weekend away - Jaipur
Written by Emma Boyle
As the intense heat and monsoon rains of the summer months subside, October is the perfect month to visit the city of Jaipur, Rajasthan’s magical state capital.
Founded in 1727 by Jai Singh II, Jaipur is a melee of colour, chaos, and creativity. Home to three million inhabitants, this fast-growing city is remarkable for its fairy-tale palaces and forts evoking Rajasthan’s regal past. For many, this is India at her most exotic: veiled women wrapped in jewel-hued saris, turban-touting men, painted elephants, galloping rickshaws, and creaking camel-drawn carts.
At the heart of Jaipur lies the old town, or Pink City, encircled by blushing gateway-pierced walls. Its orderly grid-lined streets, sprinkled with choupads (squares), bristle with bustling bazaars flaunting gaudy bangles, jewels, gold, textiles, and embroidery. Attractions include the exquisite City Palace and the five-tiered Hawa Mahal, behind whose multi-windowed façade women in purdah would have secretly watched street processions below. Jantar Mantar is the Pink City’s oddest attraction – a whimsical outdoor observatory dotted with huge stone astronomical measuring devices, many invented by Jai Singh himself.
On the city’s fringe sit a trio of impressive hilltop forts. Dramatically sited Nahargarh is the best perch for indulging in a Pink City sunset, whilst Amber’s resplendent Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Room) is one of Rajasthan’s finest. Jaigarh is home to Asia’s largest cannon and serves up pretty panoramic vistas of the sawtooth hills of the Aravalli Range and surrounding plains.
If you’re short on time, a gentle float in a hot air balloon above Jaipur’s mesmerising monuments is hard to beat (skywaltz.com).
Superbly located in the northeastern corner of the Pink City, this authentic 180-year-old haveli is one of Jaipur’s top heritage hotels and a true inner-city sanctuary. Rooms and suites are unique, adorned with painted murals, florid archways, mirrored glass, and luxurious block-printed linen. Facilities include a pool, a bar, and an atmospheric fire-lit courtyard for delicious al fresco dining.