India’s Golden Triangle Part 3: Jaipur – The Pink City
Our next stop in India’s Golden Triangle was Jaipur. The colourful city of Jaipur is like a gem that sparkles in the mountains of Rajasthan. It is affectionately known as the Pink City due to the pink colour palette of its buildings. They were painted pink to welcome Prince Albert to the city in 1876 and have remained pink until today. Jaipur has a colourful royal heritage, and this is evident in the number of extravagant palaces and ancient forts.
Full Day Touring Jaipur
We opted to book a day guide for Jaipur, as recommended by a family member that had visited last year. Jaipur’s main sights are spread out and it made more sense to hire a driver and guide so that we could cover all of Jaipur’s wonders. We booked with Jaipur Travelling for a private day guide and driver. In total, we paid ₹3600 for an air-conditioned SUV (not including tips). Pushpendra, from Jaipur Travelling, was our main point of contact for organising and he was professional and easy to deal with. Our guide was Sanjay Sharma. He was brilliant. Sanjay took us to all the key sights and provided a great deal of background to each stop. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to connect closer to Jaipur’s history and culture. Sanjay also knew all the angles to get the best photos!
We started at 9am on our first day of Jaipur with Sanjay. Our first stop was the impressive Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds. Along a seemingly ordinary street is Hawa Mahal. It stands very tall, and characteristically pink, with rows of tiny windows and small screens. Hawa Mahal’s small screens and windows allowed the women of the palace to view the bustling activity of the streets below without being seen by the public. After a quick stop at Hawa Mahal, we jumped back in our car to go to Amer Fort.
Amer Fort, also known as Amber Fort, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It dates back to the 10th century and is primarily made from red sandstone and marble. Amer Fort was built and expanded by several Indian kings, or Raja, in the region. We first stopped at the foot of the hill that Amer Fort sits upon and snapped a couple of photos. On the way up the hill, Sanjay asked us if we had seen a stepwell before. We pulled over to see an incredible square well with rows of tiered steps. Stepwells are common in western India and were built to make fluctuating levels of groundwater more accessible. They are not commonly used today but were crucial many years ago.
We eventually reached Amer Fort and Palace. Tickets cost ₹500 for entry and it is worth the price. From the palace, there is a panoramic view of the fort’s wall snaking through the Aravalli mountain range.
Inside the palace, there are several courtyards, each one as beautiful as the next. Due to the history of extensions and upgrades, Amer Palace has a blend of Hindu and Muslim architectural features. Sanjay pointed out that the lotus flowers and elephants carved in the pillars are Hindu in style, while the hexagonal styles and pointed arches are Muslim in style. Every courtyard had its own purpose, whether they were for entertaining or for the queens’ quarters. One of the most memorable areas in Amer Fort is Sheesh Mahal, also known as the Mirror Palace. Every pillar, wall and ceiling has incredibly tiny inlays of precious stones and detailed mirror mosaics which glitter in the sun’s rays. The ornate beauty is somewhat overwhelming.
On the drive back to the centre of Jaipur, we briefly stopped at Jal Mahal, or the Water Palace. It is a palace with a rooftop garden that was built in the middle of Man Sagar lake.
After a quick lunch, we headed to Jantar Mantar, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Jantar Mantar is an astronomy observatory built by Raja Jai Singh II in the early 18th century. The site is large with fourteen structures in total, each capable of an astronomical function. There is a notably huge sundial which stands at 90 feet tall. Entry is ₹200. Jantar Mantar is an illustration of the influence astronomy and astrology in India. Sanjay informed us that, to this day, many Indians live by their astrology. There is belief that planets influence the key milestones in their lives, such as marriage, buying a new home and starting a new job.
The City Palace in Jaipur is located beside Jantar Mantar. Tickets for general entry (Palace Courts and Galleries) are ₹700. We opted out of going inside the City Palace but if you are curious, the ticket is ₹1400 extra. The City Palace is currently the home of the Jaipur royal family and has been since the 1700s. It has characteristically pink walls, large courtyards and a museum. The museum exhibits ancient royal clothing and Indian weapons such as talwars (curved sword). The most striking courtyard has four unique doorways, each one representing the seasons and a Hindu god.
We bid Sanjay goodbye, with many thanks, and headed back to the hotel for a rest before dinner. If you do hire a guide, don’t forget to set some cash aside for tips.
I had a hankering for a good dose of street food and hoped that the receptionist of the hotel could help. He gave us the most perfect recommendation that we went twice! I am happy to share Masala Chowk with you. Masala Chowk is an outdoor food court with several vendors selling Indian street food of their speciality. It is located right beside the Royal Albert Hall in Jaipur and costs ₹10 to enter. Masala Chowk is full of locals and is a well-maintained food court with toilets too. More importantly, the food is delicious, at street food price, and with a perfect variety of food. This includes mirchi bada, papdi chaat, bhel puri, masala dosa and tandoori chai…all yum!
The next day, we had enough time to see one sight before packing up and getting in the car for our long drive back to Delhi. After some research, we decided to visit Galtaji temple which was located just outside of the city. Galtaji, sometimes referred to as monkey temple, was a bit off the beaten path. It is a collection of Hindu temples nestled in the Aravalli Hills with sacred water that originates from a natural spring higher in the hills. The water pools, or kunds, are auspicious and many of the pilgrims bathe in the waters of Galtaji. As indicated by its alternative name, there are also many monkeys roaming and climbing the temples. We took a 20 minute Uber ride from our hotel.
Although Galtaji Temple is somewhat off the beaten path, you will find vendors selling peanuts and fruit to feed the monkeys. In fact, it is considered good luck to feed them. There is no admission fee but a man at the entrance of the site asked for ₹50 for a camera fee. It was very bizarre, and seemingly unofficial. Not in the mood for quarrelling, we shrugged and handed over the fee and received a slip of paper in return. There are also male and female toilets just outside the entrance.
As we entered the site, we saw rows of ancient temples sitting in the crevice of the hills, and a set of steps leading up to the other holy water ponds. The temples were most certainly not in prestine condition, but there was an untamed beauty about them. Galtaji is dirty and could do with a good litter clean up. In case you are wondering, the monkeys were not aggressive and did not approach us unless we waved a peanut in front of them. It was peacefully quiet, and there were a few locals who had come to the temples to bathe in the holy water. The women were dressed in the brightest coloured saris, contrasting against the muted stones of the temples. We saw only a couple of tourists on our way out. I’d highly recommend Galtaji Temple if you’re looking for something different and have already covered the main sites of Jaipur. It is picturesque as a postcard and wildly different to what we had seen in India so far.
On our way out, we tried to call several Uber cars but they all cancelled. We ended up choosing from a long line of rickshaws parked outside of the temple for a bumpy and memorable ride back to the city. Remember to haggle the price!
Jaipur concluded our travels around the Golden Triangle in India. It was brilliant.
If you missed the other articles on India’s Golden Triangle, you can find them below. Each report has reviews of the main sights in India’s Golden Triangle and shares the usual tips & tricks!