People travelling to India’s northwestern desert state of Rajasthan will consider the usual suspects: Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur. But for the slightly more adventurous, a small detour to the sand dunes of border town Jaisalmer will be well rewarded. Known as the “Golden City” for the yellow sandstone used in all its buildings, Jaisalmer is currently accessible only via rail or car (a four hour drive from Jodhpur), but the new airport will be opening soon.
The crowning glory of the city is the Jaisalmer Fort, a World Heritage Site built in the 12th century, and a veritable symbol of the glory and wealth of the period. You can visit the Maharaja’s (king’s) quarters, as well as those of the Maharani (Queen), and enjoy beautiful views of the city from the top. The Fort also houses seven Jain temples, known for their exquisite carvings, many of which remain largely intact.
An interesting feature of the Fort is that it is one of the largest living fortifications in the world, housing between 3000 and 4000 people within its walls. Visiting the Fort today is like visiting a small city, where local people run retail shops, eateries and even hostels for tourists.
If you are anything like me, the perfect trip is history and culture, coupled with a unique hotel experience. For the latter, I highly recommend The Serai, about 40 kms outside of Jaisalmer. Without knowing anything about it, the mere name has a certain ring about it – authentic luxury in the heart of the Indian desert. Part of the Relais & Chateaux group of luxury boutique hotels, The Serai comprises 21 luxury tents, complete with every detail and amenity you could think of: hot water bottles in your bed, camel bone bathroom accessories, complimentary laundry facilities, and so on.
The staff at the Serai takes pleasure in fulfilling your every desire. Schedule a post-dinner massage at 10pm, pick a spot anywhere on the property to dine and watch them efficiently set up your own private dining room under the stars. Breakfast, included in the rate is scrumptious and suitably indulgent, with a variety of options, both Indian and continental. Again, choose to take it in your tent, or by the pool. A special treat is a walk around the hotel’s organic gardens, where most of the produce and dairy consumed by the patrons are farmed.
The Jaisalmer sand dunes are another famous attraction. Camel expeditions will take you into the desert at sunset to enjoy magnificent vistas. The Serai will organise private tours or you can work with any of the tourist companies in the city.
For lovers of history, art, and desert life, Jaisalmer is a real must-have experience.
Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan is the founder of Momaboard.com, a website for families that travel. You can follow her adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. She is also the author of The Giant Book of ‘How-To’ Lists for the New Dad, the only book for new fathers written by a mum!
Featured image credit: http://www.indiantouristspot.com/