As the capital of Rajasthan – India’s largest and most colourful state – Jaipur is a prime destination for Indian and international tourists alike. Also called the Pink City, Jaipur forms one corner of India’s so-called Golden Triangle, with the other two points being Agra and Delhi. Founded early in the 18th century, this walled city provides the quintessential dose of the chaos, exuberance and culture one would expect from India.
1: Jaipur’s Bazaars
It is not uncommon to see camels, cows, children, cars and the odd elephant compete for road space in Jaipur, but don’t be put off by the constant commotion. Exploring the city on foot is recommended, especially for those who’d like to flex their haggling muscles at one of Jaipur’s bazaars. The city is considered to be a centre for trade in gems, semi-precious stones and jewellery, and Johari Bazaar forms the heart of this jeweller’s market. For leather goods, wooden crafts, or breathtakingly beautiful Bandhani textiles, head to Kishanpol Bazaar and Bapu Bazaar.
2: Hawa Mahal – The Palace of Winds
The extravagantly intricate architecture of Hawa Mahal is painted in the same blushing shade of pink that the city is so famous for, and it is probably Jaipur’s most famous structure. In reality, Hawa Mahal, or the Palace of Winds, is not really a palace as such but a five-storey facade that forms part of the outer wall of the City Palace. More than 900 little windows are carved out of this lime-and-sandstone structure, and it is suggested that these niches were used by the ladies of the palace to look out onto the street below without being seen. Incorporate your stop at the Palace as part of a walking tour of Jaipur.
2: The Three Forts
Jaipur is famous for the three forts that are perched on the outskirts of the city, forming a protective ring. Nahargarh Fort, also known as the Tiger Fort, is said to offer some of the best views of the city, while Jaigarh Fort, also known as the Victory Fort, is famously home to what is claimed to be the world’s largest wheeled cannon. The most spectacular of the three, however, is Amer Fort – also called Amber Fort. With its ramshackle exterior contrasting sharply with the exquisite carvings and mirror-work to be found on the inside of the Fort’s vast structure, it should be noted that these forts were used as palaces and strategic headquarters as well as military structures for the kings of Rajasthan’s past. Look out for snake charmers at Amber Fort. Part of a dying tradition as result of tightening laws against animal cruelty, the hypnotic sound of the charmers’ flutes will lead you to them.
4: Elephant Polo
While many tourists like to watch a chukker of polo in Jaipur, participating in a game of elephant polo offers an unmatchable experience. At Dera Amer, a valley camp not far from Amer Fort, groups of tourists have the chance to be pachyderm polo players (with the help of mahouts) for a few hours. The Dera Amer team also conducts elephant, camel and horseback safaris through the dense Aravali forest terrain.
5: Explore the City Palace
The City Palace is situated adjacent to Hawa Mahal, with the largest part of the complex still used as a royal residence by the direct descendents of an ancient line of Maharajas. Built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh at the same time that the city’s first foundations were laid out, a mix of Mughal and Rajasthani architecture can be found in the sprawling gardens, courtyards and other structures. Several parts of the complex are open to the public as museum areas. Among other things, visitors may marvel at the two largest sterling silver vessels in the world. Each vessel weighs more than 300 kilograms, and according to historical reports, Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh took the giant silver holders with him on a visit to England in 1902. It is said that the containers were filled with water from the Ganges, so that the Maharajah would not have to drink European water during his journey.