Travel in India
Built in 1728 by enlightened Maharaja Jai Singh II, Jaipur was the first city in India to be properly planned and designed on a clear grid pattern. Later, it was painted pink, the colour of welcome, for the visit of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, and is still the residence of the local Maharaja.
Framed by the Aravalli hills, Jaipur is an enticing city where bustling markets and holy cows mingle with fashion shops, western-style avenues and a rich Indian legacy recalling the heydays of its Rajput rulers. It’s the first major stop on the popular tour of Rajasthan and requires at least two full days to see the main attractions.
Jaipur City Palace, Indian Heritage and Maharaja Residence
Rising on the site of an old hunting lodge, Jaipur City Palace is a stunning complex of courtyards, gardens and buildings, a feast of Indo-Islamic architecture with a European touch.
See the textile displays and oversized garments of Sawai I in the "auspicious palace," the palanquins and ancient carriages in Baggi Khana and carpets and manuscripts in the Chandra Mahal where all but the ground floor constitutes the royal residence.
Look out for the four seasons gates in the inner courtyard and in the hall of private audience, the two silver vessels which accompanied the devout Maharaja to England, each one holding 4000 litres of holy Ganges water.
Marvel at the painted ceiling, all red and gold, in the public audience hall and the miniature paintings, embroidered rugs and Kashmiri shawls, then head for the Hindu temple where Indian paintings bathe in the light of western-style chandeliers.
Palace of the Winds and Jantar Mantar, World Heritage Site in Jaipur
The Palace of the Winds, or Hawa Mahal, may be Jaipur’s most iconic sight but for many visitors, the Janta Mantar observatory, designed by Jai Singh and now a World Heritage site, is the most astonishing.
Be ready for a surprise at the Hawa Mahal, not a palace at all but a tall pink façade pierced with 953 latticed windows where ladies of the Court could watch the outside world without being seen.
Explore the futuristic structures of the Observatory, built in 1716, still giving the correct Jaipur time and used by modern astrologers.
See the sun dials, the pole star and zenith instruments and climb to the top of the steps for superb views of the City Palace, Palace of the Winds and Tiger Fort on the hill top.
Amber Fort and Jal Mahal Water Palace, Must-see in Rajasthan
Palace and fortress all in one, Amber is one of three forts which guarded the local capital, before it was moved to Jaipur, some 11 km away. It’s a fabulous sight as you approach, its ochre-coloured walls mirrored in the lake at the foot of the hill.
Enter like royalty, on elephant back, it saves a steep climb in the baking sun, gives time to savour the atmosphere and help elephants and mahouts keep much-needed jobs.
Wander at will though the grounds, past cusped archways and finely carved pillars, but be sure to see the Sheesh Mahal where walls and ceilings are inlaid with sparkling mirrors.
Explore the Jaigarh fort with its massive cannon, crenellations and views of Amber, and the Nahargarh fort looking across to Jaipur and the Man Sagar lake.
On the way back, stop and see the Jal Mahal Water Palace on the lake, a fairytale building, partly submerged, with Bengali domes and Rajput and Mughal features.