Tag Archive for: Thar Desert

It was early in the morning when we left our beautiful room at Fifu Hotel, where we spent an incredible time during our Workaway project in India.

Soda, the driver with whom we did also the safari in the desert, dropped us with the jeep at the train station. It was our first train ride in India. When we boarded the train we thought that we were in the wrong one, as our carriage was totally empty. The train was supposed to leave at 07.00 am. We knew already that Indian clocks function according to a different rhythm, but 15 minutes later after the scheduled departure, the train was still in the station, when someone came to check our tickets. We asked him if we were on the right train and about the time when we were supposed to leave. The friendly man nodded and told us that the train leaves at 07.00 am. We smiled at his answer, feeling better knowing that at least we were on the right train.



A few minutes later the train started to move when we had a last glimpse at the fort of Jaisalmer.



It was a really sad goodbye. Jaisalmer conquered our hearts, not only with the beautiful landscapes and the impressing structures but also with its people. One of the things that impressed us more was the silence of the place, while soon after Jodhpur managed to remind us what India was all about.

Arriving in Jodhpur

The train got more crowded in a very short time. It was quite entertaining to see all the people in their beautiful and colorful clothes. Even if we departed late from Jaisalmer, we reached our destination 20 minutes earlier. Upon our arrival, we bargained for the price of a tuk-tuk ride and later in the afternoon we could already check-in at our “home” for the following few days.

From the terrace of the hostel, we could admire the imposing Mehrangarh Fort, located on a hill in the middle of the city. We went out to explore the area and, while looking for a place to eat, realized once again that finding a local restaurant with decent prices in India is not always an easy task. Street food stalls can be usually found during breakfast, lunch and dinner time but while looking in the late afternoon, when many sellers take a break in order to hide from the heat, it seemed a bit challenging to find any.


The Blue City Jodhpur

Jodhpur is the 2nd biggest city in the state of Rajasthan and, compared to Jaisalmer, it felt incredibly busy with rushing tuk-tuks, lots of noise and dirt.



The “Blue City” is located at the eastern border of the Thar Desert. Many of the houses here are colored in blue, for different reasons. First, blue is considered a color that absorbs less heat. It is also known as a good mosquito repellent. Another reason refers to ancient times when the priests of the higher cast were coloring their houses in blue.



We were strolling around on the busy streets of the city and ended our walk at the famous Ghanta Ghar (clock tower), located in the middle of a large bazaar. That evening we enjoyed a light dinner with fruits and vegetables that we bought from the vendors there.


What to see

The following morning we started early with the wish to discover some of the attractions that the city had to offer. We visited first the Jaswant Thada cenotaph, built by Maharaja Sardar Singh in memory of his father. From the mausoleum, we could admire a beautiful view overlooking the fort and the city.



The price for the entrance was only 50 Rupees (ca. 0,58 Euro) and no additional charge for the camera. The place is surrounded by an ancient wall and a small lake. Visiting the area covered by the wall costs an additional 100 Indian Rupee per person + 200 Rupee for a guide, as it is not allowed to enter the area without guidance.



While leaving the area, we were approached by many tuk-tuk drivers and, as our plan was to go towards the Fort, which was only 800m far, we did not pay attention to them at first. Some were actually offering tours and since the weather was hot and made it difficult to walk around, we took the option of a tour into consideration. So, after a quick negotiation of the price, we agreed with one of the men to bring us to the Fort for a photo stop and then to the Mandore Garden, followed by a visit at the Umaid-Bhavan Palace and later to return to the Clock Tower. Neither I nor Alex are very good at bargaining, but we knew it was the most normal thing to do in India and we happily negotiated a price of 500 Rupee for the entire afternoon.

We decided not to go inside the fort as the entry price of 600 Rupees per person was a bit too high for us, but we felt lucky to get another amazing view of the blue city from the entrance of the fort.



Our tour continued towards the Mandore Garden. At that time of the day, the streets of Jodhpur were much more crowded, offering a typical picture that visitors usually get when they arrive in India. Cows, tuk-tuks, dogs, dust, people in colorful clothes, loud music announcing an upcoming festival and traders that were selling everything you can imagine. We enjoyed a lot the flair of the city but we also understood that for others it could feel quite overwhelming and disturbing.

The entrance at the Mandore Garden was free, which we found very surprising, as in India tourists usually pay for most attractions. The garden felt nice to visit, but it didn’t seem to be very well taken care of. We admired the Temples and Chhatris and the wall of the 330 million gods.



While this place has been recommended to us by many locals, we believe Jodhpur has more interesting highlights to offer, that’s why we kept our visit to the garden short and rushed to the Umaid-Bhavan Palace, one of the biggest and most impressive palaces in Rajasthan. We were told that it is the biggest privately owned building in the world, home of the family of Maharaja Gaj Singh II, incorporating also the most expensive hotel in Jodhpur and a museum, where tourists can admire the old architecture and art items. Nowadays, the Maharajas carry their titles but do not have any political implications anymore.



From here we drove back to the city center and spent the afternoon walking around, returning shortly after at our accommodation.

The following day we spent our time around the blue city, located on the other side of the fort. Here we also got to know about the Ganesha Festival that took place during our stay. In India, you can be sure that every day there is a traditional ceremony or festival going on somewhere, which are celebrated in a quite loud and colorful way.

The time in Jodhpur passed fast, bringing us closer to our visit to Jaipur, the biggest city in Rajasthan.

Every day of our stay in Jaisalmer was a great experience, for the food, for the people and for the chance to discover always something new and exciting in this beautiful city. But the most exciting experience of all was spending the night in the silence of the desert, under a sky full of stars.

We joined a tour organized by the hotel where we did our third Workaway volunteer project, Hotel Fifu, together with two other travelers. The tour also included visiting some of the important landmarks around Jaisalmer.

Historical places around Jaisalmer

We started our tour early, after breakfast at the hotel, when a jeep picked us up from the reception. We drove for some time through the tall dunes covered by vegetation (yes, the Thar Desert is mostly a green desert) arriving at our first stop, the cenotaphs of Bada Bagh. None of the places that we visited that day felt touristy and we were left to explore the areas undisturbed.



Other stops on our route included the Amar Sagar Jain Temple and the abandoned town of Kuldhara, arriving in the end at a local village.


The locals weren’t surprised by our visit, as they probably see tourists quite often around, but their children (their many children) came running to play with us. The most exciting thing to play with was the camera and they happily took a few pictures with it.


The golden dunes

It was shortly before sunset when the villagers finished preparing the necessary things for the trip and we left on camel’s back into the wilderness of the desert.



The camels were owned by our guide from the village and were good taken care of and treated well. The camels are part of the life of the people in the desert, in the same way, goats and cows are. But yes, there are also camels used mainly for tourism, that probably don’t enjoy a good treatment like the ones owned by local families.

We left the village behind and rode for almost one hour through sand dunes and agricultural fields until we could see only sand around us, little vegetation and no people. At this point, the desert looked more like the one we were used with from our previous destinations: Morocco and the countries of the Arabian Peninsula.



Some of our guides cooked dinner and boiled tea for us, while we helped the others prepare the camp for the night. We opted for the tour that included wild camping, which meant sleeping on a simple bed right under the stars. Of course, you can choose a tour with a tent and even entertainment, but we were more excited about experiencing the desert as locals did for centuries.


After witnessing a perfect sunset we could enjoy a delicious dinner while the sky got filled with starts. There was silence and beauty in the darkness that surrounded us.



We woke up the next day partially covered in sand, as the wind blew quite strong during the night and, after the breakfast, we left the guide walk back with the camels to the village while we drove back to the city with the jeep.

We arrived back at the hotel sweaty and dusty but overwhelmed with excitement and happiness for experiencing something so beautiful.

Discover more about Jaisalmer or visit our gallery.

What makes India truly special is its incredible diversity. From the seaside to the high Himalayan Mountains the landscape and the people change dramatically, leaving place for an endless number of experiences. But the best of our experiences was the one we had in the Great Thar Desert, the most populous desert in the world.

Trying to choose from different transportation methods that would bring us from Mumbai to Jaisalmer, we decided to fly to the desert, via Jaipur, as the price for the flight felt more convincing than the less expensive, but also extremely long train ride.

We were picked up from the airport and transferred to the reception of the hotel, where we planned to stay for the following 10 days and where we also did our third Workaway project. Read more about it here.

Jaisalmer – a World Heritage Site

The most pleasant thing to notice about “The Golden City” is the respect for traditions and the efforts to preserve the authenticity of the place. As technology and building methods evolved, the local community in Jaisalmer used them to recreate and use easier the same architectural style and motifs inherited from their ancestors, which resulted in extending the inhabited part of the city without creating much contrast between the old and the new.



Located close to the border with Pakistan, Jaisalmer is the gateway to a series of experiences in the desert. We went there for the beautiful city but, obviously, we also wanted to venture out in the desert.

Home to 78000 people, Jaisalmer has a glorious past and a rich history. The name “Golden City” comes from the golden color of its sandstone walls and of the dunes in the surrounding desert.



The main attraction is the fort, the most important remembrance of the city’s glorious history, where nowadays people still live and practice different commercial and touristic activities. Around 4000 people live inside the walls. Unfortunately, the fort wasn’t built to sustain the modern life of its inhabitants and the intense use of water, in the absence of a proper drainage system is damaging the construction, putting it at risk of collapsing. Although local people are aware of this danger, mass tourism continues to add to the damage. Therefore we recommend looking for accommodations outside the fort.


Things to do

The old architecture impresses with its many details and the meticulousness of the workers that built the city. A guided tour could help you understand more of the secrets hidden behind the old walls. Travelers can visit Jain temples, beautiful Havelis and a royal palace, although just losing yourself in the streets of the fortress is already a rewarding experience, which you can end with a traditional meal or a refreshing drink on one of the many terraces in the city, that offer beautiful views of the fort.



Another option is walking to Gadisar Lake, where visitors can rent a boat or just chill on the lakeside.



If the fortress and the city are not enough to satisfy the curious explorer inside of you, there is more to discover outside the city. Book a tour that will bring you to the Bada Bagh (8KM from Jaisalmer) where you can admire beautiful cenotaphs and a great landscape overlooking the nearby river.



Continue your trip to the Amar Sagar Jain Temple (6KM from Jaisalmer) whose design reflects the typical Rajasthan architecture, with an advanced level of details.



20 Km away from Jaisalmer you can visit the village of Kuldhara. Built around the 13th century, it was completely abandoned by the early 19th century, the village being nowadays shrouded in legend and mystery and many say it is haunted.



If you are less interested in history and architecture, but on the look for more adventurous things to do, we warmly recommend exploring the desert, by booking one of the many available tours. If you don’t know which one to choose, maybe you will find inspiration in our article about spending a night out in the desert.

Jaisalmer was the highlight of our journey in India, but just one of the places that make the Thar Desert such an interesting destination. As we wanted to explore more of the desert, at the end of our 10 days stay in the city we took the train towards the “Blue City”, Jodhpur.

More impressions about Jaisalmer you will find in our gallery.