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Jaipur, the largest and capital city of the desert state of Rajasthan, is a city unlike any other that I’ve been to. Dubbed as The Pink City, Jaipur’s stucco buildings are painted in a blush pink tone, which makes it one of the most colourful cities in all of India. In 1876, Maharaja Ram Singh painted the entire city pink, which is a colour associated with hospitality, to welcome the Prince of Wales to Jaipur. Even today, all residents in the old part of the city are required by law to preserve the pink colour, hence how Jaipur got its name as The Pink City.
Jaipur is the home to Maharajas, grandiose palaces, ornate doorways, bustling bazaars, flower markets and all things regal. It was considered one of India’s first planned cities and is built using a grid-like structure to its streets.
Jaipur is considered part of the popular Golden Triangle route in India, along with Delhi and Agra, which contain a high number of must-see sites for anyone visiting India for the first time.
In a city as magnificent as Jaipur, there is a lot to see and you definitely will not see everything during your first visit, trust me. 😉 I’ve listed a few of the interesting places I had the chance to visit during my short stay in the Pink City to help give you an idea of what to see and do if you plan on visiting this Rajasthani beauty of a city.
Stay In A Traditional Hotel
Nothing beats staying in a beautifully styled heritage hotel and the Shahpura House definitely does not disappoint. Boasting over 200 years of history, the Shahpura House is an elegantly decorated hotel surrounded by gorgeous green lawns and an amazing outdoor pool area for lounging after a long day of sightseeing. Complete with a pastel yellow hue, stunning frescoes, beautiful domes, a lovely outdoor seating area on the rooftop and intricate architectural details and a breakfast buffet that would rival any other hotel I’ve stayed in, the Shahpura House is high on the list of beautiful traditional Rajput styled hotels that are a treat to stay at.
The Hawa Mahal was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh and is one of the major tourist attractions of Jaipur. Its unique five-story pink exterior looks similar to the honeycomb of a beehive and is made up of 953 small windows called jharokhas, which are decorated with fine latticework. The intent of the lattice design was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life and festivals celebrated in the street below without being seen, since they had to obey the strict rules of “purdah”, which forbade them from appearing in public without face coverings. This architectural feature also allowed cool air to pass through, which made the whole area more pleasant during the high temperatures in summer. Here’s a little photo tip for you and I wish we had enough time for me to stop there (the downfall to group tours for me). There is a café located on the third floor directly facing the Hawa Mahal called the Wind View Café. Head up top for an epic view of Hawa Mahal while sipping on a hot cup of chai.
Read more: How I Spent Two Weeks Travelling In India
Walk The Streets Of The Old City
There’s nothing I love more than walking around a city to grasp the true essence of its people, its heritage and its history. Walking around Jaipur with our guide proved to be the best way to see the sites up close and to fully immerse ourselves within the hustle and bustle of this thriving city. Laid out in a grid structure, the streets of Old City Jaipur (where you’ll find the high concentration of blush pink architecture) was like walking through a well laid out maze. Many of the attractions are accessible on foot, so I was happy that we had a chance to get off the bus and walk around the bazaar, markets and even the rooftops of Jaipur. In my opinion, no matter how busy a city is, or how intimidating it may seem, walking among the locals in their environment is the best way to throw yourself into a culture and along the way, stop and take photos of interesting shop fronts, quirky details and anything else that may catch your eye as you browse the streets. As with many busy cities around the world, just make sure you have a secure sense of your surroundings and belongings because petty theft such as pickpocketing can happen if you are not paying attention in a crowded area.
The impressive details of the Amer (Amber) Fort is definitely jaw dropping. Built in 1592, and made out of sandstone and marble, the Amer Fort will surely impress any of its visitors and have them wandering the grounds for hours. It is an impressive mixture of Rajput and Hindu architecture with a blend of Hindu and Muslim details throughout the complex. Among the many beautiful courtyards, there are manicured gardens, and women casually sweeping the grounds who won’t hesitate to stop what they are doing to pose for a photo; for a cost though, no doubt. One of my favourite features of the Amer Fort is the Mirror Palace, or Diwan-e-Khas (Hall of Private Audiences). Its walls are covered in intricate mirror details and is also called Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors). The upper part of Diwan-e-Khas, known as Jas Mandir, has delicate floral designs with glass in them and is a stunning piece of work to admire. Situated 11 kilometres from Jaipur, The Amer Palace, within the Amer Fort, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 2013 and listed as a prime example of Rajput architecture.
The Jal Mahal, or Water Palace, is a beautifully designed palace situated in the middle of Man Sagar Lake in the city of Jaipur. In the mid 18th century, it was originally built to be a duck hunting lodge for the prestigious maharajas, but after being abandoned for two centuries, they are thinking of restoring it into a restaurant. The history of how the palace got to the point of being abandoned and surrounded by water is an interesting one. At the end of the 18th century, Rajasthan suffered an extreme drought and since the monsoons were the only source of clean drinking water at the time, a dam was built on the river in the hills nearby earlier in the 16th century, hence how the lake was then made. If restored, this palace would be one of the most prestigious restaurants in the entire world, I’m sure!
The Jantar Mantar monument in Jaipur, is a collection of 19 architectural astronomical instruments built by the Rajput King Sawai Jai Singh II, and completed in 1734. It features the world’s largest stone sundial, and in 2010, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The main purpose of this impressive observatory was to come up with astronomical tables which would predict the movements of the planets, moon and sun. All of this was made symmetrically by hand and to this day, boggles the minds of astrologers and architects around the world.
Home to the Royal Family of Jaipur since 1732, the City Palace is a must visit attraction while visiting Jaipur. Located right in the middle of the Old City, The City Palace is made up of beautiful spacious courtyards adorned with buildings in the most attractive mix of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. The intricate features of the doorways at the City Palace in Jaipur all pay homage to something different. For example, the Lotus Gate on the southwest side of the courtyard is adorned with dramatic lotus petals and flower patterns. It represents the summer and Lord Shiva. The winter season is showcased by the Rose Gate. Filled with repeating rose patterns and a gorgeously painted fresco, it is dedicated to the Goddess Devi. The Peacock Gate represents autumn and the Green Gate represents spring. Make sure to take a walk through The Mumbarak Mahal to get a firsthand look at how the Royals used to dress and the textiles from years gone by. You’ll be in awe of the gigantic Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh I clothing collection on display. Rumour has it that he was 4 feet wide and over 500 pounds. Yikes! The City Palace is teeming with magnificent archways, doorways, glistening chandeliers and all things astounding when it comes to architecture. You’ll be shutter happy here, for sure! I could’ve stayed and explored the many rooms, courtyards and buildings for hours. I was mesmerized by all of the details surrounding me.
Learn About Fabric Block Printing & Handmade Rugs
We had the opportunity to visit an ethically run factory in Jaipur that makes traditional Indian carpets that were simply spectacular. The amount of hard work dedicated to making the final product was one of my favourite things to learn about while on my travels. Watching the artisan as he weaved a rug from a detailed rug map provided with the desired pattern to follow was such an incredible experience. The best sourced wool in the world is then meticulously cleaned and spun into yarn. A woman manually removes the excess fuzziness from the bottom of the rug before it is ready to be sold. As I watched in awe and learned just how much labour and love went into creating a literal masterpiece, I could see why the rugs cost as much as they do when we buy them at home. We also had the chance to learn about traditional Woodblock printing, which is adorning textiles, such as silk, linen and cotton with designs from intricately carved out pieces of wood acting as stamps. It is considered the oldest, slowest and simplest form of textile printing in the world. Each colour is dedicated to a differently carved block of wood and when layered together, it forms a beautiful design with vibrant colours.
Experience A Traditional Dance Class
Indians pride themselves on their dance techniques and it’s not too often you won’t be at a dinner, family gathering, or even in public without seeing someone bust out some moves. If you can, try to organize a night watching traditional dancers work their magic in the classroom to gain a newfound respect on dance methods from around the world. They may even call you up to join in on the fun, so be prepared to shake what your momma gave you. 😉
Visiting Jaipur is a must during your first time to India. I would love to go back to explore more of Jaipur, as I truly feel that you’d need a full three to four days to discover everything that the city has to offer. Have any of you been to Jaipur? If you have, what was your favourite part of the city? Have you been to any other cities in Rajasthan? Let me know in the comments below! xo
I travelled to India with Vivid Life Journeys in partnership with Toerboer based in South Africa and Ashoka Holidays based in Jaipur, India.