A visit to India is not complete without a stop in Jaipur. Jaipur is a regal wonderland of culture and legacy, rich with architectural jewels, and is affectionately nicknamed "The Pink City" for the pink colour of its old structures. It's also a major stop on India's well-known Golden Triangle tourism circuit.
Prepare to be enchanted by the splendour of Jaipur, Rajasthan's capital. City Palace provides you a sense of the opulent lifestyle enjoyed by Jaipur's royal family. The astronomy instruments of the Jantar Mantar observatory, located right next door, bring the wonders of space to Earth. And, depending on when you come, you might be able to attend one of Jaipur's many events, such as the International Kite Festival in January or the Elephant Festival in early spring.
For nearly three centuries, City Palace has stood in the centre of Jaipur's Old City, shortly after Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II decided to relocate his court from Amber. The fairy-tale-like palace, which is still the residence of Jaipur's modern-day royal family and is more opulent and lovely than you may expect, is protected by towering guard walls.
Jantar Mantar may appear to be nothing more than a collection of larger-than-life abstract sculptures at first glance. But this isn't an art gallery–a it's unique collection of astronomy instruments began nearly 300 years ago by Rajput monarch Jai Singh II to survey the stars. Each of the UNESCO World Heritage Site's 20 or more structures has a distinct role. The gigantic sun dial at the observatory, known as Samrat Yantra, is particularly impressive. It generates a massive shadow that precisely counts time down to two seconds at a height of 27 metres.
If you have any preconceived views about how Jaipur's buildings should look, they most likely stem from the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Breeze). From the salmon-pink, honeycombed front, meant to imitate the Hindu god Krishna's crown, to the geometric accents and rows of tiny windows, it has all of the distinguishing architectural traits that show in postcards of the city. The structure was constructed in 1799 to allow royal women to observe events on the street without being observed by the general population. Its 953 windows let in a lot of natural light, making it an excellent summer mansion.
Amber Fort, one of India's most visited forts, is located in Jaipur. The sandstone and marble monolith, which was built in 1592, sits atop a tiny hill about 20 minutes' drive northeast of Jaipur's city centre. It is most famous for being a perfect example of Rajasthani architecture. Amber Fort is usually reached by a short uphill trek that is well worth the effort. It's covered with exquisite inlaid marble patterns in practically every hue of the rainbow. The fort is divided into four pieces, each with a beautiful garden courtyard on the outside. While you wouldn't know it from above, the fort's underground tunnels, some of which have been rebuilt, can be explored.
The Albert Hall Museum in Jaipur was a "rebuke to all other museums in India from Calcutta downwards," according to English writer Rudyard Kipling. That's great praise from the son of a curator, and it's appropriate for this illustrious institution. The Albert Hall Museum is Rajasthan's oldest museum, and it houses a large collection of art and historically significant objects. Come for the Egyptian mummy, but stay for the beautiful permanent exhibitions of miniature paintings, 18th-century clothing worn by people of various castes, and a strange collection of 19th-century clay figures doing all of the yoga positions.
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