Things to Know About Jaipur When Backpacking India
Without doubt, Jaipur city is a must-see place to visit in Rajasthan when backpacking India. Firstly, Jaipur forms part of India’s famous Golden Triangle owing to the triangular shape formed by the geographical location of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Maybe, you are keen to tick off these places on your bucket list and want some advice about places to see in Jaipur. Or perhaps, like us, you are undecided about Jaipur sightseeing because you prefer to get off the tourist treadmill. Having personally visited the city on our Rajasthan road trip don’t shy away from Jaipur tourism or you will miss some unforgettable best places to visit in Jaipur.
As the capital of Rajasthan, there are many amazing historical places in Jaipur which reflect the history and culture of the royal family who still reside in City Palace. Furthermore, the mixture of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture of the buildings is truly impressive and when you see the sun hit the pink sandstone buildings in the old city, you will understand why Jaipur is also known as the Pink City. Any Jaipur tour by car is certainly an experience. The place is chaotic and busy, and your senses are immediately overwhelmed by noise, colour and people everywhere. However, there is some order to the city. Jaipur is laid out on a 9-grid pattern as astrologers viewed this number as lucky. Within each grid there is a central square and City Palace is at the heart of this layout. The old city is surrounded by high fortified walls with 7 gateways. Found within these walls are many Jaipur points of interest including Jaipur palace, the observatory and the many vibrant bazaars which sell an impressive array of goods including embroidered leather shoes and textiles, jewellery and pottery.
What To See In Jaipur
On arrival in Jaipur, our trusty driver stopped our car on a bustling street right outside a towering structure which resembled a pink honeycomb. Jaipur is famous for this unusual building. The Hawa Mahal was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh as an extension of the royal City Palace. This beautiful red and pink sandstone building is 5 storeys high and has 953 delicately latticed tiny windows. It was built to allow the royal ladies to watch Jaipur sights, everyday street life and royal processions without being observed. At the time, the Purdah system meant that Rajput royal ladies were not allowed to be seen by strangers or in public. The tiny carved windows acted as peep holes for the royal ladies and they also let in the breeze during summer months and cooled the palace. ‘Hawa’ means palace and ‘mahal’ means breeze or wind, so hence the Hawa Mahal is also known as the Palace of Winds or Palace of the Breeze. The shape of the Hawa Mahal is built in the form of Krishna’s crown rather than a honeycomb and is a single room thick. Intriguingly, the Hawa Mahal has no foundations and is the tallest building in the world with no foundations. Amazingly, the structure says upright thanks to its curved shape designed by Rajput and Mughal architects. Of the many things to see in Jaipur, this is a structure which is hard to forget.
Hawa Mahal is situated at Badi Choupad and it is best to visit early to see the morning sun filter through the windows. You can gain entrance though the City Palace. The Hawa Mahal is open daily from 9 am until 4.30 pm and the cost of visiting is 50 Indian Rupees.
City Palace Jaipur
Other things to do in Jaipur should include a visit to the nearby City Palace which is still home to the royal family today. The City Palace was built between 1729-1732 AD by Sawai Jai Singh II. Over the years, the palace was extended outwards from a central structure and is now a sprawling complex which displays a mixture of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. 3 gates offer entrance to the palace: Udai Pol, Virendra Pol and Tripolia Gate. However, the Tripolia Gate is reserved for the royal family’s use. Once you buy your ticket, the public has access to the following areas of the palace:
Mubarak Mahal – This is the welcome gallery and you can view different textiles on display.
Sarvato Bhadra – Historically, this was the Hall of Private Audience where important advisors gathered during times of crisis. Today, the Sarvato Bhadra houses several artefacts including the world’s largest sterling silver vessels. The Guinness Book of World Record breakers are two enormous sterling silver urns called ‘kalesh’ which are 5.2 feet long and weigh 340 kg with a capacity of 4,000 litres.
Pritam Niwas Chowk or Chandra Mahal – The current royal family still resides in the Chandra Mahal which is 7-storeys high. However, only the ground floor is open to the public (Pritam Niwas Chowk). In the past, the royal family was entertained here by dance and other performances. The courtyard is entered by 4 gates (Lotus Gate, Rose Gate, Peacock Gate and Green (Leheriva) Gate) which represent the seasons and various Hindu gods. These gates are incredibly beautiful.
Baggi Khana – This is a museum which houses a collection of chariots, palanquins and coaches.
City Palace is open daily (apart from on Dulhandi – the second day of Holi) from 9.30 am until 5.30 pm. Tickets cost 500 Indian Rupees for adults and 300 Indian Rupees for students. Audio guides are available to hire.
Many Jaipur attractions are within walking distance of each other. Close to the City Palace, is Jantar Mantar which is an astronomical observatory, classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of all the places to go in Jaipur, this is perhaps one of the most unusual sights to see and is worth adding to your Jaipur itinerary.
The construction of this observatory started in 1728 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. Around the site are 19 different instruments which have been built from local stone and marble. As part of the entrance fee, you can take an audio tour which explains the function of each of the instruments. It is quite unbelievable how these instruments were constructed with such precision and how astronomical positions could be tracked by the naked eye. Jaipur famous things include Jantar Mantar’s stone sun dial which is the largest in the world.
Jantar Mantar is open from 9 am until 4.30 pm and costs 200 Indian Rupees for adults and 100 Indian Rupees for students.
In our opinion, some of the best places to visit in Jaipur were the many bazaars we found when walking around the city. Although we joined other tourists at Jaipur famous places, we loved exploring the city independently and mixing with local people who were going about their day. We followed one of the Lonely Planet’s walking tours around the city to escape Jaipur sightseeing places and stumbled across many interesting backstreets and bazaars. These bazaars are fascinating places and the stalls/shops are grouped carefully together depending on what they are selling. On your travels in Jaipur, don’t forget to haggle for the best price (this is expected) so that you go home with a bargain. Here are some of the best bazaars to explore on your Jaipur trip:
In Hindi, the word ‘johari’ means jeweller. Unsurprisingly, the Johari bazaar is where you will find all manner of jewellery and ornaments for sale. We enjoyed our time window shopping and talking to the locals during our Jaipur visit. At times, some tried to persuade us to visit their shop as they had the best deals.
You will find Johari Bazaar between Badi Chapar and Sanganeri Gate. It’s open from 10 am until 11 pm, so is something to experience in Jaipur at night. The nearest bus stop is Badi Chopar.
Tripolia Bazaar is also known for Lac jewellery and bangles. Here you will also find embroidered textiles, brassware, ironware and carpets.
Tripolia Bazaar is situated between Chhoti Chaupar and Manak Chowk and the nearest bus stop is Choti Chopad. The bazaar is open between 10 am and 7 pm.
Bapu Bazaar is perhaps the most popular of the many bazaars. It is a good one-stop destination for shopping, especially of cloth and leather goods.
Bapu Bazaar is situated between Sanganer Gate and New Gate and the nearest bus stop is Sindhi Camp. Head here to shop or browse from 11 am onwards.
Places To Visit Near Jaipur
Close to our choice of hotel, about 4 km north of Jaipur on the main Amer-Jaipur road, you will find Jal Mahal. This is a water palace which appears to float in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake. The palace is made of pink sandstone and is 5-storeys high. Unbelievably, 4-storeys cannot be seen when the lake is full as they are submerged underwater. Only the top storey is visible and gives the illusion of a floating palace. Historically, the palace was used as a shooting lodge for duck hunting parties. Although it fell into disrepair, Jal Mahal has been recently renovated.
Jal Mahal is not open to the public, but it’s easy to stop and take a few photos on the way to the Amber Fort. Apart from a few small stalls, there is nothing much else to see here.
One Jaipur fort which should not be missed is the Amber Fort. Of the places near Jaipur, this is one of the best forts to visit. The Amber fort goes by many names, so don’t get confused. You may hear it referred to as the Amber Palace, the Amer Fort or the Amer Palace. These are all names for the same place.
The Amber Fort is situated about 11 km from Jaipur in the village of Amer which a 27-minute drive from the Hawa Mahal. To reach this fort, you have the option of travelling by car, by bus from Jaipur (40 minutes) or by auto-rickshaw.
Like many places in Jaipur, the Amber Fort is a UNESCO world heritage site as it is an impressive example of Rajput military hill architecture. The fort was built in 1592 by Raja Man Singh and the royal family lived here until the City Palace was built and Jaipur became the local capital. Constructed in pale yellow and pink sandstone, the Amber Fort is linked to the Jaigarh fort by subterranean passageways.
Entrance to the Amber Fort is through the sun gate (Suraj Pol). The fort is divided into 4 main sections which have a central courtyard. Standing on the upper levels of the Jaleb Chowk before you enter the fort offers a breath-taking view of the Aravalli mountain range and fortified walls which snake over the hills. Jaleb Chowk is the first main courtyard and is where the royal family watched victory parades. Today, elephants wind their way across the courtyard with tourists on their backs. Be aware that if you opt for an elephant ride, there are concerns about animal cruelty.
The second courtyard is called the Diwan-i-Am or Public Audience Hall where public affairs were discussed. An impressive columnar structure towers over this space with magisterially carved pillars.
The third courtyard is the Sheesh Mahal or Hall of Mirrors. Most of the royal family lived here except for the royal ladies. In bygone times, it was not deemed acceptable for royal ladies to sleep in the open air. For the Queen to see the stars, the Raja of the time designed the Sheesh Mahal. This is an incredibly beautiful and intricate structure. Every part of the walls and ceilings are decorated with tiny mirror pieces cut at angles and set in intricate designs. By night, the mirrors turned candlelight into millions of stars.
The last section is called the Zenana and was the palace of the royal ladies.
The Amber Fort is open from 9.30 pm until 4.30 pm and the entrance fee is 200 Indian Rupees for adults and 100 Indian Rupees for students.
Overlooking the Amber Fort and Maota Lake in the Aravalli range is Jaigarh Fort. The fort was constructed on a promontory called Cheel ka Teela or Hill of Eagles. Also, known as the Victory Fort, it has a length of 3 km and is connected to the Amber Fort by subterranean passages. The Amber Fort and Jaigarh Fort are consequently seen as one complex.
Jaigarh Fort is about 10 km from Jaipur City and is found on the same road which leads to the Nahargarh Fort. It is open from 9.30 pm until 5.30 pm and the entrance fee for adults is 100 Indian Rupees and 60 Indian Rupees for students.
The Nahargarh Fort is also known as the Abode of Tigers and is situated on the edge of the Aravalli hills overlooking Jaipur. The fort is 20 km from Jaipur with no public transport links. The only options are to visit by taxi or car.
Nahargarh Fort was built in 1734 as a place of retreat and was expanded in 1868. Its extensive walls spread over the hills and form impressive fortifications which connect to Jaigarh fort. However, the fort never came under attack, but the fort offers great views of the city and is considered a good Jaipur picnic spot. Open from 10am until 5.30 pm, the cost of visiting this fort is 50 Indian Rupees for adults and 25 Indian Rupees for students.