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Jaipur

The Pink City of Jaipur is the gateway and capital of Rajasthan. One of the few planned cities in India,  its name comes from the terracotta-pink, lime-plastered buildings. Set in the buff-coloured Rajasthani hills, it was founded in 1727 by the Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. Today the city is a bustling hub that includes a vibrant bazaar and streets edging with scooters, tuk-tuks, buses, cows and camels, and all around, the stunning pink-hued buildings glimmer, affirming the city’s namesake.

To the northeast of the centre of Jaipur is the City Palace, which is both a museum and home to the former ruling royal family. The palace complex includes an awe-inspiring array of stucco pink courtyards, gardens and pavilions. Ornate attention to detail is evident at the intricately designed entrance gates, which use a combination of Rajput and Mughal architecture. The Peacock Gate in particular is a masterful collage of intricate peacock feathers that fan out, enticing the visitor to walk through and marvel at the palace. 

Jai Singh II was a renowned astronomer and built several Jantar Mantars (observatories) in India, the most spectacular is in Jaipur with structures up to 27 metres high, used for measuring the movements of the sun, stars and planets. The observatory has 19 different instruments for tracking time and here you will also see the world’s biggest sun dial. As well as learning about these unique astronomical instruments, the observatory also encourages visitors to take time to appreciate the Indian night sky.

The nearby Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds, is where visitors will find a fascinating museum showcasing some of the opulent possessions of the maharaja. The Hawal Mahal has a five-storey latticework screen behind which the palace ladies could sit and watch the city go by without being seen. These days they would probably be shopping in the bazaar, which is a fantastic place to purchase precious stones, block-printed fabrics and ornate jewellery. The bazaar is also an ideal spot to observe the traditions of local life and soak up the vibrant colours of India.

Backing the city, some 17 kilometres to the north, is the ancient mountainous range of the Aravalli Hills. Here, on a former royal hunting ground, is the Amber Fort, capital of the Kuchwaha region for 700 years before the population moved to Jaipur which offered more space. This magnificent palace, made from an exquisite mix of pale pink and yellow sandstone and white marble, is an iconic landmark of Jaipur which glows golden at sunset. Visitors should make time to marvel at the small silver-doored Siladevi Temple before entering the palace. The breezy, open sided Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience), has an interesting double column layout; look out for the carved elephants atop of the columns. Inside the maharaja’s apartments are an overload of beautifully decorated interiors such as the Jam Mandir, which has a multi-mirrored ceiling and detailed carved marble and overlooks the palace ramparts and the pretty Lake Maota.

>> Read our blog: Little Black Book: Discover the Pink City, Jaipur

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