Welcome to Jodhpur – a bustling city on the edge of the Thar Desert in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Its characteristic blue houses have graced many a magazine cover. Even Lonely Planet is not immune to its charms. I don’t blame them. There are so many things to do in Jodhpur. The colourful city is bound to seduce the most sceptical of travellers. Its where picturesque lakes, handsome forts, imposing palaces, and well… stray cows jostle for attention.
On that rather palatable note, let me regale you with tales of my favourite things to do in Jodhpur :-
#1 Start your day with a cup of Masala Tea at Bhati Tea Stall
Masala Chai (Spiced Tea) is intrinsic to the rhythm of life in India. Here in Jodhpur, locals love their morning cuppa. Steaming pots of tea made with milk, cardamom, cloves, sugar, ginger, and tea leaves are everywhere to be seen. No day begins without a tiny cup (or two) of spiced tea, known as cutting chai, in local parlance. It’s hard to get a bad cup of tea in Jodhpur but locals are partial to Bhati Tea Stall. There is always a crowd swarming at this tiny stall and it’s easy to see why – their brew is incredible!
Know before you go – A cup of tea at most tea stalls will set you back by £0.10 – £0.30/INR 10 – INR 30.
#2 Opt for a Desert Experience like no other with Overlander Safaris
Exploring the little-known hamlets and hutments of rural Rajasthan with Overlander Safaris was one of the highlights of our trip to Jodhpur. This is nothing like a typical desert safari – there were no sand-dunes or touristy destinations in sight on our day out with Overlander. Instead we drove deep into the rural hinterland of Rajasthan.
WelcomHotel Jodhpur arranged a day trip with Overlander Safaris and it was an experience like no other – we drove through the arid landscape and spotted black bucks, dozens of graceful migratory birds, and colourful local birds. But we loved the experience so much because it offered a nuanced insight into the lives of villagers and communities in Rajasthan. We met a family of Bishnois, a niche sect of Hinduism that promotes an environmentally-friendly lifestyle; visited a primary school in a tiny village and spent the afternoon chatting with little kids ; and were treated to bajra rotis smeared with desi ghee (local breads served with freshly-made butter) by a group of Rajasthani women. We vlogged the day too – check out the video below 🙂
Know before you go – Overlander Safaris offer custom-made itineraries for day trips and longer trips. Prices vary accordingly. Prices include the cost of meals and camping. All proceeds go to local communities, supplying energy to villages that have none.
#3 Explore Mehrangarh Fort
No list of things to do in Jodhpur is complete without a mention of the mighty Mehrangarh Fort. One of the largest forts in India, it stands tall atop a perpendicular cliff. It’s easy to spend the better part of a day exploring the sprawling complex and listening to colourful stories on your audio guide.
There are a number of fascinating rooms, royal apartments, and balconies but our favourite room was the Phool Mahal – unsurprisingly it’s a room dedicated to hedonism and pleasure. Its gold filigree ceiling and stained glass windows epitomize oriental opulence and decadence. Here poets would recite their latest verses and dancers would dance all night to please their King. Today, light bounces off its colourful windows and lends an aura of magic to the room.
Once you have explored the fort complex, make sure you walk towards the compound at the back of the Mehrangarh Fort to drink in panoramic views of the city of Jodhpur. On the drive back to your hotel, don’t forget to stop at Jaswant Thada, a memorial made of white marble for King Jaswant Singh.
Know before you go – The entrance fee is £4/INR 400 for international tourists and £0.60/INR 60 for Indian nationals as of December 2014. This includes an audio guide to the fort.
#4 Dine at Indique Restaurant, Pal Haveli
The handsome Mehrangarh Fort is bathed in the most gorgeous light at sunset and Indique Restaurant at Pal Haveli provides the perfect vantage point from which to view this spectacle. The food isn’t spectacular but the view definitely is – don’t miss it for the world.
Know before you go – Make sure you reserve a table – the restaurant can get very crowded in the evenings. Request for a table on the terrace overlooking the Mehrangarh Fort. A meal at Indique Restaurant will set you back by £10/INR1000 as of December 2014.
#5 Participate in an Amal Sabha, a traditional Opium Ceremony
This might be a bit controversial but we’ll roll with it. Opium is banned in India but authorities turn a blind eye to it in the state of Rajasthan because it is intrinsic to the culture in this part of the country. The Amal Sabha, a traditional Opium ceremony, is said to be over a 1000 years old. It’s a ritual gathering that celebrates friendship. Who are we to say no to reverred tradition? 😉
The Amal Sabha comprises a small gathering of men. Traditionally women aren’t supposed to participate in the ceremony, but I sneaked my way in. Filtered opiate is watered and first offered to Lord Shiva. Following this, all visitors drink opiate from the palm of the eldest member of the gathering.
#6 Have a glass of Makhani Lassi at Mishrilal Hotel
It’s India – there’s no getting away from street food. Every city in India has a few legendary street-food joints. Mishrilal Hotel is one of those treasures. Everywhere you go, you will be told about the ambrosial lassi served at this little restaurant near Jodhpur’s clock tower. It is very popular with the locals.
Is it worth the hype? Yes and no! If you’re looking for a refreshing beverage, this isn’t it. The Lassi in question is a thick, syrupy concoction made with yogurt, whipped cream, sugar, and saffron. It’s tasty but it works better as dessert than a pick-me-up on a hot summer’s day
Know before you go – 1 glass of Makhaniya Lassi at Mishrilal Hotel costs £ 0.30/INR 30 as of December 2014.
#7 Sample mouth-watering snacks at Janta Sweet Home
On the subject of food, you can’t leave Jodhpur without sampling an array of local delicacies at Janta Sweet Home. Come hungry – this legendary sweet shop is bound to satiate you. There’s a host of Indian sweetmeats and snacks on offer, but its most famous offerings include Jodhpuri Mirchi vada (Breaded and fried green peppers stuffed with potatoes) and Pyaaz ki Kachori (crisp pastry with a spicy onion stuffing). Both calorie-laden Rajasthani delicacies are served with a sweet tamarind chutney, the perfect antidote to the spiciness of the snacks. Wrap up your meal with Mawe ki Kachori (puff pastry stuffed with milk solids and dried fruits and coated with sugar syrup).
Know before you go – Sampling all 3 snacks at Janta Sweet Home will set you back by £2/INR 200 as of December 2014.
#8 Hunt for THE Blue Houses
We don’t blame you for thinking Blue Houses are ubiquitous in Jodhpur if you have been researching online about your trip to the city. In reality, they’re a lot tougher to find.They might be all over the internet but they’re almost as elusive as The Faraway Tree (any other Enid Blyton fans out there?). Ok not really, but you get the idea! Delve deep into the serpentine markets crammed around the Clock Tower and you’ll find a lot of blue houses hiding in quiet alleyways. If you’re lost, just ask local shopkeepers for directions. They’re friendly and they know the area well.
Know before you go – For more photos and details, read our article on the blue houses of Jodhpur (opens in new tab)
#9 Talk to the people
Everywhere you go, you will find smiling faces in Jodhpur. The city is not touristy enough (well not yet anyway!) to boast of shopkeepers with jaded eyes or locals out to seduce tourists into a scam or two. The markets here are very different from the central souks of Marrakech or the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Shopkeepers still have a twinkle in their eye and locals are open to long, rambly conversations. You can meet some amazing people in Jodhpur if you go armed with curiosity and a little patience. Knowing the local language always helps but most people can understand and even speak basic English 🙂
# 10 Shop
Sardar Market comprises the labyrinthine bazaars surrounding the Clock Tower in Jodhpur. You can find everything from colourful shoes and pottery to spices and teas here. It’s akin to a colourful reverie – just be prepared to bargain.
If you, like me, find bargaining a tad tedious, then The National Handloom Cooperation on Nai Sarak is the perfect place for you. The shop offers a great array of clothes and accessories at fixed prices. This will also give you an idea of the prices you should actually be paying for things in local markets.
The National Handloom Cooperation is just a few shops away from Janta Sweet Home. You can easily combine the two if you’re checking everything off our list of things to do in Jodhpur 🙂
Know before you go :- You will be VERY tempted to shop a lot in Jodhpur. This is because Rajasthani men and women wear stunning silver jewellery with tribal accents and gorgeous brightly-coloured clothes. One thing’s for sure, you’ll want to buy everything 🙂
#11 Indulge in a six-course Rajasthani Feast at WelcomHotel Jodhpur
WelcomHotel Jodhpur is an ideal place to stay if you want to escape the madness of Jodhpur’s city centre and its bazaars during the evenings. Even if you aren’t staying at the hotel, you must drop by to experience their six-course Rajasthani meal. The meal, akin to a Royal feast, offers a perfect introduction to local Rajasthani cuisine. It’s a delectable admixture of molecular gastronomy and rustic flavours. The meal starts off with a bang – chakki (spicy flour cubes) served with garlic chutney pearls is followed by exquisite mutton kebabs. A traditional Rajasthani thali (platter) follows. Make sure you save place for dessert – a luscious rose pudding.
Know before you go :- We stayed at Welcomhotel Jodhpur for 5 nights and sampled a LOT of food while we were there. For more photos and details, read our detailed review of WelcomHotel Jodhpur (opens in new tab) 🙂
If you’ve explored Jodhpur to your heart’s content and want to head out of the city for a day trip, head to Mandore Gardens (8 kms), Osian Temples (70 kms), or the Khimsar sand dunes (100 kms). Have fun 🙂
Have you been to Jodhpur? What are your favourite things to do in Jodhpur? Would you add anything to this list? 🙂
Planning a trip to India? Make sure you read all our articles on India before fleshing your itinerary 🙂
Packing for Rajasthan? Check out our Rajasthan Lookbook for inspiration
Want to check out some of our favourite photos from around the world? Check out out Travel Photo Gallery