Jaipur, known as The Pink City, is India at it's best; the first mapped city in India, oozing opulence, grandeur and magnificent architecture. With so much to take in, here is what you must see in Jaipur.
Jaipur's City Palace is one of the prime attractions in Jaipur. It is still home to the royal family of Jaipur, and magnificently represents the impressive blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture. The palace is a vast complex with many courtyards, private rooms, gates and gardens. There are two ticket options - one for the exterior grounds and the other which grants you access to private rooms. Although much pricier, I recommend the latter with a private tour guide who will be very informative on the history of all aspects of the palace. You will feel completely immersed into a bygone era filled with richness and royalty, seeing the intricate work up close in the rooms, and getting a glimpse into how the royals lived.
The Patrika Gate is undeniably the most colorful series of gates located at the entrance of Jawahar Circle - a garden very close to the airport. The Patrika Gate encompasses many murals that illustrate stories of the royalty of Rajasthan. It was built in 2016 with a total of nine pavilions, nine feet apart and is known to the the ninth gate of Jaipur. It is inspired by traditional architecture adorned with bright colors applied by hand. Each element is unique and not repeated within the gates. Outside the gates are figures of soldiers, elephants and horses associated with the fortitude of the royal state of Rajasthan. There is no entrance fee to visit the gate and is accessible at all times. In the evenings, locals will hang out on the stairs at the gate and enjoy ice cream. The Patrika Gate is popular with editorial and wedding shoots, and bloggers and tourists alike. When I visited, it was not difficult to get a clear shot, however it can get busy. I recommend getting there early morning otherwise around 2pm to get some clear shots without the crowds.
Hawa Mahal means Palace of Breeze, and is undoubtedly the city's most iconic pink facade with its stunning latticed windows. It is an extension of the Royal City Palace and was designed to allow the royal ladies to observe processions and public activities on the streets without being seen. This was during the 'pardah' era where women wore a veil to cover their faces as a social and religious practice. The small windows of the Hawa Mahal were designed in a way to keep the breeze flowing within the palace through its nine hundred plus windows. To see the famous facade in all its glory is free as it sits on a busy main road named after the palace. However, to see the rest of the palace and its grounds, a ticket is required. It is best to see and photograph the Hawa Mahal early morning or evening as otherwise it is flooded in direct sunlight.
Amer Fort is one of the most visited forts in India, making it another must-see in Jaipur. It is actually eleven kilometers outside of the city and sits on the top of a forested hill overlooking the town of Amer. A long steep climb welcomes you to Jaleb Chowk, the huge courtyard. If arriving by private driver, you avoid the trek as you enter via the back. In the olden days, the royals would ride on elephants to get up the steep hill. Sadly, tourists are still doing this - riding sick and elderly elephants in the scorching heat, where they are treated badly by their owners. Do not support the exploitation of the elephants and choose to either walk, take a private driver or pay for the on-site jeeps to take you up.
The palace complex is comprised of a series of courtyards, gardens, temples, and opulent chambers. The stunning Sheesh Mahal is a hall of mirrors which was allegedly created for the queen so she could see stars at night as it was forbidden for her to sleep outdoors. When a candle is lit in the hall, the tiny mosaic mirrors and glass shimmer like stars on the walls and ceiling. There are many other fascinating rooms including the Jal Mandir and the Sukh Niwas.
The palace is open everyday from 8am - 6pm and tickets cost 200 rupees for foreigners, 100 rupees for students and 25 rupees for Indians.
JAGAT SHIROMANI TEMPLE
Jagat Shiromani Temple is a four hundred year old Hindu mandir (temple) very close to Amer Fort, also known as Meera Bai temple. It is believed to be built between 1599-1608 AD by the queen of Jaipur in memory of her son Jagat Singh, and is one of the oldest temples in the city. The temple is devoted to Lord Krishna, Lord Vishnu and Meera Bai - a devotee of Lord Krishna. The Jagat Shiromani Temple is celebrated for its architecture, being carved out of white marble and black stone. The walls and ceilings of the temple are embellished in exquisite carvings of elephants, horses, ancient Indian literature amongst other legends. The most astounding aspect of the temple are the marble pylons and ornamental arches at the entrance - being carved out of a single piece of marble. Jagat Shiromani Temple is a true hidden gem with hardly any tourists visiting the site.
PANNA MEENA KA KUND
Panna Meena Ka Kund is an ancient step-well or baori built in the 16th century, which was once a water source for the locals when piped water did not exist. In Western and Northern India, a number of step-wells were built allowing people to access water during periods of drought. Women would come down the steps with jugs that they would fill with water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. It also served as a place of social gatherings amongst the local women.
Many step-wells are closed now for visitors to walk down, including this one, but can still be viewed from afar. Bloggers and Instagrammers notoriously pay guards off for around €80 to go down onto the steps to shoot, which is strictly prohibited for the protection of this architectural wonder and therefore should not be done. They have also edited their photos so the steps look pink - they're yellow :)
The step-well can be accessed at any time of day and no ticket is required.
GAITORE KI CHHATRIYAN
Situated in the foothills of the Nahargarh (Tiger) Fort, sits Gaitore Ki Chhatriyan. Gaitore Ki Chhatriyan is a collection of royal tombs for the Kachwaha, a Rajput clan that ruled in the area. There is a cenotaph for each of the popular maharajas cremated there, made of either sandstone or marble, topped with umbrella-shaped domes called a chhatri. The grounds are surrounded by hills and see very few visitors. It is a very peaceful and stunning site to photograph. The entry fee is 30 rupees. Keep an eye on your belongings as there are monkeys about!