Jaisalmer – Rajasthan, India
A Giant Sand Castle in the Heart of the Great Indian Desert
Known as the Golden City, this former caravan center on the route to the Khyber Pass rises from a sea of sand, its 30-foot crenellated walls and medieval sandstone fort sheltering carved spires and palaces that soar into the sapphire sky.
With its tiny winding lanes and hidden temples, Jaisalmer is straight out of The Arabian Nights, and so little has life changed here that it’s easy to imagine yourself back in the city’s early days, in the 13th century. It’s the only fortress city in India still functioning, with one quarter of its population living within the original walls, and it is just far enough off the beaten path to have been spared the worst ravages of tourism.
The city’s wealth originally came from the heavy levies it placed on camel caravans that passed through, and merchants and townspeople built handsome havelis (Rajput mansions elaborately carved from the local golden stone). Stay in the Narayan Niwas Palace, a former caravansary built by the maharaja in 1840, and sign up for one of their camel safaris into the desert, a highlight for tourists who want the complete Jaisalmer experience.