This year I had my second visit to Jaipur, the “Pink City,” which I have grown very fond of. The first time was as part of a Golden Triangle Tour with Somak Holidays, and this time it was part of my journey on my award winning piece on Retracing my ancestral roots back to India – my bucket list trip of a lifetime,for the Post Office Travel and Food Blogger of the Year 2018 award. A big thanks to Somak Holidays for helping to put together my itinerary.
So first a little bit of history about Jaipur. It was the first planned city of India and is the capital of Rajasthan, named after the city’s founder, Jai Singh II, and you can see how organised the roads are and how much structural sense there is compared to other cities in India.
It has a rich history of a clan of rulers who lived in magnificent forts and palaces, and there are so many wonderful regal palaces to wander through and admire, one of which the Royal family still resides in today. They all have insanely beautiful rooms adorned with hand painted art and mirrored art. A must see!
Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh is responsible for the famous terracotta pink colour you will see on buildings and the city walls in Jaipur as he had the whole city painted pink in 1876 ahead of Albert Edward, the eldest son of Queen Victoria’s visit, as pink was considered the colour of hospitality at the time.
Getting to Jaipur is easy as it is a popular destination which you can visit as part of the Golden Triangle route, as I did last year, or on its own by road, train or an internal flight via Delhi or Mumbai. It is the largest state in Rajasthan and full of so much charm. Here’s what to do in this enchanting regal city.
Established by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the City Palace was once the administrative and ceremonial seat of the royal family and is now a popular museum. The palace’s huge complex of courtyards, gardens, and buildings blends both Rajasthani and Mughal architecture and I loved wandering through. I highly recommend visiting the various museums and art galleries to see the various clothes and weapons from historic times – they tell so much about Jaipur’s fascinating regal past. It is also apparent how wealthy the Royal family was in those times!
The descendants of the royal family still live in the Chandra Mahal, which is where the popular blue room you may have seen all over Instagram is located. You can visit this for an additional fee. I recommend going to the rooftop for a fantastic view of Jaipur too and Chandra Mahal tends to be quieter.
Jantar Mantar in Jaipur, one of 5 astronomical observation sites built in the early 18th century by Jai Singh II, who was an avid astronomer.
It is the most significant, most comprehensive, and the best preserved of India’s historic observatories and the varied collection of instruments are used for observing the movements of the sun, moon, planets and stars, as well as tell the time with accuracy!
Among the various stone instruments that Jai Singh had constructed is the Samrat Yantra, a 73-foot-tall sundial which remains the largest ever built.
Jaipur’s most distinctive and iconic landmark, the Hawa Mahal is an extraordinary pink-painted delicately honeycombed five storey hive constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh to enable ladies of the royal household to watch the life and processions of the city through its latticed windows. The top offers stunning views over Jantar Mantar and the City Palace in one direction and over Sireh Deori Bazaar in the other.
To get an alternative view head to one of the rooftop cafes across the road, and enjoy a drink whilst you admire it in its entirety.
Panna Meena Ka Kund
Built during the 16th-century reign of Maharaja Jai Singh, the Panna Meena Ka Kund stepwell was used as a way of collecting the monsoon rains and preserving water for the drier months and designed in such a way that people could reach water at any level as the pool rises and falls. I was mesmerised by the symmetrical arrangement of the stairs in a criss-cross manner, the recessed doorways and the octagonal gazebos. It is located close to Amer Fort so ideal to combine with a visit there.
Taking a picture on the steps is challenging depending 0n the mood of the guard in charge so don’t be disheartened if you are told you aren’t allowed to go on the steps for a photo.
A visit to see the vibrant and colourful Patrika Gate, the entrance to Jawahar Circle, which is a circular park in Jaipur, and the ninth gate in Jaipur, is a must! It is free to visit. Each pillar inside the structure is intricately hand painted with important facts about different parts of the Pink City. It is absolutely mesmerising to look at and probably the most beautiful gate you will ever see!
The Birla Mandir is a very famous beautiful temple dedicated to Laxminarayan and built entirely of marble and is visited by thousands of devotees every day. A visit during the early evening is recommended to have a look at the stunning temple as well as attend the Arti Ceremony, which involves oil lamps being lit and waved, in order to awake and invoke the deity.
If you want to do some shopping head to Bapu Bazaar where you can buy a myriad of Rajasthani products ranging from clothes, shoes to jewellery as well as decorative items, all in a bustling setting.
If you are driving to Jaipur from Delhi, I highly recommend lunch at the 300 year old Samode Palace on the way, located just on the outskirts of Jaipur. It is an absolutely stunning Palace, now turned into a boutique hotel, and within its walls is a wonderland of beautifully decorated regal rooms with mirrored tiles, enchanting colours and insanely beautiful fittings.
Hand Block Printing
Hand Block Printing is a technique whose origin dates back to the 12th century and it was so nice to see it still in use today, with the skills being passed on generation to generation. To create a design on material, different blocks are used to make up a particular print depending upon the complexity of the design and the number of colours desired. It is an eco-friendly process that uses naturally prepared products and natural dyes. The designs are then dried in the sun.
If you want to see it in action, visit the Jaipur Boutique Carpet & Valintino Textiles.
Lac Bangle making
If you have the opportunity, you have to go see the work of Ikram Ahmad, the famed master craftsman of Lac-bangles in Jaipur. He learnt this craft from his parents who learned it from their parents, and he has even made bangles for the Queen!
Lac based bangles are considered most sacred and mandatory for newly married women and the bangles are really durable. They can be made in an assortment of colours and have an amazing variety of embellishments.
He can usually be found at the Trident Jaipur in the evenings, selling an assortment of bangles and can also make you bespoke ones! We decided to get some bangles made and chatted to him whilst we watched him make the bangles. He offered us some valuable life lessons during this time too. A great man!
First he mixed the lac (same as shellac used on nails) with soapstone powder to achieve a very exact grade of consistency. He then mixed in the colours we had chosen. Then he mounted this on a long piece of wood to heat up the tip of the mounted lac material using burning charcoal.
He then measured our wrists and precisely lacerated the length. He then baked the joining and completed the circular shape with a metal ring.
The entire process took less than 10 minutes per bangle.
Indian Miniature Painting
When visiting City Palace, be sure to have a look at the artists creating Indian Miniature paintings, a renowned art stemming from the medieval history of India which is sadly in decline. This skill is passed on through generations and to create these murals and miniature paintings, zero number brushes made from squirrel’s hair are used and natural stone colours on handmade paper. It is amazing to see!
Pin for later
Recommended Guide in Jaipur
We had the most amazing guide called Ajit Singh +919828132791, who was passionate about Jaipur and we learned so much from him! If you are looking for a guide whilst in Jaipur I can vouch for how amazing he was!
If you are inspired to to visit Incredible India after reading my experience, you can find out more about Somak’s Itineraries here, or you can request a bespoke one: