Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, India, is a relatively new city founded in the early 18th century by the then Maharajah of Jaipur state. Maharajah Sawai Jai Singh II moved his capital from Amber. Jaipur is considered the first planned city in India. It is called the pink city and is famous for its architecture and culture.
Despite having grown up in India, I didn’t get a chance to visit Jaipur for a long time. I jumped on the opportunity to extend my stay by a couple of days in the city after attending a close friend’s wedding. My cousin tagged along with me in what was our first trip together. We love exploring places leisurely. We planned for a hectic schedule with the ambitious target of visiting the city’s landmarks in two days.
On a Saturday morning, we started early to Amer Fort/Amber Palace. We entered the palace around 9 am and were welcomed by an almost empty courtyard. We chose to get an audio guide so that we could explore the area at our own pace. Walking through the courtyards and the fort walls we lost track of time and hunger. After spending well over 5 hours appreciating every nook and corner of this once functional palace, we were already off course for the day.
Post lunch, we walked to Meena Kund which was only a 20-minute stroll away. Deciding to walk was the best thing we did. The single lane road was obstructed with vehicles trying to go in and out. We spent about half an hour relaxing at the gorgeous step well. Considering it was December, we had only a couple of more hours of daylight. This meant we had time to visit either Jaigarh or Nahargarh forts. The desire to see Jaivan, the world’s largest cannon on wheels made Jaigarh the winning pick.
How two adventurous girls got to Jaigarh fort and back with just 20 minutes to closing time is a story in its own. As we reached the entrance and entered the fort it was 4:40. We had just 20 minutes to find our way to the cannon and back to the entrance. Since it seemed like an impossible task, we decided to get a guide. Our guide took us to the most important locations while narrating the story of the fort. Not faltering or wasting a single moment we got to see more than we hoped for. Towards the end, we were even able to enjoy the sunset from a beautiful lookout.
As we went back to the entrance, the fort was as good as deserted. With the reassurances of the kind staff, our best bet to get to back to civilization was to take the walking path to Amer fort. Being an avid hiker, I was well prepared for this scenario. Our target was to get to Amer fort before twilight ended, which meant a maximum of 40 minutes for the 3 km stretch. Unfortunately, this also meant that we didn’t have the luxury to admire the beautiful jungle stretch. As we reached the fort and saw other tourists, we slowed down to enjoy.
With the sun completely set, our last stop for the evening was Jal Mahal. This picturesque palace, seated in the middle of Man Sagar Lake showcases Rajput architecture. Four floors of the 5-storey building get submerged when the lake is full. Sauntering on the promenade overlooking the palace was the perfect close to an adventure packed day.
Jaipur City Palace
Analyzing our previous day, we decided to be realistic and give Albert Hall Museum a miss on Sunday. My love for exploring museums could easily mean that we would spend the entire day indoors. Starting early, we set off to the Jaipur City Palace. This still functional residence of the Jaipur Royal family has parts open to the public. Again, we decided to get an audio guide to get detailed information about the history and architecture of the palace. Upon exploring the beautiful areas, we had lunch in the café at the palace.
Right outside the palace is the famous astronomical observatory, Jantar Mantar. This World Heritage site houses the world’s largest stone sundial and 18 other instruments. We slowly explored all the yantras and tried to do the measurements on our own. Enjoying an ice cream on a pleasant December afternoon, we walked to our next destination, Hawa Mahal.
Since we arrived at Hawa Mahal later in the afternoon we were worried that it would be crowded. Thankfully there weren’t as many people interested in going inside the palace as there were outside. I had often heard how different the interior was compared to the façade consisting of 953 windows. The simpler inside has a striking contrast to the intricate jharokas one can see from outside. Despite that, we enjoyed exploring all the floors.
No trip to Jaipur can be complete without buying souvenirs. Upon exiting Hawa Mahal, we walked around Johri Bazar and Bapu Bazar buying trinkets and shawls. After two well spent days it was time to relax and catch an early morning flight back home. The only regret from the trip was not extending our vacation when we could (read pre-pandemic days).