Jaipur is known as the Pink City, the city is true to its name. All its buildings – both traditional and modern, bear a distinctive pink colour.
The traditional buildings (most of which are around 400 years old) derive this colour from the pink stucco paint covering the sandstone from which they are built of.
This scheme was adopted shortly after 1857 when the then Maharajah Ram Singh sided with the British in the Sepoy Mutiny and Uprising of 1857. The adopted colour scheme was in homage to the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII).
In 2019, the city was granted UNESCO World Heritage Status
Jaipur is easy to get to. India’s new six-lane highways have made access between the Pink City and New Delhi quick and easy. One can drive there from New Delhi in about three and a half hours.
Alternatively, one can catch the Pink City Express train which runs between the two cities and provides excellent service. The Palace on Wheels also operates services here.
Jaipur is also connected by frequent air services from several other Indian cities.
Where to stay
There are a couple of great hotels that I’ve stayed at while visiting Jaipur. The Rajputana is run by ITC Hotels and is amazing. It is central and will allow you easy access to all of Jaipur’s attractions.
The Le Meridien in Kookas is a little off the beaten track, but is amazing.
Jaipur is quite spread out, and traffic in India can be slow moving. The best way to get around in Jaipur is either using an Uber, or hiring a taxi for the whole day. Your hotel will be able to assist you with securing a tourist taxi, and can organise a day tour.
Jaipur can be comfortably toured in 2 days if you have your own dedicated transport or are part of a tour group.
The following makes for an efficient and effective 2-day itinerary where you’ll see all the important sites:
- The Hawa Mahal
- The City Palace
- The Jantar Mantar
- The Amber Fort
- The Jal Mahal
- The Jaigarh Fort
- The Nahargarh Fort
I’d start a tour of Jaipur in the morning, starting off at the Hawa Mahal – also known as the Palace of the Winds was my first stop. The facade of this building still makes one wonder what it must have been like in the peak of its glory.
It is one of Jaipur’s most recognizable and well-known landmarks. It was built in 1799 by Maharajah Sawai Pratap Singh, and designed by Lal Chand Usta in the form of the crown of the Hindu God Lord Krishna.
Its five-storey exterior with its 953 small windows called jharokhas are decorated with intricate lattice-work to have allowed the ladies of the royal household to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen.
The palace is situated on the city’s main thoroughfare in the heart of its business centre. It forms part of the City Palace, and extends to the Zenana or women’s chambers, and the chambers of the harem. It is particularly striking when viewed early in the morning, lit with the golden light of sunrise.
The Hawa Mahal is now a government building, with no public access for visitors. A visit to this building would last little more than 10 minutes.
Round the corner from here is Jaipur’s City Palace – the once the seat of the Maharajah of Jaipur. It is a throwback to the times where the title of Maharajah carried bearing. Jaipur’s City Palace still stands to this day and serves as residence to the royal family of the Jaipur, even though their titles are merely ceremonial.
The palace forms the centrepiece of the Pink City. The royal family opens its doors to the public through certain sections. The palace is well maintained by private staff employed by the palace. This is a location that is free from hawkers, touts, and would be guides.
The palace itself is a museum to the history of the royal family, and is worth the visit. The architecture and intricate designs of the interior are worthy of admiration and provide a glimpse into the lives of medieval Rajput royalty.
The palace grounds are open from 9:30am to 5:00pm and cost INR300 (about USD6) for foreigners and INR15 (about USD0.30) for Indian nationals. It is located in central Jaipur and has plenty of parking outside. For a small additional fee, a recorded self-guided tour is also available.
Access to Pitam Niwas Chowk is through the Peacock Gate – one of four ornamental gates or doorways. These four gates are collectively known as Ridhi Sidhi Pol.
Each of these gates has a spiritual connection that is part of the Hindu faith of the people from this region, and the very essence of life in medieval India.
The gates are symbolic of specific deities and seasons of the year.
They are among the finest examples of the attention to intricate detail that the Rajputs had in every aspect of their lives, and still live on today as part of the culture of this amazing region. They are a true reflection of the colours of India that so many people in the west speak of.
The Jantar Mantar is situated right across the road from the City Palace. It is a collection of Astronomical Instruments that were built by Maharajah Jai Singh II between 1727 and 1734. While this too is a World Heritage Site, it is not the only one of its kind – there are at least four others like this in this region of India alone – it is the largest and best preserved of its kind.
The name “Jantar Mantar” literally translates to “instrument of calculation”. It is a set of astronomical instruments that were built to aid in astronomical calculations and predict the times of movements of the sun, the moon and the planets.
The Jantar Mantar is open from 9:30am to 4:30pm daily. Entry fees are INR200 (about USD4) for foreigners and INR40 (about USD0.80) for Indian Nationals. The location is camera friendly, but charges INR50 (about USD1) to permit cameras within.
The Jantar Mantar is a moderately sized complex. Allow yourself about an hour to browse through the grounds.
Rajasthan is full of forts. The Rajputs spent a lot of their time fighting the Mughals from the 14th through to the 17th century.
The Amber Fort – a UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the nicest forts to visit. It is in spectacular condition. The fort lies to the north of Jaipur, about a forty-five minute drive from the city centre and can be accessed by public transport, though I recommend that you get yourself a taxi to take you there and back.
Entry to the Amber Fort is priced at INR300 (about USD6) for foreigners and includes a camera fee, and entry to the Jaigarh Fort via the tunnel. Indian nationals pay INR75 (about USD1.50) plus an additional INR75 to carry a still camera in. The fort is open every day from 9:30am to 5:00pm.
The fort can be easily accessed by road through a rear entrance for motorists, or you can choose to take an elephant ride from the front gates.
The Amber Fort is perhaps one of the most intricate structures that one can visit in Jaipur. To do this location justice, one needs to set aside four hours, and allow oneself to drift within the labyrinth of the fort. This is a location that I highly recommend for all visitors to Jaipur.
Finish up your 1st day with a quick stop at the edge of the Mansagar Lake to take in the Jal Mahal or Water Palace. This was built as a summer getaway, and is now submerged in this lake. The building is condemned and is uninhabited, but it does make for quite the visual spectacle. The Jal Mahal is best visited either at sunrise or sunset, a visit here would take no more than half an hour.
After a full first day, the second day of your itinerary is more than sufficient to explore two more forts in the vicinity. Start your day at the Jaigarh Fort.
The road to Jaigarh is well paved, and has designated parking spots just outside its gates. Entry into Jaigarh costs INR35 for Indian nationals and INR85 (or about USD1.70) for foreigners.
The fort is considerably smaller than Amber which it looks down upon. Keep your eyes open in the surrounding landscape for peacocks dancing to court peahens.
From here, make your way to the Nahargarh Fort.
Entry is priced at INR50 for Indian nationals and INR200 (or about USD4) for foreigners.
This fort is perched on Tiger Hill, and offers some spectacular views of Jaipur. Allow yourself two hours to take in the fort and what it has to offer. The fort is home to a wax museum. Its primary attraction is the Sheesh Mahal (literally – “Glass Palace” or “Hall of Mirrors”).
This second day of the itinerary should take you to lunch time, and leave you with half a day to check out the many markets of Jaipur. Rajasthan is known for its bright coloured fabrics and costume jewellery. It’s a great place to find hand-crafted souvenirs to take home from your trip to India.