Jaipur is known for its spectacular architectural sites and the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of Winds, is perhaps the city’s most recognizable and photogenic building. The five floors of delicately-worked pink sandstone is only one room wide with rows of perforated screens and more than 900 windows to allow the breeze to pass through and cool the interior.
The honeycombed Hawa Mahal was constructed in 1799 by poet-king Sawai Pratap Singh, and, according to legend, was originally where the female members of the royal family could look down on the people in the streets below without being observed. Visitors can do some people watching of their own from this vantage point or can climb to the rooftop for an overhead view of the City Palace to one side and Siredeori Bazaar to the other.
Walking through the grounds of Jantar Mantar may feel more like visiting a sculpture garden than an astronomical observatory. The eighteen devices, built by Jai Singh II, each serve a different function, such as predicting eclipses, telling time and tracking astrological bodies./p>
Jai Singh II built Jatar Mantar in 1726 and it remains the best preserved of the five observatories he built within his lifetime. Armed with knowledge of European astronomical advances, Jai Singh II invented many of the instruments himself, the most impressive of which is the massive Samrat Yantra sundial with a shadow that moves up to 13 feet (4 meters) per hour, or a hands-width every minute.
Guides onsite can explain how the devices work, and several are still used to make astrological and weather predictions. Try to come on a sunny day, since none of the devices will work under cloud cover, but avoid the middle of the day when the sun is particularly hot and shade is harder to come by.
The Mubarak Mahal was built as a part of Jaipur’s City Palace to welcome foreign dignitaries of the Maharaja. Built on a raised platform, the white palace is an example of Mughal, Rajput, and European style architecture. Its colonnaded and carved exterior now leads to the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, which houses mostly historic textiles.
The Textile and Costume Museum on the first floor exhibits many of the clothing worn by royalty: formal costumes, traditional block prints, and a variety of embroidered textiles in precious fabrics, including silk and Kashmiri pashmina. Visitors can see the local history of both male and female attire, including uniquely shaped and sized items. Perhaps some of the most beautiful items are the brightly colored saris, many covered in golden embroidery. Royal carpets and antiquities can also been seen inside.
The Amber Fort, built in 1592, once served as the palace and capital of the Kachchawahs during their reign until 1727, when the capital was moved to Jaipur. While the fort was abandoned in the eighteenth century, the remaining palaces, temples and courtyards are surprisingly well preserved and have retained much of their original beauty and craftsmanship. In 2013 the Hill Forts of Rajasthan, including Amber Fort, were awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.
Located about 7 miles (11 kilometers) from Jaipur, the Amber Fort sits on a hill top and faces out over the Maota Lake. To enter the fort, you must make the steep climb by foot, jeep or elephant, passing beneath the Sun Gate and into the inner palaces.
Plan to spend a minimum of half a day at the Amber Fort, taking care not to miss the Shila Davi Temple (dedicated to the goddess Kali) with its intricately worked silver doors, the glass mosaics of the Mirror Palace and the filigreed marble windows.
It used to be that the Jal Mahal (Water Palace) was merely another fortress worthy of a quick photo op on the way to or from Amber Fort. After undergoing a dramatic restoration, however, the palace perched in the middle of Man Sagar Lake is worthy of a visit in its own right.
Sawai Pratap Singh built the five-story red sandstone palace in 1799 using Rajput and Mughal stylistic elements. After 200 years of neglect, water damage and general disrepair, the palace was restored to its original splendor. The rooftop gardens, Jal Mahal’s most stunning features, have been carved, painted and gilded by dozens of artists and designers, and the resulting details are exquisite.
During the monsoon season from June through September, the bottom four floors of the palace become submerged, but the boat trip across the glassy waters makes this the best time for a visit. Come at dusk when the setting sun lights up the water and marble alike.
Ranthambore National Park is one of the largest national parks in north India. Situated in the Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan, historically it was the former hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur. Today the park is a major wildlife tourist attraction, where visitors come in particular to see the famous tigers that live here.
Those hoping to see the tigers in their natural habitat won’t be disappointed, with sightings of the big cats occurring at most times of the year, but particularly in November and May. Other wild animals that live here include leopards, wild boars, hyenas, and sloth bears. The park also features lush jungle and diverse plant and bird life, plus one of the largest banyan trees in India. Aside from its verdant jungle and wild animals, Ranthambore National Park is also known for being an important heritage site, with ancient ruins scattered across the lush landscape.
The first palaces, courtyards, gardens and pavilions that make up Jaipur’s City Palace were built in 1727 by Maharaja Jai Singh II, ruler of the kingdom of Amber, in what is now Jaipur. The complex was added on to through the centuries, with some of the newer structures dating from the twentieth century. The royal family, one of the richest families in India, still lives in the Moon Palace (Chandra Mahal) on the site.
As you enter the first courtyard you’ll see the Guest Pavilion (Mubarak Mahal) which was built in the nineteenth century. The structure now serves as a museum housing a collection of textiles, accessories and musical instruments from the local royalty of the past. The City Palace armoury next door to the museum has one of the most extensive collections of rather vicious weapons on display, among them is an 11-pound (5-kilogram) sword.
This small lake sits under the massive Amer (Amber) fort just outside of Jaipur and includes a small island in its center, lush with gardens. The Kesar Kyari Bagh, or saffron garden, contains plants that are said to have been planted by a Maharaja in the 15th century, and all of the plants sit on a raised square platform base with intricate stonework laid between the colorful patterned plants.
The lake provides a serene setting from which to look up at Amer Fort on the hillside. The fort and palace are reflected on the water’s surface, and Maota Lake once served as the main source of water for the Amer Palace. The other garden on the lake, Dilaram Bagh, is named after its architect, and both gardens were clearly created to be seen from above, with geometric patterns that can only be seen from up the hill.
Chand Baori, one of the deepest and largest step wells in the world, is also one of India’s most overlooked and incredible sights. An Escher-like maze of 3,500 symmetrical stone steps descent 100 feet (30 meters) into the ground, culminating in a well where locals once came to draw water. The well is so deep, the temperature at the bottom is often several degrees cooler than on the surface.
The well, along with nearby Harshat Mata Temple, were built between 800 and 900 AD by King Chand Raja, and was believed to be dedicated to Hashat Mata, the Hindu goddess of joy and happiness. Stone sculptures carved into the walls of the well depict scenes from Hindu mythology. A popular filming location, the well featured in scenes from The Dark Knight Rises, The Fall and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Mehrangarh Fort is a huge ancient fort located in Jodhpur in the state of Rajasthan. It's one of the largest forts in India and was built in the mid-15th century by Rao Jodha. The fort sits on a rocky hill presiding some 125 meters above the city, with the structure merging with the rock on which it stands. Still run by the Jodhpur royal family to this day, Mehrangarh Fort is filled with a strong sense of history and legend.
Enclosed by thick, imposing walls, the fort complex contains a museum, courthouses, gardens, and several magnificent palaces with vast courtyards and elaborate architecture. Among the royal residences are the Phool Mahal (Flower Palace), which was used for dance performances and features beguiling stained-glass windows, and Jhanki Mahal (Queen’s Palace), where there’s a colorful display of the cradles of former rulers.
Not far from the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, the white-marble memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II (the 33rd Rathore ruler of Jodhpur) sits majestically above a small lake. The structure is a fine example of Rajput architecture. It’s built from carved marble sheets which are so thin and polished that they emit a warm glow when the sunlight hits them.
Enclosed within a multi-level garden, the cenotaph has been built in the style of a temple, featuring domes, pillars, and sculptures. It also displays portraits of the rulers and Maharajas of Jodhpur and houses a memorial to a peacock that flew into a funeral pyre. The royal crematorium and three other cenotaphs are located near to the main memorial.
Lake Pichola, an artificial freshwater lake created in 1362, inspired the founding of Udaipur on its banks. On a calm day, the placid, glasslike water reflects the city's skyline, complete with white marble palaces, temples, mansions and ghats and lending credence to the city's nickname as the Venice of India.
Lake Pichola earned a spot on in the international spotlight when the Lake Palace, a white marble palace that appears to float on the waters of the lake, appeared in the James Bond film Octopussy in 1983. The dreamlike palace is often used as a setting for a number of Bollywood films as well. The lake's second palace, Jag Mandir, was the structure that inspired Shah Jahan to build the great Taj Mahal in New Delhi, according to local legend. Jag Mandir is open to the public and accessible by boat, but to enter the Lake Palace, you'll need to either book a room or make a reservation in the building’s hotel or restaurants.
Built in 1651 by Maharana Jagat Singh, Jagdish Temple is the largest and one of the most famous temples in Udaipur. The three-story structure, dedicated to the God Vishnu, enshrines a black stone statue of Jagannath, an avatar of Vishnu. The intricately carved facade depicts scenes of Vishnu and his most famous aspect Krishna on it's pyramid-like bell roof. Inside, you'll find four smaller shrines dedicated to Shiva, Ganesh, Durga and Surya, along with 100 pillars carved with detailed scenes.
While the temple complex itself doesn't take long to walk around, the carving and collection of artwork inside are worth taking your time to enjoy. Jagdish Temple is located a short walk north from the entrance of the Udaipur City Palace, making it convenient to combine the two attractions into a single outing. The area doesn't have a major problem with touts, but beware of individuals offering to guide you around the temple, as they'll try to charge you later.
Bagore Ki Haveli is an 18th-century mansion (or haveli), situated by the water’s edge of Lake Pichola at Gangori Ghat in Udaipur. It was built by Amir Chand Badwa, the Prime Minister of Mewar and served the royalty of Mewar before being left vacant for 50 years. The building has since been restored to its original architectural style and now features a museum.
This grand haveli features more than 100 rooms situated around pleasant courtyards. Some of the rooms have been set up to evoke the period in which the house was inhabited, including the private quarters of the royal ladies; their dressing rooms, bedrooms, living quarters, worship rooms, and recreation areas. Others serve as galleries, displaying an intriguing collection of photographs, royal costumes, unusual monuments, and even the world’s biggest turban.
This manmade lake in the city of Udaipur is a destination for both locals and travelers looking to escape the energy of busy city streets. Home to three small islands, including Nehru Park, the picturesque blue waters and majestic green mountains serve as a breathtaking backdrop to this quiet respite. Visitors can navigate the calm lake aboard tiny motorboats, which carry travelers to the each of the small islands. Nehru remains the most popular, thanks to a well-kept garden, boat-shaped restaurant and a slightly lackluster zoo. The Udaipur Solar Observatory, ranked top solar observing site in all of Asia, is located on one of the lake’s other islands and draws tourists eager to check out the sky, the sun and the stars.