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Jodhpur

On the eastern fringes of the Thar Desert, Jodhpur – also known as the 'Blue City' – was once the chief settlement in Marwar, the largest princely state in Rajasthan. Jodhpur amazes visitors with its pale blue hues and labyrinth of twisting streets, full of colour and atmosphere. Expect bazaars filled with local handicraft and some of the best forts and palaces in all of India.

Like a protective older brother, the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort still dominates the town, ringed by its massive sheltering walls – and it forms an impressive backdrop to many of the views from the old city which sprawls below it. The fort was hewn from the rock it stands on in 1460 by Rao Jodha and it is still run by the Jodphur royal family. Mehrangarh Fort offers a fascinating glimpse into local history and myth, for example cannon ball marks are visible on the 16th century entrance gate, Dodh Kangra Pol, and the museum showcases armoury, costumes and ornate palanquins. Visitors must be sure to take in the beautifully landscaped Rajput gardens and spend time surrounded by brightly-coloured hibiscus flowers and citrus trees or resting under the bougainvillea-clad pergolas. The fort also gives an unforgettable view of the panorama of Jodhpur and the orange-tinged Thar Desert beyond.

For visitors wanting to explore a little beyond the throng of Jodphur, a rickshaw ride to the royal gardens at Mandore is a worthwhile excursion. Once the capital of Marwar which was then moved to the hilltop safety of Mehrangarh, ornate temples now compete with overgrown shrubbery and encroaching jungle and you’re likely to see the resident monkeys who like to play here. The cenotaphs of previous maharajas are particularly awe-inspiring, which are made from red-sand stone and include intriguing carvings dating back to the 17th century.

Back in Jodphur, strolling around the many bazaars is a great way to explore the curios and interact with local Jodphurians. Kaleidoscopic colours of spices, tie-dye fabrics and traditional puppets showcase many of the unique handicraft skills that have been passed down through generations.

Another fabulous landmark of Jodphur is the colossal Umaid Bhawan Palace, built by 3,000 locals in the 1930s as part of a job creation scheme set up by the Maharaja. It is now a luxurious heritage hotel which has Art Deco detailing elegant terraces, formal gardens and a museum which has the maharaja’s collection of lovingly maintained classic cars parked outside for visitors to admire. The bone-white Jaswant Thada should not be missed either, with its fine lattice work and domed roof, with exceptional views over to the Mehrangarh Fort and the city. It was built in 1899 as memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, and located a few kilometres out of town, offers a tranquil respite from the city.

>> Read our blog: Polo & Peacocks: British Polo Day in Jodhpur

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