Jaisalmer is often referred to as being straight out of a romantic Arabian Nights fable. It's a cliche, but how better to describe this remarkable sandstone city that rises magically from the sand dunes of the Rajasthan desert?
During medieval times, Jaisalmer was an important part of the main trade route linking India to Egypt, Arabia, Persia, Africa and the West. Its mesmerizing ancient Fort, built in 1156, is perched high on a pedestal overlooking the city. Inside, the fort is alive and spellbinding. It houses five palaces, several temples, and some exquisite havelis (mansions), as well as shops and other residences.
A camel ride into the desert brings the fairytale to life. Multiple day safaris sleeping out under the stars are popular but even a couple of hours spent in the desert, watching the sunset on the sand dunes with a picnic, is enough to inspire great romance.
Where to Stay
Staying inside the Fort can be a charming experience. However, there is growing concern about the longevity of the Fort as its foundations are crumbling from poor drainage. As a result, many people now prefer to stay outside the Fort, but still have a romantic fairytale view of it from their rooms.
If money isn't a concern, a night or two spent at the luxury Serai Desert Camp and Spa in the Thar Desert will blow your mind. Rates valid until March 2012: 28,750 rupees for a Tented Suite, 40,000 rupees for a Luxury Tented Suite, and 57,500 rupees for the Royal Tented Suite per night, including breakfast and taxes. The Royal Tented Suite comes complete with private spa, pool, and dining tent.
Suryagarh is a magnificent luxury boutique hotel in the form of a newly constructed fort. Located out in the desert, around 15 kilometers from Jaisalmer city, its a very romantic escape. Doubles are priced from 12,000 rupees ($270) per night. The hotel offers a number of bespoke experiences from excursions to neighboring havelis, to high-tea in the sand dunes and customized Rajasthani cooking classes with the chef.
One of the best mid-range options is Hotel Jaisalgarh.. Designed like a castle, it has the ambiance of a bygone era complete with hand-carved balconies, sit-in chhatris (pavilion with domes) and latticed screens. Book the spacious Maharaja Suite with central dome, period furniture including four-poster bed, and bathroom with Jacuzzi overlooking Jaisalmer Fort.
If you're on a budget, the Star Haveli is a new hotel that's located very close to the Fort. It's an intimate place with only six rooms, and a magnificent rooftop view of the Fort (expect to pay around $45 per night for a rooftop room). Its interior, constructed from golden stone, is a peaceful and inviting oasis.