We recommend setting aside a little bit of extra time for Jodhpur to anyone traveling Rajasthan. Aside from all of the great activities to do in Jodhpur, it's the people that keep bringing us back. There is definitely something authentic and a bit more genuine to the people of this dry dusty city. We've been fortunate enough to form many friendships with the locals of Jodhpur. One afternoon, we were walking through the town square of Jodhpur about to pass by an art school we attended in October. I told Bre, "There's no way they'll remember us. They see hundreds of travelers each week." Right as we turned the corner, the owner Vijay grinned a big smile and said, "Welcome back." A similar situation happened to us at one of our favorite restaurants. Some of the friends we've made in Jodhpur even reach out to us at every holiday to send their love and well wishes. Sometimes people like this are far and few between, but they seem to be plentiful in Jodhpur.
As with any destination, we still have our confusing, frustrating moments with the locals. Traveling has a funny way of always keeping us on our toes! Up with the sun one morning, we wandered the blue alleys on our way up to the fort. We thought we'd beat the heat and the crowds, but we were already dripping sweat before 8:00 AM. Our aim wasn't to visit the museum (we did this last October), but rather to walk over the fort to the back side. The back side of the fort offers unforgettable views above the blue city! Unfortunately, we were quickly stopped by a guard who insisted we buy a ticket to the museum. We tried to explain to him that all we wanted to do was walk through the fort and descend into the blue city on the other side (which is totally allowed). The security guard was not impressed and told us that the gate on the back side doesn't open until 9:30 AM. We told him we'd wait until then. He then changed his story and said the gate opens at 10:00 AM...then 11:00 AM. Again, we'll wait. He began to get frustrated because he couldn't shake us. Suddenly, turning a bit red in the face, he told us that we were no longer allowed on the property because we had a tripod. "Strictly forbidden," he repeated. We looked at one another and wondered if we should proceed walking through the fort and see if he'd chase us. Instead, we turned around and left while laughing hysterically. We had just been kicked out of India's greatest fort for having a tripod! We headed down the hill to another nearby destination Jaswant Thada. We were the only people here, paid only 50 cents to get in, and happily snapped some photos using our tripod.
Genuine and frustrating, friendships and pesky guards, the bottom line is that we hope to always return to this city for both business and pleasure. One of our goals for coming back to India was to make connections for our business Jipse Interiors. We set low expectations for ourselves, as accomplishing anything in India, let alone business matters, isn't for the faint of heart. Last October, we attempted to visit the villages and connect with a family-run business. In the matter of one day, we began at the art shop painting, then were taken to a wholesale textile shop, and then escorted (unwillingly) to a spice/tea shop. Businessmen in India are granted commission when they take foreigners to each others' shops. It's a long confusing process in which you feel like you've lost all control. Anyways, long story short, we are happy to announce that we found a wonderful connection in order to stock our shop. Since Jipse began, Bre has dreamed of being able to design her own products and have them produced using ancient artisan techniques. Our connections are making that possible and some designs are currently in the works!
If we could offer a few pieces of advice to anyone traveling or doing business in India it's to practice good karma, ask too many questions, be patient, and somehow this country will return your good karma ten fold.
where to stay
The Almond Tree Luxury Homestay - One of the best parts about traveling is when we stay somewhere that feels like home. It's ironic, we know. We set out to explore the foreign, undiscovered corners of the world. But you know when you walk through the door and feel those comfortable warm and fuzzy vibes? This place is definitely that. The Almond Tree is a luxury homestay located just minutes away from the famous Umaid Bhawan Palace in a quiet residential area of Jodhpur. The rocky desert landscape surrounding The Almond Tree made us feel like we had teleported back home to the deserts of southwest America. We enjoyed evening walks around the peaceful area marveling at the homes and landscape. We were stopped by some local kids shyly asking us to play badminton with them. There is also a stepwell a few blocks from the property that we discovered one night. An awesome piece of architecture!
The rooftop terrace at The Almond Tree is the perfect space to relax, whether reading a book by day or enjoying the cool water jacuzzi in the evening. Who doesn't love the idea of a cool water jacuzzi? A brilliant choice for this hot (112 degrees) desert destination. We also enjoyed an early morning yoga/workout session on the terrace. They have yoga mats available and offer classes upon request. By night, the rooftop terrace transforms into a magical place for dinner with views of the star-filled sky and the majestic palace. We had the pleasure of indulging in a homestyle farm-to-table Indian meal that left us saying, "this is definitely the best Indian food we have ever had". It was seriously mouth-watering! Megha, the owner, explained to us that most restaurants in India go overboard with the spices and do not always use fresh locally grown ingredients. This can cause the meals to feel heavy in your stomach. Almond Tree always uses ingredients that they grow themselves -- which resulted in a meal we will never forget!
Every room at The Almond Tree is unique and beautifully designed. One of our favorite parts is that they sourced all of their products locally. The textiles and furniture were all designed and produced right in this area. Bre was in textile heaven examining the modern woven fabrics. The rooms are generous in space and comfortable. Our bathroom was nearly as big as the bedroom!
The staff made us feel like family and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at The Almond Tree. Thank you so much to Chetan, Megha, and their wonderful staff. We hope to be back one day! We couldn't recommend this property enough for anyone visiting Jodhpur.
Geeta Mahal - This was our second time staying at this property in Jodhpur. We stayed for a few nights back in October when we first passed through. There are three simple aspects that keep us coming back here: the owner Gucci, the location, and the excellent value for the money. Last time around, we found ourselves one of the most hilarious, kind-hearted friends in Gucci. We love spending time sitting downstairs and having conversations with him. During this visit, he welcomed us with open arms and remembered us from last year. One of our favorite memories of Jodhpur was when Gucci started talking (AKA drooling) about the famous Jodhpur sweets. He described each sweet in full detail and then drew us a zigged-zagged map through Jodhpur's windy streets to find the best sweets. We ended up visiting the sweet shop next door to the famous one on accident because the shop sign was 100% in Hindi! Gucci said the sweets we brought him were good, but we sensed that he wasn't fully satisfied. He also loves to talk Indian politics, societal issues, and isn't afraid to discuss the caste system or other controversial issues.
There is a great rooftop restaurant on top of Geeta Mahal with views of the Mehrangarh Fort which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Right outside the doorstep of the Geeta Mahal, you will find yourself on a semi-quiet (minus the occasional parade or neighborhood commotion) alley that winds right through the famous blue city. You can even take a slightly challenging hike right up to the fort or head over to the bustling clock tower for some shopping at the local markets.
To ensure the best nightly rate at Geeta Mahal, contact Gucci directly and mention that we sent you.
The Madpackers Jodhpur - Every once in a while, we love to book a hostel! We love the social aspect that a hostel like Madpackers has to offer, especially when traveling a less-traveled country like India. The choices here are perfect for solo travelers (dorms) and travel couples (private rooms). We stayed at Madpackers last October and have since said that it had the most comfortable bed in Asia. Bre and I were so excited to go back simply for that reason! We really enjoy the design and family atmosphere that this hostel has to offer. It's clear to us that they've taken extra steps to ensure they provide the best experience for their guests.
In the common area, the open concept houses a community kitchen, couches to lounge on and watch TV or play Xbox, and a big balcony perfect for enjoying a beer and chatting with other travelers. There is a new restaurant upstairs, The Purple Saffron, which offers tasty food and drinks. After a long day of sightseeing, we often opt to stay in for the night and get some work done. Having the on-site restaurant is always a huge plus for us when searching for accommodations. The staff at Madpackers love to hang around, help give local insight, and genuinely just like to get to know their guests.
what to do
Mehrangarh Fort - For a truly majestic Indian experience, this fort can't be missed! We know that India is filled with temples and forts that can seem sort of monotonous after a while, but this truly is our favorite out the forts we have seen in North India. The fort is, by far, the most well-preserved, clean, and put together. We recommend paying a few extra rupees for the audio tour. If you are able to, we recommend walking up to the fort because tuk tuks will charge you a pretty penny to drive up the hill. We asked locals and they happily guided us to the uphill path that accesses the fort directly. If you are going to visiting Jodhpur in October, put aside a few extra dollars for the annual music festival that's held at the fort. We missed this last October, but heard it was incredible! After visiting the museum, you can exit the backside and walk through the old blue city. It's pretty trashed and dirty though...so be prepared for that.
Jaswant Thada - A short walk down from the Mehrangarh Fort and well worth it is Jaswant Thada. This is actually a cenotaph built to honor of a royal man's father - what a royal tribute it is! The whole fort is white with beautiful turquoise doors. The property is well-kept and stunning! Also, many visitors skip this one and head straight to Mehrangarh Fort, so it's usually pretty quiet.
Umaid Heritage Art School - If you're feeling artistic, try a miniature painting class with Vijay. Vijay doesn't ask for any money to take the class. He genuinely has a talent that he wants to teach others about the classic Rajasthani art. I get nervous about being humiliated at art class, but even I enjoyed it!
For the love & adventure,