Jodhpur was the third stop on my travel through North India. This city was built in 1459 and it was named after its founder Rao Jodha. The last name of this gentleman together with the Hindi word for city (pur) created the name Jodhpur. My expectations for Jodhpur were high. Just look up Jodhpur on the internet and you will understand why. This city is known for its blue houses. Of course, during my stay I also searched for these blue houses, but I also did much more. This city has actually a lot to offer. A gigantic fort, a majestic palace, various viewpoints, colorful markets and friendly people: it was the combination of this all that left a really positive impression on me. Jodhpur landed in my top favorite cities. I spent two days in this city. In this post I will show you the seven highlights you cannot miss.
1. The grand Mehrangarh Fort
Jodhpur is dominated by a gigantic fort. Meet the Mehrangarh Fort, one of the biggest forts in the world. This construction stands 120 meter above the city of Jodhpur. Not only the location is impressive, also the walls along the fort. The thick sandstone walls show that the fortress is not easily conquered. Of the seven gates, there is one I won’t forget. The loha pol, an entrance with a cruel story. Enemies used elephants to breach the gates. The maharaja knew a trick for this: he put iron pins on the door that would kill the elephant. Just behind the loha pol there are a couple of hand marks on the wall. These are the Sati hand prints, referring to an old tradition where the royal widow would sacrifice herself when her husband had died. According to tradition, a women should not outlive her man.
Within the walls of the Mehrangarh Fort you will find various palaces, like the Moti Mahal with the colorful stained glass windows. A little preparation tip: it can be cold inside the palaces. The architect designed the palaces in a way the wind could always get in. And that is something you will notice. While in the fort don’t forget to visit the Chamunda Mata temple, a small white pagoda with a remarkable location on the city wall. From here you have a beautiful view over the ‘blue city’.
2. Enjoy the quiet at Jaswant Thada
From the gate of the Mehrangarh Fort it is a little walk to the next highlight: the Jaswant Thada. A memorial for the maharaja Jaswant Sing II, built in 1899. The white marble is a stark contrast to the dark brown color of the fortress. Also a contrast is the quiet: every tourist visits the Mehrangarh Fort, but most skip the Jaswant Thada. This memorial doesn’t have the grandeur of the fort, but it has an eye for detail and blossoming green garden. Moreover, from here you can also see the high location of the fort.
3. The extravagant Umaid Bhawan palace
Jodhpur is the city of superlatives. You can not only find the biggest fortress in India here, also the largest palace of the world is located in Jodhpur. This is the Umaid Bhawan palace, built between 1929 and 1942. The king had a noble goal in his mind with the construction: it created employment for the farmers who were hit by famine. And it did: about 3000 people worked along the construction of this grand palace. With the soft pink color and the Beaux Arts building style the palace is a striking appearance. You would almost say that this palace would fit more in Europe than in India. Today the palace is the home of a museum, the well-known Taj Palace Hotel and the private residence of the former royal family. The museum is nice to visit, but the main reason you come here is for the outside.
4. House hunt in the blue city
In the travel guides Jodhpur is known for one feature: the blue colored houses around the Mehrangarh Fort. The reason for the blue color is unknown, but there are several story trying to explain it. Take a whole afternoon and just wander the streets looking for the blue houses. What really surprised us was how friendly the locals were. No one tried to sell us something. It is a regular area where people live and work and children go to school. People were really relaxed and we were greeted by seniors and running children.
5. Relax on the steps of the step well
Rajasthan is a dry desert region and that’s why you will find Baoris. These water wells are monumental masterpieces; the architecture is comparable to a reversed pyramid. This shape also has a practical goals: by descending the steps people could easily get to the water. I already wrote about the Chand Baori, the biggest water well in Rajasthan. Also in Jodhpur there is an impressive water well: the Toor Ji Jhlara Steppwell. It is a smaller version than the Chand Baori, but it is located in the heart of Jodhpur. This is the perfect spot to enjoy the late afternoon sun and relax.
6. Look for the smallest shops of Jodhpur
I love strolling through a city and Jodhpur is the perfect city for this. Of course, you have to look out for the crazy rikshaws, scooters, cows and dogs. I mean, it’s still India so there is daily chaos. When you get used to that, then you will see the beauty. Jodhpur is a lively city and its streetlife is full with photogenic details. One of my favorite things to do in the city is looking for the shops. Not because I wanted to shop, but because I was fascinated by the sizes. Sometimes the shops were so small. For instance, I saw a vegetable shop under the stairs. I really wonder how the owner got into his shop?
7. Hit the market at the Sardar Bazar
Get to know the Indian bustle at the Sardar bazaar. Almost every day there is a colorful market around the striking nineteenth century Clock Tower. Here you can buy saris, bracelets, spices and vegetables. The crowds can be overwhelming, especially the (sometimes very young) vendors can be pushy at times. My tip: observe the market from the sideline. I sat down at Café Royale and observed the market with masala chai in my hand. The service is a bit slow here, but the food and drinks are good.
Would you visit Jodhpur?