Jaisalmer is also called the ‘Golden City’ and is famous for its carved yellow sandstone architecture and golden sand dunes. One of Rajasthan's most extrodinary destinations, Jaisalmer was founded by, Raja Rawal Jaisal in 1156 A D and presents the visitor with an unforgettable medieval Indian time capsule. Our guide of the best things to do in Jaisalmer is designed by residents from the city and is presented as a starting point to help you make the most of your opportunities.
Sonaar Haveli has city views and is within easy walking distance of the Old City. Our Sonaar Haveli in-house concierge can provide more advice about the best things to do in Jaisalmer and make private sightseeing arrangements for you at competitive rates.
(1 Km from Sonaar Haveli)
Gadisar Lake is usually the starting point of the Jaisalmer tour. Gadisar, is a pioneering man-made water conservation tank built in the 15th century. It was built by the then Maharawal of Jaisalmer, Gadsi Singh.
The grand enterance gate to the lake was built in the 19th century by a popular courtesan called Tilon, as she used to dance beautifully by the lake and wanted to make something by which she would be remembered forever. Gadisar Lake is surrounded by shrines and temples, which represent the intricate Jaisalmer architecture.
(1 Km from Sonaar Haveli)
Jaisalmer Fort known as Sonar Qila is a yellow sandstone structure and is 250 feet tall reinforced by an imposing crenellated stone wall about 30 feet high.
Jain temple and Library: Inside the fort is an enchanting cow-web of narrow lanes dotted with some beautiful havelis, five interconnected palaces and three beautifully sculptured Jain temples of the 12th-15th century A.D. The Jain temples are a must see and open early morning and close at 12pm. Near the temples is ‘Gyan Bhandar’ the library which houses some of India’s oldest manuscripts related to the Jain religion from the 10th and 12th century.
The fort is approached through four gateways- Akhaiyal Pol (gate), Ganesh Pol, Suraj Pol and Hava Pol. It is an uphill climb through the fort on cobbled streets or you can also take a ‘tuk tuk’ up to the top of the fort.
Eco-tourism is an important dynamic for Jaisalmer especially as one fourth of the old city's population resides within the fort. Consequently, several sanitation pipes and drains run through the fort structure and the water drainage from these is slowly eroding the hill the fort is perched on and the yellow sandstone of the fort structure itself. Although, there is no imminent danger, it is said that the structure may collapse one day if preventive measures are not taken. Several charities are working to save the Jaisalmer Fort.
(1Km from Sonaar Haveli)
Jaisalmer is an unhurried town full of beautifully etched yellow sandstone buildings in the narrow winding roads with bright colored doors of the local homes which are usually open and you can take a peek into the local everyday life. The streets often echo with desert musicians playing fascinating desert musical instruments like the ‘kamaicha’ and ‘ravanhattha’.
One can see camels and bulls wandering amidst the colorfully dressed and jeweled local women and grand turbaned men with long well groomed moustaches. The city has great opportunities for keen photographers and those who want to soak up the Rajasthani culture.
There are three famous havelis which once served as the private mansions for Jaisalmer’s influential and powerful families which are known for their extravagant yet intricate carvings and murals.
(2 Km from Sonaar Haveli)
Patwon-ki Haveli is the oldest and largest of the 3 havelis, being a cluster of 5 mansions. It was built by a businessman called, Guman Chand Patwa, a gold and silver brocade trader and father to 5 sons. He built 1 haveli for each son. Although the family traded in real gold brocade and threads for Indian robes there are rumours that they made a lot of money by selling opium and hence created this ostentatious mansion, that took half a century to build.
Inside the haveli are exquisitely carved pillars, extensive corridors and latticed balconies. One of the five apartments is, beautifully adorned by murals.
(3 Km from Sonaar Haveli)
Salam Singh-ki-Haveli, also known as Jahazmahal (ship palace), resembles a ship stern being narrow on the base and wide at the top. Built about 300 years ago under the instruction of the then Prime Minister of Jaisalmer Salam Singh this haveli is known for its roof perched on the sandstone structure with numerous brackets carved in the form of peacocks.
(2Km from Sonaar Haveli)
Nathmalji-ki-Haveli was commissioned by Diwan Nathmal the then Prime Minister of Jaisalmer to be built by 2 brothers one built the right wing and the other the left wing. The haveli entrance is decorated with yellow stone elephants and the interior walls are full of miniature paintings.
(45Km, 1 hour drive from Sonaar Haveli)
The romance of Jaisalmer is incomplete without a trip to the most picturesque Sam sand dunes in the lap of the Thar Desert. You can visit early morning at sunrise or to watch the sunset in the ripples of the wind caressed dunes. Be mindful that the best way to see and enjoy the dunes is on camel back.
The dunes are filled with the golden light of the rising and setting sun and dotted with colorfully dressed camels and even more glamorous camel keepers and desert musicians. It is here where visitors capture perfect photographs and unforgettable memories to take back home.
(17Km, 30 mins Drive from Sonaar Haveli)
West of Jaisalmer lies the ruins of the abandoned city of Kuldhara. Visiting Kuldhara is a unique experience where you can relive the ancient legend in the beautifully planned, uninhabited settlement with desert winds swirling through the eerie silence.
The Paranormal Society of Delhi has acknowledged this town as haunted and it is said that no one is able to spend a night there.
Once upon a time, Kuldhara was the home of Paliwal Bhramins (priests) who are believed to be happily settled as farmers in the city and the surrounding villages since 1300 AD. On one dark night of 1825 Kudhara and the surrounding 85 villages were abandoned overnight and cursed. No one knows where the inhabitants went but it is said they left to protect their honour.
Legend has it that the Diwan of Jaisalmer Salim Singh fell in love the the Paliwal Village cheiftain’s daughter who was the village beauty. Much to the disapproval of the Paliwals he threatened to marry this girl and levy heavy taxes if anyone dared to prevent him.
The Paliwals pride, honor and self-respect were above all material things and so they decided to escape from Kuldhara and the nearby villages overnight. They took along whatever they could carry but left behind a curse; anyone who settled in Kuldhara would die.
Till date Kuldhara lies abandoned like a ghost town but is a marvellous sight to visit. The structure of the empty town still stands and you can enter the houses of the Paliwal Bhramins and see how they must have lived. It is amazing to experience the legend in person while standing in between the rows of houses and is a great place for photography.
(2 minute walk from Sonaar Haveli)
For those keen on architecture and quietly watching the sunset the royal cenotaphs or chattris are a stone’s throw away from Sonaar Haveli. They are carved with images of late Maharawals ‘the rulers of Jaisalmer’ and their families are an interesting sight, moreover a great sunset point.
Each chhatri preserves an inscribed tablet recording the death of the Maharawals on which the memorials are raised. The chhatris have been built in a set pattern but in different sizes.
(17 kms, 30mins drive from Sonaar Haveli)
This park takes you back to the Jurassic period about 180 million year ago there was a forest in the Thar region, which then got submersed into the sea. The forest fossilised and these remnants can be seen at the fossil park today.
(16 Km from Sonaar Haveli)
Lodurva is the ancient capital of the then kingdom of Jaisalmer and now a Jain pilgrimage. En route is the Amar Sagar lake beside a beautiful pleasure palace with mango and other fruit trees leading up to finely carved Jain temples.
(40 Km, 1 Hr drive from Sonaar Haveli)
Surrounded by huge desert hills, the Khuri village is located just 40 kms in the south west of Jaisalmer. The village is getting more popular among the tourists looking for the real desert life by staying in the thatched huts. Feel the real romance underneath the starlit night at Khuri. Explore the exotic sand dunes on a camel back to witness the spectacular Sunset behind the Golden desert.
At Khuri Village, experience the hospitality that is so much associated with Rajasthan. The warmth of the people is sure to make you feel at home away from home. It will be the most unique and personal way to experience the cultural tours of Rajasthan. The village carries a unique charm that makes it distinct from the other tourist destinations in Rajasthan. Narrow streets of the villages lined with shops selling local handcrafted items and food is a site to behold. Your stay at Khuri village is sure to be an enriching experience that you will cherish for the rest of your life. Just pack your bags and get ready to have an experience of a lifetime.