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.
This list of top Jodhpur attractions and places to visit will give you a diverse experience of the city. Jodhpur Heritage Walk conducts an immersive three to four hour guided tour through the city. If you have a spare day or two, visit nearby Bishnoi village or Osian, where you can see carved temples and go on a less-touristy camel safari.
Imposing Mehrangarh Fort, which rises above the "Blue City", is one of the largest and most famous forts in India. As impressive as it is, as a well-preserved heritage structure, there's so much more to discover inside. The fort has been privately restored and its museum has an outstanding display of royal memorabilia, including about 15,000 items from Maharaja Gaj Singh II's personal collection. It also has the only professional museum shop in India. The cultural performances that happen daily at various places inside the fort, as part of the special focus on folk art and music, are another highlight. Plan your visit with this complete guide to Mehrangarh Fort.
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
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 90 minutes to complete. Groups of up to 12 people depart at appointed times. It's located on the north side of the Mehrangarh Fort.
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, while the inside is adorned with portraits of Rathore 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.
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, an invasive thorny shrub overran the park. After the bush was eradicated, more than 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.
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 this area too, 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.
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 the 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.
Stroll Along the Streets of the Blue City
Unlike the crowded clock tower area, the blue part of Jodhpur behind the fort, known as Navchokiya, 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. You can even stay amid the blue houses: Some of the top options in the area are Singhvi's Haveli, Jewel Palace Haveli, Rani Mahal, and Jaswant Bhawan Homestay.
Tour the Area Around Gulab Sagar
About 10 minutes walk north of Toorji ka Jhalra step well is Gulab Sagar. This 18th century lake played an important role in Jodhpur's traditional water management system. Not only does it provide a superb spot for photographing Mehrangarh Fort in the background, there are many interesting step wells and temples hidden in the lanes around it. They include Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra step well and Kunjabihari Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. You can discover them on this Step Wells and Temples walking tour.
Magnificent Umaid Bhawan Palace, completed in 1944, was one of the last grand 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 or more per night for a room, you can still get a glimpse inside the palace by having a pricey 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.
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.
If you love not just Indian sweets but all kinds of Indian snacks, you'll 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 vast. Try the Mawa Kachori, a prestigious dish that originated from Jodhpur.
Sambhali Boutique is the perfect place to pick up some high-quality Jodhpur handicrafts and clothing in both Indian and Western styles. All products are 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.
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 fantastic 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! But be careful that they don't snatch your food!