Jaisalmer, in the far north-West of India, is a popular stop on any trip to Rajasthan. It’s also one of the best places to visit in India, especially if it’s your first trip! The town is compact and easy to navigate, with transportation readily available and inexpensive. The perfect Jaisalmer itinerary includes spending time both in the city and in the surrounding countryside.
There aren’t a lot of places to visit in Jaisalmer, but the culture is rich, and it’s got a lovely small town vibe. It was by far my favourite city during our 5-week tour of India.
Jaisalmer is a small enough town that you don’t have to spend many days there to make the most of it. If you’re on a tight budget, you can do a fair amount in 2 days. I highly recommend spending 4 days if you can!
Read through the itinerary, then find the details about all the different visiting places in Jaisalmer below!
If you only have 2 days you can still fit in a lot of the things to do in Jaisalmer. There aren’t many tourist places in Jaisalmer, so you’ll be able to see most of them although you’ll be busy!
Spend a few hours resting up, enjoy breakfast, then take the morning to explore the Fort in Jaisalmer, including the Jain Temple of Ranakpur (see the note on guides below). It’s fun to just wander the little alleyways, or spend some time walking directly inside the walls and image what life would’ve been like hundreds of years ago when the fort was built.
Have lunch at one of the many restaurants within the fort, then take a moto-taxi to Gandisar Lake. Walk around the lake, check out a few of the temples, then rent a paddle boat and spend an hour paddling on the lake.
Afterwards, walk across the road to the Desert Cultural Center. Learn a bit about the desert heritage, and watch the 6:30 pm puppet show. Catch dinner, with a view of the fort, on the way back to your hotel at Pleasant Haveli or Romany.
*Note on guides – their prices are incredibly cheap but they will hard-sell you to purchase souvenirs at specific shops. If you arrive at a shop with a guide the prices are incredibly inflated as they receive a kick-back of up to 50%. Take one at your own risk, or ask for recommendations from your accommodation.
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel, then wander down to the local market and check out some of the beautiful old Havelis (mansions), including Mandir Palace Hotel. Enjoy a swim in the pool or just wander around the old hotel to escape the noise of the city.
Enjoy lunch on the patio by the pool at the hotel (with or without your bathing suit!).
Walk down the street for a post-lunch Chai at Natraj Restaurant (Chai stall) then go back to your hotel to get picked up for your desert safari.
If you only have 2 days you likely won’t want to spend the night, but no trip to Jaisalmer is complete without at least a bit of time on the dunes. You can still ride a camel on the dunes, enjoy dinner cooked over the fire, then take a jeep back to town.
*If you have more than 2 days, spend the night in the desert and keep scrolling.
Follow Day 1 & 2 above.
After your night in the desert, rather than driving back to Jaisalmer, have your ride drop you off at Badal’s House to spend the night in Khuri. Enjoy lunch and dinner with him, and in between, wander the village and help milk the cows.
After breakfast at Badal’s house, catch the late-morning bus back to Jaisalmer. Shower and change at Wanderlust, or wherever you’re staying. Trust me, you’ll want to do this before you do anything else!!
Walk down the road to Trio Restaurant for a late lunch.
After lunch, make your way to Vyas Chatri. Walk around the overgrown grounds, enjoy the quiet and then find a great spot to sit and watch the sunset. This is the best place to watch the sunset in Jaisalmer!
If you have more than 4 days, consider spending more than one night on a desert safari, or a second night in Khuri soaking up the village life. You could also spend more time on the outskirts of Jaisalmer as well, and visit Bada Bagh.
Need To Know About Jaisalmer
The is definitely at the top of the list of the places to see in Jaisalmer. It’s the reason Jaisalmer is named the “golden city”, due to the golden colour of the rocks used to build the fort. It was built in 1156 AD and is possibly one of the only living forts still remaining in the world. It’s not without problems though. Tourism in Jaisalmer has brought more people into the fort, resulting in massive strain on the drainage system, and it’s slowly crumbling away. Restoration work is underway to protect this UNESCO world heritage site, but tourists can help by choosing accommodation elsewhere in the city.
This is a man-made reservoir, built by Raja Rawal Jaisal, and was once the only source of water for the city. It’s importance to the history of the city makes it worth visiting alone, but it’s also surrounded by Chattris and temples, Shrines and Ghats (that aren’t often used). It’s also one of the best sunrise photography spots in town!! We visited for sunset, and it was quite beautiful then as well.
Cost – Free to visit. A paddle boat is 200rupees ($4CAD) for 1 hr
This is the passion project of Mr Sharma, a former teacher determined to keep the local desert culture alive. The museum itself is small, and can be visited in 30min prior to watching the puppet show. It’s an interesting visit, and supports the efforts to preserve the local culture.
There are 2 nighty puppet shows at 6:30pm and 7:30pm (accurate at time of writing!).
Cost – 100rupees ($2CAD) per adult, 50rupees ($1CAD) for kids 3-8yo, 50rupees ($1CAD) for camera. Cost includes a visit to the museum and the puppet show.
The Mandir Palace was the residence of the rulers of Jaisalmer for two centuries, and has now been converted to a hotel. The grounds are beautiful, and worth a wander even if you don’t want to swim.
Cost for the pool – 1350 INR for the fam (2 adults and 2 kids).
Places to Visit Near Jaisalmer
I highly recommend an overnight visit to Badal’s house in Khuri, but if you’re not interested in the basic accommodation, it’s still possible to visit on a day trip. You could take the local bus there and back, however the last bus returns to Jaisalmer before dark and it would be a shame to miss the sunset from the dunes. I’d suggest hiring a taxi or private driver for the return trip.
Set just on the outskirts of town, this Brahmin cemetery is reportedly the most beautiful place to watch the sunset. It’s worth a wander for a few minutes before the sun sets, then find a place to sit and watch the day end while contemplating life, religion and all things India.
We didn’t make it here, but I would’ve liked to if we had more time or energy! It sounds like a peaceful place to wander around with some beautiful cenotaphs for the city’s rulers from the past set in a wild garden.
*I only recommend accommodation OUTSIDE of Jaisalmer Fort, as the influx of tourism into the fort is causing it’s destruction. I think it’s irresponsible to stay within the fort and contribute to this.
Budget Accommodation: The Wanderlust Guest House
This is, in my opinion, the best guesthouse in Jaisalmer. It’s not fancy, but it’s clean and friendly, and exceptional value for the price. There are basic rooms with shared bath, as well as rooms with a private bath. The view of the city and the Jaisalmer Fort from the roof-top restaurant is absolutely fantastic!
Cost: 250 rupees ($5 CAD)/night for shared bath, 500-700 rupees ($10-14CAD)/night for private bath.
Accommodation ranging from $30-70CAD/night for 2 people counts as mid-range accommodation in Jaisalmer. The places that were recommended were Hotel Lal Garh Fort and Palace, Hotel Fif, Hotel Nirmal Haveli and Pleasant Haveli (adults only).
Luxury Accommodation (with Pool):
In Jaisalmer, I consider luxury accommodation is anything around $100CAD/night for 2 people. For the price, it has to have a pool!! The two best luxury accommodation options are WelcomHeritage Mandir Palace and Jaisalmer Marriott Resort & Spa.
Where to stay Outside of Jaisalmer
If you’re looking for a rustic, local experience, this is it. Badal is an incredible host and his wife cooks delicious, vegetarian food. It’s very basic, although he had a Western toilet installed a little while ago if you’re not good at squatting!
Cost: 4000INR for 2 nights full board. This was well above the actual price, he only asked for about 2600INR, but that seemed so ridiculously low (and meant the kids were basically free). Getting there: Bus to Khuri was 40 rupees/$0.80CAD each (we didn’t pay for the kids)
I recommend calling him yourself rather than booking online: +91 81073 39097
Trio – This restaurant was recommended to us by a fellow traveler. The food was a bit on the expensive side, but the “real” tandoor naan made it worth it! We had 3 vegetarian dishes with naan and rice. Cost – 850rupees ($17 CAD)
Wanderlust – We ate here because it was convenient, and the food was freshly prepared, well priced, and tasted great. It wasn’t the most amazing food we had in India, but it was still pretty good and the convenience and view made it worth eating here a number of times during our stay!
Romany Restaurant – The view of the Jaisalmer Fort from this restaurant is fantastic! The food was average, and the naan was cooked on a tawa (which is always a bit of a let down for me). Plus, they were burning garbage below and it ruined the meal a bit. This wasn’t the fault of the restaurant, but it affected our experience nonetheless. Cost – 720rupees ($14.40CAD)
Jaisalmer Oasis Restaurant – We had drinks on the rooftop overlooking the fort. Cost 180 rupees ($3.60 CAD) for 2 teas, 2 soft drinks and water.
Pleasant Haveli & Restaurant – The restaurant was empty when we went in, which worried me a bit! The food was fantastic, the view of the fort was excellent, and the paneer butter masala was made not spicy at all for our kiddos (a highlight for them!) Cost 735rupees ($14.30 CAD)
Mandir Palace – The selling point for the food here was also the tandoor naan! We were able to sit and eat in our bathing-suits, beside the pool, and the food was really tasty. Cost 2000rupees ($40 CAD) for a light lunch and drinks (coke and water)
Natraj Chai Shop – There were so many different options for chai. The regular is delicious, and as you go “up” it becomes more cinnamon flavoured. The “super special” was the girl’s favourites, it basically tasted like a cinnamon heart! Cup of Chai starting at 10 rupees ($0.20 CAD) and increasing in price based on the type of chai and the size of cup. This was the only place we went in all of India that had different size of cups!
Jaisalmer is relatively small and compact, so it’s possible to walk to most places in the center of town. It is the middle of the desert, and can get quite hot! Rickshaws are convenient and readily available. It’s possible to start walking and then flag down a rickshaw if you get too tired or hot! The average cost of a rickshaw journey in town is 100rupees ($2 CAD).
You can get to Jaisalmer by plane, bus or train. Jaisalmer has a small airport with flights once a day from both Jaipur (11am) and Delhi (3:20pm) on SpiceJet. The journey is just under an hour and a half from both airports, and costs approximately 4000rupees ($80CAD) one way.
The bus from Jaipur is also an option, but it’s a grueling 9-12+ hr ride that either leaves very early in the morning, or goes overnight. I’d been warned against night-time bus journeys as they’re not considered to be the safest thing. We did run into a number of people who’d done them however, with little complaint about safety. The biggest downside for the bus is that Randy is over 6’ tall and the “sleeping pods” are only about 6’. This would result in a very uncomfortable night for him (way worse than the train!). Between that and the fact that Calais gets car-sick, the train was a better option for us!
Jaipur Jaisalmer Train
The journey from Jaipur to Jaisalmer on the train is a long one, 12-14hrs. It’s possible to do the journey by day, but it’s much better to take the overnight train. The countryside is stark and dry, and really just repeats itself over and over, so you’re not missing a whole lot not being able to see at night! Indian trains are significantly wider than the trains in Europe or China. This was a surprise for me the first time we got on, as I wasn’t expecting the train car to be so open!
The most common train from Jaipur to Jaisalmer has AC3 as the highest class available. The car is arranged 3-bunks high on both sides, with 2-more across the aisle. There aren’t any cabins (these are only available in AC1) or even curtains for the individual bunks! Each pod of 8 people has a light, and by about 10pm most people had their lights turned off. This is, however, until the stop around midnight. We had one empty bed in our pod, and when the lady got on the train she flipped on the light and started banging around trying to put her bag away. It was incredibly disrespectful and woke everyone up! I don’t expect to get a great sleep on the train, but I also don’t expect people to come on with such blatant lack of consideration for everyone else in the middle of the night!
One thing that surprised me on this train was the lack of chai-wallas. There were a few early in the night, but then they stopped. There was also very little opportunity to buy food or drinks, so I highly recommend bringing lots of snacks and enough water for the journey.
Each train car had an “Indian style” bathroom at one end, and a “Western style” bathroom at the other end. There was toilet paper at the beginning of the journey, but it quickly ran out and wasn’t refilled. Definitely bring your own!
The bedding was delivered once we left Jaipur. Each person got a package of bedding wrapped in paper, along with a pillow and a blanket. It was surprisingly clean (I was prepared for the worst) and we slept with the sheets without thinking twice. The floor on the other hand was a different story. Shoes that slip on and off easily is the way to go. You won’t want to walk around barefoot, but you also won’t want to put your shoes up on the bed!
Cost: 1150ruppees ($23CAD) each for an AC3 bunk.
We spent an average of $86.58/day for our family of 4, or $21.65 per person. And this included the Desert Safari. Jaisalmer turned out to be one of the most inexpensive places we visited in India. It was significantly below our average of $132.78/day ($33.20 per person) we spent during our 5 weeks in India.
- A Night in the Desert in Jaisalmer
- A Travel Journal: Jaisalmer with Kids
- Things to do in the Pink City of Jaipur
- Family Travel in India
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