Jaisalmer Desert Safari: The Ultimate Guide
At the mention of India, the first thing that comes to people’s minds is the grand Taj Mahal. But don’t stop just there, because the state of Rajasthan has so much to offer, and high on your bucket list should be the Jaisalmer desert safari!
Rich with wildlife, tradition, and ancient relics from a bygone era, the Great Indian Desert is an adventure waiting to happen.
But is going on a camel safari in Jaisalmer the best way to explore the Thar desert? How can you be sure it’s safe?
I know you’ve got questions, and WWB writer , Irdina, has got you covered.
Read on for your complete guide to Jaisalmer’s desert safari!
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Why should you go to Jaisalmer?
The world’s only living fort
You will begin to notice a common theme as you travel through Rajasthan. Besides tombs, palaces, and places of worship, forts are tourist hotspots.
What makes the Jaisalmer fort special is that it is currently inhabited, and it is the only living fort in the world! The majestic fort has been their home and marketplace for more than 800 years.
You should also experience the impressive architecture of Jaisalmer’s havelis, or mansions. The most famous of these is Patwon Ki Haveli. Whimsical images paint the interiors in dazzling colours, and elaborate carvings etch every surface.
Some havelis have been converted to hotels, museums and restaurants. If you want to stay the night, look out for places like Hotel Nachana Haveli!
The taste of India
Next is… the food! I am a big fan of Indian cuisine, and Jaisalmer’s street food is top-notch.
Notable favourites include pyaaz kachori (a deep-fried pastry filled with a spicy onion filling and served with a side of chutney), and makhania lassi (a yogurt-based drink with dried fruits and flavoured with spices such as saffron and cardamom).
The bustling marketplaces are a must-do. Jaisalmer is famous for camel leather, silver, and embroidered textiles. Their craftsmanship is exquisite and you can sometimes find shops with in-house artisans working their magic. Even if you’re not a shopaholic, strolling the colourful bazaars and cobbled streets is a delight.
Why is the Jaisalmer Desert Safari a MUST-DO?
The skies are spectacular – at sunset, in the depths of the night, and even at sunrise. Your view will be unobstructed and witnessing the sky morph into beautiful hues against the vast desert is an unforgettable sight. Photographers and astronomy lovers will rejoice at the fact that the Milky Way can be spotted with the naked eye!
Being close to nature
The Thar desert also has some pretty cool wildlife, including numerous endangered species that you can observe on your desert safari. The camel rides are slow enough, so be on the lookout for vultures, chinkaras, and wildcats. If you’re keen on having those NatGeo moments, ask for an experienced local as your guide.
India can be quite overwhelming to the senses. If you are yearning for an escape and want to immerse yourself in complete stillness, look no further. Nothing compares to the peace one finds in the silence of the desert and sleeping under a sky full of stars.
Tales of the desert
Who doesn’t love a good story? 18km away from Jaisalmer is an abandoned site called Kuldhara. It used to be a village for Paliwal Brahmins, but the villagers fled one night, a couple of hundred years ago. There are interesting tales that surround this village turned tourist site, but I won’t mention any spoilers! Most safari providers will make a stop here on the way back.
How do I get to Jaisalmer?
This is by far, my favourite mode of transportation when travelling across states in India. Different classes of coaches are available to suit whatever your budget may be. Check out Palace On Wheels! These are high end, luxury coaches that are committed to giving you the royal treatment.
For the money-savvy traveller, buses are also available from all cities. I used Redbus to book online in advance, but you can also drop by the bus station to purchase your tickets if you have the time.
I recommend riding on the sleeper buses for long haul trips as they are so comfortable and come with drawn curtains for complete privacy!
Another option is a private cab hire, but this will cost significantly more than the first two mentioned above, especially if you’re travelling solo.
No planes are flying in or out of Jaisalmer, but if you are keen on taking a flight, Jodhpur would be the nearest city (located about 300 km away). From there, you can either hire a car, ride the bus or hop on a train!
What to Expect at a Jaisalmer Desert Safari?
To put it simply, there are 2 types of safaris: one that is catered to the more touristy group, complete with tents and bathrooms, while the other that is a bit off the beaten track with fewer tourists and open-air camp beds. As backpacking students on a tight budget, we chose the latter.
Your safari provider will pick you up at your accommodation with a jeep. Then, you’ll be whisked off to the dunes – on a bumpy camel ride nonetheless! One hour is enough to make your thighs and bum sore.
Don’t worry about food and water as the provider will usually have it sorted out. Expect simple vegetarian meals and yummy chai! Lucky for us, our guides were kind enough to give us an impromptu cooking class. We had fun making our dinner of dhal and chapati from scratch. The descending sun was a treat to watch.
Rajasthanis are proud of their music, poetry, and dance. Some packages come with a fancy cultural performance during dinner, but since ours didn’t, we exchanged stories and bonded over Bollywood songs over a bonfire as the day descended into the night.
Depending on the package you choose, there will be additional spots that the safari provider will take you on the way back, such as the Kuldhara village and Jain temples. Some will extend the safari into a Jaisalmer city tour.
Which safari provider should I choose?
The companies that organize these tours have something tailored for everyone. Jaisalmer desert safari camp packages are aplenty and deciding on one can be a headache. These are come companies that are highly recommended:
- Sahara Travels Jaisalmer (from USD 7)
- Dangri Desert Safari Camp Jaisalmer (from USD 7)
- Wanderlust Camel Safari (from USD 24)
- Adventure Travel Agency (from USD 35)
- Mystic Jaisalmer (from USD 45)
Here are a few criteria to assist you in choosing the safari provider:
Do your research and ensure that the tour companies you shortlist are trusted. Your hostel or guesthouse can usually provide recommendations but ask around, make comparisons and double-check. Pro tip: check out Google and Tripadvisor reviews before your Jaisalmer desert safari booking.
Itineraries vary from a 6-hour sunset safari to a few days in the desert camp. I highly recommend you going for the Jaisalmer night safari as you will get the most bang for your buck that way. It is not too long, you’ll get enough rest to enjoy the next day’s activities and won’t have to rush.
Group or private safari
Group tours are a great way to socialize if you’re a solo traveller, and are usually cheaper. They might require earlier booking during peak seasons. You can also opt for a private safari where they will tailor the itinerary according to your interests and needs.
Accommodation, amenities & activities
What kind of safari would you like to experience? Do you want to sleep in a mudhouse or tent? Would you rather pamper yourself to the full luxury experience – flushing ensuite bathrooms, cultural performances, and a buffet dinner? Do you want to satisfy the adrenaline junkie in you with activities such as dune bashing, parasailing, or riding an ATV?
Check out different safari providers and compare their itineraries and prices. You can also try negotiating a price, especially if you’re going during the low seasons. Generally, the price for a no frills, half-day camel safari in Jaisalmer would start at USD 7, while an overnight safari would cost around USD 20.
If you’re travelling with children or people with health conditions, you might want to consider going with a company that provides camel carts. This allows passengers to sit on the carts pulled by a camel. Understandably, camels are not for everyone. Another option is to explore the desert with a 4×4!
What to bring to the Jaisalmer desert safari?
Here are a list of essentials to bring with you:
- Power bank (check out this portable solar charger)
- Camera and photography gear
- Loose, breathable clothes
- Reusable water bottle
- Wet wipes/tissues
Things to watch out for the Jaisalmer desert safari
Because Jaisalmer is a desert city, the heat is going to be less tolerable in the summer. The best time to visit would be during the colder season, around September – March. These months are peak season, hence expect the flock of tourists and higher prices.
It happens everywhere, not just in India. I am all for spontaneity, but if it is your first time there, and you’re not able to properly read the situation you are in – be on your toes. Scammers have numerous methods to target you.
An example – they will offer a cheap camel safari package to lure you into staying at their hotel, and suddenly ask for more payment than what was agreed on. My advice still stands when it comes to booking: read the reviews, contact them beforehand, and go with a credible safari provider.
Additional tips to do a desert safari in Jaisalmer
Learn the Hindi language.
Simple phrases and numbers help break the ice. The locals working in tourism have conversational English, but it’s always great to pull out when you want to make small talk with people on trains, or haggling for a good deal.
Make use of apps
For ease of travelling, use MakeMyTrip and Redbus to check the schedule for buses and trains. In case your transport gets delayed (which is a possibility in India), have a backup plan in place.
Let’s do our part by being responsible travellers. Tourism is booming in Jaisalmer, but with that comes repercussions. For example, the Jaisalmer Fort is listed in the Smithsonian magazine as an endangered site due to the sewage system, thanks to the restaurants and hotels that have popped up. To help reduce the damage done, we can instead pick an accommodation outside of the fort.
It is no surprise that Jaisalmer is India’s ultimate destination for those wishing to go on a desert adventure. With an array of activities to choose from and breathtaking sights to take in, this is an escapade as golden as the city’s nickname.
I hope you’ve gained some valuable insight that will help you make the most out of your trip.
Now, it’s time to bring those dreams of Aladdin & Agrabah to life, and sing A Whole New World as your enthralling Jaisalmer desert safari experience awaits!