Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, was founded in 1727 and constructed on principles of geometric harmony, making it one of the only planned cities in the world. Colorful bazaars and impressive forts and palaces give the Pink City an allure and a spirit different from any other locale in India.
Day 1: City Orientation
Many of Jaipur’s most iconic landmarks sit within a few blocks of each other, perfect for a walking tour. Start at the City Palace for some good examples of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture, textiles, costumes and weapons. Spend some time in the Peacock Courtyard and you may even spot a member of the royal family in the towers of the Moon Palace. Cool off in the breezy halls of nearby Hawa Mahal, where the royal women used to discreetly people watch.
Jai Singh II was an enthusiastic scientist as well as a ruler, and he constructed one of the largest astronomical observatories in the country. On a sunny day, the guides at Jantar Mantar can explain how each of the 18 devices, many of which were invented by Jai Singh II himself, operates.
Spend the afternoon exploring the collection of folk art, paintings and costumes at the Central Museum (Albert Hall) to catching a glimpse of Hindu temple life and venture to the exquisitely carved white marble Birla Lakshmi Narayan Temple & Museum.
Day 2: Fortresses
Jaipur is a city surrounded with myriad fortresses and palaces, the crown jewel of which is the Amber Fort. Get an early start for the trek, by elephant or by foot, to the Amber Fort gates. After touring the extensive palace grounds, head further up the hill to the Jaigarh Fort, built to protect the Amber Fort.
In the evening, take a romantic boat ride to the mysterious Jal Mahal (Water Palace), a five-story sandstone palace partially submerged in the middle of a lake. Stroll the rooftop gardens as the sun sets over the lake.
Day 3: Shopping
Jaipur rivals Delhi and Mumbai when it comes to shopping, and there are plenty of bazaars selling almost anything you could want. For glitzy jewelry, sparkling gemstones or Jaipuri quilts, hit the stalls of Johari Bazaar in the Old City. For ready-made textiles and Rajasthani camel-leather shoes (jootis), try Bapu Bazaar, or for souvineers and gifts for friends back home, like resin bangles, head to Tripolia Bazaar.