A Day in the Footsteps of Royalty; Touring Amber Fort, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
The Amber Fort in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India is among the city’s most popular attractions. We allowed ourselves a whole day to see this highlight of Jaipur. While we didn’t exactly have any tourist experience in mind, we really enjoyed the experience of being able to explore this place at our own pace, and relish in some of the unique features of travelling in India.
This post is one chapter on our third Round the World trip via South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, the Maldives and India. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport (World of Hyatt) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.
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- A Day in the Footsteps of Royalty, Touring Amber Fort, Jaipur
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A Day in the Footsteps of Royalty; Touring Amer Fort, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
“A visit to the Amber Fort involves elephant rides, exploring concubine bedrooms, historic animal slaughtering courtyards and royal mugal gardens. It should be a stop on any trip through India’s Golden Triangle”
Planning our Visit to The Amber Fort:
The main attraction in Jaipur is the Amber Fort. The name Amer and Amber seem to be used interchangeably when describing this place. It’s one of the most impressive forts that we’ve had the opportunity to take in worldwide. We didn’t have any obvious public transportation links to get there and back so we opted for an end to end solution. We booked a car through The Rambagh Palace. We were given a hotel driver who took us in a beautiful Jaguar XF up to the Amber Fort. It’s about a 25 minute drive out of town. It was a very hot day when we set out, with temperatures approaching almost forty degrees Celsius at the top of the day.
Arriving to the Amber Fort:
Our first stop was on the way up, where we were able to take in some terrific views of the walled fortress. Its truly an impressive sight, with different walls and a majestic view over the valley. It’s like the castle that you imagined visiting as a child.
Accessing the Fort by Elephant:
Since the fort is a bit of a climb from the valley ground, you can elect to take an elephant ride for 1,100 Rupees, take a jeep or car ride up, or walk. We opted for the elephant ride, which is somewhat of a tradition for the Amber Fort visit. It’s reportedly the only fort in India that allows elephant rides which was common in the times of the marahajah. While more recently there have been some conservation efforts to preserve or limit the elephant use, there wasn’t at the time of our particular visit. As a result, we experienced the traditional tour method of visiting the Amer Fort.
Arriving to the base elephant loading station, we passed through some of the most aggressive souvenir vendors, including some who followed us up the hill shouting at us on the elephant ride. The elephants are an impressive sight to see; likely among the largest group of elephants we’ve ever seen in one place all together.
Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful and bumpy ride up. I needed to set a high shutter speed to capture these shots on the way up. It was pretty rocky! The maharajah’s champagne would have spilled for sure (not that they had any back then).
We passed through the Sun Gate on the way up.
On arrival, we off loaded in the Jaleb Chowk where the Marahajah would have arrived to sounds of music similar to what the marahajah listened to. Of course there were lots of pressure for “Tips tips now please” for the camel driver.
Visiting the Amer Fort:
The Amber Fort were originally built by Raja Man Singh and additions were later made by Sawai Jai Singh. Amer Fort is known for its artistic style elements with its large ramparts and series of gates and cobbled paths. As photographed, the fort overlooks Maota Lake,[ which is the main source of water for the Amer Palace.
Mughal architecture greatly influenced the architectural style of several buildings of the fort, which is constructed of red sandstone and marble. The attractive, opulent palace is laid out on four levels, each with a courtyard. It consists of the Diwan-e-Aam, or “Hall of Public Audience”, the Diwan-e-Khas, or “Hall of Private Audience”, the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), or Jai Mandir, and the Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over a water cascade within the palace. The fort is unique with it’s 4 tiered courtyards and sections that were each of a higher and higher level. Presumably, the exclusivity rose the higher and higher level The views were outstanding at even the first level.
The First Courtyard: Animal Sacrifices
We started our tour by enjoying the first courtyard. It was a location where animal sacrifices used to occur, to be witnessed by members of the royal family and devotees. The animal sacrifices consisted of goats or buffaloes.
There were a few places to take some interesting photographs through our stay and our guide was happy to help.
The entry stairs were impressive and were designed to keep out intruders with doors and gates at the top.
The Second Courtyard: Hearing an Audience
We passed over to the second higher courtyard. The second courtyard was the Hall of Public Audiences called the Diwan-I-AM. It had some interesting latticing and sculptures of elephants around the courtyards.
The Ganesh Pol Gates were named after the Hindu god Lord Ganesh, who removes all obstacles in life, is the entry into the private palaces of the Maharajas. It is a three-level structure with many frescoes that were also built at the orders of the Mirza Raja Jai Singh, dating back to 1621–1627.
The Third Courtyard: Residential Grounds
Passing upward to the third courtyard, we entered into the area where the Marahajah had his apartments and residence. This is where the Maharajah and his attendants would reside while he was in residence.
There were also an ornate hall of mirrors, which I believed was the Jai Manir (Hall of Victory). Along with detailed interior section that was quite elaborately designed suitable for royalty. This would be an amazing hall lit by candlelight at night with its shimmering surfaces twinkling by candlelight.
The Fourth Courtyard: A place for mistresses
The last and fourth courtyard was where the marahajah had bedrooms for his concubines. It was a bit more austere than the rich gardens in the third courtyard.
You can tell how hot it was by the mount of people gathering in the shade in these next photographs.
The layout was cleverly designed so that the marahajah could visit the conbunines without each other knowing about his visit’s as the rooms were separate but accessible from various hallways.
Other interesting features of the Amer Fort were a water retrieval system of buckets attached to conveyor belts. These were drawn right from the ground valley floor. The bats had made this area their home at moment.
The Summer Palace of Jaipur:
After our tour, we hopped in the car and headed back down to the Summer Palace of Jaipur. The Summer Palace was a summer getaway for the royalty and is on a lake just outside of town
We were treated to a highly entertaining magic show by a local girl. She was actually quite skilled in her magician craft I gave her a few US $ and she was a bit stumped by the foreign currency but appreciative nevertheless.
We headed back to the hotel, but not before a stop at the local wine shop 1 block from the hotel to procure some Sule Chenin Blanc which was the domestic Indian wine. It was an interesting local set up with an open store front. We opted for the chilled bottles in the cooler.
The bottles were wrapped in local newspaper which was a newsworthy way to go.
What I thought about the Amber Fort:
All in all, it was an excellent day of sightseeing. It was easily among the highlights of our visit through India. It was a really unique visit to a part of the world that I didn’t know exactly what to expect.
Most visitors to the fort appeared to be on coach bus tours and were groups of older 60-70’ year olds. We were among the few younger middle aged travelers. If you visit, I’d highly recommend bringing a guide as most of the Amber Fort features aren’t posted and it’s easy to get quite lost in the place in the harsh heat of the day. I’d also recommend visiting away from the hottest part of the day since there are some, but not many covered areas in the Fort.