Jaipur – Top 7 Things to Do in the Pink City
With Scoot/TigerAir’s direct flight from Singapore to Jaipur, a visit to this amazing city should be on top of everyone’s travel list.
The city of Jaipur, in Rajasthan, India is a city steeped in history, culture and heritage is a major draw for foreign tourists visiting India. From sightseeing to shopping to food to shopping, the Pink City has much to offer the traveller. Did I mention shopping?
Here’s my pick of top 7 things to do in Jaipur.
1. Live Like a Maharaja
First things first! Living like royalty is a quintessential part of your visit to Jaipur. So, forget booking yourself into a branded hotel, look for a heritage haveli (palace) instead. Samode Haveli, Royal Heritage Haveli, Umaid Bhawan Heritage House Hotel are some of the boutique historical havelis. If you want to splurge, Jai Mahal Palace, Rambagh Palace, Sujan Rajmahal Palace, The Raj Palace are luxury palace hotels.
I wanted the charm and personal touch of a boutique establishment, so I split up my stay between Samode Haveli and Royal Heritage Haveli. They both have their salient points but you can get to experience the resplendent heritage and splendour of Jaipur, in whichever one you choose.
Samode Haveli, which was built 175 years ago as a residence of the rulers of Samode (a village near Jaipur) is still occupied by their descendants, who have converted it into a boutique luxury hotel. Everything from the room to the food and service was impeccable and spelled understated elegance and luxury. Full review of my stay and dining experience coming up soon.
Royal Heritage Haveli, was built in the 18th century as a hunting lodge for the royal family and now serves as a hotel. With only 14 suites and 1 apartment, this charming boutique hotel is ideal for those looking for a quiet and tranquil stay. The rooms, have all been decorated differently, beautifully and luxuriously. The food is wonderful as well. Detailed review of the stay and the food will be up soon.
2. Explore the Attractions in Pink City
First a lesson in history! Although Jaipur is commonly known as the Pink City, technically Pink City is the name given to the walled historic centre (also called old town) within Jaipur. Almost every building within the walled historic centre is painted a terracotta “pink” colour. The story goes that in 1876, the Prince of Wales visited India on a tour. Since the colour pink was symbolic of hospitality, Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur painted the entire city pink.
Start Day 1 in Jaipur by taking a tuk tuk to City Palace, which is a striking blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. Spend a couple of hours here and then head to Jantar Mantar which is right across the street. Jantar Mantar is an astronomical observatory built in the early 18th century, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Do not make the mistake of going here without a guide, unless you’re an astronomer that is.
Another popular attraction within the walled city is the Hawa Mahal (also known as Palace of the Winds), Jaipur’s most distinctive landmark. It is basically a five-storeyed wall carved out of red and pink sandstone, that was built in 1799, to enable ladies of the royal household to watch the life and processions of the city, without being seen themselves.
What is spectacular about the Hawa Mahal is that it is the tallest building in the world without a foundation. You heard me! Find out more about Hawa Mahal. Tip: To take a picture from the perfect vantage point, head over to the row of shops across from Hawa Mahal and see if you can get one of the upper storey shops to allow you access to a window or balcony.
3. Spend a day visiting the Forts of Amer, make a pit-stop at Jal Mahal for some striking pics
Amer Fort (Amber Palace) is perched on a hill, just outside of Jaipur. The fort was built in the 15th century and the sprawling architecture, the red sandstone and white marble exterior, the paintings and intricate carvings and the picturesque views of Maota Lake are all very impressive. Precious stones and mirrors have been used throughout the palace, the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors) is an excellent example of its splendour. Tip: For the best historical experience, sign up for a guided tour – government approved guides are available at the entrance at a minimal rate (SGD 2-5).
Amer Fort is connected to Jaigarh Fort through a fortified tunnel. The Jaigrah fort houses the world’s largest cannon on wheels. Another fort in the vicinity is Nahargarh Fort, which was built in the 18th century and still sits on a ridge of the Aravalli Hills. There are several structures within the fort, including the Summer Palace, which has 12 identical suites for the 12 queens (of Sawai Madho Singh) and a suite for the king. It is said that the rooms were constructed in such a way that if the king visited a queen, the other queens wouldn’t find out. Clever, hmm!
The Nahargarh Fort now houses a Wax Museum and a Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors) – you have to buy a separate entrance ticket for these. At INR 450 (under SGD 10), I say go for it, the wax museum is not that impressive but the Sheesh Mahal is a must-see (2.5 million pieces of thikri (coloured glass) assembled and pasted on walls in impressive intricate patterns, go figure!).
End your day by watching the sunset at Padao restaurant near Nahargarh. Plan to leave as soon as the sun sets so that on the way back, you can stop at Jal Mahal to enjoy the sights and take some lovely pictures before it gets dark.
4. Spend an Ele-fantastic Day
This should probably be number 1 on your list. Elefantastic is an elephant sanctuary that aims to provide a foundation to break the cycle of working-elephants tourism in Jaipur.
Elefantastic is an Incredible and heart-warming experience. You’ll spend half a day getting to know an elephant. The elephant interaction includes getting up and close with these gigantic but gentle creatures – you can pet and stroke “your” elephant, colour on it, feed it and even give it a shower.
5. Spend an evening at Chokhi Dhani
Head to Chokhi Dhani, for a memorable Rajasthani cultural experience – mouth-watering Rajasthani food, Rajasthani folk performances, puppet shows, basically the works!
This is one of the top things to do in Jaipur and rightly so. After spending a day exploring the Pink City, this village resort is the perfect place to just relax in a rustic rural setting while enjoying the food, the surroundings and the ambience. Make sure you try the Daal Baati Churma, Rajasthan’s classic dish.
If you’re visiting Jaipur from Singapore, you can also plan this for your last night in town, so that you can head from Chokhi Dhani straight to the airport for your 1:35 am flight back to Singapore.
6. Shop Till You Drop
And drop you will. No kidding! Even being the non-shopper that I am (don’t judge me ladies), I still went berserk and was on the verge of collapse by nightfall.
What to buy, you ask? Where do I even begin? Jaipur is a shopaholic’s dream come true. Be it traditional handicrafts, textiles, shoes, carpets or gems & jewellery, Jaipur will have you absolutely spoilt for choice.
Some of the popular touristy markets to shop in Jaipur are Johari Bazaar, Tripolia Bazaar, Nehru Bazaar and Bapu Bazaar. Also, the row of shops right opposite the Hawa Mahal has lovely jootis, handicrafts and even beautiful lanterns. Visit these markets not just for buying but also for the novel experience of street shopping and bargaining.
But, if like me, you want to avoid the hassle of going through all these bazaars and want assurance of quality, some shops/brands that I can highly recommend would be RACCI (Rajasthan Arts and Crafts Cottage Industries), Heritage Textiles & Handicrafts, Surana Jewellers of Jaipur, Anokhi and Soma, depending on what you want to buy.
The art of shopping in Jaipur deserves an entire feature, there is just too much to fit into one paragraph. Check out our article about “Shopping in Jaipur – Face to Face with Heritage”, with more details about what to buy and exactly where to buy it.
7. Gorge on Street Food & Rajasthani Delicacies
A trip to Jaipur won’t be complete without digging into dal baati churma, the flagship dish of Rajasthan. Baati is a baked or fried ball of flour, served with dal (lentils), ghee (clarified butter) and topped off with churma (crushed baati mixed with sugar or jaggery).
Other popular and yum Rajasthani dishes are gutta curry (chickpea flour dumplings in gravy) and ker sangri (a dish made of dessert beans and dry berries).
Also try the pyaaz ki kachori at Rawat Mishthan Bhandar and pick up a box of ghevar from LMB (Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar) while walking around Johari Bazaar.
For more on the eats in Jaipur, check out “Vegetarian Dining in Jaipur: Lip-Smacking Veg Eats”.
Useful Info – Booking a Tour or Renting a Chauffeured Car:
For many, booking a customized tour package through a local travel agent might be the best way to see the city, hassle free. I used Janu Private Tours for part of my stay and sightseeing, as they seemed to be the most popular choice on TripAdvisor. I had a wonderful, comfortable and hassle-free experience with them. They provide all types of travel services including customised tour packages.
Janu Private Tours consists of a friendly, courteous and above all, committed team of professionals. To top it all, they are very flexible. They customized the tours and/or arrangements based on my day to day requirements.
Our drivers Rafiq and Nizam and our guide Rajesh, all provided us with exemplary service. The office rep, Aqueel was extremely accommodating and very forthcoming with suggestions to tailor our itinerary. The owner, Shabbir came down to our resort to extend a welcome and personally make sure that everything was going smoothly. As far as personal service is concerned, these guys have set the bar high.
Oh, and they offer car seats too (unfortunately, this is still a rarity in India). You can check out their website here.