With its colourful history, imposing fort and sun drenched streets, Jodhpur pulls you in. Once there you find a fascinating city that mesmerises as quickly as a snake charmer tames his snake.
These are our favourite things to do in Jodhpur. What are yours? Add your memories and recommendations below.
Give yourself a whole day to wander around what many say is India’s most impressive fort. Looming over Jodhpur and soaked in legend, Mehrangarh is an almost intimidating presence. It was built in the mid 15th century under the orders of clan ruler Rao Jodha who wanted a safer alternative to his ancient base in Mandore. Inside its deep walls are seven ornate palaces and courtyards. The museum here is highly recommended.
2. …then see the place that Rao Jodha abandoned
To add some back-story to your fort trip, why not take a journey just five miles north to Mandore. This was the original Rathore (Rajput clan) capital until Rao Jodha moved everyone south. You’ll now find a fort in ruins – but wow, these are some beautiful ruins, and the trip is made worthwhile by the genteel atmosphere of the green surrounds.
3. Capture the blues
Keen photographers will be inspired by Jodhpur. The strong sunlight and rich palette of colours offer great potential for dazzling images. A trip around the old town is a must. Houses here are mainly painted in shades of blue. Strangely, no-one really knows why. Some say it is a way that members of the Brahmin caste have traditionally distinguished themselves; others say it’s all about protecting buildings from irritating insects. What’s certain is that it creates an impressive visual effect. This is also a great place to be nosey – homeowners often leave their doors open, providing the curious traveller with some sneaky views of Rajasthan family life (though if you are staying in a homestay, you’ll get a brilliant insight anyway).
4. Set out on a desert safari
Jodhpur is the starting point for the well-regarded Bishnoi village safari, an alternative trip through the sands of Rajasthan to the settlements of the Bishnoi community. These are people who treasure nature and live in isolated hut villages. Though founded in the 1400s, their aged principles seem pertinent to modern times: they forbid the destruction of the natural environment, including the felling of trees, and champion good health. Smoking is frowned upon. The journey there takes in wildlife such as black bucks, foxes, partridges and nilgai (known as blue bulls).
5. Enjoy a sugary high
Jodhpur is renowned for its sweets. It’s common in this city to begin a meal with a ‘sweetmeat’ dish, a tradition known as ‘mithi manuhar’. And the Jodhpur streets are blessed with countless sweet shops, often packed with sweet-toothed customers. The local speciality foods to ask for are Mave ki Kachori, Besan ki Chaaki and Maakhan Vade. Some dishes even include unusual desert roots that are believed to have medicinal properties.
6. Browse the buzzing bazaars
Shopping is a favourite pastime for many Jodhpur visitors, mainly because of the sheer quality and range of handicrafts found here. Fabrics, carpets, jewellery, leatherware, art and, famously, antiques are all in abundance. Sardar Market is a whirlwind of trade that centres on the city’s clock tower, but you will no doubt stumble upon smaller bazaars as you walk the streets. Kapra is popular for fabrics.
7. Get royally pampered
This one is for homestay guests only. Your homestay host will be able to arrange for Jodhpur’s best beauticians, hairdressers, masseurs and henna artists to call in at your convenience and deliver an indulgent treatment session of your own design. Speak to them about your requirements. Other unique experiences you can get staying in a homestay include bespoke cooking lessons and personal guided tours.
8. See the gypsy snake dance
Kalbeliya is an entrancing Rajasthan folk dance performed by the women of the Kalbeliya gypsy community. Where once they were on hand to entertain the Maharajah, now they are commonly found in hotels and at festivities, where they mesmerise to a percussive beat. Known as the ‘snakecharmer tribe’, the story of these proud nomadic people is fascinating and troubled. Take a chance to see their Flamenco-esque twirls while you are in Jodhpur; in other spots in Rajasthan, including Pushkar, they have been moved on by authorities.
9. Follow in Lord Mountbatten’s hoof tracks
It’s not something many of us get to see on a regular basis. But as Jodhpur is home to a popular polo ground and gave its name to those infamous riding trousers, what better way to end your trip then with some horseplay? The season has a narrow timeframe, taking place in December only. Your homestay host will be able to advise on attending a match. But if you know how to ride a horse, it’s even possible to take a short course and play the game yourself at most other times of the year.