If, like us, the sole reason you’ve gone to Jaisalmer is for a camel trek in the desert then chances are that you’ll only be planning to stay for a short amount of time (unless you’re more hardcore and are trekking for more than 24 hours!).
With this in mind, here’s a 48 hour itinerary for your time in the Golden City. Essentially, it’s just what we ended up doing but we were very pleased with our choices!
Yes, yes, another fort. However we agreed that this one, known as the ‘Living Fort’ due to the community that still lives inside, is our favourite so far which is down to the beautiful winding passageways and view points.
We saved our pennies rather than paying to go inside the temples that exist inside the fort, however this still left us with plenty to enjoy. From colourful little streets adorned with patchwork quilts, clothes and trinkets to spectacular views of the city, with the golden bricks of the buildings glowing in the sunlight.
On the surrounding walls of the fort lie a number of old cannons dating back 800 years (I think!), so we made it our mission to loop around and find them all.
Whilst we didn’t eat at any of them, there are plenty of rooftop restaurants nestled within the fort’s markets boasting sunset views over the city and a wide range of food to satisfy the tourists. Incidentally, we were surprised at how few tourists we bumped into as we explored, which made the visit even more enjoyable.
TIP: Strangely, the clothes sold inside the walls of the fort are cheaper than the starting price of the shops outside. We found this out too late and felt immediately disappointed in the result of our haggling only 10 minutes before!
We’d read and been warned about the famous Bhang Lassi shop in Jaisalmer, but giving that we had some time to kill we thought we’d see what all the fuss was about.
I won’t go into detail about what Bhang Lassi is, but while the owner of the shop (or rather very tiny cafe) explained it to us, he said the phrase ‘you’ll be off on a magic carpet’.
We opted for a ‘medium’ level lassi as oppose to ‘strong’ (a mango and a chocolate); both were so tasty that we had to hold ourselves back from downing them, which didn’t seem sensible.
The result? I wouldn’t say that that the magic carpet ever took off for us, maybe just hovered a cm or 2 above the ground at most an hour later…
TIP: Go for medium first – you can always have more!
Following the lassi, we headed to the lake which is just south of the centre of the city and only about a 15 minute walk.
The lake itself is man-made and used to be the only water source of the city. Nowadays it is surrounded by ghats (although none were in action while we were there) and peaceful surroundings. You can either take a boat to paddle around the lake or enjoy the serenity from the edges which is what we did.
TIP: Visit the lake at sundown – it’s so calm and romantic!
Ahh the main event!
Jaisalmer is chockablock with camel trekking agencies and it would have been difficult to choose between them had we not done some research before. Many of the hotels and hostels also offer these experiences and while this may be the best option if you’re feeling lazy, it’s worth shopping around before committing.
For example, Trotters comes highly recommended in the Lonely Planet guide but because of this exposure, is more expensive than others.
We went with a company called Adventure Travel, which was a family run business that had been going since 1985. They offered long and short tours, which suited us and our timeframes – plus the idea of riding a camel for more than an hour and a half each day wasn’t a comfortable one!
Doing an overnight camel trek was the best thing we’ve done in India so far in my opinion. This Adventure Travel’s rough agenda for the shortest tour they offer:
- 2.30pm – Jeep leaves agency to take you into the desert (Thar Desert)
- 3.30pm – Meet and mount your camels!
- 5.30pm – Arrive at the sand dune to watch sunset
- 6.00pm – Chai Tea served (Ed’s new favourite thing!)
- 6.30pm – Beds are made by the guides
- 7.30pm – Food made from scratch served by the guides
- 9.00am – Breakfast made and served by the guides
- 10.00am – Back on the camels
- 11.00am – Dismount and walk through a local village
- 12.00pm – Back to the agency
Not only do they take you far enough out of the city that you can no longer hear the sound of horns (hooray!), the beds they provide are probably the cleanest we’ve had in India and comfortable too. They bring huge roll mats that include pillows, a mattress and blankets which are laid out on raised camp beds so you don’t have to sleep on the floor.
We were a bit concerned about whether riding camels was ethical, but it was clear that the guide looked after the animals very well – they never pulled them or hurt them and they let them wander around freely once we’d dismounted at camp.
After watching a beautiful sunset on the dunes and taking hundreds of cliche photos, we tucked into a meal of freshly cooked dhal and curry with chapati with chai tea to wash it down. We were only with a small group which meant that everyone chatted and got to know each other (whereas Trotters took out large groups of 10+).
The temperature dropped pretty dramatically after dinner so we layered up (and I’m talking a shirt, a jumper, another shirt, a pack-a-mak and a scarf), got into bed early, lay back and did some serious star gazing. We conveniently had a part-time astrologer among us who informed us there was a meteor shower that night, and true enough, there were shooting star after shooting star. Beat that for a romantic date!
Breakfast was made up of toast, eggs and fruit, and once we’d eaten as much as we could, we got back on our camels and headed back to where the jeeps picked us up via a little village on the outskirts of the city.
TIP: Bring layers and something to cover your head at night, particularly if you do a trek during the winter as we did!