Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India.
India's largest state, Rajasthan encompasses 10 per cent of the country's total area. Between the rose-hued streets of Jaipur, the ethereal Narlai village and Jawai's sprawling hills lives a romantic city of epic sandcastle forts, crumbling havelis and wild desert scenery: welcome to "the Golden City", better known as Jaisalmer.
Located on the westernmost edge of Rajasthan, this dusty, dazzling destination is known for its coral-coloured havelis, vibrant bazaars and a looming fort that seemingly springs straight from the sandy plains. Behind the jungle of sandstone buildings is a labyrinth of narrow passageways lined by Jain temples, gorgeous guesthouses, fragrant restaurants and boutiques swathed in colourful textiles. Buckle up your sandals and prepare to explore the abundance of cultures and traditions found in Jaisalmer's sun-bleached streets for yourself.
A clothing boutique, left, and a camel in the Thar Desert. | Photo credit: Anshu & Ravisankar / unsplash.com
Jaisalmer Fort. This architectural marvel was built in 1156 by King Rawal Jaisal. Spanning some 460m in length and stretching 230m wide, its honey-hued walls house palaces, temples, wells and havelis - many of which are the residences of descendants of the complex's original Brahmin and Rajput communities. There are four grand entrance gates - Ganesh Pol, Suraj Pol, Bhoot Pol and Hawa Pol - each with intricate carvings and delicately designed windows and doors. To best drink in its visual splendour, visit at golden hour.
Where to stay?
Bed down at Suryagarh. A fort-like edifice modelled on ancient temples, with intricate latticework, stone-carved pillars and lantern-lit courtyards, it is an oasis of luxury amid these dusty, sun-scorched surroundings. Bounce across the blonde dunes or settle for the ultimate spa day, where hot stones, scrubbing and pummelling are all on the menu. The in-house restaurant, Legend of Marwar, also delivers the goods, serving up traditional dishes infused with aromatic herbs and spices.
Where to go for dinner?
Sitting pretty in the heart of the city, The Trio is the sort of place that you come to for the vibe just as much as for the grub. Set on a rooftop atop Mandir Palace hotel, the tented space features woven fabrics in rich, jewel-like colours and traditional decor. Seats look like Persian rugs and tables are dressed in crisp white linens, while the menu is packed with authentic Rajasthani cuisine. Plan your visit for 7pm: that way, you have a strong chance of bagging one of the seats that overlook the beautiful old bazaar.
Jaisalmer Fort, left, and a snapshot of the city. | Photo credit: Josephine Thomas & Akash Chaduhary / unsplash.com
And for a drink…
As the sun sinks, slip into Draksh. You'd be forgiven for walking straight past this unassuming address, but step past its gritty exterior to experience a taste of the city's sexiest and sultriest drinking den. With soft lighting and curved archways, dark wooden furnishings and chairs laden with printed cushions, it's the kind of place where you're going to want to linger, working your way through the entire cocktail menu. No judgement.
Who to take with you?
Someone who willingly ventures further afield than the Central Line. They'll have no qualms about the long-haul flight or, when in situ, exploring the city's warren-like backstreets.
Essentials to pack
We've all found ourselves unpacking our belongings to find that yet another one of our treasured lipsticks has gone for a wander. Keep your bits and bobs in one organised space by grabbing this Liberty wash bag - the perfect solution for stashing those all-important skincare and beauty essentials while on the move.
How to get there
No airlines fly direct from the UK to Jaisalmer. We suggest flying from London Heathrow to Mumbai with British Airways. From there, jump on a connecting flight to Jodhpur Airport, which is a five-hour drive away from the desert city.