India and I have had a complicated relationship so far. That was never India's fault. When I left Jaipur a little head over heels I really had to say "Sorry, it's not you, it's me!" and mean it for the first time in the history of this sentence.
When I started my somewhat confused trip planning for India, I knew I wanted to visit the Golden Triangle: Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. As I have mentioned before I was feeling quite nervous and overwhelmed with the prospect of taking trains and buses in India, and so I decided not to face this daunting task and hire a private driver to take me to the Taj Mahal and then to Jaipur. That turned out to be a great choice and I arrived in Jaipur in high spirits.
After a couple of nights, I decided to stay a little longer, sort myself out, and take my time to explore the city. There are plenty of things to do in Jaipur and I realized I liked taking my time with those as cities in India can be quite overwhelming.
Mind you, I have not seen it all yet and am no expert but I wanted to share some highlights of the pink city, best sightseeing in Jaipur, where to stay and of course, where to eat. As per usual not objective at all!
Where to stay in Jaipur
My friend Joe had recommended Moustache Hostel and it turned out to be a great recommendation. While I usually don't really sleep in hostels I was on a budget and also looking for some company. I ended up extending my stay and found it to be one of the best hostels in Jaipur.
As with many hostels today you have a choice between dorm rooms or private rooms and I opted for the latter. My room was incredibly cute, had an ensuite bathroom, a comfy bed, and fast wifi.
Moustache Hostel also has an amazing rooftop terrace with a restaurant, great for Indian and western dishes, complimentary chai in the afternoon and some innovative mocktails.
They also have a fun blackboard with events and a guideline for tuk-tuk prices to all the sights in Jaipur.
How to get to & around in Jaipur
If you don't want to hire a private driver to take you to Jaipur (something very reasonably priced - I paid about EUR 100 for three days), you can take the train or fly. Many airlines fly from other Indian destinations to Jaipur and when I left I even found a cheap Air Asia flight directly to Bangkok. While it might not be a big hub, it is worth checking out if a flight if possible when time is of the essence.
I found the easiest and most comfortable way to get around in Jaipur was by Uber. I always felt safe and it was easy to find my way. Alternatively you can get a tuk-tuk/rickshaw but as usual, you will need to do some hard bargaining, preferably before you get in.
Things to do in Jaipur
A different kind of sightseeing in Jaipur - A great way to see more of the city and find some hidden gems is to take a tour with Moustache Hostel. Their Jaipur city tours are run by their staff for a small fee. Whether you want to know where to go sightseeing in Jaipur, find the best street food or take in the sights at night, they have a tour for everyone.
Our guide Rishi not only showed us the best places to find samoosas but also a secret house (if you are an architect you need to come to Jaipur now!), a little temple where we were blessed with sweet coconut water (bad for the hair, good for the karma), the old library as well as where to find the best bargains at the bazaar.
Galta Ji - Monkey Temple
One of my favorite things to do in Jaipur was a visit to the monkey temple. Technically the temple is 10 km outside of the city but easy enough to reach. I had my driver take me there when we came from Agra but you can also get there with a taxi or tuk-tuk.
The complex was dedicated to the Sun God but also has a temple inside for Hanuman, the Monkey God.
If you are a fan of the Jungle Book, this is your place to be because it looks just like that. Monkeys are roaming freely here, using the ponds to swim, play in and conduct monkey business.
I had the honor to have a little, wet baby monkey jump on my shoulder (I was apparently in his way) before he jumped off a rooftop into a pool - I take that as a blessing. Other than that, they seemed friendly enough though as per usual I held on tightly to my sunglasses and camera and didn't get too close to the alpha males.
Chand Baori - Jaipur Stepwell
The Jaipur Stepwell, Chand Baori, is technically not in Jaipur but rather 95km away in the village of Abhanari. However, if you are coming from Agra with a driver it is the perfect stopover sight. It was built in 800 AD and with over 3,500 steps going over 30 m down it is the deepest and largest stepwell in India.
It is also dedicated to Hashat Mata, Goddess of Joy and Happiness, something I like - I got a little blessing there because who doesn't need joy and happiness?!
In case you want to get up to mischief this is what my friend Jackson did in Jodhpur's stepwell:
According to him, women are not allowed to swim in the stepwell (not that I would have tried, I am not much of a 'jumping off high things as soon as I get the chance'-type!) and I don't think you could get away with that at Chand Baori. It is more of a well-known sight than a communal pool but either way, it is well worth a little detour on your way to Jaipur.
Jal Mahal & Amber Fort
Get up early (or too early in my case) and catch an Uber to take you to Jal Mahal, the Water Palace. This palace is set in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake and visitor can't go. However, it is the perfect location for a beautiful sunrise shot from the shore. You will find many locals hanging out, also waiting for sunrise, feeding the pigeons and posing in all sorts of funny ways. Worth getting up early for as this is one of the most instagrammable places in Jaipur and a definite sunrise location.
After you have taken enough 50 shades of pink shots get yourself a cup of chai before traveling on to the Amber Fort.
Note that Uber drivers will charge an extra fee for going up there which makes it more expensive than you would think - worth sharing the trip if you can.
You can get to the fort by taking an elephant ride something I am obviously not a fan of though I was quite enthralled by them. - they can get super close and are usually painted in bright colors. The hike is neither long nor steep and there are enough viewpoints to stop and take a picture if you actually need to catch your breath.
I didn't pay to go inside but rather stayed with the monkeys and also went into one of the temples. I must say, I loved the Hindu temples in India as it always felt so festive and fun inside and I, obviously an outsider, always felt very welcome. Welcome enough for strangers to hand me their babies and demand a picture.
Inside the walls of the old city, you will find the Hawa Mahal, the most iconic building of Jaipur also called the Palace of Winds. The beehive structure was built in order to allow royal ladies to observe life without being seen and to ventilate the inside - Jaipur can get really hot!
The beautiful facade that you see from the street is actually the back of the building, you will find the entrance on the front side. On your way, you can also find a tiny altar with an awesome blue elephant in case you are keen.
For the perfect shot of the Hawa Mahal head to the opposite street side and up to Wind View Cafe. Great for a chai and a photo op!
Shopping in Jaipur
There is no shortage of great shopping opportunities in Jaipur, I couldn't resist either (and even had to pay excess luggage fees afterward). Jaipur is known for its textiles, jewelry, and pottery so you can shop until you drop.
For great bazar finds make your way to the Ghat Gate and into the old pink city. Here you will find beautiful textiles, leather shoes and for those who are just keen to take pictures, you will find the fruit and vegetable market close by. Ghat Darwaza Bazar Road is also great to buy gems as well as spices.
If you are not a fan of bazars and the overall thrill of haggling don't worry because there are some great shops in Jaipur that come with set prices.
Anokhi is famous and I have loved this brand ever since I bought my first caftan in a boutique in South Africa. Honestly, their cotton prints are just so beautiful, summery and most of all comfortable. I had to set myself a firm spending limit at their Jaipur store which I only went over for the perfect gift - a quilted cotton blanket for my friend's baby boy.
Come hungry because the adjacent cafe is lovely and has great salads.
Jaipur Modern is a beautiful concept store offering anything from tea to caftans, soaps, and jewelry - beautifully displayed and curated of course! Again a spending limit was set and ignored, this time I had no one to blame but myself.
If you are craving a pizza Jaipur Kitchen is the place to go. The little restaurant is also a great option for healthy options like green smoothies and quinoa salads.
What & Where to eat in Jaipur
If you are new to food in India, I recommend you read this post first. I hope it will ease your fears and gets you to explore the cuisine.
Having this said, I will be very honest - while I didn't get sick once (probably jinxed myself by writing this) I am not the biggest fan of Indian food. I really loved my food tour with Intrepid in Delhi and had a very memorable prawn curry in Kerala but other than that nothing much stands out. However, I will admit that this is just my own taste buds' opinion, I know so many people who absolutely adore Indian food so you should go ahead and eat everything!
With that said, you won't see me write a foodie's guide to Jaipur anytime soon. As I mentioned I really loved Jaipur Kitchen and the cafe at Anokhi as well as the Peacock Rooftop restaurant. It is really quirky and has great views over the city.
If I feel a bit lost in a new country or city when it comes to food, I usually book a food tour. Mind you, for a budget traveler they can often be a bit too pricey. That's why I loved the street food tour I did with Moustache Hostel as it was inexpensive but great fun. And you had the choice to actually buy and eat the food or not as no meals where included.
The one thing one must always have in India is, of course, chai, preferably from a proper chai walla. Drink it standing on the roadside and soak up the atmosphere - that works well anywhere in India.
When in Jaipur you MUST have a lassi. Lassi is a yogurt based drink which I know to be overly sweet and fruit-flavored from a yogurt-like cup. At least that's how you get lassi in Germany, not my favorite to be honest.
In Jaipur, you will find the original Lassi Walla (look out for the date above the store, 1944, to make sure it is not the knock-off store). It is on MI Road right across the Puma store. Here you will get the freshest lassi that tastes like nothing I have ever tasted - pure heaven! They serve it in the cutest disposable clay pots and it comes in small and large (get a large!). You can pay extra to have it without sugar or ice but I recommend you go for the true experience - I promise you, you won't regret it.
Despite my very personal state of misery I really enjoyed Jaipur. There is so much more to do and see and I can't wait to come back. Also, just writing about that lassi has me drooling on my keyboard... is anybody in town and can send one over?!
What are your favorite things to do in Jaipur? Any other recommendations?