India's desert capital of Jaipur
, affectionately referred to as the Pink City because of the pink walls and buildings of the old city, lures visitors with its stunning remnants of a bygone era. The most popular Jaipur attractions and places to visit are the ancient palaces and forts, with elaborate architecture that serves as a resplendent reminder of their royal heritage.
Here are the top 10 Jaipur attractions. Many can be seen on this Walking Tour of Jaipur Old City. Those who are feeling adventurous may also want to go on a hot air balloon safari in Jaipur.
1. City Palace
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Upon visiting the magnificant City Palace, it's easy to see that the royal family of Jaipur was one of the richest in India. The huge complex of courtyards, gardens, and buildings blend both Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. The Peacock Gate is exquisite, and contains an alluring display of detailed workmanship featuring bright peacocks. Today, the royal family lives in the graceful Chandra Mahal (Moon Palace) bordering the courtyard. Also inside the City Palace complex is a museum, art gallery, and interesting displays of royal costumes and old Indian weapons.
- Location: Chokri Shahad, Old City, Jaipur.
- Entry Cost: 300 rupees for foreigners (includes camera fee and entry to Jaigarh Fort). 75 rupees for Indians, plus 75 rupees for a still camera.
- Opening Hours: 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
2. "Hawa Mahal" Palace of the Winds
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The intricate and fascinating facade of the Palace of the Winds is probably Jaipur's most recognized building. Constructed in 1799, it has five floors that contain rows of small windows and screens. Wind used to flow through the openings, giving the palace its name. However, the wind has now gone from the Wind Palace. Legend has it that the palace, which overlooks the main street of Jaipur's lively Old City, was built so that the women of the royal household could watch the streets below without being observed. A panoramic view can be had from the top of the building. Take a peek behind the facade of the Hawa Mahal.
- Location: Next to the City Palace. Enter from the rear of the building.
- Entry Cost: 50 rupees for foreigners. 10 rupees for Indians.
- Opening Hours: 9 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. daily.
3. Galta Monkey Temple
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Getting to this rather ruinous but holy Hindi temple, nestled in peaceful surroundings between two granite cliffs, is quite an adventure but it's completely worth the effort. The temple is part of a larger temple complex, which also has three sacred pools of water. One of the pools has been taken over by thousands of monkeys that congregate there to swim and bathe. They're generally friendly and love to be fed.
- Location: At the far eastern side of the city, outside Gulta Pol, near Agra Road, Jaipur. To get there, take a rickshaw, walk up the hill to the white Sun Temple, then follow the steps downhill into the gorge.
- Entry Cost: Free
- Opening Hours: Visit late afternoon, near sunset, when the monkeys flock to the temple.
4. Amber Fort and Palace
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Around half an hour's drive from the city center, like something out of a fairy tale, Amber Fort is set on a hill top overlooking the Maota Lake. It was the original home of Rajput royalty until Jaipur city was constructed, and contains a number of breathtaking palaces, halls, gardens, and temples. Inside, the elaborate mirror work adds to the grandeur. The fort entrance is reached by walking up the hill, going in a jeep, or taking a lurching elephant ride.
- Location: North of Jaipur. Frequent buses depart from the Palace of the Winds to Amber Fort. Taxis are also available.
- Entry Cost: 200 rupees for foreigners. Elephant rides are 900 rupees for two people.
- Opening Hours: 9 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. daily. Note that elephant rides are only possible in the mornings until 11.30 a.m. Be sure to be there early to get one, as it's not possible to pre-book and demand is high.
- Sound & Light Show: Takes place every evening.
5. Nahargarh Fort
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Nahargarh Fort, also known as Tiger Fort, is perched high on the rugged Aravali Hills overlooking Jaipur city. The fort was built 1734 to help defend the city. It found fame in 2006, after many scenes from the movie Rang De Basanti
were filmed there. Nahargarh Fort offers spectacular views, which are best seen at sunset. It also makes a great place for a picnic as there's a cafe on the premises, which serves beer and snacks until 10 p.m. The fort looks particularly attractive at night when it's lit up.
- Location: North west of Jaipur city center. Get there by local bus, taxi, or a steep half hour trek directly up the hill.
- Entry Cost: Foreigners 30 rupees.
- Opening Hours: Sunrise to sunset, daily. Palace open from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. daily.
6. Jaigarh Fort
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The massive Jaigarh Fort was built in 1726 and holds great appeal for military lovers. Flanked by towering gateways and watchtowers, it contains the world's largest cannon on wheels. The cannon has never been fired though, and neither has the fort been captured. As a result the fort has remained intact over its long life, and is very well preserved. Infact, it's one of the best-preserved military structures of medieval India. Jaigarh doesn't have the delicate interiors of Amber Fort, and therefore appears as a real fortress. Climb the Diwa Burj watchtower to get an excellent view over the plains.
- Location: North of Jaipur, within walking distance of Amber Fort.
- Entry Cost: 50 rupees ($1).
- Opening Hours: 9 am to 4.30 p.m. daily.
7. Markets and Shopping
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Jaipur is an excellent place to shop and you'll find an enticing variety of goods available there. Some of the most popular items are precious gemstones, silver jewelry, bangles, clothes, blue pottery, and textiles. Don't miss these top 5 places to go shopping in Jaipur.
- Location: The main shopping area is M I Road.
- Opening Hours: Many shops are closed on Sundays.
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Jantar Mantar, built by King Jai Singh II between 1727 and 1734, literally means "calculation instrument". More than just a curious collection of sculptures, each structure at the intriguing Jantar Mantar observatory has a specialized astronomical function. There are 14 structures in total, which measure time, predict eclipses, and track stars. The most impressive one is the huge Samrat Yantra sundial. At a height of 90 feet (27 meters), it has a shadow that moves roughly the width of a person's hand every minute. It's a profound display of how quickly time does in fact go!
- Location: Next to the City Palace, Jaipur.
- Entry Cost: 10 rupees (20 cents) plus 50 rupees ($1) for a camera.
- Opening Hours: 9 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. daily.
9. Government Central (Albert Hall) Museum
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This old and famous museum was modeled on the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Its collection includes portraits of local kings, costumes, woodcarvings, paintings, and arts and crafts. Unfortunately photography isn't allowed.
- Location: Ram Nivas Bagh, south of the Old City, Jaipur.
- Entry Cost: 30 rupees (60 cents) for foreigners.
- Opening Hours: 10 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. daily.
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Jaipur is well known for its elephant rides, and this elephant safari is a thrilling way to explore the countryside around the city. Situated on a private estate in the green foothills behind Amber Fort, it enables visitors to get right away from the hustle and bustle. The safari ventures though villages, agricultural fields, hills, and ancient monuments. Many people take a safari before or after visiting Amber Fort, but night safaris are popular as well. If you wish, it's even possible to stay at the camp.
- Location: 20 minutes from Amber Fort, Jaipur.
- Cost: Around $130 per person for a morning safari, buffet lunch, beer and soft drinks. Inquire with the company for exact pricing.
- Opening Hours: Safaris run from morning to night.