A visit to the extraordinary observatory and the City Palace in the heart of Jaipur
The Amber (or Amer) Fort located in the town of Amer, 11 km from Jaipur high up in the hills.
This was the original capital city of Maharaj Jai Singh II. The approach to the fort takes you through the a gate in the imposing wall that surrounds the city of Amer, which stretches for miles around the area, snaking as it follows the undulations of the hills, like some mini-me version of the Great Wall of China. The fort was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013, as part of a group of six hill forts in Rajasthan.
If you plan to visit (and we strongly recommend you do) I would leave a minimum of 2 hours (we did it in about 90 minutes). Also, the crowds can be somewhat crazy so get there as early as possible. This way you also avoid the heat.
As we approached the Fort we were stunned by its beauty, sitting on a hill above the man-made lake and gardens. Even from the outside, the scale of the Fort complex is very impressive. We stopped briefly to snap some photos, although conditions were not great with the lingering fog. Close by our stopping place was an opportunistic snake charmer, who, for a few rupees would charm his cobra from its basket and let you take a picture of him and his serpent companion. Karen, ever curious went over to check it out and get a sneaky snapshot on the sly. She obviously caught the cobra’s eye, or perhaps it was trained to bite people who didn’t pay up, but it suddenly darted in her direction. You will never have seen a nearly 60-year-old woman with two replacement hips move so quickly or squeal so loudly. It was quite impressive really! From where we were we had a few options to get to the Fort.
- We could walk, which would have added time and meant there could be longer queues at the top)
- We could pay for a ride on an elephant up to the Fort, but we were having time with elephants later!
- We could take the car to the entrance
So, not wanting to spend the extra money or time on options 1 and 2, we took the car ride through the old town and up the winding route up to the Fort Entrance.
Amer Fort (or Palace), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built around 1592 and is constructed mainly of red sandstone and marble. The Palace is divided into four main sections each with its own entry gate and courtyard. The main entry point is through the Suraj Pol (Sun Gate), where the elephant rides enter, which leads to the first main courtyard. This was the place where armies would hold victory parades with war bounty on their return from battles, which were witnessed by the Royal family’s womenfolk, who could peer unseen through the latticed windows.
We climbed to the second courtyard up a set of stairs, passing through another impressive gate. This section was where the royal family would hold its public audiences. The main feature of this area is the Diwan-i-Aam or the Public Audience Hall. The roof of the Diwan-i-Aam is supported by double column supports, over which are classic scalloped Islamic style arches. It really was very beautiful.
The entrance to the next courtyard took us through the spectacularly decorated gate, the Ganesh Pol. This third courtyard is where the private quarters of the Maharaja, his family and attendants were located. The courtyard has two buildings, one opposite to the other, separated by a Murgal style garden. The building to the left of the entrance gate is called the Jai Mandir (or Sheesh Mahal, the mirror palace), which is exquisitely embellished with glass inlaid panels and multi-mirrored ceilings. It was truly one of the most beautiful buildings we had ever seen! It would have been wonderful to be there at night and have lit candles inside the palace and watch the shimmering reflections from the thousands of mirrors covering the walls and ceiling. We had to settle for a cute photoshoot opportunity our guide pointed out, getting a picture of the two of us framed in one of the larger mirrors. Of course, having discovered this, Karen felt obligated to point out this photo opportunity to all the other tourists in a 40-foot radius!
The second building in this courtyard is known as the Sukh Niwas or Sukh Mahal (Hall of Pleasure). This hall is approached through a sandalwood door with marble inlay work with perforations. A piped water supply flows through an open channel that runs through this building which provided some air-conditioning for those hot summer days.
The exit to the fourth courtyard is through the Lion Gate, which leads to the private quarters of the royal family. This courtyard is where the Zenana (Royal family women, including concubines or mistresses) lived. This courtyard has many chambers where the queens resided. The king would visit the women at night, passing along a common corridor to these rooms, selecting the queen or concubine of his choice, without the others knowing who! At the centre of the courtyard is a covered structure where the wives and concubines could hang out in their spare time (of which I am sure they had a lot!)
Planning your visit to the Amber Fort
Buses to Amber Palace leave from Ajmeri Gate and MI Road and take around 40 minutes to reach. You can also hire an auto-rickshaw or car from anywhere in Jaipur, which is a more convenient option
|Location:||Devisinghpura, Amer, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302001|
|Hours:||9:30 am to 5 pm|
|Entry Fee:||500 Rupees for foreign tourists|
|Tour time:||Around 3-hours|
Best time to visit Jaipur
Winters are from October to March and are the best time to enjoy holidays in Jaipur city. The days are very pleasant but the nights are cold with less than 4°C . Carry heavy woollens while travelling. You can enjoy the sightseeing at the historic forts along with the Elephant Festival in March, Kite Festival during Makar Sankranti and Jaipur Literature Fest in January.
Summers are from April to June and are very hot and dry. During this time the average temperature is 44°C – 45°C Hot winds blows throughout the day making sightseeing next to impossible. The festival of Gangaur is celebrated during this time. Drink lots of water and juices, wear light cotton wares and carry a pair of good sunglasses if you are planning visit this city at this time.
Monsoons are from July to September but Jaipur receives low to medium rainfall. You can join the local festival of Teej if you are in the city in the month of August.
Where to stay?
1. ALSISAR HAVELI
This charming heritage hotel was built in 1892 as a nobleman’s townhouse. Having been carefully restored, this historic haveli was converted into a heritage hotel in 1994. Alsisar Haveli lies in the heart of the Old City of Jaipur, just a ten-minute drive from the popular Pink City with all its major sights and museums. The hotel is owned by the “Kachawa” clan of Rajputs who for more than five centuries ago founded a sub-clan popularly known as “Shekhawat”.
2. DERA MANDAWA
During our visit, we had the pleasure of staying at the Dera Mandawa, which is conveniently located in the heart of all the action in Jaipur.
Established in circa 1885 by Thakur Jait Singh Ji of Mandawa, it was built for his stay when he came to attend the court of the Maharaja of Jaipur. Today it is a boutique heritage hotel run by his great-grandson, Thakur Durga Singh ji and the Mandawa family.
3. HOTEL PEARL PALACE
Conveniently located just south of Jaipur Railway Station, Hotel Pearl Palace is a charming budget hotel that in many ways feels more like a mid-range boutique property. The 30 rooms here range from basic dorm rooms (guests can rent out whole dorms or just single beds) to snazzy and spacious air-conditioned Deluxe Rooms.
The hotel’s most attractive feature by far is its gorgeous Peacock Rooftop Restaurant, a two-story terrace restaurant with a large menu as well as room service.