We took a 4-day trip to Jaipur, a city in the Northern part of India called Rajasthan. I really like Rajasthan for its historic palaces, extraordinary forts, and excellent shopping. And we even took a picturesque elephant ride! It’s different than anywhere else I’ve traveled, and that’s why I liked it so much!
This series of posts will cover the logistics of getting to Jaipur, the hotel we stayed in, the activities we did, and restaurants we visited.
Jet Set to Jaipur Trip Report Index:
- Part 1 – Planning and Introduction
- Part 2 – Getting to Jaipur, India
- Part 3 – ITC Rajputana Hotel Overview
- Part 4 – ITC Rajputana Hotel Room
- Part 5 – Activities in Jaipur – Amber Fort and Elephant Ride
- Part 6 – Activities in Jaipur – City Palace and Jaigarh Fort
- Part 7 – Shopping in Jaipur and the Hunt for Lacquer Jewelry
- Part 8 – Eating in Jaipur
- Part 9 – Conclusion & Blog Giveaway
We got up early to go to the Amber Fort (also called Amer Palace), which is the largest fort in Jaipur. The original fort was built ~967 AD, but more buildings and palaces were added through the 16th century.
The old palace is called Kadimi Mahal and is the oldest surviving palace in India. This ancient palace is located behind the Amer Palace. It is not a big tourist attraction though, and we never found out where it was located.
It was a ~30 minutes drive to the fort from our hotel room at the ITC Rajputana (a Starwood Luxury Collection hotel).
When we got there, there was a long line to ride elephants up to the main fort. But we only waited in line ~10 minutes.
Lots of salesmen may try to sell you souvenirs and handicrafts, but they mark up their prices a lot. Just ignore them and save your energy for the street markets.
They were all lined up and ready to go! The fort only offers elephant rides in the morning, to prevent the elephants from being tired out. They’re limited to 5 rides per day, and there are only so many elephants!
So be sure to do get there early! You don’t have to book the elephants in advance. Just show up early (before 10:30 am) and get in line.
We arrived at 10:30 am and saw many elephants, but by the time we left at around 1:00 pm, we did not see many elephants giving rides.
It was easy to get on the elephant because they come to an elevated wall for “boarding.”
All you have to do is sit down. Two people can fit on 1 elephant.
I rode by myself because Daraius’ mom wanted Daraius to ride with her, and Mark and my mom rode with each other.
Each elephant has a dedicated driver to ensure it stays put while you climb it and to get you to the top of the fort.
At 1st, it was a little scary to be on top of the elephant. My seat kept sliding from left to right, and I thought it might just slide off!
However, I soon realized that this swaying was part of the elephant’s walk, and I relaxed into the journey. It took ~15 minutes to reach the top via the elephant.
The views from the hike were very pretty.
The fort has a lake nearby.
As you are meandering up the hill, there will be men on the side of the hill with cameras. If you want good pictures, be sure to look at them and smile. You don’t have to buy their pictures, but it is nice to have the option. The pictures they took turned out MUCH better than the ones Daraius took – it was pretty hard to get good pictures when being on an elephant due to their swaying.
The pictures cost me about 50 to 100 rupees per picture (~$1). I snagged a good deal with a guy named Lucky who sold me a photo album with 12 pictures for 400 rupees (~$6). I really liked that they came in a photo album!
Be sure to look and smile at a few photographers in case 1 or 2 don’t find you with the pictures. They find you, you don’t find them.
There’s no kiosk to collect and pay for the pictures like in some other destinations. Make sure you try to barter and don’t accept their 1st price. Say “Nahi, nahi,” which is pronounced “Nay, nay.” This means “No” in Hindi, and offer a price that is ~ 1/3 of what they offer.
Two different photographers took pictures of me. I liked Lucky’s the best because of the angle and picturesque background.
There was a caravan of maybe a dozen other elephants with passengers.
I loved admiring the architecture.
After ~10 minutes, we got to the ledge to get off the elephant.
It was very easy to get off…much better than the time I got on and off of a camel!
We climbed up a flight of stairs…
. . .and made our way near the top. The gate at the top is called the Lion Gate because the Lion symbolizes strength.
The view of the main fort and the mountains behind it was impressive! We rode the elephants through the majestic archway below.
I loved seeing the decorative arches that were so colorful and well preserved.
The Ganesh Gate (named after the Hindu god Ganesh, the remover of obstacles) was the entry into the Maharajas’ private palaces.
It was built by Mirza Raja Jai Singh between 1621 and 1627. It’s amazing how well preserved it is!
Above this gate is the Suhag Mandir. Women from the royal family would watch public functions through windows overlooking the Diwan-i-Am, a courtyard with a raised platform.
This courtyard is where members of the royal family would greet and visit with the public.
I loved the intricate, colorful paintings.
There were lots of gorgeous buildings, many with bright designs.
Next, we went to Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace). There are 40 pillars inside which are built with thousands of pieces of mirrors. The mirrors reflect light in the palace and are used to keep the rooms warm.
The mirrors decorating the hall fell into disrepair, but have been restored. I could only imagine how beautiful it must have looked like at night, with all of the candles and their reflections ablaze!
Daraius checked out his reflection in 1 mirror.
Even the ceiling had mirrors all over it. Maybe this is where Louis XIV got his inspiration for the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles!
The views from the fort were very pretty, and there were some interesting-looking gardens below that I wanted to explore.
We could also see the elephants winding their way up to the fort.
I could have easily spent several hours in the fort.
We hired a guide, but I didn’t find him very helpful. He did help explain some of the sites, but I would have preferred not being so rushed around.
Also, at times, he had a thick Indian accent, and I had difficulty understanding him.
As we were leaving the fort, we saw a mom and baby monkey! It was very cute how the baby wanted to free itself from the mother, but the mother would ensure the baby stayed beside her and not get hurt.
We also passed some old ruins, and I wondered if these were the ruins that were once part of the royal dynasty.
Perhaps they’ll restore these buildings, too?
It sure looked like it, because I cannot imagine any commoners who would own such grand palaces.
Amber Fort is a beautiful, well-maintained palace with a fascinating history! It’s definitely worth seeing.
Plan on spending at least 3 hours here, and bring food if you need a snack (there was little to no food within the palace walls).
But this wasn’t the only palace we visited!