Jodhpur, the second largest city in Rajasthan (albeit pleasingly unspoiled by haphazard development), has a fascinating past. In case you were wondering, yes, it is where jodhpurs got their name from! These unusual pants were designed by the Maharaja of Jodhpur's son, Pratap Singh, and worn by his polo team when visiting the Queen of England in 1897. Jodhpur is famous for its blue buildings, which were originally painted to signify that they were occupied by Brahmins (the highest caste in India).
These Jodhpur attractions and places to visit will give you a diverse experience of the city. If you have a spare day or two, visit nearby Bishnoi village (Bishnoi Village Safaris conduct tours) and/or Osian (where you can see carved temples and go on a less-touristy camel safari).
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Impregnable Mehrangarh Fort, which rises above the city, is one of the largest forts in India. As impressive as it is, as a well preserved heritage structure, there's so much more to discover inside. One of the highlights is the museum, which houses an outstanding collection of fine and applied arts from the Mughal period of Indian history. It even has the only professional museum shop in India. The Fort's ramparts are lined with antique artillery and offer a panoramic view of the "Blue City". Do allow plenty of time to visit the Fort -- you can spend hours wandering through it. Want a romantic evening dinner? The Chokelao Mahal Terrace restaurant serves traditional Rajasthani cuisine, while the city sparkles below. The Fort is also an evocative setting for music festivals. Don't miss the annual Rajasthan International Folk Festival in October and World Sufi Spirit Festival in February.
- Location: Above the Old City. The main entrance is at the northeast gate, Jaipol.
- E...ntry Cost: 600 rupees for foreigners and 100 rupees for Indians (discounts offered for students and senior citizens), plus 100 rupees for a still camera and 200 rupees for a video camera.
- Opening Hours: 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. daily.
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Adventure lovers can't pass up the unique opportunity to go zip-lining with Mehrangarh Fort as the backdrop. The circuit has six zip lines and takes around 1.5 hours to complete. Groups of up to 12 people depart at appointed times.
- Location: North side of Mehrangarh Fort.
- Entry Cost: Book online and get discounted rates of 1,800 rupees for adults, and 1,500 rupees for children and students. Otherwise, the cost is 1,899 rupees. It includes free fort entry.
- Opening Hours: Mid July until the end of May. Tours start daily at 9.30 a.m., 10.30 a.m., 11 a.m, 11.30 a.m., 3.30 p.m., 4 p.m., 4.30 p.m., and 5.00 p.m.
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Relax at Jaswant Thada
This intricately crafted cenotaph (empty commemorative tomb) was built in 1899, in honor of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. It features white marble lattice screens and whimsical domes. The inside is adorned with portraits of Ranthore rulers. It's a peaceful place to relax and enjoy stunning views of the Fort and city. Many a tired tourist sprawls on the front lawn to recuperate after sightseeing!
- Location: Just northeast of Mehrangarh Fort.
- Entry Cost: 30 rupees for foreigners and 15 rupees for Indians.
- Opening Hours: 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. daily.
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The Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park was developed in 2006, with the aim of restoring the natural ecology of a large rocky wasteland area next to the Fort. Neglected for many years, it was overrun by an invasive thorny shrub. After the shrub was eradicated, over 80 native species of rock-loving plants from the Thar desert were grown there. The Park extends across 70 hectares (around 200 acres) of rehabilitated land and has a walking trail. It's interesting to explore at different times of the year, as its foliage changes with the seasons.
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- Location: At the foot of Mehrangarh Fort. Enter from the Visitors' Center, 800 meters from the Fort's main gate.
- Entry Cost: 100 rupees for adults. Free for students. 200 rupees for a guide.
- Opening Hours: 8.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. daily.
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Check Out the Clock Tower and Old City Markets
A trip to Jodhpur wouldn't be complete without visiting the bustling Old City (many people choose to stay in it as well, as some of the best budget hotels in Jodhpur are located there and have fabulous Fort views). The Old City's famous landmark, the clock tower, stands at the heart of it -- and it's still working! Next to it, Sadar Market retains a traditional village bazaar feel. It's chaotic and colorful, and sells almost everything (including handicrafts, spices, saris and fabric). If you feel uncomfortable in crowds, you might prefer to take a walking tour rather than explore the market area yourself, as the congestion can be overwhelming. These walking tours offered by Jodhpur Magic and Virasat Experiences are two recommended options.
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Dine Overlooking the Step Well
An exciting Urban Regeneration Project is being undertaken to transform the Old City back to its former glory, but with a vibrant and hip spin. As a result, Jodhpur has a newly restored yet ancient step well, located just north of the clock tower. Built in the 1740s and called Toorji ka Jhalra, it sat stagnant for years, until the owners of the new heritage boutique Raas hotel purified the pool and sandblasted the steps. The area around it has been turned into a contemporary square with cool cafes and shops, including a Good Earth home decor store and a branch of Jaipur-based Gem Palace. A private door at Raas hotel will take you directly to the Step Well Square. Step Well Cafe has the same owners as Raas and provides the best view over the step well. It serves Continental and Indian cuisine, plus alcohol. However, its menu is quite limited. This walking tour will show you the hidden step wells and temples of the city, if you're interested in them.
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Stroll Along the Streets of the Blue City
Unlike the crowded clock tower area, the blue part of Jodhpur behind the Fort is refreshingly quiet and devoid of tourists. Don't miss spending some time leisurely strolling along its streets. It's also possible to go on a guided walking tour of the area to learn more about it. And, even stay in a heritage hotel amid the blue houses. The atmospheric Rani Mahal hotel is one of the best there.
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Magnificent Umaid Bhawan Palace, completed in 1944, was one of the last great palaces to be built in India. The royal family of Jodhpur still occupies a section of it. Most of the remainder has been converted into a luxurious palace hotel and unfortunately, it's off-limits to anyone who's not staying there. If you can't afford $600+ per night for a room, you can still get a glimpse inside the palace by having an expensive dinner at one of its restaurants or visiting the museum. The museum mostly displays old photos of the Maharaja and his family. There's a vintage watch and car collection as well. If you're into that kind of thing, it's worthwhile going there. Otherwise, you may be disappointed as you'll get to see very little of the palace.
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- Location: Airport Road, Jodhpur.
- Entry Cost: Museum entry fee is 100 rupees for foreigners and 30 rupees for Indians (free for hotel guests). Camera fee 30 rupees.
- Opening Hours: 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. daily.
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Spice Paradise is a spice shop that's run by a kindhearted husband and wife team (their special masala chai blend has been refined and perfected over the years, and is highly recommended). They also conduct Indian cooking classes, which are hugely popular with foreigners, in their humble kitchen. Along with delicious recipes, you'll get to meet a lovely family and gain priceless insight into Indian culture. If you don't have a lot of time in Jodhpur, do book in advance as classes are often full.
- Location: Girdi Kote, Amar Chowk, Jodhpur. It's just behind the Clock Tower.
- Cost: 1,000 rupees per person, for a three course meal. Classes are around 4 hours long.
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If you love not just Indian sweets but all kinds of Indian snacks, you'll definitely want to visit the iconic Janta Sweet Home, renowned for making some of the best treats in Jodhpur. They're fresh and delicious, and the range is huge. Try: the Mawa Kachori, a prestigious dish that originated from Jodhpur.
- Location: Nai Sarak, Ratanada, Jodhpur.
- Phone: (0291) 263-6666.
- Opening Hours: 6.30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
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Sambhali Boutique is the perfect place to pick up some gorgeous, top quality, Jodhpur handicrafts and clothing (both Indian and western style), all made by underprivileged women who are taught and employed by the Sambhali Trust. Items include silk and cotton camels and elephants, block-printed scarves and curtains, and shoulder bags. Custom orders can also be placed. If you're looking for cheap accommodations, the Sambhali Trust operates from a very charming little guesthouse (the Durag Niwas Guest House) that's a hit with backpackers. Long-term stays with all meals provided are possible.
- Location: 1 Old Public Park Lane, Near K. N. Hall Girls College, RaiKa Bagh, Jodhpur.
- Phone: (0)98 28 089293 or (0291) 251-2385.
- Opening Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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Visit Mandore and Mandore Gardens
Mandore was the capital of the Marwar region before Jodhpur was founded but now it's in a neglected state. There's an old fort, an eclectic collection of temples and cenotaphs, and a small museum in the Mandore Gardens. The gardens are beautiful, albeit unkempt in places and used as a local picnic spot. They're worth visiting for the amazing architecture and history of a bygone era. The best time to go is during the week, when it's quietest. If you love monkeys, you'll find plenty there! Be careful that they don't snatch your food though.
- Location: Northern outskirts of Jodhpur.
- Entry Cost: Gardens are free. Museum 50 rupees.
- Opening Hours: Gardens, daily from sunrise to sunset. Museum, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday to Thursday.