Jaipur in One Day: A Travel Guide For First Time Travelers
India has always been a mystery to me. Friends who have been to India attest to its overwhelming and sometimes exasperating qualities. Their stories piqued my curiosity but I was daunted by some of the social media posts I saw, the books I read, and other stories I heard.
It took a lot of self-convincing and prodding from friends before I finally decided to book a ticket to India.
My friend Ayan, who has been traveling in India, met up with me in Jaipur. We were to travel together to Ladakh, one of my dream destinations. Pico Iyer dubbed it as “Heaven’s Gate” and it has been in my mind for years.
Flights to Jaipur were cheaper compared to Delhi, where there are available connections to Leh, the gateway to Ladakh. So I decided to come a few days earlier and explore what has been dubbed the “Pink City.” Pink, after all, is one of the colors I adore.
Jaipur is the capital and largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It is commonly known as the Pink City after it was painted pink, a color denoting hospitality, in 1876 to welcome Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. Every building within its walled historic center is painted terracotta pink.
During lunch, our backdrop was one of its most iconic sites—the Hawa Mahal. While the street below seethed with traffic, and storekeepers tried to capture the attention of passing tourists, we enjoyed an unobstructed view from the café in front.
Hawa Mahal, which translates to Palace of Winds or Palace of the Breeze, is a five-story monument with 953 windows that looks like a honeycomb, constructed using red and pink sandstones. The windows were built to allow royal ladies to observe the happenings around the city without being seen. The windows also allow cool air to pass through.
Apart from the city wall, Jaipur is also surrounded by several defensive forts.
Amer Fort, which is located in Amer, is another principal tourist attraction in Jaipur.
We visited in the late afternoon, in the midst of a rainstorm. We quickly climbed its cobbled paths then huddled with other tourists near the ticket stall in the main courtyard. Even during the downpour, it was still easy to see the beauty of the fort.
The fort, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013 along with other forts in Rajasthan, was constructed using red sandstones and marble. It also gives a sweeping view of the city.
We left the fort through the Sun Gate, built in the past to welcome victorious armies into the palace. The Sun Gate is also one of Jaipur’s most elaborately designed gates, and Jaipur is famous for its gates!
Another one is the Patrika Gate, the entrance to Jawahar Circle. It is currently one of Jaipur’s most Instagrammed spots because of its beautifully blending pastel colors and elaborate designs. Every bit of it is covered with art.
Almost everything we saw in Jaipur during our one day tour was aesthetically pleasing. Even the two temples we chanced upon left us gasping at their beauty. One of them is Birla Mandir. We saw the façade of this temple on our way to Patrika Gate, so we decided to take a look on our way back to the old city. Unfortunately, we arrived just as the temple was about to close, so we only had a few minutes to admire this white marble creation.
I couldn’t help but gape at is stunning domed ceiling when we entered. I barely noticed they were already closing the altars.
The temple is one of the many magnificent prayer and meditation sanctuaries by the Birla family in different cities in India. It is located on elevated ground, so it gives a panoramic view of the city.
It’s about a five-minute walk to get to the temple from the entrance, but there are a lot of trees along the way, which make the path pleasant. One thing I noticed about Jaipur is that there a lot of trees and parks.
We found the other temple on our way to Amer Fort from Panna Meena Ka Kund, a stepwell and rainwater catchment system, which also draws tourists because of its picturesque symmetrical stairways. It was also featured in one of the articles written by Pico Iyer.
Because of difficulties in booking Uber and Ola (apps we relied on during our Jaipur tour!) we decided to walk. We got directions from locals, and on our way, we found Jagat Shiromani.
The temple’s grand staircase and the ornate pylons first caught our attention, so we decided to look inside. As soon as we reached temple grounds, we heard joyous singing. We learned later on that the women were singing praises for spring. This incredible experience really brought the temple to life for us.
A friendly local told us that the temple is quite unique. According to her, this is the only temple of Meera Bai—poetess, saint and a devout follower of Lord Krishna—in Rajasthan. The temple also contains a statue of Krishna believed to be the same statue worshipped by Meera Bai.
The temple is filled with beautiful carvings of gods, elephants, and tigers. The sculptures were really awe-inspiring. There is just so much artistry, and it is beautifully preserved.
There were a few more sights we failed to fit in our itinerary. We really spent time in each one admiring each detail and taking in all the colors. In between all of our explorations, we also made sure to taste some of Jaipur’s best. We had breakfast at Jaipur Coffee House, where we shared a table with Krishan, a man who loves writing letters. Lunch was at Tattoo Café and Lounge, located in front of Hawa Mahal, where I had a very sad looking but rather delicious paneer. Then, dinner was at Stepout, a café cum library that is almost all yellow. We stayed at the Moustache Hostel.
Aside from all the sites we missed, there are so many other reasons to go back. We have to taste more of its yummy food, discover its markets (which they say have lots of cheap finds) and have more delightful encounters with its people. And probably have more selfies with them, because they love selfies and always come up to us for one!
Some of the photos courtesy of Ayan Villafuerte.
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