I bought Fodor’s Guide to India as my tour guide and the first sentence in the Jaipur section says, “You have not seen the world until you’ve seen Jaipur.” Too true.
Jaipur was the home of royalty, a fact that it very much takes pride in. It’s walls are painted in pink (my rickshaw driver swore it’s orange!), and you can feel the eminence as you drive through Tripoli Gate and enter the heart of the city. There is so much to see in Jaipur, so I’d recommend at least staying for three days, but honestly, you can spend an entire week in this city and experience everything thoroughly.
So, Jaipur may be the city I visited with the most tourist attractions. Since it has such a rich history rooted in royalty, there are a lot of palaces (mahals) and forts to visit. Luckily, almost everything is within close vicinity and you can spend one day exploring Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar, and City Palace.
From the top of Hawa Mahal, you can see the breathtaking views of the terrain around you. Jaipur is enclosed by forts to the east and west (I believe!) and you are able to see Amber Fort in the distant background from Hawa Mahal. Unforgettable.
City Palace is equally, if not more beautiful than Hawa Mahal, but I still loved Hawa Mahal more. You are free to roam all over Hawa Mahal (considering it was a place royalty viewed the public), but City Palace was stricter and you may need a tour guide. We were fortunate enough to have the kindest security guard escort us around City Palace where we learned the history of princes and especially, the Elephant Prince.
The most impressive site (aside from the forts!) is Jantar Mantar. It’s an observatory and probably the most systemic observatory I have ever witnessed. Again, this will be a great place for a tour guide (we did not have the luck of having someone show us around), but I did listen in on some English tours that described a few instruments. One of which was able to tell time to the 6th second of every minute. Impressed yet?
You cannot complete a trip to Jaipur without visiting the Sun Temple. Beware. There are plenty of monkeys and they are definitely not as nice as the ones I witnessed at the Elephanta Caves in Mumbai. However, if you get to the top safe and sound you have a view that you will remember for ages. The sun never looked larger as it set over the horizon in front of us. A great way to end an evening of sight-seeing!
Jaipur is definitely a tourist city. The attractions cater to them (i.e by hiking up their “foreigner” prices) and you’ll see any type of ethnicity hop on and off a private tour bus. Like any other city, there is a lot more to witness in Jaipur than just their sites. Certain areas may not be totally safe at night, but during the day, feel free to ask a local to recommend a great place to grab a chapati roti with masala or a place to enjoy a cup of chai. Don’t be afraid of the environment that isn’t glimmering with gold. Sometimes, those tend to be the most beautiful.
So, when you do visit Jaipur, you cannot miss out on the chance to spend a day with an elephant. This was my absolute favorite part of the trip and the excursion I most anticipated. I spent an entire day at Elefantastic, one of the more ethically-based elephant villages in Jaipur. The owner, Rahul, prides himself in the way he treats his elephants and you can see it in the happiness and health of these spectacular creatures. You’ll spend majority of your time feeding them (they can EAT), but after you get to paint, bathe (you may get a shower as well!), and partake in an hour long ride around the elephant villages. Seriously, it was the experience of a lifetime.
Lastly, do not skip out on the forts (like me!). I only visited Amber Fort for their light show, which was really informative, long, and (I know people may hate me), boring. It’s a total tourist trap that I fell for and I would have been fine just exploring the fort instead. Nahagar Fort is equally incredible and definitely worth setting aside a day to visit. Depending on how fast you are, you can probably see both within a day, but take your time and explore! It is so worth it!