Travel Guide: Is Jaisalmer Worth Visiting? [2023]

Date
Feb, 26, 2023
aerial view of the desert city of jaisalmer during golden hour

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!

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.

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.

We visited Jaisalmer with a toddler and felt relatively comfortable throughout our visit.

sweet mother and father with toddler son riding on shoulders at the Bada Bagh in Jaisalmer india

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.

gondolas with arches sitting in the middle of a lake in jaisalmer

How To Get to Jaisalmer

Driving to Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer is pretty distant from most other places you’ll visit in India, and driving to it can be impractical depending on your circumstances. The nearest major Rajasthani city, Jodhpur, is 5 hours away by car. After that, it’s about 5 more hours to get to the other nearby major cities of Jaipur and Udaipur. From Delhi, Jaisalmer can be reached in about 12 hours by car if you don’t stop.

As we were traveling with a toddler, we didn’t plan on driving the long distances to or from Jaisalmer. We planned to fly from Delhi to Jaisalmer, and then from Jaisalmer to Udaipur. Unfortunately, our flight to Udaipur was canceled and there was no good alternative heading out for several days.

As we were short on time and had reservations in Udaipur, we decided to book a van with Lucky Tours and Travels, which was recommended by the host at our luxury desert camp. The driver picked us up in a large van and drove us safely to Udaipur. The service was exceptional, the vehicle was new and clean, and the driver was very friendly despite having to pick us up at the crack of dawn and drive us 10 hours through the desert.

Lucky Tours and Travels operates all throughout Rajasthan and is a great option if you are looking for a transportation company.

I can provide a contact number if you need one!

Flying to Jaisalmer

We flew from New Delhi to Jaisalmer, and it was quite an adventure. Jaisalmer Airport (JSA) is very small, and there are not many flights into or out of it each day. There were only a couple of flights each day between Delhi and Jaisalmer, and our initial flight was delayed 36 hours. Unfortunately there isn’t really another nearby city to fly into and then transit to Jaisalmer, as the next-closest airport is over 5 hours away in Jodhpur.

Once we finally got on the plane, the flight was a smooth hour and a half. There is only one baggage claim, so you can expect to get your checked bags within 10-15 minutes of landing. Don’t plan on eating at the airport, as the airport literally has nothing to offer other than a bathroom and a baggage claim.

The airport sits about 20 minutes outside of the city, and there are often taxi drivers sitting outside waiting. To avoid the need to negotiate, we prearranged a taxi with Rajasthan Royals Holidays. Most taxis in India do not use a meter, and as we don’t speak any Hindi, negotiating can be a tall task.


How To Get Around Jaisalmer

TUK TUK | RIDESHARING | TAXI

Tuk-Tuks in Jaisalmer (Auto Rickshaw)

Getting around India can be very difficult, especially if you are not used to traveling in southern Asia. As we first learned in Chittagong, Bangladesh, the traffic is wild, and the most popular means of transportation within a city is actually by tuk-tuk.

Tuk-tuks are small, three-wheeled motorbikes with an enclosed cab for passengers. They are very popular, as they can weave efficiently through traffic jams and ultimately get you where you want to go faster. They aren’t the most comfortable or safe vehicles around, but they are definitely the best way to get from point A to point B.

As with any taxi in Jaisalmer, you will need to negotiate a rate and pay in cash. You should be able to get just about any ride for 100 rupees ($1.25) or less if you negotiate hard enough.

Ridesharing in Jaisalmer

There is no Uber or Ola in Jaisalmer. To get around, you will need to hire a traditional taxi or a private driver, like the ones mentioned in the next section.

Taxis in Jaisalmer

Other than Tuk-Tuks, cars and taxis are easily the most popular way to get around Jaisalmer. While taxis are everywhere, it is easier to just hire a private driver if you plan on exploring the city. Prices are very affordable, and having a driver available to you at all times can really come in handy.

It can be difficult to find trustworthy drivers when traveling in India, and I feel comfortable recommending Rajasthan Royals Holidays for your transportation within Jaisalmer. While the cars they sent for us had definitely seen better days and the driver didn’t know much English, the prices were good, the service was on time, and the company has an English-speaking Whatsapp number that can be contacted at any time.

As a note, I do not share any affiliation with either Rajasthan Royals Holidays or Lucky Tours and Travel, and I earn no form of compensation for recommending their services. Rajasthan Royals Holidays sent a driver to pick us up at the airport and take us to our luxury camp in the desert, and then later in the week they picked us up at the camp, drove us to a couple of popular tourist sites, and dropped us off at our hotel in the city. Lucky Tours and Travel drove us all the way from Jaisalmer to Udaipur.


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 wall of the jaisalmer fort during daytime

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!

Greg

Greg is a seasoned traveler who has lived in Mexico, Italy, China, and the United States. From New Year’s in Dubai to epic sunset hikes in Panama, his journeys have taken him to almost 50 countries all around the world.

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Greg | The Author

Greg is a seasoned traveler who has lived in Mexico, Italy, China and the U.S. From New Year’s in Dubai to epic sunset hikes in Panama, his journeys have taken him to almost 50 countries.

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