Located at the hump-like western end of Rajasthan, the city of Jaisalmer lies right by the Thar Desert and the India-Pakistan border. And while the desert city with golden yellow sandstone walls may be remote and small, it is one of the biggest tourist destinations in Rajasthan. The small size of the city may make you think that there is little to do here, but we recommend that you spend two or more days in the Golden City to truly experience everything that it has to offer. And these are five things that you absolutely must do if you are heading there while the winter still lingers on. ALSO READ: A photo tour of Jaisalmer the mystical land of sand dunes
Walk through Jaisalmer Fort
The narrow lanes within Jaisalmer Fort
You can catch a glimpse of the imposing Jaisalmer Fort anywhere in this small city. Thousands still live inside, making it the oldest living fort in India. Houses, hotels and Havelis can be seen as you make your way through the fort by foot, with tuk-tuks and motorcycles whizzing past you as the residents live their usual lives. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sights and sounds and the sheer history and architectural brilliance around you.
Spend a morning at Gadisar Lake
There’s no better way to start a cold winter morning in Jaisalmer than by visiting the famed Gadisar Lake. Located just a kilometer from the fort, Gadisar Lake was the only water source in the region for several decades, built by the first king of Jaisalmer, Raja Rawal Jaisal. Today, the waters are home to a population of catfish fed by the local women every Amavasya. Ancient temples dedicated to Krishna and Shiva stand right by the lake.
Enjoy an evening of cultural performance at a desert camp
Cultural performance at Sam sand dunes
Jaisalmer is small enough that you can make your way throughout the city by walking or hiring a tuk-tuk in just a day. But when the sun is about to set, we recommend heading out of the city to the Sam sand dunes that border the Thar Desert. Here, you’ll find lines upon lines of desert camps with evenings are dedicated to cultural performances, where you can catch local singers and musicians perform popular folk songs (including, of course, the soulful ‘Padharo Mhare Desh’ adopted by Rajasthan Tourism), followed by the famed Ghoomar dance and a delicious dinner that includes the best version you can find of Ker Sangri, a popular winter dish in Rajasthan.
Stargaze in a camp out in the desert
A night at the Thar Desert just outside Jaisalmer
If Sam sand dunes are a little too mainstream for you, there’s the sand dunes of Khuri some 40km south of Sam. Here, you’ll get to experience a more remote camping experience and the chance to spend the night around a bonfire with the starlit sky spread across from one end of the horizon to another. With clear skies above the desert, you can see the Milky Way make its way through the night sky; a rare view for the majority of people who live in the cities and a beautiful sight that burns into memory. NOW READ: Jodhpur and Jaisalmer in 4 Days: Itinerary for a Whirlwind Adventure
Go on a desert safari
Thar Desert Safari
And for those of you who want a bit of adventure, you cannot miss the chance to go dune-bashing on the back of a 4×4 through the Thar desert. Hold on to the bars for your dear life as the expert drivers weave their way through every crest and trough. By the end of it, you’ll have a bit of sand between your teeth and a wide grin across your face. For those who prefer something a little less frantic, there are the camel safaris that take you around the desert dunes, with the option to go on a full sprint if you so desire.