temples of Jaisalmer." Accessed September 8, 2022.

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14 Top Things to Do in Jaisalmer, India