Jaisalmer Fort: A Living Fort in the Golden Thar Desert Rajasthan

 In Destination, Holidays, India, India, Rajasthan, Travel

Transport yourself back to the era of the great Rajput rulers and witness the royal lifestyle and grandeur that existed back then, as you step inside the majestic Jaisalmer Fort Rajasthan. 

The Jaisalmer Fort is also known as “Sonar Qila” or the Golden Fort Jaisalmer, due to the golden-hued sandstone used for its construction. Get a chance to witness the shimmering golden glow of this fort during sunrise or sunset with our Rajasthan Holiday Packages

The historical significance and the architectural brilliance of this fort have earned the recognition of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What truly sets this fort apart is the astonishing fact of Rajasthan is that it is the only living fort in India. 

Yes, approximately 4000 people still reside within the fort, making it a living heritage. The fort walls still have a lively atmosphere with shops, homes, restaurants, hotels and cafes.

The Jaisalmer Fort was built in 1156 AD by Rawal Jaisal, atop the Trikuta Hills. It is surrounded by a 30-foot high wall with 99 Bastions and is a fine example of Rajasthani architecture with intricate carvings and latticed stone work called “jaali”. 

The construction of the Jaisalmer Fort was made such that it not only provided a strong defense system but also provided comfort during extreme weather conditions. 


Inside the fort, there are several palaces and havelis that showcase the royal lifestyle of the Royal Rajputs who once lived here. Some of the notable structures include the Maharawal Palace, the Rang Mahal, and the Jawahar Palace.

These palaces are adorned with ornate decorations, mirror work, and beautiful frescoes that depict mythological and historical scenes. The fort also houses seven exquisitely carved Jain temples, which date back to the 12th and 15th centuries, renowned for their stunning architecture and intricate detailings.

The Jaisalmer Fort Rajasthan stands proudly over the barren landscape of the Thar Desert, shimmering with its golden glow, and has been attracting travelers from around the world.

The stunning architecture, and the fact that it remains a living fort in the modern age, have captured the attention of culture vultures and historians alike.

Jaisalmer Fort History


According to the legends, Lord Krishna himself advised Rawal Jaisal to build this fort on the Trikuta Hill, strategically chosen due to its natural elevation. 

The advantage of this was getting a vantage point to observe the enemy movements from far away and also better protection from potential invaders. Hence, the Jaisalmer Fort was founded in the year 1156 AD, which is one of the Historic Forts to Visit in Rajasthan.

The location of the fort had strategic importance as it lay on the ancient trade routes that connected India to Central Asia, Egypt, and beyond. Due to this location trade flourished in this region majorly in the medieval period. 

It facilitated trade in silk, spices, precious stones, etc which also attracted merchants and travelers from distant lands. The architecture of the Jaisalmer Fort was designed primarily for defensive purposes. 

The fort’s imposing walls, constructed with golden-hued sandstone, were meant to withstand enemy attacks and protect the inhabitants within. 

The Jaisalmer Fort’s history has also witnessed several significant battles with various rulers and invaders, being strategically located strongholds in the Thar Desert. 

Some of the notable battles include the 1294 battle against Alauddin Khilji, where the Rajput Ruler Rawal Jethsi fiercely defended the fort for 9 days but lost eventually. 

Other battles that were fought here include the 1536 battle with Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujrat, the 1541 battle with Sher Shah Suri, the 1556 battle against Emperor Akbar, and finally the 1762 battle with the Maratha empire. 

The Rajput rulers and their forces demonstrated immense bravery and determination in defending their heritage and cultural identity against various invaders.

During the glorious reign of the Jaisalmer Fort art, architecture and culture flourished in the region. The fort became a center for cultural activities leading to the construction of magnificent 

Palaces, Havelis, and temples adorned with intricate carvings and exquisite artwork. Over the centuries, the fortunes of the Jaisalmer Fort fluctuated. 

With the decline of the Silk Route and changes in trade patterns, the fort faced economic challenges. Additionally, natural elements and human activity contributed to the deterioration of some structures within the fort.

Things to Do Inside the Jaisalmer Fort


The Jaisalmer also known as the Golden Fort Jaisalmer is a magnificent architectural marvel and houses a number of noteworthy attractions within its walls that serves as a living testament to its past glory. Here are some of the things to do inside the fort.

  1. Marvel at the huge gates: The Jaisalmer Fort has 4 main gates which are named after the direction they face. The Ganesh Pol, located on the east side is adorned with a statue of Lord Ganesha. The Suraj Pol, also located on the eastern side offers magnificent views of sunrise over the Thar Desert. The Bhuta Pol facing west is also called the gate of demons. The Hawa Pol or the Wind Gate is in the south and provides a cool breeze in the scorching summers.
  2. Explore the Royal Palace and Suites: The Raj Mahal or the Royal Palace is an impressive structure in the fort area. This was the residence of the last Bhati Rajput kings and is adorned with intricate carvings, elegant mirror work, latticework, and beautifully painted ceilings.
  3. Visit the other Historical Monuments: Apart from the royal residences, the Jaisalmer fort is also adorned with several historical monuments like the royal cenotaphs (chhatris) that house the tombs of the royal family members. The step-wells and ancient water reservoirs in the fort complex are in working condition even today and are a major source of freshwater for the people living in the fort, just like in old times.
  4. Visit the Jain Temples: The Jain Temple complex within the Jaisalmer Fort is one of the most beautiful groups of temples. These seven exquisitely carved Jain temples are an important pilgrimage site for Jains. These temples date back to the 12th and 15th centuries and are adorned with intricate marble carvings, delicate statues, and detailed artwork depicting Jain teachings and stories.
  5. Walk on the fort walls and ramparts: Walking along the fort’s ramparts offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city of Jaisalmer and the surrounding desert landscape. The sunset views from the fort are particularly mesmerizing, with the golden hues of the sandstone walls blending seamlessly with the colors of the sky.
  6. Take a look at the past of the Palace Museum: The Fort Palace Museum is housed within the Jaisalmer Fort and exhibits a rich collection of artifacts, royal possessions, arms, and paintings from the bygone era. It offers visitors a deeper understanding of the history and cultural heritage of the region.
  7. Stay inside the fort: The Jaisalmer Fort is a living fort that provides opportunities to have a unique experience of staying inside the fort. There are a number of hotels, guesthouses and heritage homes to stay within the fort walls. Tourist can choose their stay as per their budget and experience the royal lifestyle. Some of these properties offer a glimpse of the city’s heritage and architectural splendor, giving guests a taste of royalty and grandeur.
  8. Watch the city views from the Cafes: The Jaisalmer Fort has a number of cafes and restaurants within its narrow lanes and alleys. You can enjoy the views of the fort in the background and the majestic city views in the front while relishing your taste buds with a variety of cuisines, including traditional Rajasthani delicacies. These cafes provide a great opportunity for tourists to relax, enjoy a meal, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere of the city.
  9. Shop some traditional handicrafts: The narrow lanes and the colorful alleys in the Jaisalmer Fort are famous for offering a range of handicrafts, textiles, and souvenirs. The lovely shopping area here sells intricate handicrafts, embroidered textiles, leather goods, jewelry, and colorful puppets, which are a must-buy while shopping in Rajasthan. Bargaining is a common practice here, so visitors can hone their negotiation skills while picking up unique mementos to take back home.

Things to Do around the Jaisalmer Fort


Other than the Jaisalmer fort, the city of Jaisalmer also offers a perfect blend of history, culture, adventure, and mystique, making it a captivating destination for travelers seeking a unique and unforgettable experience. You can indulge in numerous exciting activities and attractions that visitors can explore to make the most of their experience in this enchanting city. Here are some popular things to do around the Jaisalmer Fort:

  1. Watch a sunset at the Gadisar Lake: The Gadisar Lake is a serene water reservoir situated near the Jaisalmer Fort. Visitors can soak in the beauty of the lake from its picturesque ghats that are built in Rajputana and Mughal architectural styles. One of the most delightful experiences here is watching the sunset over the lake. You can also take a boat ride or walk along the banks to enjoy the beautiful views and capture stunning sunset photographs.
  2. Visit the Havelis and the Mansions Around the Fort: The area surrounding the Jaisalmer Fort is home to several magnificent havelis owned by the merchants and the nobles. Patwon ki Haveli, Nathmal ki Haveli, and Salim Singh ki Haveli are some of the prominent ones. These havelis feature intricate architecture, delicate carvings, and fascinating stories of their erstwhile occupants.
  3. Day Excursion to Jaisalmer Border: A short drive from Jaisalmer will take you to the Jaisalmer War Memorial which is located on the Longewala border. It is dedicated to the Indian soldiers who were martyred during the Indo-Pak War of 1971. Near the War Memorial is the famous Tanot Mata Temple, which is believed to be the protector of the army based around the borders here.
  4. Go for a Desert Safari in the Thar Desert: One of the must-do activities when in Jaisalmer is going for a desert safari in the magnificent golden Thar desert. You can explore the golden desert by taking a camel ride or by jeep safari. You can also indulge in some adventure activities in Rajasthan here like sandboarding, dune bashing, ATV rides, etc. If you want you can also stay back in the desert camps and enjoy stargazing at night.
  5. Visit the Haunted Kuldhara village: The Kuldhara village, located 20 km from Jaisalmer is one of the most haunted places in Rajasthan. According to the legend, the village was cursed and deserted overnight by the villagers in the 19th century. From then, this village lies abandoned in the middle of the Thar Desert. Today, it is considered haunted and has an eerie atmosphere. Exploring the deserted streets and crumbling structures is a fascinating yet spine-chilling experience.

Best Heritage Properties To Stay Near Jaisalmer Fort

1. Fort Rajwada Jaisalmer

Source : TripAdvisor

Located on the Jodhpur-Barmer Link Road Fort Rajwada Jaisalmer is a luxurious heritage hotel, approximately 2.5 km from the Jaisalmer Fort. This property exudes the grandeur of Rajasthani Architecture with splendid courtyards, beautifully carved balconies and regal interiors. Guests can immerse themselves in the rich history and cultural heritage of Jaisalmer by staying in the opulent rooms and suites adorned with elegant furnishing and modern amenities.

The hotel offers an in-house restaurant that serves a wide range of Rajasthani, Indian, and international cuisines, providing guests with a delightful culinary journey. With facilities like a swimming pool, spa, and fitness center, Fort Rajwada ensures a relaxing and rejuvenating stay. The room rates at Fort Rajwada start at around INR 6,000 per night.

2. Mohangarh Fort Jaisalmer

Source : tripadvisor

Situated in the village of Mohangarh, about 70 kms from Jaisalmer, Mohangarh Fort Jaisalmer showcases stunning architecture and intricate carvings, providing guests with a glimpse into Rajasthan’s royal history. The hotel offers well-appointed rooms and suites, each offering a blend of modern comforts and traditional charm.

Guests can enjoy a regal experience and relish the serenity of the desert landscape. The hotel’s restaurant serves delicious Rajasthani and multi-cuisine dishes, offering guests an authentic gastronomic experience. With activities like desert safaris, camel rides, and cultural performances, Mohangarh Fort ensures a memorable stay. The room rates at Mohangarh Fort start at around INR 4,500 per night.

3. Fort Aranya Jaisalmer

Source : tripadvisor

Located on Sam Road, around 40 km from Jaisalmer, Fort Aranya Jaisalmer offers breathtaking views of the sand dunes and the surrounding desert landscape. This rustic retreat offers charming cottages and tents that allow guests to experience desert living with a blend of modern amenities and cultural experiences.

The hotel’s in-house restaurant serves delectable Rajasthani and North Indian cuisine, offering guests a chance to savor local flavors. Fort Aranya arranges desert safaris, jeep excursions, and cultural performances to enhance guests’ experience of the Thar Desert. The room rates at Fort Aranya start at around INR 5,000 per night.

4. Jawahar Niwas Palace

Source : tripadvisor

Jawahar Niwas Palace is a heritage hotel located in the heart of Jaisalmer city, just a short distance from the Jaisalmer Fort and other major attractions. The palace was once the residence of the Prime Minister of the princely state of Jaisalmer and showcases a blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture.

The hotel offers elegantly decorated rooms and suites that provide a comfortable stay with a touch of royal charm. Guests can relish delectable Rajasthani, Indian, and international dishes at the hotel’s restaurant. Jawahar Niwas Palace also offers a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the city, where guests can relax and unwind. The room rates at Jawahar Niwas Palace start at around INR 3,500 per night.

5. Welcome Heritage Mandir Palace

welcome-heritage-mandir palace
Source : tripadvisor

Welcome Heritage Mandir Palace is an elegant heritage hotel located near the Jaisalmer Fort, providing easy access to major attractions of the city. The palace reflects the grandeur of Jaisalmer’s past with stunning architecture and intricate artwork. The hotel offers well-furnished rooms and suites, each featuring traditional decor and modern amenities, providing guests with a regal experience.

Guests can savor a variety of cuisines, including Rajasthani, Indian, and Continental dishes, at the hotel’s restaurant. Welcome Heritage Mandir Palace arranges cultural performances and guided tours to acquaint guests with Jaisalmer’s rich cultural heritage. The room rates at Welcome Heritage Mandir Palace start at around INR 4,000 per night.

Frequently Asked Questions About Jaisalmer Fort

1. What is the Jaisalmer Fort, and why is it famous?

The Jaisalmer Fort, also known as Sonar Qila or the Golden Fort, is a historic fort located in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India. It is famous for its stunning architecture, built using golden-yellow sandstone, which gives it a distinct golden hue. The fort is renowned for its strategic location on Trikuta Hill and its unique blend of Rajput and Islamic architectural styles.

2. Is the Jaisalmer Fort a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

Yes, the Jaisalmer Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was designated as a World Heritage Site in 2013, recognizing its cultural significance and outstanding universal value as a well-preserved example of a living fortified city.

3. What are the opening hours of the Jaisalmer Fort?

The Jaisalmer Fort is open to visitors every day from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The fort’s opening hours may vary slightly, so it’s always advisable to check with the local authorities or the official tourism website for the most up-to-date information before planning a visit.

4. What are the main attractions inside the Jaisalmer Fort?

The main attractions inside the Jaisalmer Fort include Raj Mahal (Royal Palace), Jain Temples, Patwon ki Haveli, Salim Singh ki Haveli, Nathmal ki Haveli, Tazia Tower, and Laxminath Temple. The fort also offers mesmerizing views of the city and the Thar Desert from its ramparts, making it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and tourists seeking a unique cultural experience in Rajasthan.

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