For those who visit India for the first time, the Golden Triangle is a classic tour covering Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur – Delhi is the capital city of India, filled with national monuments and historic landmarks, and it is also the hub that connects India with the outside world. Agra is a manifestation of Mughal architecture, featuring the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and Agra Fort, the Red Fort built by the Mughal emperor in the 16th century.
On our tour in Jaipur, we discovered the dominant pink on many of the city’s notable attractions, as well as the other charming and historic classics in the Kingdom of Amber.
Here are the places that you shouldn’t miss as a first-time visitor.
Something about Jaipur
Located in the state of Rajasthan, Jaipur was founded in 1727, and named after its founder, the ruler of Amer, Jai Singh II. Jai Singh II was the ruler of the Kingdom of Amber, he was a sophisticated astronomer, and both his Rajput army and himself were excellent warriors. Eventually, Rajasthan was one of the last in India that succumbed to the Mughal Kingdom.
During the British Colonial period, Jaipur was the capital of the Jaipur State. It was the first planned city in India, filled with artistic and historic architecture. Jaipur is known for its picturesque cityscape, its beautiful gems, and also its distinctive hue of colors. For centuries Rajasthan is a legendary and colorful land. That’s how Jaipur got a number of nicknames of colors as well. The city has a dusty pink hue on many of its important buildings, as they were painted to welcome Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert in 1876. Since then, Jaipur is nicknamed the “Pink City”. On the other hand, Jaipur is surrounded by a desert, so the locals painted their houses blue to keep the inside cool, and the city is also nicknamed the “Blue City”.
There were twenty-three kingdoms in the past and they were all united as Rajasthan (which means “the Land of Kings”). The area has been left with numerous castles, palaces, minarets, and temples. Many of the sites are now converted into luxurious hotels after India’s Independence. On top of that, there is one of the most photographed and featured landmarks, the Mahal: The Wind Palace.
Getting around Jaipur can be overwhelming with the narrow streets and busy traffic, but it could be a unique experience riding a rickshaw and exploring the bazaars and city highlights. However, it could be a wise choice to hire a guide and driver to take you around the city and visit the outskirt sites around Jaipur.
Peacock Rooftop is a popular tourist hotspot in Jaipur and many tourists will probably hear about this place from their hotel staff, tour guides, or airbn hosts.
Live music, Indian vibe, delicious dishes, and comforting breezes, the rooftop restaurant at Peacock is one of the best location for an enjoyable dinner after a day trip in Jaipur. While you may not see it clearly at night, there is a giant and colorful peacock at the top of the building. The top terrace of the building offers an unobstructed view of the neighborhood – and it is the exact impression of a packed, crowded and old-fashioned Indian city.
The restaurant has a number of signatue dishes, ranging from curry, tikka, and kebab, to an option of Asian and Western dishes like dim sum, hamburgers, and omelete. To me, the original Indian dishes are always the best. It is a great place to enjoy breakfast during sunrise as well.
The lower floors of the buildings has a number of interesting and shop that are worth checking out.
Amber, or Amer, is a town with an area of 4 square kilometers, 11 kilometers away from Jaipur. Amber was the capital city of the Kachwaha until Jaipur was founded by Sawai Jai Singh II he made it the capital.
The Amber Fort was established by ruler Alan Singh of the Chandra dynasty of Meenas in the 7th century. The current site that we see today had century-long improvements, starting from Jai Singh I, with additions and expansions. It is known for its artistic style elements – a special feature of the fort is the large ramparts leading visitors to the main building through a series of gates and cobbled paths. It is a unique experience to ride the elephant and ascend to the fort, with a gorgeous view of the surrounding historic city and Maota Lake. The Maota Lake is the main source of water for the palace in the past.
The palace is a fine example of Rajput architecture, with amazing balcony windows, and floral designs carved on the doors, passages, pillars, and ceilings. Rajput architecture is sometimes compared with Mughal architecture since they are closely located and related. These architectures can be seen in the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur.
Diwan-i-Am is the first open space as visitors enter Amber Fort, and it is also an observation deck of Amber. Apart from the physical structure, observe the various sculptures of legends like fairies, and spirits. Some of the most marvelous spots in the palace are the many monuments like the Vijay Stambh, KirtiStambh, and Fatah Prakash Palace.
Ganesh Pol is among one of the most eye-catchy structure visitors would see as they move on to the interior. The gate was built in 1640. Jai Mandir is the most beautiful structure in the Amber Fort. This is the venue for greeting guests in the past and it is called “the hall of victory”. The hall is paved by reflective mirrors and glasses that have a blinding shine under sunlight as if a diamond from afar. The way how the glasses were placed is the same as those in the Taj Mahal. It’s not hard to see a hint of Mughal architectural style in this building. With the Amber Fort, and so Jaipur is nicknamed “The Paris of India”.
Panna Meena ka Kund
The Panna Meena ka Kund is located in Amber. One of the many historic stepwell & rainwater catchment in India and its known for its picturesque symmetrical stairways.
Stepwells played an important role in subterranean architecture in western India from 7th to 19th century. One of the deepest, oldest and largest stepwells in India can also be seen in Rajasthan – the Chand Baori Stepwell, or Abaneri, was built by King Chanda.
The 19.5 meters deep structure is also featured in Christopher Nolan’s Batman movie, the Dark Knight Rises.
This Fort is located close to Amber Palace and it was built to protect the Amber Fort Complex.
It has quite an impressive scale – Jaigarph Fort has a three-kilometer-long fort, overlooking the Amer Fort and the Maota Lake. The wall-like structure can be viewed predominantly from the court of amber Fort.
There is a museum in the Fort showcasing the artillery and other valuable collection of the Rajputs.
Jal Mahal, meaning the Water Palace, is located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur, an eye-catching architecture that can be seen usually on the way from Amber Fort to Jaipur.
The palace was originally constructed in 1699, and it is currently unavailable for entering the palace. Tourists can either look at it from the promenade (which has quite a lot of hawkers for souvenirs), or from a rowboat.
As I mentioned earlier, the founding leader of Jaipur was a wonderful astronomer and Jantar Mantar is one of the largest stone-made observatories ever built by him, between 1728 and 1734. Most of the structures were astrologically instruments, and one of the most striking features of Jantar Mantar is the world’s largest sundial (Samrat Yantra).
I have to say amidst the palaces and historic buildings in Rajasthan, I enjoyed Jantar Mantar the most. Entering Jantar Mantar is like entering a theme park, and because there are not a lot of ancient observatories in the world have such a scale. The site is a pleasant open area to have a stroll in, but don’t forget to appreciate the abundance of forward-thinking, yet strangely looking structures, and how they work. Take your time to learn and discover how the observatory is designed – the structures combine knowledge of science, art, and religion. What surprised me is that the sundials can still tell time accurately to this day! Another instrument, the Rashivalaya Yantra is a group of 12 instruments that can still be used to figure out the location of the zodiac and it was used by Jai Singh II for astrology.
Imagine Jantar Mantar was built in the 1700s, yet it has showcased advanced technologies that are fascinating. The observatory was restored in the year of 1901, and it was named one of the UNESCO World Heritage in 2010.
The City Palace is a museum that combines the best of both Rajput and Mughal architectural styles. This palace was the residence of the ruler of Jaipur, it is also a manifestation of the Royal lifestyle – because the site is still home to the Jaipur royal family with several centuries of history behind them.
The palace was constructed in the 1720s by Raja Sawai Jai Singh II and the 7-story high, beautifully-designed main building is converted as a museum.
The Rajendra Pol is the entrance to the palace, there are two beautiful elephant sculptures at the gate, which are completely covered by natural and geometric engravings.
Take pictures with the guards and the gate, and have a walk in the courtyard of the palace. Part of the palace is open to the public: the Mubarak Mahal is the place to welcome guests, and keep an eye on the intricate décor, paintings, sculptures, and so much more.
The Chandra Mahal is in the west and it’s the private residence of the royal family. Each level of this 7-story tall building is uniquely named, with valuable paintings, artworks, carpets, and more housed in the residence.
The Saratobhadra Chowk is another courtyard with pink as the main color, boldly accentuated by the white lines on the edges of the frameworks in the buildings. Diwan-i-Khas is the hall where the royal families usually greet and socialize with their guests, and it has an elegant vibe and grandeur that would probably make you keep quiet and stand straight.
Don’t forget to take a look at the giant sterling silver vessels in the hall, they were made specifically for carrying water from the Ganges for Madho Singh’s journey to Britain, supplying the holy water for his cleansing every day. They are the largest sterling silver water vessels ever made in history, according to the World Record of Guinness.
It is also recommended to reach higher and head to the top of the Palace as there’s a small area to have a breathtaking view of all the key attractions in the city center, including the Hawa Mahal.
Jaipur is an artistic city that celebrates many forms of local craftsmenship.
Visit a local workshop and have a better understanding of these arts, from jewelries and gems, printing, tapestry, to many more.
Of course, elephants is one of the most important animals in Hindu beliefs and they are featured predominantly in these art.
Albert Hall / Central Museum
The oldest museum in Rajasthan is located in the gardens of Ram Niwas Bagh and it was constructed based on the Albert Museum of London. Albert Hall showcases an “Indo-Saracenic” style of architecture that distinguishes the building from the rest in Jaipur. Check out the beautiful collection of ancient art, ranging from miniature paintings to carpets, woodcrafts, toys, weapons, and to everyone’s surprise, an Egyptian Mummy!
Nahargarh Fort is one of the many royal heritages in Rajasthan. Together with Jaipur Fort and Amber Fort, these palaces are some of the most striking buildings and the three most important defense sites of Jaipur in the past. Nahargarh Fort is located at the summit of one of the oldest mountain ranges of the world, the Aravalli Hills, embraced by dense deciduous forest; and the Fort offers a breathtaking, panoramic view of Jaipur and its surroundings.
Of all the landmarks in Rajasthan, Hawa Mahal (the Places of the Winds) is notably the most-photographed place in Jaipur. The red-brick structure is filled with windows that demand attention from any passerby.
It is called the Palace of the Winds because it was said that no matter where you stand in the Palace, you can feel the breeze reaching and it was kind of a brilliant design, given Jaipur was in the desert in the past. Hawa Mahal was built in 1799 and it is located in the city center, within walking distance of the City Palace. The honeycomb-like design of the palace is for the queens and princesses of Jaipur can enjoy the fresh air and watch the outside world from the windows without being seen. How many windows are there actually in Hawa Mahal, the answer is 953. While the façade of the “palace” is painted in pink and looks magnificent from the outside, they are actually corridors that have no space behind the windows at all. If you wish, head to the top of the Hawa Mahal and have a peek at Jaipur’s Old Town, and the Nahargarh Fort if weather permits.