Jaipur Travel Guide

Jaipur is the gateway to flamboyant Rajasthan state. Here, sprawling palaces, lush green hills and vibrant bazaars neighbour busy commercial centres, creating a colourful picture that is quintessentially Indian.

The eye-catching old, walled section of Jaipur is known as the Pink City, which is a nod to the blushing colour of its historic buildings. Originally painted painted red (a lucky colour in Hindu culture) to welcome England's Prince Alfred in 1853, the fading walls of these old structures still retain traces of this hue.

The Maharaja of the Kuchwaha Rajputs, Jai Singh II, built the Pink City in only eight years. He founded it in 1727 after deciding to leave his outmoded hillside fortress at Amber, establishing a new capital on the plains further south when the power of his Mughal lords was in decline.

Among other features, Jai personally designed the City Palace and the Jantar Mantar, which is a fascinating astronomical observatory with massive instruments used to predict the monsoon and to identify the movements of the stars. Most impressive is a 27 metre-high sundial, which is accurate to within two minutes. All seven gates into the old city remain. One of them leads into Johari Bazaar: the famously frenetic jewellers' market that boasts the best selection of precious stones in India.

Jaipur is now a thriving commercial city of about two million people. Although some visitors are put off by the over-zealous traders and the insane traffic, most are enthralled and enchanted by this welcoming, exciting city. There is no better place in India to shop than in Rajasthan's capital; it is possible to find anything and everything in its shop-lined streets, from jewellery and silks to perfumes and stationery. Travellers should just be prepared to bargain hard for a good deal.