After leaving Agra we had a lovely train ride down to Jaipur. It took around 4 hours and we even got served dinner. I did not know the meal and water were included in our train ticket. At the station we were met by the hotel taxi driver and whisked away to Umaid Mahal our home for the next six nights.
I can recommend this hotel as a place to stay in Jaipur. We ate here every day for breakfast and dinner and the food was tasty and more importantly for India we did not get unwell. I would not say they are the friendliest people working at the hotel but they were efficient and polite at all times. Our room was wonderful with a comfortable bed, free working wi-fi, great shower and the decor of the hotel is very Rajasthan. There is also a small pool to cool off and a lovely rooftop restaurant. For more information about the hotel you can read my tripadvisor review about the Umaid Mahal.
What we did in Jaipur?
We of course visited the famous Amber fort which was stunning. It is deserving of its UNESCO World Heritage Status. Amber fort is spectacular and the curators have improved the site since I last visited in 1990. The courtyard is now paved and not a dust bowl like it was last time I visited. Great to watch the courtyard as people come up by elephant and get down in the courtyard. The drive up from Jaipur is now on a good road. The view is excellent looking up at the fort. I also have added some tips below that people might find useful if they visit the fort.
If you have the cash hire a guide and car. It makes life so much easier. We did not do the elephant ride up as we have both done them in the past. The elephant rides in summer only run between 9-11am. If you come later you will have to take a jeep or walk up from that side. Our driver dropped us off at the moon gate or the back entrance where you walk a short distance to the entrance of the fort. We were lucky to hear traditional drum playing as we entered the fort.
Buy a combo ticket for 400 rupees. It gives you access to 7 attractions. The other main one people go to is Jantar Mantar and both the Amber fort and Jantar Mantar cost 200 rupees for entry. The ticket gives you access to Albert Hall Museum, Hawa Mahal and Nahargarh Fort. The other bonus is the ticket is valid for two days and you can return to visit the sites if you are really keen or spread the visit over two days.
If you have a car on the way up to Amber Fort ask the guide or driver to stop at Panna Meena Ka Kund. This is a sixteenth century water reservoir where there are some amazing steps down to the lower reaches. It is like something out of the David Bowie movie Labyrinth. The symmetrical stair walls are stunning and its free.
Visit the Shila Devi Hindu temple inside the fort. It is free and has some lovely decorations especially the entry door. The temple has several images of Kali inside which are interesting to see with her warlike and peaceful side shown.
Enjoy a wander over the cobbled paths and stroll along the impressive ramparts. The name of the lake below with the beautiful garden is Maota lake. We got some great pictures of the elephants walking up the cobbled path beside the fort.
There are four courtyards with each having a specific purpose. First courtyard is where the elephants drop you off or where you enter and buy a ticket. The second courtyard is where the Maharajah had public audiences with his courtiers. The third courtyard is where the magnificent Hall of Mirrors is located. There also is in this courtyard a beautiful garden laid out in the Persian style. The last courtyard is where the Royal wives and concubines lived. A gilded cage in which they hardly ever left. Ask your guide to show you the kama sutra style design along with the elephants and other paintings on the walls.
On the way out there is a snake charmer where I decided to have a photo taken. I was a bit hesitant as I do not like to pay for anything with animals. Our guide told us that the snake charmer release the cobra after three months and catches another one. This is due to something about making a spiritual bargain with the snake. I checked online but cannot find anything to substantiate this story.
Amber fort is superb and well worth a visit. My last bit of advice is to go when the fort opens at 8am before the hordes come at 10am. We had a great visit with few people around until we left around 10am.
Other sites we visited while in Jaipur were Jantar Mentar an outdoor astronomical observatory with the world’s biggest stone sundial and 18 other instruments. The Palace of the Wind, Albert Hall museum and Narhargarh Fort which overlooks the city and has great views. We also did a day trip to Ranthambore National Park to see a tiger, alas it was not to be. However, it was a lovely day trip and the park had a lot of other animals and bird life. If you do visit it make sure you stay a few days to enhance your chance of seeing a tiger. It is not the most well run park with 10 zones. Zones 1-5 your best chance of seeing a tiger and the best zones are 2 and 3. Zones 5-10 are unlikely to have any tiger sightings. It is a bit of a lottery system although if you pay a bit extra you can get into the right zones. We had Zone 4 and since it had rained a bit the tigers no longer needed to use the main waterhole and could drink elsewhere.
While in Jaipur we also visited a famous Indian Cinema the Raj Mandir Cinema which was a laugh. We watched an amusing Bollywood Hindu movie.
What it cost for the week?
I have just added up our total cost for the week.
Accommodation, attractions and food, day trip to Ranthamore and tour of Jaipur came to a total of 40000 rupees.
That works out US$630 for the week or £404. The total per day was US$90 per day or £58 per day. We are staying in 3-4 star accommodation and also getting guides and cars for most of the tours. You can do it considerably cheaper, however, we like to be comfortable.
After Jaipur we are heading to Jodhpur.