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Fondly called The Golden City of India, Jaisalmer is a historic city in the state of Rajasthan. Set amidst the Thar Desert, also known as the Great Indian Desert, the city is a major tourist destination. The city also serves as the headquarters of the Jaisalmer district, which is the largest in Rajasthan.


Dotted with charming lakes, mighty havelis, magnificent palaces and historical forts, the city splendidly showcases a fine amalgamation of ancient and medieval architecture. It is also regarded as a significant cultural hub of India and known for its folk dances and music. Treasured highly by Indians and people from overseas, Jaisalmer observes tourists throughout the year. The city received the name, Golden City, due to the fact that most structures within the city and in the suburbs are made of yellow sand and sandstone that give a yellowish golden touch to it. Additionally, these structures across Jaisalmer exemplify the glorious and eventful past of the region.


The intricate stone carving and charming interiors of the palaces and forts in and around the city depict the architectural excellence of the medieval times. The iconic Jaisalmer Fort or Sonar Kila houses some Jain temples that date back to the 12th and 15th centuries. Showcasing magnificent Rajputana-inspired architecture, Patwa Haveli is another such manmade marvel in the city. The aesthetic mastery of the people in the medieval era can also be seen at Nathmal Haveli, Mandir Palace and Bara Bagh.


Located to the south of the city, Gadisar Lake features ornate pavilions and buildings on its shores. Occupying an area of around 3100 sq km, the famous Desert National Park is home to several species of eagles, harriers, falcons, buzzards and kestrels, and the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard. Located about 46 km from Jaisalmer, this protected territory is also home to mammalian species like the blackbuck, desert fox, chinkara and the desert cat. 

Desert Culture Centre & Museum and the Jaisalmer Folklore Museum feature an extensive collection of artefacts, related to the history, art and culture of the region. Akal Fossil Park and Jaisalmer War Museum are dedicated solely to the regional history. Fairs and festivals are an integral part of Rajasthan’s culture, and Jaisalmer proves this with its highly acclaimed Desert Festival that takes place in the month of February, every year. With exceptional performances by folk and fire dancers, and folk musicians along with turban tying competitions and camel race, the festival showcases the vivid aspects of the state’s vibrant culture. The traditional cuisine of Jaisalmer clearly reflects its rich heritage. The food here is mainly spicy. Delicacies like Ker Sangri, Bhanon Aloo, Kadi Pakora and Murgh-e-Subz characterise the local food.


Jaisalmer is known for embroidery, Rajasthani mirror work and stone work; local markets like Sadar Bazaar, Sonaron Ka Baas, Pansari Bazaar, Manak Chowk and Bhatia Bazaar sell them all. Proper bargaining can save a lot while shopping for souvenirs and gifts like wooden handicrafts, hand-woven blankets and shawls, rugs, antiques and silver jewellery.


The town and fort of Jaisalmer were founded by Maharawal Jaisal Singh in AD 1156 in an attempt to shift his capital from Ludharva, about 18 km from Jaisalmer, to a safer location. Named after its ruler, the city and the encircling region were known as Jaisalmer State till 1947. The rulers of the state belonged to the Bhati clan of the Yadu Rajputs. As per historical accounts, the Yadu Rajputs built forts at various locations in present-day Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and even in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and had their dominion over these regions.


The Jaisalmer city and district as a whole are mostly the part of the then Jaisalmer state, which was one of the Rajputana states that went under British protection. A treaty was signed between Maharawal Mulraj II and the British administration after the Third Anglo-Maratha War in 1818 that called the state to act in cooperation with the Crown while maintaining its principality. After Sind was annexed by the British in 1843, Shahgarh and Ghotaru forts were restored to the state.


No major changes in the area of the state were brought up at the time of the merger of Jaisalmer into the state of Rajasthan in 1947 after the Indian Independence. Eventually, the city and its surrounding region were given the status of an autonomous district in Jodhpur division on October 6, 1949.


Located around 575 km west of Rajasthan’s capital, Jaipur, Jaisalmer is the largest district in the state and the third largest in the country. From east to west, the district stretches for about 270 km in breadth, whereas its length from north to south is approximately 186 km. Jaisalmer district spans an area of nearly 38401 sq km, which is almost equal to the state of Kerala.


Set in the middle of the Thar Desert, the district is bounded by Bikaner to the northeast, Barmer in the south and Jodhpur to the east. The international border, running along its western, north-western and south-western edges is approximately 471 km in length.


The district is mostly dry and sandy, with rocky terrain within a radius of about 60 km. Dotted with sand dunes, the barren land of the district inclines towards the Rann of Kutch, and the Indus Valley in Pakistan. The soil is quite fertile and responds well even to the low rainfall, experienced in much of West India. Jaisalmer has no perennial river, and the underground water level is also fairly low.


The overall climate of Jaisalmer is dry with scorching summers and meagre rainfall. During the extremely hot months of the summer season, the temperature at times reaches up to 49 degree Celsius. On the contrary, in winters, it sometimes drops even to 1 degree C.

The district experiences abrupt changes in temperature from morning to noon and from noon until midnight. The average annual rainfall here is just 16.4 centimetres, which is quite low when compared with the state’s average of 57.51 cm.

How to reach

Jaisalmer Airport, situated around 15 km southwest of the city, is a military airport and only hosts chartered flights. The nearest functional airport to the city is Jodhpur Airport, which has regular flight services to and from major cities in India, such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. The Indian railway network connects Jaisalmer to the rest of India, and regular trains that depart from or reach Jaisalmer, link it to cities like Jodhpur, Jaipur and Delhi.

State-run buses are available from Jodhpur, Udaipur and Jaipur to Jaisalmer. Both standard and luxury buses travel to the desert city; there is no direct bus service from Delhi to Jaisalmer, and it is therefore recommended to opt for a break journey via Jaipur. Moreover, the luxury tourist train, Palace on Wheels starts and ends in New Delhi, covering famous tourist destinations within Rajasthan, including Jaisalmer. 


Taxis from Jaipur, Udaipur or Delhi may be hired for Jaisalmer. From Delhi, National Highway 15 and Rajasthan State Highway 9 can be followed. To reach the city from Jaipur, NH 15 or a combination of NH 15 and RJSH 19, and NH 114 and NH 8 can be picked. NH 114 and NH 15 also connect the desert city to the City of Lakes, Udaipur.

Getting Around

Auto-rickshaw and bicycles are convenient options to explore the city and can be easily rented at various locations within the city limits. Besides, government-operated and private cabs are also available here to get around the city or district. Sightseeing buses serve as a far cheaper means of transport.

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