If you fell in love with Jaipur watching The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, why not explore the ‘Pink City’ for yourself? The city is crammed with splendid forts, sumptuous palaces and religious temples which will easily keep you transfixed for three days.
The City Palace
Nestled in the heart of the Old City, the City Palace is the perfect place to start your discovery of Jaipur and its intriguing historical masterpieces. It’s a good idea to hire a guide who will show you around the complex which also includes the palaces of Chandra Mahal (now a museum and royal residence) and Mubarak Mahal (also a museum and a fusion of Rajput, European and Islamic architectural styles).
For something a little more surreal yet still in the heart of Jaipur, UNESCO-listed Jantar Mantar presents a fascinating group of fourteen colossal observatories. These incredibly accurate and well preserved instruments were installed by Maharaja Jai Singh II in 1734 who regarded star alignment, eclipses and other celestial movements as critical to forecasting fate and fortune during wars. The centrepiece is one of the world’s largest sundial (Samrat Yantra) standing at 27 metres tall. This is a tranquil place to wander through after negotiating the chaos of the city centre.
Beat the crowds and the heat by visiting this charming and beautiful complex of immense fortifications in the morning. Dating back to the 16th century, the fort is situated on a ridge just 11km north of Jaipur and needless to say the views are amazing, particularly in the morning light. Inside there’s a palace with elegant state rooms complete with jewelled inlays, while the mirror palace, Sheesh Mahal is a highlight. Private guides take you around the entire fort complex (one hour costs around Rs900 for two people).
Jal Mahal (Water Palace)
Arguably Jaipur’s most serene sight, the low-rise Water Palace seems to float effortlessly in the middle of Sagar Lake. This was once a shooting lodge for the Maharajah and now the location of this sand-coloured wonder makes a beautiful escape from the rush of the city. Jahl Mahal is certainly a majestic sight and consequently Jaipur’s most photographed monument; however, it is not open to visitors as it is currently being transformed into a luxury restaurant
Perched atop the Hill of the Eagles (Cheel ka Teela) on the Aravalli range, Jaigarh Fort was built to protect Amer Fort and palace complex. Jaigarh is a rugged sight and extends for an impressive three kilometres. Don’t miss the cannon (Jaivana) which was made on the fort premises and once the worlds’ biggest of its kind on wheels. There’s also a museum and armoury to explore before or after you have taken your photos of the epic views of the hills and Amer Fort below. You might like to make this an excursion from the city at 10km from Japipur’s centre and move on the Nahargarh Fort – a scenic drive will be in store.
Galta Ji (Monkey Temple)
Both a sacred and touristic site, Galta Ji is also home to a sizeable colony of monkeys. Whether you come as a pilgrim, a tourist or a monkey enthusiast, you will find a unique Hindu temple located here – buy your bags of nuts and bananas at the Temple gates. The temple holds a natural spring which is channelled into seven large pools. Pilgrims and playful monkeys bathe in the holy waters while visitors also enjoy the short walk up to the Sun Temple – the perfect vantage point for watching the setting sun.
Galta Ji is 10k east of Jaipur city so a taxi or rickshaw ride will be in order. Alternatively, take the scenic half hour trek from the end of Surajpol Bazar Road in western Jaipur taking you directly to the Sun Temple.