The capital of the amazing desert state of Rajasthan, Jaipur is the kind of place where you’ll find camels strolling down the road, markets specializing in heaps and heaps of spices and abundant, stunningly wealthy temples sitting in stark contrast to the gritty, manic pace of everyday Indian life.
It might look like mayhem, but there’s order amongst Jaipur’s chaos. Having once been a princely royal capital, the city was then taken over by city planners, and – unusually for an Indian city – is constructed in an orderly pattern around its more ancient sights. It’s the sights you’ll have come for, though, and you’ll almost certainly start with the king among them, The Amber Fort. Staring out over the city, the fort looks ramshackle from the outside but is filled with an ornate and up market interior, as well as influences from both Muslim and Hinduism, just one of many examples of India’s well documented religious harmony.
Elsewhere you’ll find ornate gardens, some of which are home to strolling elephants that occasionally plunge into the lakes and act as mammoth tourist-dollar generators for their life long carers, the mahouts. Jaipur is also known for its intricate carpets, and hosts annual festivals that astonish unsuspecting visitors, including a kite festival that fills the sky with color and – perhaps inevitably – a boisterous elephant festival.
It’s difficult to say that any destination in a country as vast as India is utterly essential, but Jaipur – as a great starting point for one of those must-do camel safaris, or a spot to bath in local culture before retiring to a succulent five star suite – certainly sits alongside the likes of Udaipur and Jaisalmer as an essential stop on any desert state itinerary, if only for the seemingly endless view from the top of any one of the city’s monuments of the ‘pink city’. Jaipur’s city skyline is literally drenched in a shade of what’s actually more a pale red than pink, an undertaking designed to impress an ancient British Royal visitor and aimed at reflecting mughal cities. The distinctive shade only adds to the memories.