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Jaisalmer Travel Guide: Fort, Havelis, Lake, Thar Desert Safari, Museums & More

This Jaisalmer Travel Guide here is a result of two different trips in 2016 and 2022. The first trip was limited to the fort. Now I am expanding this post with new information.

The first thing I noticed upon reaching the Jaisalmer Fort area was the Bhang Shop. Now the question was, whether to go for it or not? There was a possibility of achieving true enlightenment, that too in the desert, but the other possibility of losing control over myself while alone in a new city seemed alarming too. Nevertheless, I postponed that decision for later and decided to explore the Fort.

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Do remember that Jaisalmer Fort is a living fort, i.e. it is still in use. People live inside, in fact some of the families have been living there for generations. This is also the reason there is no entry fee to the main fort compound. It is not a mere monument, it is a living organism.

Jaisalmer Fort is one of those six Hill Forts of Rajasthan collectively declared to be UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The desert city of Jaisalmer also revolves around the Fort and most of the tourist-oriented hotels and restaurants are also located around it. Also, it is a “living” fort, i.e. there is an entire township inside it, inhabited by people who used to work for the king and have been here for generations. Even the lower areas inside the walls are full of shops and restaurants along with living quarters. Before going inside, I took a round of the fort complex, clicking pictures from different directions.

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As I approached the entry point, a local guide approached me, offering to show me around, for INR 100. I tried to ignore but he was persistent or probably desperate. I started running and he started chasing. Finally as I stopped, he offered to do the same for INR 50. So, I agreed and he guided me through various parts of the Fort for an hour or so. I saw some intricate carvings on the wall, large paintings and weaponry of the royalty. It was as massive a structure I’d ever seen, on par or probably bigger than the likes of Mehrangarh, Amber and Gwalior Forts.

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I was wondering about the nearly uniform, round-shaped boulders lined along some parts of the walls. He explained that these were used to throw at the enemies during the siege. I silently mourned those foot soldiers who were asked to raid these walls over the centuries. He also came up with a few other claims that I could not fully trust. For instance, he pointed out the colourful marble floor and claimed it to have medicinal properties. Apparently, you have to keep a pot of milk on the floor overnight and drink it in the morning to avoid diabetes. There was also a painting depicting a local love story but sadly I forgot the names of the characters.

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Finally, we reached the terrace of the Fort and had a clear view of the city, which was not unlike the one I saw from Mehrangarh but that distinctive blue tinge of Jodhpur was missing here. We also found a miniature model of the Fort complex and the guide explained how Rajputs, Brahmins and Royalty live in different parts of it.

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We came out from a different side and finished the guided tour. I paid his dues and roamed around for a while in the lower alleys of the complex, full of Italian restaurants. Jaisalmer seemed to be the favorite hangout for Italians just like Kasol is for the Israelis.

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In the evening I strolled lazily along the road to have a clearer view of the city. Jaisalmer is not a very big city and much of its activities are centered around the Fort and the tourism it generates. Even the new buildings are built and designed to look like traditional Havelis. A couple of 19th-century mansions near the Fort have also been turned into tourists destinations and they even charge their own entry fees.

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Walking along the road, I came out of the Fort area and reached the Gadisar lake, the water reservoir of this desert city. However, it is not only a lake. It was lovingly developed by the same kings who built the Fort. So, there are several temples and other structures around the lake and a few even in the middle of it.

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Gadisar Lake1
Light & Sound show at Gadisar
Gadisar Beer
A good place to have a drink


So, I made another trip to Jaisalmer last year. My first trip in 2016 was limited to the fort itself. This time I explored a bit more of it apart from actually visiting the Thar desert, I also spent more time inside the fort, exploring every nook and corner.

Apart from the town, we took a detour to the Sam Sand Dune. We were short of time and money, so we took a very touristy day trip package for INR 3500 from a local operator in the Fort. The driver picked us up in the afternoon and we opted to have a look at a few spots en route. The driver voluntarily stopped at a newly built Jain temple which was nice but wasn’t a historical one. After that, we stopped at Lodurva Jain Temple, which is a historical structure, as well as the iconic ghost village of Kuldhara. Eventually, we reached Sam and roamed around the desert till sunset. Some cultural performances and a dinner were part of the deal and then we returned to town. (I will write a longer post about this part later on).

Jaisalmer Travel Guide

Understanding Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer is a comparatively small city, unlike Jaipur or Jodhpur. It is primarily dependent on tourism, which is also possible in the winter months mostly as the summer is harsh in the desert. It is located on the edge of the Thar desert, not far from the Pakistan border. As it was the royal capital at one point, the royal heritage is what attracts people here apart from the desert experience. The whole town is built around the gigantic fort and there is enough inside to keep it occupied for a day or three. However, there are a few things that lie within the 100 KM radius of the city and can be visited as detours from Jaisalmer.

Jaisalmer Tourist Route Map

How to Reach Jaisalmer?

By Air

Jaisalmer has an airport with direct flights from Ahmedabad, Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai although number of flights are limited. During peak tourists seasons more flights can be introduced at times. 

By Train

It is well connected by trains. Major cities like Jaipur and Jodhpur are connected to it and even trains from other parts of the city travel from here. 

By Road

You’ll get regular buses from all major cities of Rajasthan from Jaisalmer. You can also get overnight sleeper buses for a non-tiring journey.

Local Transport

Within the town, you can walk or hire local autorickshaws. There are also places to hire bikes. You can hire cabs to visit nearby attractions and the desert itself (Explained below). There are also buses running to most places but you need to match your timings with the bus timings. 

Best Season to Visit Jaisalmer

Winters (October to February) are perhaps the most favoured, offering pleasant daytime temperatures, cool evenings, and the opportunity to explore the city’s historical and cultural gems comfortably. The iconic Jaisalmer Desert Festival, held in February, is a highlight during this season, showcasing vibrant folk performances and traditional events. The short spring in March ushers in warm days and cool nights, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities and camel safaris. Summers (April to June) bring scorching heat, with daytime temperatures often exceeding 40°C (104°F), making it less favourable for extensive exploration. Rains in the monsoons (July to September) are infrequent but can bring relief, transforming the arid landscapes into a brief burst of greenery, so this can be a more interesting time to explore it when the crowd is less and you get to see some desert raisin literally.

Where to Stay in Jaisalmer?

Do note that the rates suddenly rise during the peak weeks of Christmas and New Year. SO, to avoid heartburn, book ahead or just avoid that peiod.

Backpacker Hostels

There are many backpacker hostels in Jaisalmer to cater to solo travellers. Most of them are located around the fort and even inside the fort!

Budget Hostels and Guest Houses

The area around the fort is full of thousands of hotels and guesthouses that are available at reasonable rates. Even within the fort, you will find many options. 

Luxury Hotels 

Jaisalmer also has many luxury options including five-star hotels. As the area around the fort is very congested, most of these big hotels are located a bit away from this area. 

Desert Tents 

You can also find tented accommodations at the sand dunes if you want to spend a night or two in the desert. I’d suggest you spend your first couple of days in the town and talk to local service providers before heading towards the desert. 

Top Places to See and Things to Do Around Jaisalmer

Inside Jaisalmer City

Jaisalmer Fort 

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Rising majestically from the heart of the Thar Desert, Jaisalmer Fort, also known as the Golden Fort, is a beacon of resilience and unique charm. Built in 1156 AD by Rawal Jaisal, its golden sandstone ramparts shimmer under the harsh desert sun, earning it its moniker. But Jaisalmer Fort is much more than just a stunning vista. It is a living testament to a bygone era, a bustling town within its fortified walls. Narrow lanes lined with havelis, ornate mansions with intricate carvings, wind their way past temples and bazaars teeming with life. Here, echoes of the past resonate in the clang of the blacksmith’s hammer and the vibrant hues of handloom textiles. Unlike most forts, Jaisalmer still shelters generations of families, their lives woven into the fabric of the fort’s existence. This vibrant tapestry of history and modernity is what sets Jaisalmer Fort apart, making it a truly unique gem in the Thar Desert’s crown.

Gadisar Lake 

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Located in the heart of Jaisalmer, Gadisar Lake stands as a serene oasis amidst the golden hues of the desert city. Built in the 14th century by Maharaja Gadsi Singh, the lake was initially constructed as a water reservoir for the arid region. Boating on the lake during the golden hours of sunrise or sunset provides a magical experience, with the ancient structures casting reflections on the calm surface. The lake also hosts various migratory birds during the winter months, adding to its natural charm. In the evening, a light and sound show is organized here while there are a lot of cases and eateries on the banks too. You can actually have a drink while watching the light and sound show. Do note that the Gadisar Lake looks best during the golden hours. If you go earlier, you will just get bland colours apart from the blazing sun. So, always go after 4 PM and stay till the show.   

Desert Safaris from Jaisalmer

One of the most sought-after things to do in Jaisalmer is to experience the real Thar Desert by opting for a desert safari. There are different types of Safaris. You can afford it and if you are really adventurous, you can opt for a long safari that lasts several days where you spend the nights in remote desert villages that you reach riding the camels.

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A cheaper and quicker alternative is to do a quick visit to a couple of points, called Sam Sand Dune and Khuri Sand Dune, both not far from Jaisalmer. These are located on the edge of the desert. You can drive to them and come back the same day. Resorts and tents are present at these places too. You can get a tour from any operator in Jaisalmer, they offer packages that include a vehicle with a driver to take you there and bring back and along with it you get some cultural performances and dinner at a designated place.

Kothari’s Patwon Ki Haveli / Patwa Haveli and Other Havelis

Constructed in the early 19th century by the wealthy Patwa family, this cluster of five havelis reflects the grandeur of Rajasthani craftsmanship. Carved from golden-yellow sandstone, the havelis are adorned with intricate jharokhas (balconies), ornate facades, and delicate lattice work that uniquely blends Rajput and Islamic architectural styles. The Patwa Ki Haveli is not just a visual feast for architecture enthusiasts but also offers a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the merchant class during the heyday of Jaisalmer. Each haveli within the complex has its own distinct charm, narrating stories of wealth, artistic prowess, and cultural heritage. Today, Patwa Ki Haveli stands as a living museum, inviting visitors to marvel at its golden splendour and delve into the rich history of Jaisalmer’s mercantile past. It has an entry fee of INR 150 for Indians and INR 300 for foreigners. There are other such havelis too such as Salam SIngh ki Haveli (Mori Mahal) and Baa Ri Haveli

Museums in Jaisalmer 

  1. Jaisalmer Government Museum: A short walk from the fort, housed within the splendid surroundings of the Mubarak Mahal in Jaisalmer Fort, this museum showcases an array of artifacts, including sculptures, coins, manuscripts, and exhibits on local history.
  2. Thar Heritage Museum: Dedicated to preserving and showcasing the rich cultural heritage of Thar Desert, this museum displays a diverse collection of traditional artifacts, textiles, musical instruments, fossils, and other items depicting the lifestyle of the desert communities. It is around 2 KMs away from the fort on the Ramgarh Road. 
  3. Jaisalmer War Museum: Located 14 KMs away from Jaisalmer on the Jodhpur highway, it highlights the sacrifices and history of the Indian Army in the region, with displays of military equipment and information about battles fought in the area.
  4. Desert Culture Centre and Museum: Located near the lake, this cultural centre provides insights into the history and culture of the Thar Desert, featuring exhibits on traditional crafts, art, and the way of life of the desert communities.
  5. Havelis of Jaisalmer: The aforementioned havelis like Patwon ki Haveli are also practically museums preserving the stories of the people who once lived there.  
  6. Jaisalmer Fort Palace Museum and Heritage Centre: The fort itself houses a museum in one part of the fort. The entry fee is INR 100 for Indians and INR 250 for foreigners.   

Lodurva Jain Temple

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Just a short distance from Jaisalmer, the Lodurva Jain Temples stand as an architectural testament to the religious and cultural richness of the region. Dating back to the 12th century, these temples showcase exquisite craftsmanship and intricate carvings that have withstood the test of time. Dedicated to Lord Parsvanath, the main temple is adorned with delicate sculptures and detailed frescoes, depicting scenes from Jain mythology. The stunning architecture, with its finely carved pillars and domes, creates a serene oasis against the backdrop of the Thar Desert. The temples hold historical significance, having been a center for trade and commerce during the medieval period. There is also a replica of the Kalpavriksha atop the temple. 


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The ghost village of Kuldhara, is an enigmatic and abandoned settlement frozen in time. Stepping into Kuldhara feels like entering a portal to the past, as the eerie silence echoes the tales of its mysterious abandonment. Legend has it that the village was deserted overnight by its residents, who were believed to be Paliwal Brahmins, due to an oppressive taxation system. The crumbling sandstone structures, narrow alleys, and dilapidated homes narrate a silent story of a once-thriving community. Despite its desolation. There is also a Jurassic-era fossil park nearby which is full of cacti. 

Desert National Park

Desert National Park in Jaisalmer beckons adventurers with its captivating landscapes and unique biodiversity. Sprawling across a vast expanse, this national park is a sanctuary for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. The park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna specially adapted to the arid desert environment. Visitors have the chance to spot elusive species such as the Great Indian Bustard, blackbuck, desert fox, and a variety of reptiles. The undulating sand dunes within the park create a mesmerizing vista, especially during sunrise and sunset. Guided safaris and nature walks offer a close encounter with the desert’s raw beauty, making Desert National Park an essential stop for those seeking an authentic and immersive experience in the heart of Rajasthan. 


Tanot, a small village near Jaisalmer, holds a unique and profound significance. The Tanot Mata Temple, located in this arid expanse, has become a symbol of unwavering faith and resilience. Legend has it that during the 1965 Indo-Pak war, the temple miraculously withstood heavy bombings, solidifying its reputation as a divine sanctuary. The temple complex, adorned with intricate architecture, shelters ancient idols of the goddess. Pilgrims and visitors are drawn not only by the religious sanctity but also by the awe-inspiring landscape that surrounds Tanot. The peaceful ambiance, coupled with the miraculous tales echoing through the sands, makes Tanot a destination that encapsulates both spiritual devotion and the enduring spirit of the people in the face of adversity.


Longewala, a historic site near Jaisalmer, etches its place in the annals of military history, particularly during the 1971 Indo-Pak War. The Battle of Longewala, immortalized in the Bollywood film “Border,” unfolded in this remote desert outpost. The heroic stand of the Indian armed forces, particularly the Border Security Force, against a much larger Pakistani force, is commemorated through the Longewala War Memorial. The site pays homage to the indomitable spirit and sacrifice of the soldiers who defended the borders. As visitors stand amid the vast desert landscape, the rusting remains of tanks and military equipment serve as silent witnesses to the valor that unfolded here. Longewala is not just a historical landmark; it is a poignant reminder of the courage and determination that resonates through the shifting sands of the Thar Desert.


You have heard of Pokhran as the site of Nuclear Testing but there’s more to it. A standout attraction is the Pokhran Fort, a testament to the town’s pivotal role in India’s nuclear history. Its captivating architecture offers a glimpse into the region’s past. The Pokhran Test Range Museum further delves into India’s nuclear testing legacy. Beyond history, Pokhran invites exploration of the sacred Gomatgiri, an architectural gem. Fort Pokhran, the 14th century citadel also known as “Balagarh”, stands amidst the Thar Desert. .


The 13th-century Barmer Fort stands tall as a testament to the city’s storied past, offering panoramic views of the surrounding desert. The bustling markets showcase the city’s traditional craftsmanship, with intricate woodcarvings and hand-block printing captivating visitors. Desert safaris through the Thar Desert’s vast sand dunes, visits to ancient temples like Kiradu, and the vibrant Barmer Thar Festival add cultural depth to the experience.  

Is one day enough for Jaisalmer? How much time is required to visit Jaisalmer?

Definitely not. Even fully enjoying the Jaisalmer Fort will take up one whole day at the very least. So, keep at least 3 days in hand even if you are looking for a quick trip.

Ideal Jaisalmer Itinerary

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I have seen people who stay for weeks and months in the season here, just to soak in the vibes. Nevertheless, as a bare minimum, I suggest the following for those who are just there for the weekend and can’t afford to get a longer leave.

Day 1: Arrive in the morning and devote the time to the Jaisalmer Fort (There is much to see). 

Day 2: Explore the rest of the town of Jaisalmer, The Lake, Markets, Museums, and Havelis. 

Day 3: Take a day trip to the desert. Visit Sam or Khuri, and spend some time in the desert. En-route you can also visit the ghost village of Kuldhara and Lodurva Jain Temple.  

Day 4: Leave

Arts and Crafts of Jaisalmer 

Jaisalmer, the Golden City of Rajasthan, is a treasure trove of vibrant arts and crafts, each one reflecting the rich history and culture of the Thar Desert. Here’s a glimpse into some of the gems you can find:


  • Bandhani: Vibrant tie-dye textiles, often adorned with mirrors and embroidery, perfect for dupattas, sarees, and home decor.
  • Zari embroidery: Intricate gold and silver thread embroidery on silk and velvet, a touch of royalty for your wardrobe.
  • Mojari: Handcrafted leather shoes, adorned with colorful beads and embroidery, stylish and comfortable souvenirs.
  • Sone Ki Latha: Unique gold thread weaving technique creating exquisite tapestries and wall hangings.


  • Silver jewelry: Delicate bracelets, anklets, earrings, and necklaces, often featuring desert motifs and tribal designs.
  • Bidriware: Blackened silver inlaid with intricate brass or gold patterns, creating stunning bowls, trays, and other objects.
  • Dhurries: Handwoven rugs and carpets with geometric patterns and vibrant colors, a perfect add-on to your home.

Other Crafts:

  • Stone carving: Intricately carved sandstone lamps, figurines, and decorative pieces, each one a piece of the Golden Fort’s legacy.
  • Lacquerware: Colorful and vibrant painted wooden boxes, bowls, and furniture, ideal for small keepsakes and gifts.
  • Puppetry: Traditional Rajasthani puppets brought to life in vibrant performances, a window into local folktales and legends.

Where to find them:

  • Sadar Bazar: Explore the bustling main market for a mix of shops and street vendors.
  • Dussehra Chowk: Find traditional textile shops and workshops here.
  • Moti Mahal Market: Look for lacquerware, puppets, and leather goods.
  • Jaisalmer Fort: Discover unique souvenirs within the fort walls.
  • Art galleries and workshops: Find high-quality pieces and observe artisans at work.

Remember, bargaining is expected in markets, so have fun and enjoy the treasure hunt!

Bonus: If you’re interested in learning the crafts yourself, some workshops offer hands-on experiences like tie-dyeing or puppet-making.

Food in Jaisalmer 

When it comes to food in Jaisalmer, get ready for a feast of flavors! The Thar Desert cuisine is an amazing blend of spicy, savory, and comforting dishes, influenced by Rajasthani traditions and desert adaptations. Here are some must-try eats:

For the vegans:

  • Dal Bati Choorma: The quintessential Rajasthani dish, lentil curry with roasted bread and crumbled sweet dessert, a complete and delicious meal.
  • Gatte ki Sabji: Spicy yogurt dumplings in curry, a flavorful and unique vegetarian option.
  • Ker Sangri: A dry curry made with desert beans and berries, a local specialty with a distinct desert touch.
  • Pyaaz Kachori: Deep-fried, flaky pastry stuffed with spiced onions, a popular snack or light meal.
  • Bajra Roti: Millet flatbread, a healthy and gluten-free alternative to wheat roti.

For the rest:

  • Laal Maans: The star of Jaisalmer cuisine, spicy red meat curry with chilies and yogurt, a fiery and unforgettable experience.
  • Safed Maans: White meat curry, a milder alternative to Laal Maans for those who prefer less spice.
  • Mutton Kofta Curry: Spiced meatballs in creamy gravy, a comforting and savory dish.
  • Chicken Kadai: Spicy chicken curry with bell peppers and coriander, a familiar yet flavorful option.
  • Desert Quail: For a truly unique experience, try roasted or curried desert quail, a gamey and local delicacy.

Sweets and sides:

  • Makhania Lassi: Creamy yogurt drink with butter and spices, a refreshing and delicious accompaniment.
  • Bhang Lassi: Cannabis-infused Lassi (legal in Rajasthan), a special treat if you’re feeling adventurous.
  • Ghevar: Deep-fried sweet pastry soaked in syrup, a decadent and irresistible dessert.
  • Sindhi Pakwan: It is a Sindhi item that is usually sold by steer vendors around the fort. 


  • Food stalls and havelis: Don’t miss trying street food from local stalls and savoring traditional meals in heritage havelis.
  • Desert camps: Experience a true Jaisalmer dinner under the stars at a desert camp, enjoying traditional music and bonfire ambiance.

No matter your taste, Jaisalmer has something delicious waiting for you. So, come hungry, be adventurous, and get ready to embark on a culinary journey through the Golden City!

Pro tip: If you’re sensitive to spice, let the restaurant know your preference so they can adjust the heat level.

I hope this helps you plan your Jaisalmer food adventure!

The Not So Good Part

Having said all these delightful things, I have to point out a few issues here. The main part is squalor all over the town. There are a lot of open garbage dumps around ten main touristy areas. I don’t know why it is not taken seriously. The municipality is failing or disinterested, also the Indian mass tourists as usual behave the way they usually do. The only way to solve this is to impose fines and punish anyone lacking civic sense. 

Jitaditya Narzary

11 thoughts on “Jaisalmer Travel Guide: Fort, Havelis, Lake, Thar Desert Safari, Museums & More”

  1. Any fort I visited, I always wondered to see it live with people inside and trades around.. here it is.. amazing..

    and one more thing “GOVT AUTHORIZED.. BHAANG SHOP??” really..?? 😕

  2. Beautiful clicks….it must have been amazing to visit a living fort. I mean it is quite rare to be living in precincts of an old fort. I did wonder about the bhang thing though 😀

  3. Lovely images, J.
    They took me back to my trip there a little over a decade ago. I still remember a beautiful sight of the fort from the place we stayed at — all lit up at night. Such a pretty pic!
    Now I wanna go back and take in all these sights once again.

    So, you’re not telling us the bhang story, eh? 🙁

  4. Beautiful pics. Nice narration. Came to know from your comment on my guest post about Udaipur in 48 hours at voyager website. We are looking forward to go to Jaisalmer soon. Would love to connect to you. We have liked your fb page, would connect on twitter as well.

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