Oh pretty yet chaotic Jaipur! The capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan and dubbed the ‘Pink City of India’. The historic center of this city is painted in a lovely pink color, in commemoration of the visit of Prince Albert in 1876. Because of its location in the ‘Golden Triangle’ tourist route, Jaipur attracts quite a lot of visitors. And no wonder, there are plenty of things to do and see in the Pink City. In this blog post, I’ll highlight 10 wonderful things to do in and around Jaipur.
Jaipur things to do
1. Stare at the Palace of the Wind
I already mentioned this building in my Jaipur cycling tour blog post, but I want to highlight it again because it’s such a photogenic building: Palace of the Wind (Hawa Mahal). It is built in 1799 for the royal ladies to look outside to the streets without being seen. What makes this building so special is the front. A 15-meter high facade with 953 windows, alcoves, and domes. The entire facade is decorated with floral motives. This building is one of my favorite things to do in Jaipur!
2. Wander the halls of city palace
Want to learn more about the history of the maharajas? Visit the beautiful City Palace in Jaipur. This complex is built between 1728 and 1732 and consists of small palaces, temples, and museums. The two major highlights of the palace are the Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal. This last building is a beautiful old haveli where you can visit the textile gallery. The Chandra Mahal houses the private residence of the maharaja. The current maharaja lives in Londen and goes to school there (he is still young), so you will not see him here. To visit the Chandra Mahal, you have to pay an extra fee of 2.500 INR (2017).
Make sure to also visit the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience). This is the hall where the maharajas would consult their ministers. Here you can see two large silver urns which the maharaja used in 1901 to transport 8.000 liter of Ganga water to London. This way he didn’t have to drink the unholy British water.
3. Relive ancient stories in Amber Fort
One of the most popular attractions of Jaipur is the 16th century Amber Fort. It’s located 11 kilometers outside the city. The fortress is perched on top of a big hill, which makes quite an impression from the roadside. To get to the entrance, tourists are offered elephant rides. Please do not do this! The elephants may look cute and they are often painted in bright colors, but elephant rides are a result of animal abuse. Just walk up to the entrance: it is a good workout and it offers you the opportunity to take some great panoramic photos.
The beautiful Palace of Mirrors
The Amber Fort consists of a series of buildings spread out on four levels, each area with its own courtyard. One of the most beautiful courtyards is the one where the Sheesh Mahal is located. This is the Palace of Mirrors, decorated with thousands of pieces of mirror and mosaic. Rumor has it that this hall was built for the queen who wanted to sleep under a sky full of stars. It was forbidden for her to sleep in the open air, so the maharaja created this hall where candlelight could reflect in the pieces of mirror to resemble a sky full of stars.
4. Make a stop at the water palace
You can already see it from the Amber Fort and it is a perfect stop on the way back to the center: Jal Mahal. This water palace is located in the middle of a lake of Man Sagar and reminded me of the palaces in Udaipur. The maharaja used this palace for his extravagant parties and duck hunting. What you cannot see is that this palace has five stories, four of them are underwater. Unfortunately, it is not possible to visit the Jal Mahal, so you have to settle for the view from the riverside.
5. Catch a movie at the Raj Mandir cinema
When you think about India, probably one of the first things that come to mind is Bollywood. The massive Indian film industry that produces movies on a daily basis. Jaipur actually has one of the biggest cinemas in India: the Raj Mandir Cinema. A gigantic cinema with a soft meringue color exterior. It really catches your eye when you walk past it This cinema is very popular, so it is best to buy your tickets in advance. Also note: an average Bollywood movie takes up to three hours and has a lot of singing and dancing (also from the audience).
6. Get to know the handicrafts
Just like many Rajasthani cities, Jaipur is a city of handicraft. We were invited into a textile embroidery where we got to paint an elephant on a cloth. You can see the result in the picture. However, Jaipur has many more handicrafts: marble statues, jewelry, ceramics, and more.
7. Explore the beauty of the bazars
The old walled center of Jaipur is a beauty, but at the same time it can be very hectic. The rickshaws drive and honk all day, the monkeys run over the roofs, the cows wander in the alleys and the crowds of people never end. But that is India! Learn to look through the craziness and then you will see the beauty. For example, the buildings in the center of Jaipur are really photogenic. For taking great photos, I recommend visiting the Tripolia Bazar and Ramganj Bazar.
8. Go into the local neighbourhoods
The bazaars are photogenic but don’t forget to explore the side streets in the city center. Here you can see the everyday local life: the boys flying their kites, the pigs scratching on the streets, and the street hairdressers. The locals are super friendly. I came across two elderly men who wanted to get their photo taken. They liked their photo and I liked it too!
9. Get to know astronomy at Jantar Mantar
Maharaja Jai Singh II had a passion for astronomy. They even said he liked astronomy more than war. He built five observatories across India and one of them is in Jaipur. It kind of looks like an odd square with sixteen mysterious gigantic objects. But if you look closer, you will see that these objects are geometric instruments. For example, you can measure the precise time and be your own astronomist. Make sure to go here with a guide, because you will probably need some explanation to understand it.
10. Descend into the Chand Baori
Rajasthan is a dry desert area and that’s why water is really important. Spread out across the state, you can find several baoris (water step wells). Baoris are not your everyday water wells, they can easily be described as monumental pieces. Close to Jaipur, you can visit the Chand Baori in Abhaneri. This is the oldest water step well in the world. It is more than 1,000 years old and has 3,500 symmetric steps that go 30 meters deep into the ground. While three sides of the well look identical, one side almost looks like a small palace with typical jharokha (Rajasthani windows). Stunning!
And there you have it: 10 things to do in Jaipur. Have you been to Jaipur? What are your favorites for this Indian city?