Agra and Jaipur Travel Review
Now, being in Delhi and not visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra can rightfully be considered a crime. Agra is located approximately a 3 hour car drive from Delhi and doesn’t offer much except the Taj Mahal, one of the world’s most fantastic monuments. It took more than 20 years, 14’000 workers and tons of white marble to complete the Taj Mahal which was built by Sha Jahan in honour of his wife Mumtaz Mahal who died when giving birth to their 14th child. The beautiful monument initially served as a gigantic tomb for Mumtaz Mahal. Now, if you consider that slightly over the top, don’t forget the lady had 14 (!) children. The legend says that Sha Jahan was imprisoned by his own son after starting preparations for a second Taj Mahal made of black marble which he wanted to build opposite the white Taj Mahal. He spent the rest of his life in Jaipur’s prison but was able to marvel at the Taj Mahal from his window and was buried in the Taj Mahal next to Mumtaz when he died.
Often referred to as the pink city, Jaipur is the capital city of the state of Rajasthan and has approximately 4.5 Million habitants. Built roughly 300 years ago, Jaipur was India’s first planned city. The old city of Jaipur has been kept in pink ever since however over time the Indian Government realized that the fragile color needed to be repainted every year and therefore resorted in painting Jaipur’s old center in a more robust terracotta orange which is why Terracotta City would be a more accurate though admittedly less alluring synonym for Jaipur.
A taste of … culture:
The wind palace – Essentially only a façade, the wind palace was used by the women of the royal family who came here to see processions and other public events. As they were not allowed to be seen by others (particularly not by men) they did so by looking through small windows which allowed them to look outside without being seen.
The observatory – Jaipur’s observatory showcases an impressive variety of astrological devices and the world’s largest sun dial which is still functioning
The royal palace
Turned into a museum, it features the world’s largest silver buckets. Jaipur’s former king filled them with holy Ganges water and took with him to his first trip to England. We can only assume that he didn’t trust the English water quality – he also took a cow with him for his own milk – just in case. The museum includes paintings and garments of the royal family and leads you through Jaipur’s 300 year old royal history.
Jaipur’s current king is 14 years old and the royal family still resides in Jaipur’s royal palace. It is possible to visit the royal palace however bring some deep pockets as a visit costs 10’000 (approximately 100 Euros per person) and photos are not allowed.
In addition to the wind palace the amber fort is Jaipur’s best known site
Used as a royal palace and turned into a fort later, the amber fort is located 10 minutes outside of Jaipur. You can get there by car, elephant or walking up the staircase. The amber fort includes three palaces of different epochs and you can see the Hindu and Muslim influence in the architecture. The most interesting palace is the glass/mirror palace – the 2nd largest of its kind after Versailles. The amber fort offers some fantastic views of the surrounding hilly landscape. A must see!
Where to stay: The Jai Mahal (part of the Taj Group) offers functional rooms in a traditional Rajasthani interior and typical garden. Service is friendly and helpful and rates are reasonable.
So, after all this culture and sightseeing you deserve to unwind a little bit. Many tourists will head to Goa which offers breezy beaches and a bohemian ambiance. You might also explore the less touristy beaches and backwaters of Kerala in the south west coast or head to the pristine white beaches and great dive spots in the Maldives which are reachable from Mumbai with a stop over in Trivandrum.