A trip to one of the most popular cities in this state will encapsulate the entire Rajasthani experience in one go: magnificent forts and palaces, traditional eateries, exotic jewellery, textiles and handicrafts. Jaipur has two distinct parts: The old or walled city – better known as the Pink City – and the New City. In the midst of the chaotic streets are the splendours of Jaipur’s majestic past – the City Palace, Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal. Outside the city are the magnificent Amer, Nahargarh and Jaigarh forts.
In this excerpt from Lonely Planet’s India’s Rajasthan For the Indian Traveller we recommend the top sights and experiences for visitors.
1. Hawa Mahal
Jaipur’s most distinctive landmark, the Hawa Mahal is an extraordinary pink-sandstone structure with a delicately-honeycombed hive facade that rises a dizzying five storeys. It was constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh to enable the ladies of the royal household to watch city life, especially processions, unobserved. The top offers stunning views over Jantar Mantar and the city.
2. City Palace
The City Palace is the residence of the royal family. Parts of the complex are open to the public, including the City Palace Museum, which has displays on the life and times of the Rajput rulers. The complex is the best place to get a sense of the opulent and lavish lives of the royals. To see Rajput paintings and manuscripts, visit the Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience). The hall still has its painted ceiling, beautifully preserved with barely-faded original semiprecious stones, and a spectacular crystal chandelier.
3. Shopping in Bapu Bazaar
Your shopping bags will never seem large enough in Jaipur’s Bapu Bazaar. You can’t get the variety of silver jewellery, handmade footwear, or multicoloured leheriya saris anywhere else in the country. Neither can you get the choice of cotton textiles, bangles, blue pottery, bags, cushion covers, bedspreads – the list is endless. And haggling over prices with the shopkeeper simply adds to the fun.
4. Amer Fort
The magnificent honey-hued fort-palace of Amer rises from a rocky mountainside about 11km from Jaipur. You can trudge up or reach via a jeep or elephant ride. If you walk or ride an elephant up, you will enter through Suraj Pol, which leads to Jaleb Chowk, where returning armies would display their war booty to the populace. If you arrive by car you will enter through Chand Pol. Jaleb Chowk leads either to the main palace, to the small Siladevi Temple, on the right, or to the second courtyard and the Diwan-i-Am, with its double row of columns, each topped by a capital in the shape of an elephant.
5. Street food at Gopalji ka Rasta
You will never want to leave Johari Bazaar without stopping to sample the fresh, sinfully oily and lip-smacking fare at a thela or a hole-in-the-wall eatery in the Gopalji ka Rasta. Start your day with hot kachoris, sip lassi from earthen kullars, hop over to a sweet shop for some rabri and, finally, call it a day with spicy aloo tikkis. Don’t forget to try ghevar.