Jaisalmer, the Golden City of India, may be one of the most touristy corners of Rajasthan, but it hasn’t lost its wow factor. Come for the honey-coloured hilltop sandstone fort and ancient Jain temples, and stay for the sand dunes and desert adventures. When you’re not sleeping under the stars, set up camp at one of our favourite Jaisalmer hotels – they’re all bookable on Culture Trip.
This 53-room stone mansion from the Rajput era is a feast for the eyes, with ornate arched windows, expansive lawns and a glittering courtyard pool. There’s not much to see in the immediate vicinity, but you’re only a 10-minute drive from the main Jaisalmer sights, such as the 19th-century Patwa-ki-Haveli – one of the finest residences in the region, complete with a museum – and the temple-lined Lake Gadisar.
The Desert Palace is a gilded marvel: ceilings are painted with elaborate patterns, ornate furniture gives rooms added grandeur, and ochre and white chequerboard tiles enhance the golden sandstone of the building – particularly in the huge inner courtyard, which is a lovely spot for a nightcap. Want to learn more about the city’s heritage? The hotel is halfway between Jaisalmer Fort and the War Museum (both are a 10-minute drive away).
While it may look like a traditional sandstone haveli on the outside, inside Jaisalmer Marriott Resort & Spa, slick interiors and modern luxuries reign. Don’t miss a barbecue dinner at the pretty rooftop restaurant. Need to rehydrate your skin after a dusty desert adventure? A steam session followed by a rose milk bath and an Ayurvedic oil massage at the spa ought to do it.
With polished marble floors, glitzy suites and a grand dining hall, Chokhi Dhani Palace Hotel is as lavish as they come. If the freeform pool and Ayurvedic spa treatments don’t keep you occupied, take a taxi west to explore the labyrinthine streets of Jaisalmer Fort, stopping at the Desert Cultural Centre on the way back to see a traditional Rajasthani puppet show.
Simple standard rooms at Hotel Rang Mahal are on the pricey side, but the rooftop bar, candlelit spa and huge pool may well be worth the extra rupees. Hilltop Jaisalmer Fort is just 3km (2mi) away – but, for a quieter sightseeing experience, take a 5-minute tuk-tuk north to see the ancient Amar Sagar Jain Temple, a small ornate complex overlooking a lake.
With fewer rooms but the same style and warm hospitality as its sister property, Shahi Palace Hotel, Hotel Star Haveli is great for budget-conscious travellers with boutique tastes. You’re free to hang out on the rooftop terrace, too. Aching after a night in the desert? Treat yourself to a top-notch Ayurvedic massage at the spa just around the corner.
Before expanding to become a hotel, Casa de Kaku was known for its incredible in-house cafe, which continues to attract travellers and locals; grab a table on the rooftop terrace to enjoy the panoramic city and desert views with your laal maas (mutton curry). Save time to browse the historic artefacts and cultural curiosities at Thar Heritage Museum, just 5 minutes away on foot.
Boutique Helsinki is the cool little sister of Hotel Helsinki House, featuring six ensuite rooms with Juliet balconies, comfy beds and brightly coloured textiles. The spacious rooftop terrace has fabulous views of Jaisalmer Fort (which is a 20-minute walk away) and is a great spot to enjoy breakfast or chat with other travellers over sunset drinks. Visit nearby Salam Singh Ki Haveli to see a fine example of the intricate stone carvings for which the city is known.
With classic haveli features, including ornate Mughal pillars and intricate Jain jaali (lattices), the Gulaal feels like a golden sandstone palace. The hosts Virendra and Chandan go above and beyond to make sure you feel at home here – even if it means toning down the spice in your dinner. And, you should definitely eat here – the rooftop restaurant has fabulous views of Jaisalmer Fort.
Rooms can feel a little cave-like at Hotel Shahi Palace (the windows are tiny), but they’re decked with vibrant silks and are great value for money. The best views of Jaisalmer Fort can be found on the rooftop terrace – also a fine spot to watch the sunset. Want to sleep under the stars? Ask host Devi to arrange a desert safari.
Mud Mirror Guest House is a 300-year-old building on the southern edge of Jaisalmer Fort, offering excellent up-close views of a neighbouring Jain temple and the old city below. The four rooms are simple and clean and have decent bathrooms. Hosts Surya and Lalaji are super friendly and can help arrange desert trips – they also serve a mean Rajasthani thali on the rooftop terrace.
Named after the city that gave owner Ali Khan the opportunity to return home to Jaisalmer and realise his childhood dream, Hotel Helsinki House is a quiet place to stay on the outskirts of town. The comfortable rooms feature hardwood floors, Jharokha-style window seats and marble bathrooms. Take a tuk-tuk to nearby Lake Gadisar, wandering between the shrines, ghats and temples along the edge, before getting out on the water – there are plenty of rowing and paddle boats for hire.