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Things to do in Jaipur: a three-day itinerary discovering the center of Jaipur and its surroundings including Amber Fort and a tiger safari in Ranthambore National Park.
We continue our journey through the colors of India. It is now time for some pink! We are in Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan.
Jaipur is called the pink city of India for the colors of its buildings. And there is a specific reason why they are painted in this color.
We need to jump back to 1876. In this year Prince Albert of Wales (who would soon become King Edward VII of United Kingdom) was touring India in the name of the British crown. Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh wanted to welcome the prince by painting all buildings pink, as a color of hospitality. He really wanted to impress the prince!
When the prince left India, one of the Maharaja’s wives (his favorite one apparently) said “you know what? I kind of like pink!”.
And since favorite wives rule, the Maharaja issued a law imposing that all houses in Jaipur must be pink. Law which is still in effect today!
So if I paint my house yellow in Jaipur I go to jail (well maybe not to jail, but I’ll be getting a fine for sure, I guess).
Besides being the pink city of India and the capital city of Rajasthan, Jaipur belongs also to the Golden Triangle of India which includes the three most important cities of the country for their historical, artistic and cultural value. These cities are Jaipur, Delhi and Agra.
And UNESCO listed the “Pink City of India” in its World Heritage Sites.
Well it looks like you really can’t miss Jaipur on your journey to India! Let’s find out then what are the best things to do in Jaipur!
JAIPUR: THREE-DAY ITINERARY.
In my opinion the best option to explore Jaipur is a three-day stay.
You need one day for the old city of Jaipur and another day to explore its surroundings including the Amber Fort, about 10 kilometers from Jaipur.
The third day is optional but I recommend you stay an extra night in Jaipur to take part in a tiger safari in Ranthambore National Park. Although you probably need a few days for a proper safari. But don’t worry, I’ll give you soon all details and info.
DAY 1: THINGS TO DO IN THE OLD CITY OF JAIPUR.
The highlights of the old city of Jaipur are all pretty close to one another. In the same area you can visit the City Palace, Jantar Mantar, Govind Dev Temple and Hawa Mahal.
For us it was more convenient to pass by Hawa Mahal the next day because it’s on the way from our hotel Umaid Mahal – A Heritage Style Hotel to Amber Fort, but you can totally see all on the same day.
The City Palace is a complex of buildings, gardens and courtyards in the heart of the Old City of Jaipur.
The outer wall was built between 1729 and 1732 by Maharaja Jai Singh II and the complex has been enlarged over the centuries. All palaces belong in fact to all different ages!
While walking through the courtyards of the City Palace look for the four gates that represent the four seasons. They are easy to find! The Peacock Gate represents autumn, the Lotus Gate summer, the Green Gate spring and the Rose Gate winter.
I know the matches are not so immediate but art is fantasy after all!
But the highlights of the City Palace are definitely the Gangajalis, huge silver urns 1,60 meters tall, weighing 345kg and with a capacity of 4000 liters!
I love the story of the Gangajalis. Basically Maharaja Madho Singh II ordered to build these huge water containers filled with Ganges water for his journey to England to assist in the coronation of Edward VII in 1902. He has so devoted to hinduism that he refused to drink or bath in any water that was not the Ganges water! He considered water in Europe to be impure!
So basically we are so careful not to drink a single drop of the dangerous water of India and what about Madho Singh? For him only Ganges water please!
Everything is just a matter of opinion after all!
These huge bottles (please allow me calling them that) are also in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest silver objects in the world! Madho Sing really didn’t want the Europen water, better travel safe!
Indian stories drive me crazy!
In the complex we can also see Chandra Mahal, the palace where the descendants of the royal family live today. The palace is private but you can take a guided tour to some areas for an extra fee (a little expensive in my opinion).
We don’t want to bother the royal family and we head to Jantar Mantar.
Jantar Mantar looks like an unusual park with some strange big sculptures.
Actually these strange big sculptures are some sophisticated astronomical instruments!
Jantar Mantar is indeed an astronomical observatory wanted by Jai Singh II in 1728 and is one of the largest observatories in the world. Definitely not some random strange big sculptures!
Jantar Mantar is of such a scientific value that UNESCO listed the observatory as World Heritage Site.
Besides measuring atmospheric phenomena, some sculptures represent the zodiac signs. Have fun in finding yours!
In Jantar Mantar you can also see the largest sundial in the world! So many records held by India!
GOVIND DEV TEMPLE.
In the same area of the City Palace and Jantar Mantar there is Govind Dev Temple which is dedicated to Lord Krishna.
His followers believe that the idol in the temple looks exactly like the incarnation of Krishna.
We’ll take their word for it!
HAWA MAHAL, THE PALACE OF WINDS.
Hawa Mahal, or Palace of Winds, is probably the most popular landmark in Jaipur.
This five-storey pink palace was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh and is the place where the women of the family could watch what was going on in the city through its little windows.
Hawa Mahal’s windows have in fact a particular form with two main functions: seeing without being seen (the dream of most gossip lovers) and allow cool air to pass through and cool the whole palace (that’s why palace of winds).
Inside the palace there is a small museum with miniatures and royal items and from the top floor you can enjoy the view of the City Palace and Jantar Mantar.
But the beauty of Hawa Mahal is outside so you can just look at the building and take some photos if you don’t have much time.
DAY 2: THINGS TO DO AROUND JAIPUR.
We don’t have to go far to explore the surroundings of Jaipur. Today we visit Amber Fort, about 10 kilometers from Jaipur, we stop by the Jal Mahal, the Floating Palace, and visit Galta Ji, the Monkey Temple.
Finally once we are back in Jaipur, we go watching a Bollywood movie at Raj Mandir Cinema!
Amber Fort is a huge complex in red sandstone and white marble from 1592 located in Amer, the former capital city of the state of Jaipur.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it belongs to the Hill Forts of Rajasthan.
There’s is in fact a steep and zigzag street to reach the fort. Many tourists take an elephant ride to get to the fort but please try not to do it. Although they will convince you of the contrary, elephants do not like this “job”.
Besides, don’t you like the feeling of getting there on your own foot? But if you really are not for it, you can always take a taxi.
I recommend you rent an audioguide because it’s not easy to find your way through the fort.
There are four main sections, with a courtyard each:
- The Parade Hall with the Gate of the Sun and the Gate of the Moon and Sila Devi Temple;
- The Hall of Public Audience;
- The Apartments of the Maharaja;
- The courtyard of the Zenana, the area where the women of the royal family lived.
It takes a lot of energy to visit the fort because it’s really huge! But the beauty of the halls and the rooms and the view from the top of the hill will pay you back!
JAL MAHAL, THE FLOATING PALACE.
On the way back to Jaipur you will pass by Jal Mahal which is not too far from Amber Fort. Jal Mahal literally means the Water Palace but it’s also called the floating palace because it looks like it’s floating on Man Sagar Lake. Not so well I must say because part of the palace is underwater!
We don’t know exactly where it was built but some theories date it back to 1734.
Unfortunately nobody can visit the palace so we just take a few pictures from the lake shore.
GALTA JI, THE MONKEY TEMPLE.
You can’t imagine how hard it was for us to get to Galta Ji, the Monkey Temple.
Unfortunately sometimes you will face the annoying fact that drivers do not always take you where you ask them to. This is because many of them take some commissions from hotels, restaurants, shops if they drive tourists there. But I will tell you all about it in my post on how to avoid scams in India!
Basically our driver took us first to some random place where we found a guy who sells peanuts for the monkeys (and who knew exactly that we were coming). Like seriously?
Finally after a long and exhausting conversation we got to the right Monkey Temple!
The place is truly magical because it looks like the temple belongs to its surrounding cliffs.
In the area there are some pools with holy water and many Hindu ascetics retreat here to meditate.
But the stars of the temple are of course the monkeys! They are so many!
I don’t know about you but I find the monkeys so entertaining! I enjoy so much watching their funny and mischievous behavior!
But we can’t stay here all day! We say bye to the monkeys and get back to Jaipur. We are going to have a super fun night at the cinema!
NIGHT AT RAJ MANDIR CINEMA.
I believe that a night at the cinema watching a pure Bollywood style movie in India is way under estimated and nobody should miss it!
First, Indian movies are insane and hysterical! Action scenes, unnecessary big blood splatters and the mandatory crazy dance that involves all the cast!
But more than anything you will never forget a night at the cinema in India because locals get so involved in the movie! They whoo, clap, scream, boo the bad guys and cheer the good guys. And don’t even get me started with the “whoo” you hear in romantic scenes! It’s insane and you can’t stop laughing!
You don’t go watching a movie, you go to a real show, intermission included! We went to Raj Mandir Cinema and had a lot of fun!
We watched Baaghi 2, in Hindi, no subtitles, full of violent scenes absolutely not necessary, next to kids eating their popcorn while watching bloody arms flying on the screen. Love it!
And of course the random crazy dance!
We didn’t understand a word, but it’s a night that we will never forget!
DAY 3: TIGER SAFARI AT RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK.
Today we get up early! It’s a long way to Sawai Madhopur, the starting point for tiger safaris in Ranthambore National Park.
We booked our tour through Get Your Guide. The tour includes the hotel pick up in Jaipur, the car ride (about 4 hours), an hour to eat at the hotel in Sawai Madhopur (lunch not included), the jeep safari (about 3 hours), and the drop off in Jaipur. A really long day!
RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK.
Ranthambore National Park takes its name from Ranthambore Fort (UNESCO site as part of the Hill Forts of Rajasthan), a 10th century fort inside the park.
There are many animals to spot in the jeep safari but the highlights are of course the tigers. The park is in fact part of the Tiger Project for the protection of the Indian tigers.
Unfortunately the number of the tigers went dramatically down because of poaching. But luckily there are also beautiful people who do their best to protect these amazing animals!
The safari is so exciting! The idea of suddenly spotting a tiger is amazing!
Just the idea though. Because tigers spotted: 0.
I kind of start thinking that I don’t have much luck with this “spot the animals” thing. (If you want to make fun of me you can ready my misadventure in spotting the puffins at the Faroe Islands!)
The final part of the safari consists in waiting for a potential attack of the tiger from the distant steppe to the poor animals that graze peacefully by the lake.
One side of me wants to see it to assist to this “Discovery Channel” event in person. But another side of me doesn’t want to see it because “nooo please let Bambi go!!”.
So maybe it was better this way. I don’t think I would have ever recovered!
Anyway besides the tigers there are many other animals including deers, gazelles, peacocks, monkeys and many species of birds.
The funniest one is the rufous treepie that even bothered to stop by our jeep to say hi!
We leave the park a little disappointed and with the promise of coming back to try again our luck.
The family who was in the jeep with us told us that they already spotted some tigers in some other safaris. Actually you should take a few safaris to get better chances to spot them. One safari only is not enough.
Of course there are also the super lucky ones who spot 5 tigers at their first safari but we are not one of them!
So my advise is to spend a few days just for safaris. And this is the advise I gave myself too. Book a hotel in Sawai Madhopur and enjoy your safari vacation! I want to come back and stay for a week. Besides, the resorts in the area are fabulous!