We visited Jaipur as part of our tour of northern India by train. Both Paul and I loved it here and I want to share what we did for our one-day Jaipur sightseeing tour and give you some ideas of what you can fit into a short time in the city. In order to fit in as much as possible, we hired a car for the day through our hotel. It’s not something we usually do as we prefer to either walk or travel on public transport. However, the forts, which are a must-see in Jaipur, are outside the city so you really do need a car to take you there. I’m told that it is possible to get to Amber Fort by public bus if you’re on a very tight budget though.
Getting around on your Sightseeing Tour of Jaipur
Some people choose to use an auto rickshaw but I didn’t find much of a saving doing that. Instead, we got a great deal through our hotel, the Umaid Bhawan Heritage Hotel, and paid just £9 for the car and driver. For that, we got to travel around in air-conditioned luxury. Our driver spoke good English and although he wasn’t a guide, he did point things out as we passed them and chatted to us about his city and his family. Indeed, he had lived there all his life and was bringing up a young family in the city and we felt privileged that he was happy to share with us.
Umadi Bhawan Heritage Hotel
I mentioned that we stayed at the Umaid Bhawan Heritage Hotel in Jaipur. If you’d like to read my review of the hotel then please click on the image link below. It was a great hotel and I highly recommend it.
Where did we go on our Jaipur Sightseeing Tour?
Amber Fort & Palace
Firstly, we started our Jaipur sightseeing tour by driving outside the city to the Amber Fort & Palace. It’s also called the Amer Fort. When I was planning the tour, I wasn’t sure if they were the same place and was worried I had asked for the wrong one. However, it’s just two names for the same place.
It’s about 20 minutes north of the pink city to reach the fort but it’s a pleasant drive. We drove right past the city gates and through a busy market and shopping area so we got a good look at the city on the way.
A note about the elephants
Once you arrive at the fort, you can choose to take an elephant ride to the top or walk. I have quite strong feelings about this and I’d done some research into the treatment of the elephants before we went. Of course, whether you choose to ride one is completely up to you. Lot’s of tourists do as you will see when you arrive at Amber Fort. Indeed, the Indian government recently introduced some restrictions in an attempt to protect the animals. However, I’m not at all convinced that it’s good for the elephants and I don’t believe they should be exploited in this way. For this reason, we chose not to ride them.
You can see the elephants carrying people up the hill in the above photo. They are majestic animals, aren’t they? I think it’s better to appreciate them without putting them to work though. After all, you can visit the nearby elephant sanctuary and get close up with these amazing creatures in a more animal-friendly environment.
If you’re still in two minds about whether to ride one of the elephants then check out this PETA article and video about how the animals are treated. As I have said, it definitely influenced me.
If you are walking up the hill, then ask your driver to drop you off at a different location. You don’t need to walk as far because the pedestrian entrance is half-way up the hill already. I’m not particularly fit but I found it a fairly easy walk although it is uphill.
Buy tickets from the kiosk inside the first courtyard you enter when you get to the top of the hill. We couldn’t find it to begin with. Look straight ahead as you walk into the courtyard and then it is inside the covered area directly in front of you.
Tickets to the Amber Fort cost 200 Rupees for foreigners. However, if you plan on visiting more sights within the city of Jaipur then it’s a good idea to buy the combined ticket. This costs 400 rupees and also covers entry to the Amber Fort, Jantar Mantar, Hawa Mahal, Alber Hall, Sisodia Garden, Vidhyadhar Garden and Nahargarh Fort.
Amber Fort is open from 9 am until 4.30 pm every day. I’d advise visiting early because it’s quieter then and does get much busier later in the day. The walk up the hill is also a lot more pleasant before it gets too hot.
Inside the Amber Palace
Once you have your ticket you enter through the main gate on your right as you exit the ticket area. Take a moment to look around this entry courtyard though. Everything about the fort is decorative and beautiful and worth a good look before you move on.
Hall of Public Audience
The next area to come to as you enter the palace is the Hall of Public Audience. This is where the Maharaja met the people and he would also have held parties and galas here.
The hall is an open structure with lots of ornate columns. While you’re here, walk to the side and look over the wall, you’ll get the first of many great views across the countryside surrounding the fort.
The Floating Garden
From inside the Amber Fort, you can also get a view across the Floating Garden. I took this photo from one of the open alcoves.
As you can see the area around these gardens was completely dry when we visited. However, they are called the floating gardens because when it rains the whole area floods and the gardens look as though they are floating on the lake. That would have been pretty impressive to see for myself but it was much too hot and dry during our stay for that. Look at the photo below to see the gardens floating on Lake Mootha.
There are lots of these ornate arches throughout the fort. You can get some rather fantastic views from them and they make a good frame for a photo. Here, you can see me wearing one of the beautiful scarves I bought at the Red Fort in Delhi. The stripey bag you see is one I bought at the market in Kolkata. I love shopping for authentic local items like this. Certainly, India has some great value shopping.
Hammam (Turkish Baths)
I wasn’t expecting a hammam in the palace but this one looks as though it was quite impressive in its day. It is located near the Hall of Private Audience, a more central part of the palace. Only members of the royal household would have used it though. Surprisingly, it had hot and cold water available.
Hall of Private Audience
Just like the Red Fort in Delhi, the Amber Fort has a Hall of Private Audience as well as the public one. This one is beautifully decorated with mirrored mosaics and is a much more intimate space than the public hall. Obviously, only special guests would have been received here.
In front of the Hall of Private Audience, there are also some magnificent gardens with fountains. They are laid out in quite a formal pattern so they reminded me of European palace gardens. I think the patch of greenery really lifts the colour in the courtyard and makes it an even more lovely space.
This is the area in which the royal family would spend their time. As well as the main audience hall, there are covered walkways around the garden and several rooms.
Look at the detail in the wall decoration. One of the things that really stands out is the use of colour. Not too much colour but just enough to illuminate the design. It is incredibly beautiful.
In the photos below you can get a glimpse of the mirrored mosaic tiles. In order to preserve this delicate building, tourists are not allowed inside but can only peer in from the edges. Although it’s a shame not to be able to wander inside, I can totally understand the need to look after it.
All in all, the detail is amazing. Every wall, every corner, even the ceiling is decorated with intricate designs. The mirrored tiles mean that the hall seems to shine in the Indian sun.
Courtyards of the Amber Fort
Although the two audience halls are definitely the highlight of the Amber Fort, there is plenty more to see. At first, spend some time wandering around the outer courtyards and corridors. Visitors get access to a lot of the building so you can climb steps, walk through room after room in this extensive palace. Allow plenty of time to really explore because if you’re like me, you won’t want to miss anything.
We found this colourful decoration on one of the higher levels as we climbed to the top of the Fort.
Normally when I talk about toilets it’s to give practical advice. Here, however, we’re talking about the original, historic toilets. In fact, there are nearly a hundred toilets in the Fort. I suppose it makes sense, of course. Seeing that it would have housed a large number of people.
There’s not that much to see today but you can make out the original structures.
Just when you think you’ve seen everything there is to see here, you come across another beautiful courtyard. This place really is enormous.
This is me about to head up the stairs and investigate further. We always like to see how high we can go. Behind me, you can see the green tile decor of another of the palace rooms.
When you’ve finished inside the Fort, take some time to wander the gardens. They are a lovely outdoor space, perfect for a family picnic and especially nice when they’re as green as they were during our visit.
If you’re looking for refreshments after your visit then you will find several cafes, restaurants and shops near the parking area opposite the pedestrian entrance.
Jal Mahal, the Water or Floating Palace appears to float in the middle of the lake just outside Jaipur. It’s a popular photo spot although sadly, you can’t go out and get a closer look. Most people stop for a few minutes on the way to and from Amber Fort but it’s also a pleasant place to stretch your legs and walk along the shoreline.
The City Palace is located right in the centre of the Pink Historic part of the city of Jaipur. Our driver dropped us off just outside the city gate and then we made our way through the pink archway into the city palace. The ticket kiosk is on your left as you enter. You can choose a guided tour of the private apartments or a self-guided walk around the main palace. Of course, we opted for the basic tour at 500 rupees (about £5).
On the other hand, if you want to do the more extensive tour of the private apartments you can opt for the Royal Grandeur tour at 2000 rupees or the Royal Splendour tour at 3500 rupees. For details of what’s included see the official website.
Inside the Pink Palace
Once inside, you enter a courtyard with a few shops selling lovely Indian handicrafts and clothes. You can also enter the Sabha Niwas (Diwan-e-Aam) from here. This beautiful room is simply stunning with marble columns and ornate ceiling. It is laid out with a long table and set up to showcase how it is used. A wonderful sight indeed. Sadly, it is strictly a no photography zone so I don’t have any pictures to share. I did witness another tourist sneaking a photo but she was spotted and made to delete it. There’s a big fine too!
Further inside you’ll see Sarvato Bhadra, the Diwan-e-Khas or the Hall of Private Audience. I’m getting used to the fact that they have these inside ever fort and palace now so I wasn’t surprised. Sarvato Bhadra is a particularly interesting building. Single storey with open sides it has the traditional columns and spaces for audiences. Of course, this is the pink city and so …
Here, you can see one of two Gangajalis. These are large silver jars, the largest silver objects in the world. Each jar was made from 14,000 Jaipur silver coins by two local silversmiths. They took over 2 years to create. Each one stands 5 foot 3 inches tall (nearly as tall as me) and weighs 345 kg (much heavier than me!). One could hold 9000 gallons (approx 4000 litres) of water. You can buy a miniature version to take home with you but they don’t have the same visual impact somehow.
As you walk on through the palace you come to this inner courtyard. Look at the beautifully decorated doorways which surround the courtyard. They’ve very popular photo spots for visitors.
City Palace Textile Museum
Your ticket also gets you into the textile gallery which is just outside the main Palace area. The museum was watched over by these two Palace Guards who were lovely and very happy to have their photo taken. Not even a request for a tip!
Inside you can see some rare carpets, wedding robes as well as Polo outfits and cups. All previously owned and collected by the Maharajas who lived here at the palace.
Once you’ve finished exploring the city palace take the rear exit and walk across the road to Jantar Mantar. You will see the entrance to the site easily enough but the ticket office is around the corner. Facing the Jantar Mantar entrance, walk to the left, following the wall. As the wall turns you will see the ticket office. It is on a slightly raised platform. There are two windows and one is marked ‘foreigner’s’ but it was closed when we were there so we just used the other one. If you’ve bought a combined ticket, of course, you don’t need to worry and can go straight inside.
Jantar Mantar is a collection of 18th-century instruments for astronomical observation. The whole concept is quite fascinating and this is a really interesting place to explore. Maharajah Sawaii Jai Singh II of Jaipur actually had five of these built throughout Northern India. You can find the others in New Delhi, Ujjain, Mathura and Varanasi. Although we visited Delhi and Varanasi this was the only Jantar Mantar we visited so I can’t compare them.
World’s Largest Sundial
The giant sundial is at the centre of the collection. Apparently, the idea is to ascend to the top and from there to observe the measurements. Of course, they don’t let you walk all over it during your visit so you have to look at it from the bottom. Still very impressive though. I believe it’s the world’s largest sundial.
As you walk around the park you’ll notice that there are specific instruments for viewing the astrological bodies related to star signs. Neither of us is particularly into horoscopes or anything. Still, of course, we couldn’t resist having a photo taken with our star signs anyway. Everyone knows their star sign don’t they, even if they don’t believe in any of the prediction stuff?
Hawa Mahal Palace of Wind
Hawa Mahal or the Palace of the Wind is right in the centre of the pink city. It’s actually part of the city palace and was added in 1799. If you look closely, you’ll see that it consists of loads of windows. Ladies could stand at the windows to see what was happening outside and still remain in purdah.
Hawa Mahal is one of the most distinctive buildings in the pink city of Jaipur. Built of red and pink sandstone, it fits in nicely with the pink city. The many windows also allow a cooling breeze inside the building which is why it’s also called the Palace of Wind.
You can visit Hawa Mahal from 9 am to 4.30 pm every day. The entrance fee is 50 rupees for foreigners. If you’re visiting a lot of places in Jaipur then look out for the composite tickets which allow you to visit all the monuments in Jaipur.
You’ll find plenty of opportunities for shopping in central Jaipur. There’s a great souvenir and clothes market in the parking area near the city palace and also a number of stalls and small shops within the outer palace grounds.
Walk a little further through the city gate and you’ll find yourself on a street full of small shops. Here you can buy anything you need from snacks and household supplies to clothes and jewellery.
Everywhere you go in Jaipur you’ll encounter street sellers trying to get you to buy their souvenirs. Be careful with these. We found a lot of them shout a price out which sounds low but then you find out they are charging in US Dollars. Obviously, this is targeting tourists and the goods are very overpriced. Best avoided! Buy from legitimate sellers in the markets and shops and you’ll get a much better deal.
What else can you see when sightseeing in Jaipur?
We only had one day for our Jaipur sightseeing tour and there’s a limit to how much you can do in so little time. If you’ve got a few more days, and really I recommend that you do allow more time than we did, then there are plenty more things to see here.
Amber is not the only fort worth visiting in Jaipur. If you have more time consider a trip to Jaigarh Fort nearby as well. Perched high on the hill not far from Amber Fort, Jaigarh was built as part of the defences for this area.
If museums are more your thing then head over to the Albert Hall within the city of Jaipur. Here you’ll find a traditional museum which models itself on the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. You can see an interesting collection of paintings, costumes, carvings and other exhibits. Entry is 300 rupees for foreigners and the museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm and 7 pm to 10 pm.
Another museum worth taking a look at is the Museum of Legacies. This is a newer museum which is focused on more local exhibits. The collection includes everything from jewellery and pottery to paintings and textiles. Although the museum itself is new, the building is older and quite striking. It is open from 12 pm until 8 pm and closed on Mondays.
As you can see from the list of attractions above, there’s plenty to see and do in Jaipur. You could actually stay longer as there are more forts to visit and I wish we’d been able to see them but our time was so short. I’d also have liked to spend more time just wandering around the Pink City and browsing the shops and markets. One day is simply not enough for a Jaipur Sightseeing Tour. Still, it’s better than nothing and we really enjoyed the city and I’m sure we’ll be back again one day.
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Find out more about our trip to India by clicking on the image links below:
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