Garh Jaisal Haveli Hotel

In the Fort, Jaisalmer, India Book from

Reviewed by Hannah Roberts
A super friendly family-run guesthouse, hidden within the walls of Jaisalmer's old fort
The fortress city of Jaisalmer rises majestically out of the Thar Desert like the fantastical backdrop to an Indiana Jones film. Once an important part of the camel caravan trading route, Jaisalmer is still a living humming medieval city, its twisting alleys packed with ambling cows, scooters and traders selling the famous local silver. Like the intricately carved Jain temples dominating the heart of the 11th-century fort, the city’s 99 defensive turrets, bridged by impressive walls, are all carved from the local sandstone - giving Jaisalmer its nickname of the ‘Golden City’. The wealthy Jain merchants who financed the fortifications also built handsome mansions (havelis) for themselves, some of which are wonderfully preserved.

Garh Jaisal is one of them, and one of a lucky few hotels tucked within the ramparts. Its contemporary interiors are in direct contrast with the ancient surroundings. Owner Mukesh took 7 years designing the chic Indo-French style interiors, opening in August 2006, but the atmospheric nooks and crannies of the original building, built into the walls of the city, remain. The 7 homely rooms are bursting with colour and cosy corners; the rooftop terrace a perfect place to linger over a chai and soak up the incredible views. Close to the magnificent Sam sand dunes and Gadi Sagar lake, its allure lies in the fact that it’s off the beaten track, yet surprisingly easy to get to.

Highs

  • Rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the Thar Desert and Jaisalmer
  • Healthy Western-style breakfast with freshly squeezed OJ – served until noon so you can maximise your lie-in
  • The decor: rooms are a starburst of colour
  • Chic hand-block printed cotton robes, each one unique, and your beautiful bed quilt can be bought and taken home
  • Free internet
  • Private car transfers can be arranged to anywhere in Rajasthan

Lows

  • You may get other (non-resident) tourists coming in to marvel at the view from the rooftop - a bit off-putting when you are having your breakfast
  • There are no twin rooms and no pool - not the hotel for die-hard sun lizards
  • Jaisalmer Airport is currently closed to commercial traffic until further notice, it's being exclusively used by the military thanks to heightened tensions with Pakistan - the next closest airport is 6 hours away
  • Jaisalmer Fort is in need of extensive preservation, though now that it's off the World Monuments Watchlist, you don't need to feel so bad about staying within the fort (profits from your stay help the restoration funds)

Best time to go

From October to early April when it's dry, warm and less humid.

Our top tips

If you can, visit in February and check out the Desert Festival, which features dance, camel races, folk music and turban-tying contests! (More Info)

Great for...

Eco
Family
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Historic Guesthouse
  • 7
  • Breakfast; restaurants nearby
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

The 7 rooms, all ensuite - a rarity within the fort where water is a precious commodity - are swathed in jewel-bright fabrics and mirrored tapestries. Being further from the central courtyard, second floor rooms reached via a twisting carved stone stair offer a little extra privacy and quiet if you want to sleep late in the morning. The scarlet-hued Maharani room is especially handsome; Rising Sun is a wash of royal blues, with east-facing windows. Some rooms, like rich red and gold Maharaja, are slightly smaller. Sweet Purple is a decadent blend of violet and mauve. Handmade quilts cover the kingsize beds; the wooden furniture is all hand-carved.

Best of all though, each room has incredible views and a balcony or sandstone window seat lined with cosy cushions so you can look over the city, out to the golden desert or to the lake in the distance. A panoramic of Jaisalmer, a bird’s eye view of the local markets and old town, or a sweeping vista of the nearby sand dunes - it doesn’t get much better than this.

Bathrooms are Western-style with hot water showers, and all rooms have A/C and ceiling fans to keep the room cool in the hot summer months. And talk about a loo with a view!

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Internet access
  • Terrace

Eating

Served on the rooftop terrace until 12 noon, the ‘healthy’ breakfast is leisurely and hearty. Freshly-squeezed orange juice, toast, fruit, muesli and a choice of eggs, along with the ubiquitous hot chai.

Lunch and dinner are available on request from nearby restaurants, and the evening meals are served by candelight. The next-door restaurant, Suriya, will also deliver meals to the rooftop terrace where you can lay back on Arabian Nights cushions under the star-filled sky.

Alternatively you can head out into the fort or city, where there are numerous options. The much loved Trio restaurant does brilliant Thalis (Rajasthani complete meals of curry pickles, rice and bread) on the roof terrace. Seema Restaurant (just outside the fort walls) is recommended for its super-fresh Rajasthani food, whilst Free Tibet has a selection of Nepalese specialties.

Complimentary mineral water and tea are available 24/7, and the hotel also serves signature fresh mango lassis and ice-cold beers - perfect sun-downers.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Sit on the rooftop deck or your private balcony and soak up the awesome views

  • Relax in the private courtyard - the hotel burns incense all day for a calm peaceful atmosphere, and there’s a loveseat to snuggle up on

  • Wander through the fort and experience daily local life: barter at the markets, drink hot chai at a cafe, and explore the endless winding alleyways

  • Visit the elaborately carved Jain temples, with their Dilwara style paintings

  • And the seven storey City Palace whose unusually fascinating audio tour is well worth doing, and brings you right up to speed with Jaisalmer’s noble history

  • Check out the havelis just below the forts, whose amazing facades boast intricate stone carvings

  • Take an overnight camel trek into the Thar Desert – the hotel arranges regular trips to non-touristy parts of the desert away from other camel treks, and you can sleep in a traditional tent or outside under a star-filled sky. If you don't want to camp overnight, a sunset camel safari is also possible

  • Get rash with your rupees: the market is an excellent place to buy colourful rugs, textiles, jewellery and Rajasthani mirrored wall-hangings

  • Visit a local cobbler and stock up on anything and everything made of camel leather - belts, richly embroidered wallets and jootis (traditional hand tooled shoes)

  • Take a jeep ride through the Sam sand dunes - 45km from the hotel - stopping off for an auspicious glimpse of the sacred cobra at Ludharwa temple (16km)

  • Stroll around the Gadi Sagar lake, a vast rainwater pool which supplies water to the city. It’s surrounded by temples and tombs of saints, and you can take a boat ride across it

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Safaris
  • Shopping / markets
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

Children are welcome here, but the desert setting and strong sun might put off parents with young kids, so it's better suited to older, adventurous families. Garh Jaisal doesn't have specific kids facilities but there are friendly, curious children in the square outside the hotel who are eager to play with the guests! There is one small bed available to go in one of the 3 rooms which are large enough to accommodate an extra person.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly: Purple Room

Our guests' ratings...

7/
Rooms
7/
Food
8/
Service
7/
Value
7/
Overall

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