Do you dream of old-school Hollywood glamour? Did you spend hours as a child practicing Marilyn Monroe poses in the mirror or styling your hair like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday? Then you’ll definitely want to spend 24 hours on a Jaipur itinerary. India’s legendary pink city has everything that could possibly appeal to a lover of vintage.
First of all, and I can’t stress this enough, it is a pink city. (More on this later, I promise.) But if that’s not enough glamour for you, we’ve got a Bollywood movie palace, hot air balloon rides, an extraordinary vintage camera, and enough jewelry and clothing shopping to satisfy Lorelei Lee. Just follow me, dah-link!
Keep in mind that, unlike most of my 24 hour itineraries, I did this one on a group tour with Intrepid Travel’s Classic Rajasthan tour. I highly recommend it if you don’t feel like exploring a huge country like India solo. The Intrepid tour arranged most of our activities in this itinerary, but you could certainly experience the same 24 hours in Jaipur on your own. I’ll give you all the tips you need!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that just because this Jaipur itinerary is for 24 hours in Jaipur, that doesn’t mean you should only spend 24 hours in Jaipur. If you want to add 24 hours in Delhi, click here.
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24 Hours: Jaipur Itinerary
Morning: Hot Air Balloon Ride
Our Jaipur itinerary begins crazy early with a sunrise balloon ride. So I’m aware that flying through the air with the greatest of ease in a hot air balloon is going to give some travelers the wiggins. But never fear, Internet Stranger! Intrepid Travel arranged for part of our group to take a sunrise hot air balloon ride with Skywaltz. (If you’re not taking the Classic Rajasthan tour, you can just contact Skywaltz directly for your tour.)
There’s no way Intrepid Travel would arrange for us to take a hot air balloon ride if it weren’t completely safe. Do you know what a hassle it would be for their lawyers if anything went wrong? That’s why all the young women from our tour group decided to give it a try. (We kept yelling things like BRAVE LADIES at each other for inspiration.) I know when you soar into the skies of Jaipur, you’ll get much more than…
three fun facts: hot air balloons
1) what tips do I need to know?
The absolute number one tip I can give you for this Jaipur itinerary is to not drink anything at all the morning of the hot air balloon ride. (Says the girl who needs to drink a hot cup of joe as soon as she swings her legs out of bed in the morning.) There’s one simple reason for this: there are no restrooms anywhere near the hot air balloon ride. So from your hotel to the two hour hot air balloon flight to the ride back to your hotel, you won’t be able to pee. Plan accordingly!
The other tip is that even if you visit India when the weather is warm, it’s going to be chilly in the morning before sunrise. And it will be even more frigid when you rise up into the skies. After all, you’ll get up to 800 meters in the air! Bundle up as much as you think you need to bundle up. Then add a few more layers on top of that. You don’t want to be distracted from the psychotically stunning views because you have frozen toes.
2) why is hot air ballooning?
Like all strange and beautiful things, hot air ballooning was invented by the French. To be more specific, it was invented by the Montgolfier brothers in the 19th century. (In French, hot air balloons are called montgolfieres.)
As you can imagine, their test flights caused quite a stir in the French countryside at the time. Peasants saw the hot air balloons with their fierce flames and thought they might possibly be dragons. So naturally they brought out their pitchforks and started attacking the hot air balloons. (As you do.)
The aeronauts piloting the hot air balloons came up with a brilliant solution to this problem. They would bring a bottle of champagne with them on their flights. That way when the peasants came out with their pitchforks, they would give them the champagne and all was well. The idea that you should give champagne to peasants to prove you’re not a dragon is one of the most French things I have ever heard!
Nowadays, it’s still tradition to drink champagne at the end of a successful balloon flight. We didn’t get any with Skywaltz, but maybe that’s only because Indian champagne is sadly not yet as popular as French champagne. But we did get a certificate confirming we had taken our first hot air balloon ride! That’s much nicer than champagne because it’s hard to frame champagne and put it on your wall.
3) how do the locals feel about the hot air balloons?
It must be wacky to live in one of the houses near the hot air balloon field and see these bulbous beasts taking flight every dawn. But the locals we saw seemed crazy enthusiastic about our flight. As we ascended, we spied people on their rooftops hopping up and down and waving to us. (Naturally the wee ones were the most excited.) Be sure to wave back, Internet Stranger!
When we landed there were even more locals waiting with breathless anticipation to watch us land. This was a little embarrassing because hot air balloon landings are quite bumpy and sometimes involve tumbling over. Be sure to wear thick leggings underneath a skirt unless you want to give people a free show! (Did I learn this from bitter experience or not? I’ll never tell!)
Our pilot, Francisco, said that the local teenagers have gotten less excited about the hot air balloons. When SkyWaltz first starting operating, people would get too close to the hot air balloon during the landing, which can be dangerous. But now the kids know the rules, so they wait from a safe distance while the balloon is landing. I feel like it only takes one person getting bonked on the head by a hot air balloon to teach everyone else to stay back!
24 Hours: Jaipur Itinerary
Afternoon: Explore Jaipur
After the early morning hot air balloon ride, you’ll probably want to head back to your hotel before continuing the Jaipur itinerary. And that’s for the best, because Jaipur is at its most lovely in the bright light of day. That’s when the pink buildings can be seen in their best light.
Jaipur wasn’t always a pink city. Back when India was occupied by the British, Prince Albert, who was Queen Victoria’s husband, paid a Very Royal Visit to Jaipur. The Maharaja (ruler) of Jaipur wanted to get on Prince Albert’s good side because I guess no one told him the royal family has no actual power in England. So he painted the entire city pink, as pink is a color of hospitality.
The gambit worked, and Prince Albert went back home gushing to everyone about the gorgeous pink city of Jaipur. Prince Albert was obviously very secure in his masculinity because he didn’t mind openly loving pink and having a wife who outranked him. I respect that! Anyway, even though Prince Albert is dead and never visiting Jaipur again, it’s still tradition to keep the buildings pink.
We’ll see plenty of pink buildings, never you fear, while we check out the…
approximately top 5: Jaipur itinerary
1) fabric shopping
Jaipur is arguably the best shopping city in India. And this is saying something because there are approximately a flobbity-jillion shops in every Indian city. But Jaipur is especially famous for its intricate textiles. Many of the fabrics use a special technique called block printing. Our first stop on our Jaipur itinerary was at a block printing shop on Amer Road (I believe it was called Ridhi Sidhi) to see a demonstration.
You start with a plain fabric. Then you take one of the blocks with a design printed on it. It can be a simple design like the pineapple or an elaborate one like the elephants. Finally dip it in colored ink and just stamp away! I mean, the folks who make the fabric are highly trained so I’m sure there’s more to it than that. But something about stamps brings out my inner preschooler.
One of the best things about shopping at a wholesaler like this is that you get crazy good deals on the fabric. I bought two skirts and one blouse for a fraction of what I would have paid back home in New York. If you’re staying another night in Jaipur, they will even take your measurements and turn the fabric into clothes for you!
The sewing work on my blouse and blue skirt were excellent, but the orange skirt was rushed and I had to get it redone when I returned home. So I might recommend just buying the fabric and having a tailor in your hometown turn it into clothing.
2) Diamonds are a girl’s best friend
Along with textiles, Jaipur is famous for selling jewels. Our next shop stop on the Jaipur itinerary was a short distance away at Marco Polo. If you aren’t interested in shopping, this is still an interesting place to visit for the presentation on gems. The manager of the shop told us that Jaipur is famous for selling gemstones because the earth around the Pink City is full of them. Gems + Pink? Are we really sure that Marilyn Monroe didn’t invent Jaipur?
The manager then passed around various gemstones, from emeralds to rubies, so we could see how different they looked after they have been polished. (Don’t even think about slipping them into your pocket, Internet Stranger! I seriously doubt the jails in Jaipur are pink.) The unpolished gems are so dull and bleh. I really wonder who the first person was who realized you could polish a stone and make it gorgeous and worth a jillion dollars. He should have patented this idea.
Almost everyone in our group bought something here because the prices were so good. Plus each piece came with a receipt guaranteeing its authenticity. I bought some gifts, but for myself I added to my insane earring collection with these Indian Star rubies. (The Indian Star refers to the burst of light inside the gem.) Definitely get one of the Indian Star gems if you can afford it because they’re quite rare outside of the country.
3) palace of the winds
All right, enough shopping! It’s time to get to know the pink buildings better! We’re heading straight for the most gorgeous building in Jaipur, the Palace of the Winds. (In Hindi, its name is the Hawa Mahal.) It was built as a palace for the royal women, and it has almost 1,000 windows. That was done so the women inside could look out on the streets as much as they wanted, but no one on the outside could see the princesses and other fine ladies.
Fun Fact! This is actually the back of the palace. I don’t even know what the front of the palace looks like. But that just proves how much money the Maharaja of Jaipur had because he could make the back of his palace look so fab. I think the back of my apartment building is just a sad shade of dirty beige, but I’m pretty sure no maharajas had anything to do with building it.
The best way to get here from the shops is by tuktuk. Just ask for the Hawa Mahal and the driver will know where to take you. But get ready to hang on for dear life because tuktuk rides in Jaipur do not slow down for anything! And also get ready to make friends with some local cows. I named this one Bessie and we still exchange postcards.
4) city palace, jaipur
After seeing the pink lady palace, you’ll probably want to get closer to the actual City Palace. It’s not actually possible to go inside the entire palace complex because the royal family of Jaipur still lives here and we don’t want to walk in on them in their jammies.
I had no idea the royal family of Jaipur was still alive, and now I have no many questions. How do they feel about being ruled by a prime minister? And are they friends with the British royal family, or are they still mad about the “decades of oppression” thing?
The City Palace, like many other Very Fancy Royal Homes, has now been turned into a museum, the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum. My group did not have enough time to explore the museum on this Jaipur itinerary, but if you have more than 24 hours in Jaipur, it should definitely be worth a visit. I mean, don’t you want to see the home of any family rich enough to afford to clean 1000 windows on a regular basis?
24 hour tip
Watch out for the animals all over the palace complex. Someone (not in our group) threw a bunch of grain on the ground and was immediately swarmed by a flock of goats and pigeons. This can be disorienting if you aren’t prepared.
5) the civil war camera
Hands down, the coolest thing I saw in Jaipur was this gentleman who had an actual working camera from the 1860s. He didn’t speak much English, but his assistant spoke the language flawlessly. The Civil War Cameraman had his own little studio set up in the street, and for 5 dollars he would take your black and white portrait.
For any lover of vintage, this is an offer we cannot refuse. And now I have a photo of me looking like a sad Union girl waiting for her brave boy in blue to come back home. But what she doesn’t know is that he was already killed at the Battle of Gettysburg…
Obviously I cannot point you towards the Civil War Cameraman’s website, and I don’t recommend strolling down the streets of Jaipur screaming, “WHERE ARE YOU CIVIL WAR CAMERAMAN.” He was set up near the Palace of Winds when I visited, so I suggest looking near there. It’s very hard to miss a photography studio set up in the middle of the street.
24 Hours: Jaipur Itinerary
Evening: Bollywood at the Raj Mandir
We can’t spend 24 hours in Jaipur without taking in a Bollywood film! And the Raj Mandir movie palace is one of the most gorgeous cinemas I have ever seen. I suggest getting dinner in the form of movie snacks and settling in for a long evening of singing, dancing, and crime fighting. (The movie snacks are crazy cheap compared to the US.)
You need to buy your tickets for the Raj Mandir in advance, and our guide Ronny did that for us. But if you don’t have a Ronny, ask at your hotel if they have advice about buying tickets here. Before you ask, it’s unlikely the show will be in English. The Raj Mandir has only one screen, and when we went it was showing a Bollywood film called Simmba.
Simmba is an almost indescribable film. It’s a revenge fantasy/love story/musical. It’s basically Dirty Harry meets Singing in the Rain. I was incredibly sleepy from the hot air balloon ride, so I kept dozing off during the film. But even with the sleeping and the fact that the movie was entirely in Hindi, a language I don’t speak, I could always follow the plot. Simmba is not a subtle film. I’m sure you’ll follow along with any Bollywood musical just fine too.
That’s a Perfect Jaipur Itinerary!
What would you do on a Jaipur itinerary? Why would someone throw a whole bunch of grain in the street? And what sounds like a better movie: Dirty Harry meets Singing in the Rain or Citizen Kane meets RoboCop? Please leave your thoughts below!