Stunning Jaisalmer, India’s Sandcastle City, Is Perfect For A Peace Out
It’s no secret that India’s hustle and bustle can be exhausting. From the chaos of its big cities to the frenzy of Varanasi’s ghats, travel through the subcontinent is an overload for the senses. And sometimes, little traveller, you just need a place to eat your thali and read a chunk of Shantaram in peace.
When I was in the middle of a big India adventure, think Eat Pray Love but I was 22 and not recently divorced, I hightailed it out to Jaisalmer for a much-needed time out. Jaisalmer is a remote desert citadel that rises, like a giant sandcastle, from the dunes of Rajasthan.
If you’re after low key magical vibes, technology-free evenings and space to breathe, think or reconnect, then Jaisalmer is the oasis for you.
Peace out in Jaisalmer
There is so much, or so little (depending on your vibe), to do in India’s Golden City. You can get out into nature, drink a thousand cups of tea on a rooftop, or aimlessly wander through centuries of Rajput history.
Either way, the aim of the game is to relax, let loose and potentially rehabilitate from that infamous Delhi Belly experience you had a week ago. These are the top Jaisalmer activities for the ultimate chill:
Take a camel safari
If you’re craving a little technology-free time there’s no better Jaisalmer adventure than the very-much-without-wi-fi Thar Desert. What’s more, you can do it by friendly camel. Whether you want to hit the dunes for a day or go full Indiana Jones for a week, the choice is yours.
Either way, local guides are on hand to help you saddle up and navigate your way across the singing sands. Hot tip: bring a few snacks for your camel. Bribery gets you a long way in the humps world.
Get lost in the fort
If you can imagine a giant sandcastle erected in the middle of a desert, then you’re coming close to Jaisalmer Fort, which is World Heritage-listed as one of Rajasthan’s Hill Forts. Kumbhalgarh is one of India’s most breathtaking sites, you can wander the 49 bastions for aerial views across Jaisalmer, get lost among the winding laneways or sit beneath a rampart and watch the world go by.
The fort was built in 1156 by Indian King Rawal Jaisal in an effort to be invisible to enemies and indeed, from over 40 kms away all visitors can see is a sheer golden cliff.
Sleep in the sand dunes
If you love camping, prepare to take that passion to the next level. There is nothing like seeing the sunrise over a horizon of sand dunes from the comfort of your swag. Nothing beats an Indian BBQ in the middle of the desert. Can you imagine going to sleep under nothing but a blanket of stars? A night out in the sand dunes is an almost religious experience for nature frothers.
Sample the local produce
For anyone who is 420 inclined, bhang is legal in Jaisalmer. Bhang is basically cannabis buds and leaves mixed into a paste and served with either milk, ghee or spices. The aim of the game? A happy little (legal) buzz.
There is one licensed store in Jaisalmer, aptly called the Bhang Shop (double points for directness), where you can help yourself to a bhang-laced lassi, cookie or cake. Choose your vessel then choose your strength (medium or strong) but bhang-easy because it hits everyone differently.
Relax on a rooftop
You’re in India, which means you’re eating food. Lots of it. And that won’t change in Jaisalmer, if anything it will only get better when you add a desert citadel rooftop to the mix. This city is bountiful with sky high perches to appreciate the epic vista. Get high (literally) and clear your head. Eat some tandoori chicken while you’re at it.
Sunrise at Gadi Sagar lake
Lake Gadi Sagar is basically a man-made oasis. Originally a reservoir established in 1367 to provide water to the people of Jaisalmer it’s now one of the most beautiful attractions this side of Jaipur. Spend a day wandering the shrines, temples and ghats that line its banks or jump in a boat and see it from the water.
I want to say that this is the perfect Instagram location but how about we just leave the phone at the hostel for this one and enjoy the moment with our eyeballs?
The road to Jaisalmer
The speed and arrival time of an Indian train is consistently impossible to predict. If you’re the making the journey from the heart of India, say Delhi, you’re looking at a 17-hour overnight train. Sure, it’s long but don’t let that put you off. Train travel in India should be experienced by everyone at least once in their lives.
There’s just something about waking up to the shouts of a chai wallah, playing cards with local kids on beds-turned-tables and navigating the precarious bathroom situation.
If you’re flat against taking the train there are always public buses heading into Rajasthan, you’d just have to jump off and on again at major cities like Jaipur. But really, take the train. You’re young, you’re fun, you’re brave.
Now you’re ready to explore Jaisalmer, check out these other beautiful sites in India.
How to get there
(Lead image: Albert Dezetter / Pixabay)