Travel guide and things to do in Jaipur, Rajastan, India: 20 reasons to visit

1. EXPLORE THE CITY IN DEPTH

To the more seasoned India traveller, Jaipur can feel a little like "Rajasthan Lite" compared to the state's seemingly more exotic cities such as Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and even Udaipur. But, first-timer or not, the deeper you explore the Rajasthani capital, one of India's most complete cities, the more rewarding it is. To fully appreciate it, allow for a stay of at least two full days and hire a driver and guide for all or part of it, should your budget allow. See tourism.rajasthan.gov.in

2. STAY AT A MAHARAJA'S PALACE

In a city brimful with dazzling heritage palace hotels, the 14-suite Sujan Rajmahal Palace, a relative newcomer, has been turning stylishly-turbaned heads. Home to the youthful Maharaja of Jaipur, the five-star-plus hotel is a true riot of colour and comforts with each of the capacious rooms, or apartments, individually-designed and opulently-decorated. The extensive grounds provide an almost fairytale, oasis-like feeling in the midst of crowded and bustling Jaipur. See sujanluxury.com

3. TOUR THE CITY PALACE

One of the advantages of staying at the Rajmahal Palace is that guests can take its special private tour of the Maharaja's splendid 16th-century City Palace, located slap-bang in the chaotic centre of Jaipur. There's even the bonus of being able to make a grand entrance to the multi-level complex, a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture, inside your hotel limousine, via the vehicular entrance gate - the same entrance used by the maharaja himself. See sujanluxury.com; royaljaipur.in

4. EXPLORE THE FRENETIC BAZAARS

The pet colour which earns Jaipur its epithet, the "Pink City", a tribute to the hue of the ubiquitous local sandstone, is nowhere more on display than its chaotic but engrossing walled and gated Old City. The majority of visitors here tend only to experience the world outside the facades of the bazaar's ramshackle buildings, failing to delve into the hopelessly-narrow but wonderfully atmospheric laneways behind them where much of the real activity, such as tiny, brightly-lit sari shops, occurs. See tourism.rajasthan.gov.in

5. ADMIRE THE PALACE OF THE WINDS

One of Jaipur's most famous landmarks, the 18th century, 953-windowed Hawa Mahal (also known as the Palace of Breeze) is constructed of eye-catching red and pink sandstone. Although it's a stunning and not-to-be-missed landmark, the building, which once allowed for demure royal women to watch processions along the street outside without being seen by the public, is in reality a bit of a Hollywood (or make that Bollywood) set. You can go inside but, really, Hawa Mahal is best viewed and appreciated from across the road where you can sneak up the steps to one of the higher floors of an opposite building See hawa-mahal.com

6. SHOP FOR CARPETS AND RUGS

Happily, there are no shades of Fast Forward's "Fukurri Rugs" skit about this excellent carpet purveyor, which Jaipur's leading hotels, such as the Rajmahal, seem to trust with their guests. Even if you're not buying you're welcome to look and also observe skilled craftsmen and women immersed in the painstaking process of creating high-quality rugs and carpets entirely by hand. Of course, if you are in the market for one of the store's wares, the range and quality on display here are unsurpassed. See carpetandtextilehouse.com

7. EXPLORE A HIILLTOP PALACE FORT

The grandiose Amber Fort (also known as Amer Fort), perched atop a commanding hilltop on the outskirts of Jaipur, is the city's true jewel in the crown. It's built from alluring pale yellow and pink sandstone, and breathtaking quantities of white marble. Avoid taking an elephant ride to the upper reaches of the fort. Not only is the riding of elephants now actively campaigned against around the world but over the years there have been numerous claims lodged against the mahouts at Amber Palace over animal cruelty and ill-treatment. See tourism.rajasthan.gov.in

8. WANDER THROUGH A PALACE VILLAGE

After a visit to the palace that towers above it, do what few western visitors bother to do and pay a visit to the village of Amber. One of the town's most interesting and impressive sights is its intricately-designed 16th-century Panna Meena ka Kund Stepwell. This ancient water catchment was built with a network of stairs that allowed villagers to source water at all levels depending on the level of its reservoir. See tourism.rajasthan.gov.in

9. SHOP FOR FINE JEWELLERY

Jaipur has long been a major centre for exquisite jewellery, particularly coloured gemstones. One of the classiest places to visit and shop for precious and semi-precious stones and jewellery in Jaipur is the centrally-located showroom of Gem Plaza. On the outskirts of Jaipur, the family behind Gem Plaza also operates an upmarket museum, Gyan Jaipur. It houses the priceless and eclectic 1000-piece personal collection of the late family patriarch, Gyan Chand Ji Dhaddha and encompasses antique jewellery, paintings and objet d'art. See gemplaza.net; gyanjaipur.com

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10. SAMPLE THE LOCAL ICE CREAM

Kulfi is India's version of ice-cream though it's much denser, creamier and takes longer to melt than its western equivalent. After a typically sweltering Jaipur day (or, really, on any day), kulfi makes for a welcome, cooling pit-stop. Located in the heart of the Old Town on Hawa Mahal Road, Pandit Kulfi is a hole-in-the-wall ice-cream shop and one of the most popular in Jaipur. The house speciality kulfi here is the must-try saffron strands with pistachio.

11. HANG OUT AT A CHIC BAR

The elegant Swiss-Italian-owned Bar Palladio, located in the grounds of the Narain Niwas Palace Hotel, is an unlikely pocket of Europe in Jaipur. The bar, with its walls painted in a bold royal blue, is not only a pleasant spot for a drink but also somewhere for a casual western-style meal should you fancy a break from the delights of Indian cuisine. Snare a table inside the salon-like main building or be seated outside on delightful canvas-canopied lounges in the garden where peacocks wander. See bar-palladio.com

12. MARVEL AT THE VIEWS FROM A HILLTOP FORT

Everyone, well, nearly everyone, who visits Jaipur visits spectacular Amber Palace, and rightly so. But, above it all, literally, you must include a trip to Jaigarh Fort, which was built to guard the palace. The fort, which features a massive 18th-century cannon, tends to be frequented mainly by Indian tourists and affords expansive views looking directly down on Amber Fort, Jaipur and across the surrounding arid Rajasthan countryside. See tourism.rajasthan.gov.in

13. SEE A FLOATING PALACE

Jal Mahal palace sits in the middle of Man Sagar Lake, en route to the Amber Palace, and appears to float on water. Depending on water levels in the lake, only one or two of the five storeys of the red sandstone palace, which in its present form dated to the 18th century, are visible. Efforts to reopen the Jal Mahal as a restaurant for tourists have stalled due to the environmental degradation of the artificial lake with the palace still only able to be admired from a distance. See tourism.rajasthan.gov.in

14. VISIT A RAJASTHANI HAND-PRINTING MUSEUM

Dedicated to one of Jaipur's specialist crafts, the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing is located inside a beautifully-restored haveli in the town of Amber. The museum, run by Anokhi, the respected Indian textiles retail brand, features a permanent collection celebrating the skill of northern India's weavers as well as regular themed exhibitions. There's also an excellent museum shop where Anokhi's much-loved designs can be purchased. See anokhi.com

15. WATCH LOCAL CRAFTSMAN AT WORK

Once you've visited the museum, make time to head to Sanganer, a suburb of Jaipur famous for its traditional textile prints. Here you can watch local artisans employing their block-printing skills at tiny, makeshift studios right at street-level while, nearby, others press finished fabrics with ancient irons. As Sanganer is under-visited by western tourists, a good tour guide should be able to talk his or her way into one of the main workshops where you can observe the painstaking block-printing process. See anokhi.com

16. EXPERIENCE THE JAIPUR OF YORE

For a taste, literally, of old Jaipur, head to the wonderful Indian Coffee House. Be warned, however, that the enjoyment is not necessarily in the beverages on offer (flat whites definitely not available), or for that matter the food, but in the drinking-in the nostalgic atmosphere. Located at the end of nondescript laneway off a busy main road, Jawahar Kala Kendra, the café, with its mint-green walls, dates back to 1962 but feels even older. Traditionally the haunt of intellectuals, writers and artists, the waiters still wear all crisp all-white uniforms and Nehru-style hats.

17. WANDER THE WHOLESALE FLOWER MARKET

In a city and state where colour abounds, perhaps to compensate for the desert-like surrounding landscape, Jaipur's wholesale flower market is a fragrant treat. Early morning is the best time to visit but you'll still find flower-sellers present a few hours later. Due to the Hindu tradition of wearing floral garlands, you'll also encounter flower-sellers elsewhere in the city, including on street-corners in the Old City. The leading hotels also tend to present guests with garlands on arrival.

18. VISIT THE TIGER FORT

Compared to Amber Fort, the smaller Nahargarh Fort, more commonly known as Tiger Fort, is under-visited and while it doesn't deliver the treasures of its far grander hilltop counterpart, it does offer some of the best views of Jaipur, including its centrepiece, City Palace. Locals love to ride a motorbike or walk up the classic, tourist-free zig-zagging roadway directly below that leads to the fort which dates to 1743. There's also a large and impressive stepwell to admire. See tourism.rajasthan.gov.in

19. DINE IN WITHIN THE WALLS OF A PALACE

Although it's pitched squarely at cash-rich western tourists, this new restaurant and bar is a seriously smart and sensitive addition to the aforementioned City Palace. Designed by Studio Lotus, one of India's cutting-edge architectural firms, Baradari serves traditional Rajasthani cuisine as well as western dishes. Even if you're not dining, stop by for a drink or tea if only to admire the sympathetic architecture which blends modern design with traditional craftsmanship. See royaljaipur.in

20. TAKE TEA IN A TRENDY TEAHOUSE

There's no shortage of places to take tea in Jaipur but this fashionable westerner-friendly spot is chai central. Guests at the teahouse, set inside a modern high-rise building, can dine indoors or outdoors on a terrace with parkland and city views. The wait-staff can be a little over zealous in their efforts to sell you their in-house, high-quality packaged tea but resistance is futile and the local drop is quite the bargain. See tapri.net

Visit Jaipur as part of a tailored luxury package holiday to Rajasthan arranged through the Sydney-based Classic Safari Company. Anthony Dennis travelled as a guest of Classis Safari Company and Singapore Airlines. See classicsafaricompany.com.au, singaporeair.com, traveller.com.au/jaipur

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