The Jaisalmer Fort in Rajasthan is known as one of the world’s last “living forts”. This magnificent sandstone fort lies deep in the Thar Desert and is the principal attraction in Jaisalmer. Here is a complete guide to visiting Jaisalmer Fort, from how to get here, what to expect, photos of the fort, and more!
Like most fortifications, cities, monuments, and well, pretty much everything in Rajasthan, the Jaisalmer Fort goes by many names. The Jaisalmer Fort, the Golden Fort, the Sonar Quila, whatever you call it, this alluring sandstone fortification is undeniably one of the most beautiful forts in Rajasthan, and perhaps in all of India.
In this travel guide, I’ll detail everything you need to know about the Jaisalmer Fort in Rajasthan in hopes of making your visit unforgettable.
Looking for ideas for your trip to India? You might also want to check out this comprehensive India Packing List to find out what you should bring and what you shouldn’t! Also, I’ve written a very comprehensive 1 Month India Itinerary that covers an epic, fast-paced travel route as well as a bunch of information and tips that will prove useful in planning your trip!
About the Jaisalmer Fort
The Jaisalmer Fort is known as one of the world’s last remaining living forts. What this means is that it’s still widely inhabited, with one-fourth of Jaisalmer’s population still residing within its walls. UNESCO also recently declared the 1500ft fort a World Heritage Site in 2013.
The fort is known as the second oldest in Rajasthan and features a unique yellow sandstone construction. The reason why it’s known as the Golden Fort or Sonar Quila only becomes apparent during dawn and at sunset. During this golden hour, the waning Thar Desert sun cast its great rays upon the fort, lighting it up like a great flame in the desert expanse.
Observing the citadel from below the hill on which it stands, one immediately notices its many columned bastions which are stanchioned by sandstone parapets along its length. Within the Jaisalmer Fort is a sprawling mini-city with lavish palaces and masterfully carved Jain temples.
While in modern times the Jaisalmer Fort no longer serves as an impenetrable defense from invasion, it’s still a significant cultural and historic part of the Old City of Jaisalmer.
Where is Jaisalmer Fort? How to Get Here
The Jaisalmer fort in Rajasthan is located not far from India’s westernmost tip, just 85 kilometers from the border of Pakistan. As a result, the Golden City is as far west as many tours tend to travel in India, and offers a drier and more torrid landscape than the rest of Rajasthan.
If you haven’t yet arrived in Jaisalmer, then don’t worry, the Jaisalmer fort is unmistakable. In fact, this entire Rajasthani desert city encircles the Jaisalmer Fort and is visible from almost anywhere you look.
Jaisalmer is connected by rail and bus to many other tourist hubs in India including Jodhpur, Delhi, and Ahmedabad. In my opinion, the best and most hassle-free way to get to Jaisalmer is to take an overnight sleeper bus. I’ve written a lengthy guide about the perks of bus travel in India which includes tips to make the most of the experience. Check it out here.
When you look at other sources online, it can get a little confusing as to what the actual entrance fee to get into Jaisalmer Fort is. To clear things up, there is no entry fee required to enter the fort as many people live here, and there are dozens of hotels within the complex.
The entry fee that you’ll often find quoted online refers to the fort palace, which is a worthwhile visit for its historic architecture and impressive museum. Below are the updated Jaisalmer Fort palace entry fees as updated on the Jaisalmer Tourism page.
Foreigners fee: 250 rupees
Indian fee: 50 rupees
Camera fee: 50 for camera | 100 for video camera
Again, the Jaisalmer Fort in Rajasthan is a living fort. Therefore, it is open at all times of the day and night. However, the fort palace is only open from 9 AM to 6 PM daily.
Jaisalmer Fort History
The Sonar Quila of Jaisalmer was constructed in 1156 AD, over 860 years ago, by the Bahti Rajput ruler (Rawal) Jaisal. It’s immediately evident that he also named the citadel desert city after himself.
The Jaisalmer Fort was an important trading hub, strategically constructed on the crossroads of historic trading routes, including the Silk Road. Jaisal and his city’s citizens used the fort as a secure capital that flourished from the network of regional trade caravans.
As you’d expect, there have been several raids, sieges, and battles at the Jaisalmer Fort in Rajasthan. The earliest recorded siege lasted for nine years by the Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khalji before falling and being abandoned for several years before re-occupation by surviving Bajtis.
Following several more attacks, it was the Mughals who occupied the Jaisalmer Fort for several hundred years before the colonizing Brits of the East India Company.
Things to Do at the Jaisalmer Fort
Arriving in Rajasthan’s Golden City, I was on the lookout for things to do and see at the Jaisalmer Fort. If you’re limited on time, then I suggest booking a guided tour of the fort to see most of the highlights, as well as a tour of Jaisalmer’s incredible Havelis (spectacular mansions). The tour I’m recommending is pretty affordable and one of the best-rated in Jaisalmer.
If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands, then it’s possible to experience most of the things to do in Jaisalmer and the fort independently within a couple of days. Below you’ll find a rundown of what to see inside the Jaisalmer Fort.
What to See Inside the Jaisalmer Fort
Jaisalmer Fort Jain Temple
Jain temples are commonly known as the most beautiful out of all of the religious structures found throughout India. Within the Jaisalmer fort, there are a total of seven Jain temples constructed between 1300 and 1700 AD. Out of these seven wonders, you’ll also find a total of 6000 intricately carved statues!
The most impressive Jain temple within the citadel complex is the Parsvanath Temple. In saying that, they are all unique, representing different idols, scriptures, and treasures.
While visiting the Jaisalmer Fort in Rajasthan, one of the main attractions is the Maharaja’s Palace, the former residence of the Jaisalmer rulers.
Those in charge of restorations have converted the fort palace into a modern museum, housing carefully preserved artifacts from the times of old. Visitors can explore the various rooms and terraces, from the King’s bedroom, audience room, and the sweeping main terrace which offers enchanting views of the city below.
Located directly opposite the Maharaja’s Palace is the spectacular Tazia Tower. This five-story pinnacle was constructed by very talented Muslim craftsmen in a fashion made famous in Bengal.
The Tazia Tower is often rated as one of the most famous attractions and things to see from inside the Jaisalmer Fort. However, you’ll have to find a good vantage point along the fort walls to view it from the fort.
After entering the Jaisalmer Fort through the Hawa Pol (Gate of the Winds), the scene opens up to a lively and spacious square that had me feeling like I was in a Game of Thrones set. This main square of Jaisalmer Fort is called Chauhata Square. You will find eager tour guides, street performers, markets, and a bustling mix of residents and visitors going about their day.
Dedicated to the feminine deity Laxmi, the Laxmi, the Laxminath Temple is one of the oldest buildings in Jaisalmer’s Golden Fort. It was constructed in 1494 to honor Laxmi, who is the Goddess of Wealth.
Jaisalmer Fort Viewpoints and Sunset Spots
While historic monuments, master stone carvings, and dwellings of kings are all interesting, sometimes one of the best things to do in a fort city is to chase a viewpoint.
There are several narrow lanes and tight cobblestone steps leading up to the Jaisalmer Fort’s walls and buttresses. Interestingly, while the main attractions were littered with tourists, I found myself free to explore most of the best wall viewpoints completely alone.
If you’re on a budget but still want a room within the fort complex with an attached rooftop restaurant, then I highly recommend Surja Hotel. You can pick up a room here for as low as $6 a night with rooftop views pictured below.
Markets, Bazaars, & Street Performers
The Jaisalmer Fort of Rajasthan truly lives up to its name as a living fort. As you wander the streets in search of the next highlight or attraction, you’ll pass dozens of markets, handicraft storefronts, and talented street performers. This liveliness is what I believe truly creates the ambience of a real, breathing community.
Bonus: Book a Jaisalmer Camel Safari
You may or may not know that the number one attraction in Jaisalmer is the world-renowned camel safari. Okay, this isn’t really an answer to what to see inside the Jaisalmer Fort, but it’s too big of an attraction in the Golden City to simply leave out.
While there are several operators in Jaisalmer, one truly stands out in terms of quality and authenticity. The Real Desert Man Camel Safari is a tour operating family with a strong lineage of Thar Desert camel herders and I full-heartily recommend them.
Before you rush out to barter for the experience, make sure to check out my Jaisalmer camel safari guide which compares the best tours and explains why you should book a 2-day, 1-night safari!
Jaisalmer Fort Stay: Accommodation Guide
Perhaps one of the best experiences in Jaisalmer is the ability to sleep inside the ancient fort complex! Below I’ve listed some of the best accommodation options that should satisfy a range of budgets.
Where I stayed (budget room inside the Jaisalmer fort) – Hotel Surja
Comfortable rooms within the fort with a rooftop terrace and restaurant for under $5USD? Seriously this place was easily one of the best deals I’ve ever come across.
Best Jaisalmer Hostel – Toffu Safari
Hostelworld rates Toffu Safari as one of the best hostels in Jaisalmer year after year. While I didn’t stay here, I visited twice since a friend of mine was staying here at the time. It has a great roof-top terrace, comfortable beds, and a great vibe.
Luxury option within the fort – Killa Bhawan
If you’ve ever wanted a luxury room in an ancient fort, Jaisalmer is probably the place to book one. For what you get, the prices of accommodation are ridiculously affordable. The Killa Bhawan is one of the top-rated luxury accommodation options within the Jaisalmer fort.
Glamping Safari Camp – Real Desert Man Safari Camp
Are you a fan of glamping? If you’re not really after the full Jaisalmer camel safari experience, then you can book a night in the desert with this glamping camp.
Jaisalmer Fort FAQs
Before I wrap up this travel guide to the Jaisalmer Fort in Rajasthan, I’ll aim to answer some of the most frequently asked questions, most of which I too sought the answers to prior to arriving. I’ve already covered most of this within the guide above, but this will serve as a quick and easy Q&A for those in a rush.
When Was the Jaisalmer Fort in Rajasthan Built?
The founders of the city constructed the The Jaisalmer Fort in the year 1156 AD.
Who Built Jaisalmer Fort?
The Bahti Rajput ruler Jaisal constructed the fort, in which he also named after himself.
Who Lives in Jaisalmer Fort?
Currently, a quarter of the total population of Jaisalmer lives within the Golden Fort complex. This makes it one of the world’s last living forts.
Why was it built?
The founders of Jaisalmer constructed The Sonar Quila or Golden Fort of Jaisalmer as a new settlement city in a strategic intersection of extensive trade routes during 10th century AD.
What Was it Built From?
The Bahti founders built the Jaisalmer Fort using a yellow-sandstone that is abundant in the Thar Desert.
How Big is Jaisalmer Fort?
The citadel is over 1500ft in length and 750ft wide. and covers an area. Moreover, the outermost wall of the fort is 15ft tall but rises over 70 meters above the desert floor below since it rests on a natural hill.
Which Hill is the Jaisalmer Fort Built?
The hill on which Jaisalmer’s fort complex is built is named Meru Hill, but also is referred to as Trikooth Garh.
Is Bhang Legal in Jaisalmer?
Bhang (cannabis) is legal in Jaisalmer. However, one can only buy it at the official government-sanctioned “bhang shop” located near the main entrance to the Jaisalmer Fort (see photo below).
Is Jaisalmer Fort Under Threat?
Yes, the Jaisalmer Fort in Rajasthan is in serious threat of damage by ground erosion. In fact, The World Monument Fund has listed it in the 100 Most Endangered Sites list. The main threat is water-usage to accommodate tourism, which runs through inadequately planned drainage systems and causes severe erosion to the fort’s foundations.
More Photos of the Jaisalmer Fort in Rajasthan
Below I’ve included some more clicks and snaps that I took of the Jaisalmer Fort in Rajasthan.
More Rajasthan Travel Guides and Blogs
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