In a land of controlled chaos, Jaipur stands out from many other cities in this country, as it was one of its first planned cities. Known as the pink city due to the red sandstone used to construct many of its buildings, it was plotted out and built in the 17th century, and despite its relative youth compared to ancient rivals like Varanasi, it contains a high concentration of cultural attractions, and as such, it is very popular among foreign and domestic Indian travelers.
Being well developed and fast growing, Jaipur is a great place to explore, as well as to prepare for further adventures deeper into the deserts of Rajasthan, including more storied destinations like Jaisalmer and Jodhpur.
Start off a visit to Jaipur by skulking around the Amber Fort, a fort not named after the stone or colour, but after the goodness Amba. Serving as a palace and as a defensive fortification, Amber Fort was built around the start of the 17th century to serve as the royal abode of the Kachwaha’s.
Once inside, the prime attraction is the Sheesh Mahal, which is a decorative mosaic comprised of hundreds of mirrored tiles plastered across an expansive wall, but many will get a kick out of arriving here, as many hire elephant mahouts to give them a ride to the front gates of the fort from town.
In Jaipur itself, the most dominating sight of all is the City Palace, a monstrosity that has grown to swallow up 1/7th of Jaipur’s total land area over the years. Another royal complex, this aristocratic wonder contains gardens and courtyards that will convince you of its blueblood origins upon arrival. Within the walls of this dominating attraction are a textile museum, two silver vessels that rank among the largest in the world according to the fine people at Guiness, and a quarter that is home to the present sitting Maharajah of Jaipur. No word on whether he accepts private audiences!
Temple buffs should ensure that they make time to see the Govind Devji Temple, one of the most important temples in the world for devotees of Lord Krishna. When Krishna existed in his earthly incarnation long ago, he presided over this place, and many believe the idol that sits in this place was crafted by artists that were able to refer to his visage in real time, making the most accurate depiction of him existing in the world today.
Science buffs: do not miss Jantar Mantar on your trip to Jaipur, as this UNESCO World Heritage Site is an astronomical observatory that contains an impressive collection of celestial instruments that will make a space enthusiast squeal with glee! This observatory contains fourteen devices that measured celestial altitude, declinations of planets, tracking orbits of stars, and much more. Even if star science is not something that you are well-versed in, the peculiar design of this building makes it worth visiting nonetheless!
Though virtually all Indian towns and cities contain markets, Jaipur’s baazar is certainly worth checking out of your trip through the region. The chaos of everyday business create the din for all the visual, tactile, and gastronomic delights, as textile salespeople will do their utmost to see you leaving their stall with a brilliantly coloured sari, food stalls lure you in with the unmistakable scent of curry or fried doughnuts, and dazzling gems make you contemplate a purchase for a significant other. Beware on the last point however: scams abound, so be sure that you don’t fall for overly friendly overtures designed to dupe you into buying coloured bits of glass!
Finally, if you haven’t sampled any Bollywood cinema in your stay in India yet, break that streak by going out for a show at the Raj Mandir Theatre. Not only will you get a chance to sample the distinctly Indian style of filmmaking, filled with passion, song and dance, but also the atmosphere of an Indian movie theatre itself, complete with talking, hooting and hollering.