In 1876, when the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria visited India on a tour, Maharaja Ram Singh had the whole city painted pink to welcome the guests because pink is the colour of hospitality. Today, the city is mandated to be kept up pink to maintain the tradition and attract tourism. We visited Jaipur for two days and tried to pack in as much as possible on our agenda. Here’s how to make the most of it:
Hire a guide & a driver
Jaipur has a rich and fantastic history and little secrets around the city only a well-versed guide can show you. We had a guide for a day and he was fantastic! A very lovely man who not only showed us secrets of Jaipur but also served as a kind of a bodyguard in the markets and advised on purchases.
Shop the markets
Rajasthan is where many of the items sold across India come from and most of the precious stones come through and are made in – the mountains are very healthy! I bought some unique pieces there (like the skirt below), got a custom ring made for a fraction of the price, and acquired some lovely cheap jewelry. Note: a lot of the clothing items are not finished because they are meant to be tailored to you and they can do so very quickly: for clothing same day delivery to your hotel and for custom jewelry a matter of hours. My ring was delivered within two hours to our lunch location, expedited because the guide knew the jeweler.
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Splurge & sleep like royalty at the Rambagh Palace*
The hotel is currently run by the Taj company but for many years was home to the Rajasthani royalty. It is an unforgettable treat to stay here, read more about it here.
Spend time with elephants
There are many places you can do that but not all are very ethical. Riding elephants is incredibly painful for the animals, even though you can see many of them dressed up for the occasion around town. Elephants of Jaipur live in the Elephant Village where various organizations take care of them. A friend did a lot of research on the topic and chose Elefantastic because they appeared most ethically responsible – many elephants are circus rescues, some were born in the village, and the only way you can ride them is bareback, also not advised but much kinder and more uncomfortable than painful – riding is really only popular because tourists want to, so help the elephants by not riding them. The owner is a lovely man, we spent a few hours on-site and got to feed and wash the elephants which were long enough to build a bond. Dear Chanda, I still miss you! Tip: see me wearing pants? Don’t follow that example, it’s too hot and too uncomfortable and I was dumb.
And now, on to the cultural & architectural sites!
Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) is one of the most photographed places in Jaipur, as you may have noticed on Instagram. Built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh this palace was primarily a zenana – women’s chambers. The women of the main palace used it as a way to observe street processions and daily life while they couldn’t be seen themselves. We had a rather quick stop near the Palace but from what I’ve seen there is a cafe across the street that offers a great view of the palace.
Amer Fort: this place is absolutely majestic! I won’t retell the whole story because it’s a lot and you should hear it while visiting the site. But in short: Amer Fort is the center of Amer town, it was built by Meenas and later ruled by Raja Man Singh I. As the town grew, the city of Jaipur, as we know it now, was built below. That land was chosen for Jaipur because of its flat nature in order to facilitate Jantar Mantar, in addition to all the people of course. The views of the surrounding area from the Amer Fort gates are fantastic! (Cover photo & above)
Jantar Mantar is an observatory built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II – I know, names are hard to keep up with but they make these places more personal. The site is home to a collection of 19 architectural astronomical instruments including the biggest stone sundial in the world! With mad accuracy, I might add. Among many other structures – instruments – each zodiac sign has its own structure. Jai Singh built the site to be able to better predict the position of celestial objects. There is a mini version of this in New Delhi but it’s not nearly as impressive.
The Patrika Gate: this is the 9th gate of Jaipur, located in Jawahar Circle. On the other side of the gate is a lovely park but the gate itself is absolutely stunning! From the outside, it is decorated with intricate stone carvings and on the inside the colours, fine lines and layers create an incredibly intricate frame. A lot of people, naturally come here to take pictures, but it’s also a nice place to relax in.
To see the India trip on Instagram look up xoIndia18.