A labyrinthine of fascinating bazaars and historic sights, Jaipur is quintessential India at its best. Tradition and modernity exist beautifully side by side: on the vibrant streets, motorbikes jostle for space with camel carts, whilst turbaned village elders rub shoulders with youngsters in jeans.
Jaipur is the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan and is one of the few planned cities in India. It dates back to the early 18th century when it was founded by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. You may have heard Jaipur being referred to as the “Pink City” – this is because the entire old walled area of the city was washed in the hue to welcome the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria in 1876. The colour stuck ever since and, as you explore the capital, the stunning pink walls and buildings affirm the affectionate moniker.
Jaipur is well connected to many other places of interest in India, by road, by rail, and by air. There are, therefore, a number of ways Jaipur could be placed in your tailor-made itinerary, though generally speaking the majority of our guests travel here after visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra, or spotting tigers in Ranthambhore National Park. Either way, you’ll likely arrive in the early evening, after which we’d recommend relaxing at your hotel.
There are lots of wonderful places to stay in Jaipur, to suit all tastes and budgets. A few of our favourites include the Oberoi Rajvilas, the Taj Rambagh Palace and SUJÀN Rajmahal Palace. Each of these three properties is amongst the most luxurious in Jaipur and would ensure a superbly comfortable stay. Though similar in service and price-range, the Oberoi, Taj and SUJÀN are all very different in personality. Those who’re seeking a grand palace-style experience would prefer the Taj Rambagh Palace, whilst the Oberoi Rajvilas offers a more understated, classic elegance. The SUJÀN, on the other hand, is ideal for anyone who appreciates boutiquey-goodness.
For something more mid-range, we – and our guests – also love the Taj Jai Mahal Palace, Samode Haveli, and the Trident. Of these, the Taj Jai Mahal Palace offers the opportunity to stay in a former Indian palace dating back almost 300 years. Samode Haveli – a gloriously restored haveli dating back over 150 years – affords a similar historical experience on a more intimate scale. The Trident offers a more modern setting and a fabulous view of Mansagar Lake.
On your first full day in Jaipur, we’d recommend exploring the old walled area of the city, accompanied by one of our local experts. The old walled area has the City Palace, an astronomical observatory and bazaars that sell everything from shoes to jewellery. The focal point remains the honeycombed Hawa Mahal (also known as the Palace of Winds).
The City Palace has been home to the rulers of Jaipur since the early 18th century. This sprawling complex is a stunning fusion of Rajput and Mughal architectural styles, with airy courtyards and public buildings leading to private apartments. Today, part of the City Palace is open to the public as a museum, providing a splendid introduction to the princely past of Jaipur and its fascinating arts and crafts. All sorts of treasures are housed here; from miniature paintings to manuscripts, carpets, musical instruments, royal costumes and weaponry. A highlight of the museum is the two giant silver urns listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest silver objects. Believe it or not, they were used by the Maharaja to carry his sacred Ganges water when he visited London in 1901! The best part, in our opinion, is the little-known private rooms (an Indian Excursions exclusive, if you will), all of which are extravagantly decorated and will be explained by your experienced guide.
Neighbouring the City Palace is the Jantar Mantar; a huge observatory built by the founder of Jaipur between 1728 and 1734. The observatory has been described as “the most realistic and logical landscape in stone’, with its 16 instruments resembling a giant sculptural composition. Even today, the instruments are still used to forecast how hot the summer months will be, the expected date of arrival, duration and intensity of the monsoon, and the possibility of floods and famine.
After a break for lunch, head over to Hawa Mahal, a whimsical addition to Rajasthan’s rich architectural vocabulary. This fanciful building was erected in 1799 by Sawai Pratap Singh (r. 1778 – 1803) and today, its ornate pink façade has become an icon for the city. The tiered, honeycomb-like composition of projecting windows and balconies with perforated screens is five storeys high but just one room deep. It was built this way to enable to veiled ladies of the court to observe, unnoticed, activities on the street below. It’s completely up to you whether you’d like to stop for a photo of the façade, or whether you’d prefer to head inside to explore. Inside, visitors can climb up to the top and take a look through the latticed windows.
From the Hawa Mahal, we’d recommend continuing on foot through the colourful bazaars that surround it, in an area known as ‘Badi Chaupar’ (‘Large Square’). Within this maze of narrow streets, you’ll find a number of shops and stalls selling everything from puppets to silver jewellery and other local handicrafts. The whole area is a hub of activity, rich with sights, sounds and smells.
To end the day, we’d recommend drinks at Bar Palladio. Owned by Italian Barbara Miolini, Bar Palladio is a stunning space adorned with frescos, fan-tailed peacocks, mango trees and a tented garden. Bar Palladio serves a menu of cocktails, wines and spirits, with classic Italian food.
Further exploring the best of Jaipur today, you’ll be reunited with your guide to visit Amber Fort, a splendid palace on the edge of the city, dating back to 1592. Highlights include the Ganesh Pol – a shimmering, three-storeyed gateway built in 1640, the Sheesh Mahal – a room filled with mirror mosaic in which the flame of a single candle illuminates the whole space, and the Jas Mandir – the Hall of Private Audience, adorned with latticed windows, a floral ceiling and delicate glass inlay.
On your way back into the city, we’d recommend stopping at Mansagar Lake to take in the Jal Mahal water palace that appears to float within it. Built in the mid-18th century, it is said to have been the inspiration for the famous Lake Palace in Udaipur. Whilst it’s not open to visitors, it’s a lovely view and a great photo opportunity. The area around the lake is particularly buzzing in the evening when locals stroll along it enjoying a cold drink or an ice cream.
After lunch, the early afternoon would be at your leisure to relax back at the hotel. Or, you may like to spend this time shopping for interesting souvenirs in Jaipur’s famous markets and emporiums. Jaipur is a treasure trove of goodies and really has something for everyone, from elegant silk saris to kitschy wooden camels. For something with local flair, we’d recommend taking home a piece of blue pottery or a pair of emerald earrings.
To end the day on a special and unusual note, we’d recommend spending the evening with elephants at Dera Amer. Here, on the peaceful rural outskirts of Jaipur, owner Udaijit Singh offers the opportunity to get up close and personal with these magnificent creates in a humane setting. Help to feed and bathe your elephant with the assistance of her mahout, whilst camp staff are on hand to answer anything and everything you’d like to know about her. You’d then take a slow, gentle walk together through the surrounding deciduous forests – passing by a 300-year-old temple – before returning to the courtyard for dinner.
Alternately, in place of Dera Amer, we’d recommend a private cooking class. Held at a family home in Jaipur, the hands-on experience will introduce you to the various different spices and techniques used in Indian cuisine. To end the evening, you’d sit down to eat the meal you’ve prepared with your host and her family.
This morning we’d suggest rising early for an exhilarating hot air balloon ride over Jaipur. It’s a thrilling way to experience India from a different perspective, high in the sky, whilst friendly villagers down below wave and smile. It’s quite the experience of a lifetime and doing it in India makes it all the most exciting and memorable.
Or, you might like to consider heading over to the nearby village of Bagru for a workshop in traditional block-printing. Bagru is an area well known for its textiles and here, the Chiippa community creates vibrant designs with a traditional technique dating back over 350 years. Almost everyone in the village is involved in all parts of the process – from dyeing, to printing, to washing, to drying.
You would then continue to your onward destination which may be any number of places. Some of our guests at Indian Excursions head down to the Blue City of Jodhpur after Jaipur (six hours by road), or they fly to the lake city of Udaipur or the Thar Desert in Jaisalmer (both an hour in the air). For others, Jaipur marks the end of their stay and they return to Delhi (either five hours by road or an hour in the air). All our tours at Indian Excursions are private and tailor-made to suit your individual interests and requirements. For inspiration, do take a look at our sample itineraries which have been inspired by journeys loved by us and our past guests.
If you’d like to explore the best of Jaipur on your upcoming trip to Rajasthan, please do get in touch. As specialists in private, tailor-made tours of Rajasthan, Jaipur is a destination we’re intimately familiar with (in fact, Co-Founder Shiv is a local!) and can help you navigate in the easiest yet most exciting way, with activities and experiences to best suit your tastes.0