No trip around the glittering palaces and ancient forts of Rajasthan is complete without a stopover in Jaisalmer, a tourist hotspot teeming with accommodation options to suit all budgets. You bed down in the sand dunes one night and reward yourself with a luxury stay at a boutique haveli the next. And you’ll need it after a joint-jostling journey into the desert! Here´s my guide to the best things to do in dusty but dazzling Jaisalmer…
Approaching the ancient city of Jaisalmer is a breathtaking sight. The crumbling fort emerges towers over the rapidly developing city below. It’s the perfect springboard for a desert safari but the fort itself is a tiring place to visit, thanks to its abundance of guesthouses and tourist shops.
We wanted to experience one night staying in the fort itself, so checked into the cheap and cheerful Surya Paying Guest House. For just 100 rupee’s a night (£1), our room was perfectly adequate. Fresh towels aren’t provided but you get what you pay for – a simple but sparse room, shared bathroom and cold shower.
But it’s the onsite restaurant that really makes this place – treat yourself to spectacular panoramic views over the city and a hearty menu of Indian dishes, complete with some Rajastani specialities. We loved drinking Kingfisher on the roof and then slipping off our sandals for dinner on floor cushions at one of the cosy balcony tables.
Like most people, we ventured to Jaisalmer with one activity in mind – camel safari. It’s less of a camel ‘safari’, more of a gentle stroll from a local village over the dunes to a secluded spot about a kilometre into the desert. You might see the odd deer, eagle or desert fox on your safari but there’s certainly not an abundance of wildlife to spot in the barren landscape.
Choose your camel safari company carefully, pack appropriately and for added luxury, ensure your trip includes real beds instead of straw mats on the sand. It’s a truly unique experience to sleep beneath the stars and huddle around a campfire listening to the distant sound of your camels’ bells ringing as they roam around the dunes.
After a bumpy journey into the desert on our trusty steeds, Gary and Dave (we decided to give them quinisentially British names), we were in desperate need of some R&R. Luckily Jaisalmer is geared up for flash packers and has a hidden gem that’s perfect for a post-camel-safari-pick-me-up…
Gulaal Hotel looks like it should grace the pages of the Conde Naste magazines that lie neatly arranged in its lobby and it’s popularity is justified. We were treated to a pool-view room complete with a gleaming marble ensuite, a marshmallow-soft bed and pretty upholstered window seat – perfect to curl up with a book.
The rooftop restaurant has unparalleled fort views, especially stunning at dusk, and the food is some of the best I ate in India. Swathes of brightly coloured fabric are draped from the top of the haveli to the bottom, with open seating areas on every floor and bowls of fresh flowers scenting the communal areas. I really can’t think of a more romantic stop off to recoup post-safari and the helpful staff will make you feel like a Maharaja.
If you can drag yourself out your room or peel yourself away from the terrace, the garden houses a gorgeous pool area and spa. Our bottoms were sore after several bumpy hours lumbering through the desert but after an hour of being expertly pummled back to life, we were ready (but reluctant) to hit the road again.
Many thanks to the Gulaal Hotel for the complimentary night’s stay and discounted spa treatments. Rest assured though, all my opinions are genuine and this haveli is a truly magical place to stay. I’m open to press trips and hotel visits so if you have an opportunity which fits in with my blog, please get in touch.