The capital of Rajasthan Jaipur was the first planned city of India, laid out on a grid system and protected by high gated walls. The old names of the nine sectors hint at what you will find in the shops lining streets dedicated to the same wares - saris and fabrics, household goods, jewels or spices.
The terracotta buildings give Jaipur the name of the Pink City, but you’ll need your rose tinted spectacles too to look on some of it favourably. The surrounding suburbs are expanding rapidly but the old city is where everyone wants to be and it’s absolutely bursting at the seams. Still, it’s an amazing place to explore and watch bangle makers at work, cobblers stitching together handmade shoes, spices and vegetables being bought and sold. Join devotees in one of the many temples – the evenings are when things get really lively.
There are lots of intriguing monuments in Jaipur including the Hawa Mahal, Palace of Winds with screened viewing points for the ladies of the palace and the fascinating Jantar Mantar observatory with enormous astronomical sculptures. At the City Palace the tremendous wealth the royal family once had is quite incredulous. Treasures include a pair of giant 1.5m tall sliver urns. The Maharaja took them to England filled with Ganges water to purify himself after contact with ‘outcastes’ while attending the coronation of Edward VII.
Outside the city Amber Fort was the first royal residence of the Kachwaha Rajputs who later built Jaipur. The stunning complex of restored palaces, halls, pavillions, gardens and temples attracts large crowds but the simpler Nahargarh and Jaigarh forts nearby are less well maintained and visited and hugely atmospheric.
Jaipur has an excellent choice of accommodation from palaces to haveli mansions, and boutique properties and resorts outside the city and it is well connected to other cities in Rajasthan and Delhi.