The land is barren and the farms are dry. The weather is harsh and the temperature is very high. You would think that this can mar the spirits of the locals. But no ma’am, no. You are wrong. The place beams, the buildings shine & the locals,the locals sparkle under the hot Sun with a heart of gold.
This is the city of Jaisalmer where all that shines is indeed gold.
The golden dream: Jaisalmer
Located at a distance of mere 286 kilometers from the blue city of Jodhpur, Jaisalmer is an old place where the Sun shines a bit brighter and the sand sparkles a lot shinier. Jaisalmer, often called as the golden city, looks like a painting that’s been painted in yellow all over with occasional tinges of golden that give it a royal look.
Jaisalmer fort, the only living fort in India, is perched along the southern edge of the city and supervises the place from there like an elderly member of the family. As the day comes along, the fort changes its colors from lion-like yellow in the day to jewel-like golden after the dusk. In the evening, when the sky is engulfed in the dark and the moon peeps from the universe, the fort rises to glory under the soothing silver light of twinkling stars. It really is a sight to behold at that time.
Bharat Ratna awardee, famous filmmaker, Satyajit Ray wrote a novel set in the golden fort of Jaisalmer in the year 1971 which was later adapted to a movie titled Sonar Kella (Bengali: সোনারকেল্লা), also Shonar Kella meaning the fortress of Gold.
When you talk about Jaisalmer, the word ‘Gold’ always finds its way to conversations, books or movie titles because this is the city of Jaisalmer where all that shines is indeed gold.
The bejeweled Thar: Sam sand dunes
Thar desert is probably why Jaisalmer sees so much of tourism. The vast, infinite desert of sand stretches in all directions. Many think of sand as something that’s dead as no trees grow in sand and no birds frequent the desert, yet I felt very much alive in the Thar when I visited Rajasthan in the month of April, 2015. We were a group of three, crazy people, hungry for adventure. As soon as the opportunity knocked, the three of us hopped on to a jeep to do some dune bashing while our driver hurled a nugget of age old wisdom, “No hurry, No worry, Only Chicken curry”.
As the jeep rolled and bobbed on the sand dunes of Sam, we giggled, laughed and chuckled till our stomachs hurt & our eyes teared. How else could we have felt livelier?
Sam sand dunes are the glossiest patch of the Thar that gleams with joy, glitters with hope & glares with abundance. And that’s because this is the city of Jaisalmer where all that shines is indeed gold.
I recommend you to travel in non-peak season which is before 15th November and after 15th Feb. It brings down the cost by 50%. Also, you don’t have to face a lot of crowd if you avoid peak season, and may enjoy the place in its sheer beauty.
Budget: 3k – 4k/ head/ 2 days if you don’t opt for a desert camp stay
When to travel: Mid November to early March because the weather is the most generous there
Where to stay: there are many budget hotels in Jaisalmer where you could book a stay in advance. We stayed in Helsinki house, a Haveli-style built stay that is easy on pocket and royal on stay.
How to travel: If you can, take a road trip from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer. You would never forget it. Do not forget to visit Bullet Baba (Om Banna) Mandir (temple) on the way.
How long it takes: 2-3 days
Nearby attractions: In Jaisalmer, you must go to Sam Sand Dunes, Jaisalmer Fort, Lake Gadisar and Kuldhara village (preferably in that order)
- Bhaang from Dr. Bhaang; it’s sold at the back of the Jaisalmer fort. We tried the cookies. It took some time… for us to realize that it’s not the earthquake, it’s us. 😉
- Camel and Jeep safari in Sam sand dunes before the Sun sets. That gives you enough room to negotiate & click the most beautiful pictures.
Cost tips: Camel safari costs INR 100 per person for 10 mins. (non-peak season). Jeep Safari costs INR 700 – 800 per person for half an hour (non-peak season). They will quote outrageous rates in the beginning. Prepare to negotiate for good 5 mins. – 10 mins.