6 Best Sights in Jodhpur, Rajasthan

Mehrangarh Fort

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This enormous hilltop fort was built by Rao Jodha in 1459, when he shifted his capital from Mandore to Jodhpur. Looking straight down a perpendicular cliff, the famously impregnable fort, about 500 feet above the city, is an imposing landmark, especially at night, when it's bathed in yellow light. Approach the fort by climbing a steep walkway, passing under no fewer than eight huge gates—if you're not up for the hike, you can take the elevator (Rs. 50) up two levels from the ticket office. The first gate, the Victory Gate, was built by Maharaja Ajit Singh to commemorate his military success against the Mughals at the beginning of the 18th century; the other seven commemorate victories over other Rajput states. The last gate, as in many Rajput forts, displays the haunting handprints of women who immolated themselves after their husbands were defeated in battle. Inside the fort, delicate latticed windows and pierced sandstone screens are the surprising motifs. The palaces—Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Phool Mahal (Flower Palace), Sheesh Mahal (Glass Palace)—and the other apartments are exquisitely decorated; their ceilings, walls, and floors are covered with murals, mirror work, and gilt and you should not miss viewing these chambers (though you can't go inside the rooms). The palace museum has exquisite rooms filled with lavish royal elephant carriages (howdahs), palanquins, thrones, paintings, and even a giant tent. It also has an interesting weapons gallery. From the ramparts there are great views of the city; the blue houses at sunset look magical. Another option is to take a zipline tour around the fort with Flying Fox; it's not for the fainthearted. The fort is possibly the best-maintained historic property in all Rajasthan, and offers an audio tour with headphones (included in the admission price for foreigners). There are two shops, open 9 to 5, run by the Mehrangarh Trust, that can be accessed without visiting the fort, that sell expensive but very attractive handicrafts. There's also a small craft bazaar in the outer courtyard that offers a variety of bargains. Apart from the fine-dining rooftop restaurant Mehran Terrace, there are also two cafés serving snacks and drinks where you can stop for a bite or a break. For an extra Rs. 30 you can visit 200-year-old Chokelao Bagh, a well-laid-out palace garden.

Guda Bishnoi

This is one of several immaculately kept villages of the Bishnoi community, a Hindu caste that takes its name from the 29 edicts its members agree to follow. In 1520, during a 20-year drought, the saint Jamboji came to the Bishnois to ease their troubles by finding new water sources for them and creating natural springs. Jamboji made a pact with the Bishnois that if they accepted his commandments, they would never experience a water shortage again. The next year, the drought ended. The Bishnois, who have faithfully kept to the teachings of Jamboji for almost 500 years, are one of Jodhpur's most distinct scheduled castes. Part of their pact was to respect the land and treat animals like their family—very protective of their environment, they look harshly on anyone who appears to hurt their sacred deer and antelope populations. Notable around here are the rare migratory birds, such as the godavan and sara cranes, that pass through the area. The Bishnois are extremely outgoing and hospitable—they will invite you into their home for a cup of chai or amala, a mixture of opium and water traditionally reserved for special occasions and lazy days. Remember to bring your camera—you might just see a barasingha or blackbuck at dusk. Note that the area is difficult to navigate, as there are no real landmarks, so ask at your hotel or reputable travel agent for transportation arrangements and make sure you come with a tour guide. We recommend the outfitter Bishnoi Village Safari, which will take you by jeep for an early-morning round of these villages and the weaver's village, like Salawas, and organize a village lunch. Tours starting at about Rs. 1,000 per person.

Jaswant Thada

The royal marble crematorium was built in 1899 for Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. Capping the enormous white structure are marble canopies under which individual members of the royal family are buried. You may see people bowing before the image of the king, who is considered to have joined the ranks of the deities. It's a peaceful spot to stop, either on your way up to the fort or on your way down.

Remove shoes before entering.

Jodhpur, 342006, India
Sights Details
Rate Includes: From Rs. 50, Daily 9–5

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Built in 1812 just outside Jodhpur, this old, walled monastery complex---mahamandir means "great temple"---is not very well maintained but still contains a few hundred houses and a school. The photogenic monastery belongs to the Nath community, warrior-priests who worked closely with the royal family to arrange support in times of war. Mahamandir is best known for the 84 beautifully carved pillars that surround it. Prayers are offered morning and evening in the main temple. It's in the Mahamandir area of town near the railway tracks and a bit difficult to locate. Check locally for best times to visit or inquire with your hotel about stopping here as part of a city tour. It is also called Natho ka Mandir.

Mahamandir, on way to Mandore, Jodhpur, 342006, India

Mandore Gardens

Within the old Marwar capital at Mandore (before the capital moved to Jodhpur), these gardens house the exquisitely sculpted red-sandstone, carefully looked-after davals (memorials or cenotaphs also called chhatris) to former rulers; the most impressive is the one dedicated to 18th-century maharaja Ajit Singh. The Hall of Heroes depicts 16 colorfully painted heroes and deities carved from a single piece of stone. The small museum on the grounds has sculptures from the 5th to the 9th centuries as well as ivory and lacquerwork. There are many monkeys here, and people seeking alms, and there is also a temple devoted to the 330 million Hindu gods. This is a tranquil place to visit except on weekends and holidays, when locals arrive for outings. It's worth a visit for the davals, but keep in mind that the gardens, while visually stunning, are not well maintained and are full of trash.

Jodhpur, 342304, India
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Gardens free; museum Rs. 50, Gardens: daily sunrise–sunset. Museum: Sat.–Thurs. 9–6

Umaid Bhawan Palace Museum

Built between 1929 and 1942 at the behest of Maharaja Umaid Singh during a long famine, this public-works project employed 3,000 workers. Now part museum, part royal residence, and part heritage hotel, it has an art deco design that makes it unique in the state. Amazingly, no cement was used in construction; the palace is made of interlocking blocks of sandstone, something to admire when you stand under the imposing 183-foot-high central dome. The museum's collection includes a model of the palace, royal finery, collections of palace crockery and cut glass, menus, a sample of palace rooms (dining room and lounge), miniature paintings, stuffed big cats, and a large number of clocks. There's a photographic history of how the palace was designed as well as some grand old photographs of the palace, the royal family, and famous visitors. You may catch a glimpse of the titular Maharaja of Jodhpur, who still lives in one large wing, but you certainly won't miss the magnificent peacocks that strut around the palace's marble chattris (canopies) and lush lawns.

Airport Rd., Jodhpur, 342006, India
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Rs. 100 (free to hotel guests), Daily 9–5