Located in the northwestern corner of India near the Pakistan border, Jaisalmer is a city filled with history and a rich heritage. It used to be the stomping grounds of royalty, and some parts of the city still resemble its previous esteem.
While this is true, Jaisalmer is a bit of a hike from just about anywhere else you would plan to visit in India. Even the closest cities in Rajasthan are between 5-10 hours away by car.
This post is going to lay out all you need to know about planning a Jaisalmer trip, as it can be a pretty tricky place to visit. This is especially true if you are unfamiliar with traveling around India or other buzzing southern Asian countries!
Is Jaisalmer Safe to Visit?
Jaisalmer is located in the northwestern corner of India, just a stone’s throw from the border with Pakistan. As India and Pakistan do not share the friendliest of histories, this border has been a bit touchy at times, to put it lightly. When visiting Jaisalmer, the biggest concern is absolutely an escalation at the border, at least from what locals told me during my time there.
Jaisalmer is a big military city in India because of this border. There is a big Indian Army base, and the airport is actually predominantly used as a military airport. While the increased military forces provide a great layer of safety, their presence definitely does make the place feel a bit more dangerous than it probably is.
In my own experience, Jaisalmer is as safe of a place to visit as anywhere else in Rajasthan. Like any Indian city, there is always a risk of pickpocketing and scamming, but there aren’t really any other risks unique to Jaisalmer aside from its proximity to the border.
We visited Jaisalmer with a toddler and felt relatively comfortable throughout our entire visit. As long as you are comfortable walking past pesky vendors and hecklers and you avoid the street food and tap water, you should be fine.
Best Things to Do in Jaisalmer
1. Go Luxury Desert Camping
By far, the best thing to do in Jaisalmer is going camping at a luxury desert camp. These camps are situated between 45 and 75 minutes into the desert outside of Jaisalmer, and they are loaded with unforgettable experiences. From going on a jeep safari or a camel safari to experiencing local folk dance around a campfire at night, the top camps in Desert National Park are absolutely worth visiting.
The camp we stayed at taught us all about folk music, local musical instruments, local cuisines, and ancient desert culture. Our post on desert camping outside of Jaisalmer contains everything you need to know about to plan an amazing experience, including which cultural events and experiences to prioritize during your stay.
While the city is regarded as the main destination, there is no better way to learn about the local culture and the local cuisine of the desert region than being in the desert itself.
2. Explore the Famous Jaisalmer Fort
The 12th century Jaisalmer Fort is easily the most popular tourist destination in all of Jaisalmer. In fact, its color is largely what gives Jaisalmer its reputation as the Golden City of India. The Jaisalmer Fort has been occupied since Medieval times, and it is still occupied by thousands of people today, earning the classification of a living fort.
The fort is unique, as it is like an entire section of the city. While many forts are just historical complexes that you tour, the Jaisalmer Fort is alive and bustling, much like it would have been hundreds of years ago. From the Fort Palace Museum to many rooftop restaurants and one of the prettiest Jain Temples in Rajasthan, the Jaisalmer Fort is easily one of the city’s top places to see.
3. Visit the Ruins of Bada Bagh
Bada Bagh is a complex of ruined royal cenotaphs about 20 minutes outside of the city. The cenotaphs are made of local yellow sandstone, and while the complex is not a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it sure feels like one. Just about any organized Jaisalmer tour will include a stop at Bada Bagh, and you can tour the whole place in under an hour.
4. Catch a Sunrise at Gadisar Lake
Gadisar Lake is a small lake located just to the east of the city. This is a great place to catch a sunset, and the structures built around the lake are very pretty. There are also several restaurants and small shops here that can be visited if you have some extra time to kill, but there are much better options for both shopping and dining in the city itself. The main reason to visit Gadisar Lake is just to catch a sunset or go for a quick boat ride.
How To Get to Jaisalmer
How To Get Around Jaisalmer
TUK TUK |
RIDESHARING | TAXI
How Many Days Should You Visit Jaisalmer?
Jaisalmer is a pretty small city, and there really isn’t all that much to see. Jaisalmer city and its top things to do can all be visited in a day or a day and a half. The Golden Fort, Bada Bagh, and Gadi Sagar Lake are all within 30 minutes of each other, and can easily be visited in the same day.
If you plan on visiting one of the luxury desert camps in the Sam sand dunes, or at least going on a desert safari, I recommend visiting for three days. This is enough time to thoroughly experience all the entire city of Jaisalmer, at least at a tourist level.
The Best Time to Visit Jaisalmer
The best season to visit Jaisalmer is absolutely the winter months. The winter season is the busy season in the area, due to the much more comfortable weather. The desert heat of the summer season can be unbearable, and the daytime temperatures between October and March are very pleasant.
Many popular tourist amenities, including many of the best places to stay in the desert, shut down during the summer months, too.
We visited at the end of January, and while the nights were certainly cold, the daytime weather was perfect.
Is Jaisalmer Worth Visiting?
Visiting a desert city offers a lot of unique experiences, and these experiences are the main reason to visit Jaisalmer. If you plan on going glamping in a luxury desert camp outside of Jaisalmer, then spending a day or two in Jaisalmer beforehand or afterward is worth doing.
Desert camping is a really great experience, and it was one of the highlights of our trip. There is nowhere better in India to do it than in the heart of Thar Desert right outside of Jaisalmer!
However, on its own, I would not say that Jaisalmer is worth visiting. As a city, we found it to be excessively dirty and underwhelming. The fort was very nice, but the area surrounding the fort was a real letdown for us.
If you aren’t going to camp in the desert, visiting Jaisalmer on its own isn’t worth the trip.
We initially had budgeted two full days to explore the city of Jaisalmer, and our 36-hour flight delay eliminated one of them. While we were initially upset about that, we were very grateful in hindsight, as an extra day at our nice hotel in Delhi was much more valuable to us than a second day in Jaisalmer.
All in all, I don’t recommend going out of your way to visit Jaisalmer. I only recommend visiting it if you plan on also going desert camping (which I DO highly recommend doing). Without desert camping, Jaisalmer is pretty underwhelming and is not worth the significant hassle it takes to get there in the first place.
That’s all we have for you about Jaisalmer! Hopefully, this Jaisalmer travel guide is helpful as you start planning your journey to the Golden City of India.
Have you been to Jaisalmer? Do you agree with our recommendations? Are you planning a trip and have more questions for us?
Please comment your thoughts and questions!