Jodhpur, India – The Top 5 Experiences in the Blue City
Jodhpur, India, has an alluring history of decadence to fortune-less to reinvention and success in the preservation and advancement of the five-centuries-old city. Jodhpur is the second largest metropolitan city in the Rajasthan Region. The dense anient city forms a semi-circle around the immense and impressive cliffside Mehrangarh Fort.
The Fort was the home of the Jodhpur royals from 1226 – 1818 and then a princely state under British rule from 1818 to 1947. The most recent royals never lived in the Mehrangarh Fort. In 1943, Maharaja Hanwant Singh, his wife, Maharani Krishna Kumari and their son, Gaj Singh II moved into the Umad Bhawan Palace which was completed after 14 years of construction. In 1952, Gaj Singh II was four years old when his father, Hanwant Singh, died in a plane crash. Singh II became the 29th maharaja of the princely state of Jodhpur. Singh II’s upbringing, education and progressive thinking are fascinating chapters in an enduring story.
Singh took a chance, and it paid off not only for the royal family but also for Jodhpur. Today, the city is a maze of ornate entryways or gates, ancient Havelis, modern storefronts, and traditional markets. Over the last several decades, the city has expanded dramatically, and the Mehrangarh Fort is now a culturally rich museum and tourist attraction.
It’s no surprise that Jodhpur is a popular Indian tourist destination as it celebrates Indian history and culture with palaces, museums, gardens, temples, and forts. Known as the Sun City and the Blue City, Jodhpur sits on the edge of the Thar Desert. The climate is hot and dry, with a short rainy season from April to September. The homes are stained a blue color for cooling during the hottest times of the year.
After a long van ride through the desert from Jaisalmer, we arrive in Jodhpur for a single night’s stay at the Polo Heritage, The Heritage Hotel. The game of Polo runs deep in the Jodhpur heritage and this hotel. The original owner, who was on the Indian polo team that won the world cup in 1957, received the building as a wedding gift from the Maharaja (noble rank or king) Hanwant Singh of Jodhpur. It’s spacious with modern decor and centrally located. We settled in, and I secretly wished we could stay here for longer than just one night — no such luck.
We explored the Mehrangarh Fort with the aid of an audio tour that took us through a royal museum with an extensive art collection, royal finery, weapons and litters (human-powered enclosed chairs, or beds for the transport of royalty), and exquisite howdahs—carriages for elephant riders. Captivating history! The Fort was busy with Indian families and school groups. To our surprise, Indian families were openly curious about us, the westerners visiting Jodhpur. Several times, Indian women would shyly ask to have their picture taken with me. It warmed my heart. School kids are the same everywhere; they are curious, loud, and were happy to pose for pictures, give high-fives, and shake hands with Jeff. It was great.
This luxurious Fort has many rooms dedicated to pleasure and hedonism. In particular, the elaborate Phool Mahal, with detailed ornamental gold walls, luxurious colored carpets, and stained glass windows. Movie-scene visions play-out in my mind of a desert palace with camels and opulent, colorful, pillow-filled rooms with beautiful exotic belly dancers dripping with gold and transparent veils dancing for a desert prince and honored guest sharing a royal hookah pipe. I can’t figure out what film or television show this vision comes from, maybe you remember?
We wandered around town from the Fort to check out the busy central market. The city Clock Tower is the centerpiece for this lively market is humming with local commerce, female shoppers, cows, kids, and scooters in anticipation of the upcoming Diwali holiday. I was a little “shopped-out” by then and decided to hang out by one of the city gates to enjoy and observe the market-scene.
We enjoyed a sunset dinner at a lovely rooftop restaurant, Indique, at the Pal Haveli Hotel that has a fantastic view of the Fort, refreshing gin and tonics and delicious Indian cuisine.
- Tour the great Mehrangarh Fort. Spend a good part of the day wandering the impressive complex, viewing colorful rooms while listening to facinating stories on the audio guide.
- Visit the Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel. The home of the Royal Family and also the hotel and destination wedding location for actress Priyanka Chopra and Jonas Brother, Nick Jonas. A night’s stay in the Grand Presidential suite can cost more than 500,000 rupees (USD $7,168), according to the hotel website.
- Take a walking tour and do some shopping in Jodhpur talk to the people.
- Tour Jaswant Thada the white marble memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, built in 1899 by his son and serves as the cremation ground for the royal family of Marwar.
- Check out a few of the Blue houses. Great photo-ops.
Behind The Scenes
The history of Jodhpur, its royal heritage, and polo ties are fascinating. Our hotel lobby had dozens of Polo Team photos from the 1950s that had Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh looking quite handsome and young. I get the impression that Jodhpur does not have the western tourist traffic of other cities in India because the local people are very friendly and curious. It’s super hot here and the social etiquette requires that women cover their shoulders and legs. Loving my large thin sarong! Eating to much delicious food, so good.
Enjoy the Climb!
I send out a monthly update with my favorite finds, experiences, stories and tips from interesting places around the world. Join me!