It was individual and authentic. And I was treated like a family friend, not a paying guest.
Located in the far western desert of Rajasthan, India's far northwestern province, Jaisalmer was once known as the "Golden City", due to the glow of its buildings constructed from local sandstone. Because of its remote location (less than 100 miles from the Pakistan border), Jaisalmer was spared outside influences, and indeed, was one of the last cities to fall under British control. Many of the inhabitants of Jaisalmer are Rajputs, a distinct ethnicity known for their warrior prowess.
Meet An Asia Expert
From Our Blog
Our co-founder Jay Tindall is a regular visitor to India, where he loves staying in the palace hotels of Rajasthan. His favourite experience? The amazing Kumbh Mela festival.
Go on a private camel "safari" amid the sand dunes outside Jaisalmer. You can visit the Maulana Dunes, where you will pass thatched clay huts with straw roofs and the locals' beautifully decorated camels.
Rajasthani Folk Music
Visit Hamira, a village populated by Manganiyars, a caste of world-class Rajasthani folk musicians whose ancestors performed in various royal courts in Rajasthan. Enjoy a private performance here.
Explore the impressive Jaisalmer Fort, which virtually blends into the desert sand at certain hours of the day. Though its heyday is long gone, it remains one of the world’s rare “living forts,” with about 25 percent of Jaisalmer’s current population residing within the forts' series of three ramparts.
Highlights inside the fort include stately havelis, originally designed as homes for the area’s wealthy traders and court officials, as well as several Jain temples.
Go on a walking tour of Jaisalmer, including Gadesar Lake, Jain temples, the city ramparts and the old market. Gadesar is actually a massive catch-water for rain that once supplied all of the water for this desert city.
Visit Bada Bagh, also called Barabagh (literally "Big Garden"), which is about halfway between Jaisalmer and Ludharva, the old capital of Jaisalmer. Bada Bagh is situated next to a dam built by Jaisalmer's 18th-century maharaja and is surrounded by chhatris, the Hindi word for cenotaph. The gardens have lost their former grandeur, but the hill with the cenotaphs is still quite impressive.
Visit the deserted village of Kuldara, located to the west of Jaisalmer. Established in 1291, it was once a prosperous village with about 600 houses, most of which are two stories high. Many of Kuldara's builders came from Pali, a town that was a center for trade and commerce. Their richness is evident in the fine sculptural and architectural details of their homes in Kuldara and the wells, water tanks and temples left behind.
Stop at Ludharva, the ancient capital of the Bhatti Rajput kings. The magnificent Jain temples here make Ludharva an important place of pilgrimage spot of the Jain faithful. An offshoot of Hinduism, Jainism has become one of India's major religious traditions. It is distinguished by a dedication to non-violence towards all living beings; strict Jains, for example, do not eat tubers like potatoes and yams, as they see uprooting such plants as killing an organism, nor do they permit clothes made from leather, as it is made from animal hide.
Open for less than a year, The Serai is a new boutique hotel in Jaisalmer. This luxury desert camp and spa is set on 30 acres of indigenous desert scrub in the Great Thar Desert. There are twenty-one canvas tents divided into three categories, each with their own verandah, drawing room, spacious air-conditioned bedroom and en-suite bathroom. The six Luxury Tented Suites have in addition, a private walled-in garden with a plunge pool. For the ultimate desert escape, there is the Royal Suite, which boasts its own separate private spa, pool, and lounge tents. Amenities include a pool, lounge and dining tents and a Spa with four treatment tents created by Raison d’Etre, one of the world’s leading spa companies. The Serai is about a one-hour drive from the airport to the Serai, and a one-hour drive from the property to the city of Jaisalmer.
Housed in an old fort, the Suryagarh is, despite its Spartan exterior, an opulent, comfortable property. Its rooms and suites feature flat-screen televisions, free Wi-Fi, spa baths and Jacuzzis, electronic safes, air conditioning, and a minibar. Dining options include the Legend of Marwad, a sumptuous, dinner-only restaurant serving royal Indian cuisine in the style of the maharajas; Nosh, a light eatery open all day; Draksh, an upmarket bar; and the fantastic Tash, a billiards and cards room built in the style of an old English gentlemanâ€™s club, with classy wooden furniture and an exclusive, nostalgic atmosphere to match. Other facilities include an outdoor heated pool, a business center, a fully-equipped gym, and a full-service spa.