Jaipur is a visually-arresting destination for anyone travelling to India, given its title as the ‘Pink City” of India. The ornate architecture in the old city painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria in 1876 makes the city a gorgeous oddity in the desert, where a bygone era meets modern-day instagrammable.
As the capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur is filled with palaces, forts and temples that are storybook gorgeous. If you have limited time but have the FOMO, here’s the must-hit list that is just as awe-inspiring in person as they are in pictures.
Also known as Amer Fort because of its location in Amer, this majestic compound that is 11 km away from Jaipur was built in 1592 by Raja Man Singh I, who cleverly situated this by the picturesque Maota lake.
It’s forbidding on the outside but hides regal elegance within. The red sandstone and white marble carbuncle are decorated with luxurious fittings, such as sandalwood doors inlaid with ivory, wall paintings with precious jewels, and even a hall (Sheesh Mahal) that is adorned with mirror tiles in such a way that even a single ray of light will illuminate the entire space!
It’s a true testament to the genius collaboration of Hindu and Mughal styles and to witness the process and history, we recommend staying behind for the evening sound and light show.
Hawa Mahal, Palace of the Winds
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The pink sandstone facade of this building has become of the faces of Jaipur, thanks to its strikingly intricate front. While the five storeys of balconies and windows allow for excellent airflow— thus the name— there’s also a more repressive reason for this structure’s design.
Built in 1799, the honeycombed windows were built so that the women of the City Palace could watch street processions while keeping to strict rules of purdah — a social and religious practice of female seclusion.
Luckily, all that remains these days are the same beautiful trellised niches. Come in the evening when the shadows make the designs dance and pop. Or opt for the morning if you’re interested in seeing it from within, when the slanting rays lights up the space through stained glass.
Jantar Mantar Observatory
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There’s something incredibly romantic about old-world science, and the Jantar Mantar Observatory has the feels in spades. Built by Maharaja Jai Singh II between 1727 and 1734, it is the world’s most astronomical observatory, and it still functions today with remarkable accuracy!
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This 18th-century compound holds 14 different structures, of which the largest— the Samrat Yantra sundial— tells time. Watch how time really flies as the shadow cast from this tall 27-metre structure moves about the width of a hand every minute. The striking feature along with its siblings have even earned themselves a spot in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Literally meaning ‘calculation instrument’, these bold forms that can easily be geometric art sculptures, helped the ruler— who was one of the best theorists in ancient India— and Hindu astronomers and astrologers to chart out cosmic events such as eclipses and star movement. It remains a stellar spot today, even for tourists.
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For some of the best sweeping views of Jaipur, look no further than Nahargarh Fort. Also known as ‘Tiger Fort’, the defence structure is perched on the rugged Aravali Ranges which accords one panoramic view all around as you weave through the battlement.
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Built in 1734 to defend the city, it is now a hot picnic spot for locals with additional attractions to lure, such as a sculpture park, wax museum and eateries. Maze-nuts will love the various stairways and hidden passages here, and the fun is in discovering beautiful muralled room one after another as you wind through the corridors. And when you reach the roof terraces, take in the unobstructed views. When the sun falls, and the city lights up, you will be yet rewarded once again with a sparkling scene.
Another great thing, is en-route to Nahargarh, is Jaigarh Fort. This 3km long defence line used to house weapon and artillery and is home to the world’s biggest cannon, the Jaivana.
With its illustrious power and unbridled beauty, has Jaipur won your heart?
Top image by edimac5 on Instagram