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Jet Set to Jaipur: Part 5 – Activities in Jaipur – Amber Fort and Elephant Ride

Jet Set to Jaipur: Part 5 – Activities in Jaipur – Amber Fort and Elephant Ride

Million Mile SecretsJet Set to Jaipur: Part 5 – Activities in Jaipur – Amber Fort and Elephant RideMillion Mile Secrets Team

Back in March 2014 when we were a couple, Daraius and I flew to India as part of an around-the-world trip for my parents.  During our journey, we visited India, the Maldives, and Hong Kong.

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!

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
An Experience of a Lifetime! We Rode Elephants to the Amber Fort in Jaipur!

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:

Amber Fort

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.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
Amber Fort Is Located High on a Hill Overlooking Maota Lake

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).

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
Ready for an Elephant Ride to the Gates of the Amber Fort!

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.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
There’s a L-O-N-G Line to Ride the Elephants, but It Moves Quickly

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.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
To Prevent Cruelty to the Elephants, They’re Only Allowed to Give 5 Rides Each per Day

It was easy to get on the elephant because they come to an elevated wall for “boarding.”

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
Step Right Up!  No Climbing Required!

All you have to do is sit down.  Two people can fit on 1 elephant.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
It’s NOT Lie-Flat First Class Seating, but It’s Pretty Comfy!

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.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
The Elephant Boarding Area Was Quite Busy at Times!

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.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
My Elephant “Pilot” Was a Pro!  It Took ~15 Minutes to Climb to the Fort

The views from the hike were very pretty.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
You Can See the Lake, Mountains, and Palace Grounds During the Ride

The fort has a lake nearby.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
Maota Lake Has an Island in the Center With a Saffron Garden

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.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
On Top of the World!  Er, the Elephant!

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!

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
That’s Not a Death Grip I Have on the Rails, Honest!

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.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
I’m Glad to Have Found My Photographer, Lucky!

There was a caravan of maybe a dozen other elephants with passengers.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
It’s Like the Traffic in Austin!

I loved admiring the architecture.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
There’s a Mix of Hindi, European, and Muslim Architecture Around the Fort

After ~10 minutes, we got to the ledge to get off the elephant.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
Made It to the Top Safe and Sound!

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…

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
Wear Comfortable Shoes!  You’ll Likely Do a Lot of Walking

. . .and made our way near the top.  The gate at the top is called the Lion Gate because the Lion symbolizes strength.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
The Palace Once Had to Stand Up to Attacks From Enemies

The view of the main fort and the mountains behind it was impressive!  We rode the elephants through the majestic archway below.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
Incredible Views of the Courtyard and Entrance at Amber Fort

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!

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
The Ganesh Gate Is Named After the God Ganesh, Who Has an Elephant Head

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.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
The Diwan-i-Am, or Public Audience Hall, Allowed Residents to Meet With the Rulers

I loved the intricate, colorful paintings.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
Such Incredible Detail in the Paintings and Murals!

There were lots of gorgeous buildings, many with bright designs.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
They’ve Restored the Palace Very Well – It Must Be a Huge Task

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.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
Gorgeous Gardens, Fountains, and Landscaping Next to Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace)

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!

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
Some of the Mirror Designs Were Incredibly Ornate and Complex

Daraius checked out his reflection in 1 mirror.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
“Who’s the Fairest of Them All?”

Even the ceiling had mirrors all over it.  Maybe this is where Louis XIV got his inspiration for the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles!

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
I Wonder How Long It Took to Install These Mirrors on the Ceiling?

The views from the fort were very pretty, and there were some interesting-looking gardens below that I wanted to explore.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
The Amber Fort Grounds Are Extensive With Gardens, Walkways, and Many Buildings

We could also see the elephants winding their way up to the fort.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
I’m Glad We Didn’t Make That Walk Ourselves!

I could have easily spent several hours in the fort.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
My Folks Were So Impressed!  They’d Never Seen Anything Like This

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.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
I Would Have Preferred Taking My Time Exploring at My Own Pace

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.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
Adorable!  Mama Monkey Kept Close Watch Over Baby Monkey

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?

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
Not Everything at the Fort Has Been Restored

It sure looked like it, because I cannot imagine any commoners who would own such grand palaces.

Activities In Jaipur - Amber Fort And Elephant Ride
Walking Through the Grounds Is Like Going Back in Time

Bottom Line

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).

Taking the elephant ride was my favorite part of visiting Amber Fort!

But this wasn’t the only palace we visited!

If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 25,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another update!

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Hi everyone- Thanks for your feedback! I appreciate you sharing the news about how elephants can be treated. It is a sensitive issue and it's important to spread the word about animal welfare.

Ditto on the elephant thing. It has been in the Indian media for a while. Health testing revealed 95% of the elephants are severely unhealthy. They quit after the morning and then head to a farm with tourists so they work even more. I was just there last week. Your guide can drive you up the back way, which is kind of cool too. Just say no to the elephant rides in Jaipur!!

In addition to what Karen and Jackie said above, elephant spines are not meant to support weight on them in this fashion. The way the spine is designed, the weight is meant to be under, not above. Because the seating platform is put on top of the apex, it's very common to find nerve damage at those areas.

From http://www.elephantexperts.org/tourism.html -- "The arching shape of an Asian elephant's back means the weight of an ordinary howdah or seat is concentrated on the middle of the spine (backbone). Some tourist-carrying elephants have symptoms of nerve damage and chronic inflammation in that part of the spine."

Even with the short rides, it is extremely painful for them.

While it gets mixed reviews on Trip Advisor, I was quite pleased with the RTDC (Rajasthan Tourist Dev. Company) tour I took several years ago. This is essentially a non-profit tour set up by a government agency. Includes transportation and guides. Cost is less than $6 at the current exchange rate for an all day tour that hits every major tourist site in the area. Would be worthwhile if you're traveling on a budget.

I've enjoyed reading about your trip to Jaipur and I love your blog. But I'm disappointed that you chose to ride an elephant and then highlight it here for your readers. Elephants in the tourism industry have been subjected to a process known as "the crush" where they are beaten and abused until they submit to allowing a chair and riders. I would have hoped you'd use your influence to educate your readers about choosing the right animal experiences and to think about what has happened in order for people to have these "incredible" animal experiences that couldn't otherwise occur in the wild.

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