Planning to visit Jaisalmer? Congratulations! The city is far from others so it involves a long train journey but it is definitely worth it (“a long train journey” in India means more than 10 hours). We visited at the end of March and it was the end of the touristic season so it was not crowded which we really appreciated coming Delhi and Jaipur.
First question: should you stay inside or outside the Golden Fort? Yes it is a little more expensive but there is not much to do outside the fort. If you are on a budget you can stay near the beautiful Laxmi Nath Ji Temple at Shiva Guest House which is basic but has a really cute restaurant and very friendly team. They organize (like all of Jaisalmer hotels) touristic and non-touristic desert safaris which we will discuss further down this article). If you wish to stay outside the fort we recommend the Moustache Hostel, it is a chain started by new generation Indians and they know exactly what you are looking for. The hostels is a former Haveli, the building is beautiful and the rooms are spacious well-decorated. Unfortunately the restaurant was closed when we arrived because the cook had already left to his village so we cannot tell you how the food is! Which leads us to our second question: where to eat in Jaisalmer?
Our all-time favorite is the Surya restaurant: it was recommended by an enlightened French artist we met on the way, Arnaud. The food is great, service is fast, friendly and they really want you to have a good time. The decoration is beautiful and if you are lucky you can sit at the balcony which gives a beautiful view on the city during the day as well as at night time. We came back several times and felt at home.
Another guide-recommended restaurant in Jaisalmer is the Free Tibet, we went there and left since the terrace was crowded with loud Westerners tourists. We did not like the vibe but you can give it a try.
Third question: what to do in Jaisalmer? Well…the main attraction of the Golden City of Rajasthan is the Golden Fort. You should walk in all the little streets and take time to contemplate the architecture from inside and outside of the gates. You could also take a book and rest at the nearby Gadisar lake, that is what our friend Matthieu did and he seemed pretty happy about it. One thing that will be difficult to avoid is to go on a desert safari experience! Most hotels and agencies offer touristic and non-touristic desert safaris. You can spend just an evening or several nights. The touristic area is a concrete place in the desert, you will go there in a jeep or with camels and what is usually organised is a dinner with a folkloric show including local dance & music. This is where you really see that Gypsies originate in Rajasthan. You can opt for the non-touristic option, thinking you are smart and you will avoid the tourist-trap. Indians are the smart cookies and the non-touristic tour is also a tourist trap! They will take you to non-touristic villages which are in fact ruins that are being renovated, nothing authentic or interesting to see really. We were lucky to choose the tour organised by Shiva Guest House and spent a night in the desert. After visiting one of those non-touristic villages we could choose a jeep or camel ride into a place in the desert where we could sleep on beds or just sleeping bags, have dinner, camp fire, sleep, have breakfast and go back to the Golden Fort within 24 hours. They kindly offered a shower back from the desert trip and we happily took advantage of it. To be honest we heard many stories of people who were not happy with the tour they chose so this is the only one we would recommend and we had a really unique and fun experience. But that’s another story we will tell you very soon!
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