My Kind of Place: Jodhpur, India

Palaces and princes, souqs and spices, forts and food – Jodhpur, India does everything king-sized.

 The Jaswant Thada memorial in white marble and the blue-tinged cityscape around Jodhpur's historic Megrangarh Fort. David Henderson / Corbis
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Why Jodhpur?

Rajasthan’s second city is one of epic proportions: its impregnable, 122-metre-high fort looms against the sky; and the hilltop palace, home to a modern-day maharaja, is one of the largest private residences in the world.

Jodhpur is often clubbed together with a wider tour of the desert state, but, more recently, it’s shown up on the international party circuit thanks to the glamorous lifestyle of Maharaja Gaj Singh II. Celebrities from Sting to Naomi Campbell have attended chic soirées at Umaid Bhawan and extravagant weddings at Mehrangarh Fort.

The 500-year-old city has the flamboyance of Jaipur but is less touristed; it sits just close enough to the Thar Desert to afford sweeping dune-and-camel views à la Jaisalmer; and, best of all, it represents all of Rajasthan’s royal trappings within an easily manageable size.

A comfortable bed

Splash out at the Umaid Bhawan Palace (; 0091 291 251 0101), the current home of Jodhpur's royal family. Maharaja Umaid Singh built the 347-room, art-deco-style sandstone palace in the 1930s. Now, it's one part royal residence, one part museum, and one part Taj heritage hotel with 64 rooms. A whimsical collection of 20th-century heirlooms including vintage automobiles and model airplanes are on display at the museum, which is open to non-guests from 9am to 5pm. Doubles without breakfast are from 32,600 rupees, including taxes (Dh1,993).

At the heart of the frenetic old city is the Pal Haveli (; 0091 291 329 3328). The 21-room haveli-turned-hotel is full of old-world charm with its stained-glass windows and intricate wooden doorways. The decor consists of weapons and black-and-white photos, reminiscent of Jodhpur's glory days. For those who like to be in the thick of things, the buzzy clock-tower market is just outside. With doubles from 4,297 rupees (Dh263), it's a steal.

Raas (; 0091 291 263 6455) is a hip boutique property in the shadow of the Mehrangarh Fort, so close that you feel you could touch its walls. Stylishly restored haveli suites, a courtyard pool, fort views from almost every room, and a little spa – Raas is all about living like royalty. Doubles with breakfast from 9,900 rupees (Dh606).

Find your feet

Get your bearings at the oh-so-grand 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort (; 9am-5pm; tickets 400 rupees [Dh24]), among the best-preserved forts in the country. Grab an audio guide, and make the fort's ramparts your first port of call for superb views of the Blue City. An action-packed account of Rajput history will keep you entertained (and informed) as you explore the labyrinth of narrow hallways and airy period rooms. The over-the-top galleries – originally royal bedchambers – are all gold-plated columns and mirror-work walls. Reflective stained-glass windows and patterned surfaces in the Takhat Vilas lend an oddly eerie air to this otherwise regal chamber.

It's easy to spend half a day listening to swoony stories about Mehrangarh. If the weather allows it, head down to the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park – a 170-acre area of volcanic rock formations and desert plants (

Meet the locals

Spread out at the foot of the fort lies the atmospheric Brahmapuri area, Jodhpur’s oldest quarter. Low-roofed indigo buildings, blue doorways and navy motifs cram the higgledy-piggledy alleyways, hence the Blue City moniker. The sudden departure from the otherwise arid sandstone hues of the desert city is a pleasing change. Here, children play hopscotch on the streets while turbaned men with ferocious moustaches and women in bright bandhej prints go about their deliciously slow-paced lives. They’re always willing to stop and chat about their ancestors, their city’s history, and – the question on everybody’s mind – why their houses are blue.

Book a table

Experiment with Rajasthan’s fierce flavours; there’s always stomach-soothing buttermilk to be had. Duck into Indique – Pal Haveli’s terrace restaurant – for winning views of the Mehrangarh Fort and the lit-up Gulab Sagar Lake. The largely Indian menu features North Indian staples such as vegetable curry, biryani and tandoori. A meal for two costs 2,000 rupees (Dh122).

For a lavish meal showcasing the lifestyle of the kings, head to On the Rocks (Ajit Bhawan, Circuit House; 0091 291 251 3333). This leafy garden restaurant is best for the fiery Rajasthani speciality, Laal Maas – falling-off-the-bone meat cooked in a curry of yogurt and chilli, for 360 rupees (Dh22).

Shopper’s paradise

The best bargains are to be had around the old city's Clock Tower. A maze of alleyways, it is chock-a-block with open-fronted shops manned by persuasive vendors selling all that is typically Rajasthani: swathes of tie-dye, leather satchels, high-fashion Jodhpur pants and block-printed cottons. The air is heavy with the smell of leather and spices. Fans of Rajasthani cuisine can get their masala fix at MV Spices (Shop 209-B;, where tandoori and meat masalas are on sale.

What to avoid

Midday sightseeing. The afternoon sun can be particularly punishing in the desert city. Save your outdoor walkabouts for the early mornings and evenings.

Don’t miss

On Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, fireworks light up the night sky above Mehrangarh Fort, while the city is all lit up with diyas (earthen lamps) and candles. It’s a lovely time to sit out on a haveli rooftop. Diwali falls on October 23 this year.

Go there

A return flight on Etihad ( from Abu Dhabi to Mumbai costs from Dh995, including taxes. From Mumbai, flights to Jodhpur take 90 minutes; and a return ticket is from Dh444 on Air India (