Deep in the desert state of Rajasthan, Jaisalmer is a magical spot, with an imposing old fort that resembles a sandcastle and beautiful city mansions, all against the backdrop of the golden Thar Desert. Jaisalmer is also a compact city, making it possible to experience the best it has to offer in just one day. Here’s how.
Start your morning off with a visit to Jaisalmer's star attraction: Jaisalmer Fort (also known as Sonar Qila, or Golden Fort). This towering sandstone structure is the second-oldest fort in the state of Rajasthan, dating to the middle of the 12th century, and it's been inhabited for centuries, with numerous Hindu and Jain temples, homes, and even a few guesthouses within its ramparts. The Jaisalmer Fort Palace Museum is a must-visit. Most Jaisalmer tours stop here, and visiting with a guide will make finding your way around much easier.
Stick around the fort for lunch before making your way out to the Patwon Ki Haveli, the largest in a group of five havelis (old city mansions) situated near the fort’s Gopa Chowk entrance; most full-day tours of the city head straight here after visiting the fort. The havelis were constructed in the 19th century by a family of wealthy Jain merchants, and each is built in its own original style. Inside, you’ll find intricately carved columns, arches, and balconies paired with lots of mirror work and intricate frescoes.
While many visitors to Jaisalmer opt to stay in the desert overnight, you can still get a taste of the Thar with only one day in the city. The best way to do this is by joining an evening excursion out to Sam Sand Dunes, about an hour's drive out of town. It's an incredible spot to watch the sun set over the expansive desert, and most visitors opt to take in the scenery from atop a camel. Most evening excursions include a traditional Rajasthani dinner right in the desert, complete with a performance of folk dancing and music.