While researching my trip to Jodhpur earlier this year, I came across Jodhpur-focussed blogs and websites regurgitating the same top 10 things to do in Jodhpur, the same Jodhpur sightseeing ideas. So it became my mission to go beyond the typical ‘things to do and see in Jodhpur’ lists and dig deeper for cool and unusual experiences in the blue city.
On a late afternoon, under the warm blue sky, we scrambled up an overgrown trail, past tiny wildflowers and large rocks, until the majestic Mehrangarh Fort appeared before us, glowing in the golden sunshine. On a rooftop adjacent to the old city walls, in the gentle breeze, two young kids flew colourful kites, transporting me to the India of yore. Taking in the awe-inspiring view and the surrounding desert wilderness, I gradually shed the notion that Jodhpur is only about the blue city.
Behold, some wild, adventurous and offbeat things to do in Jodhpur:
Hike the trails of Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park
Legend has it that in the strikingly barren desert terrain of Jodhpur, a king once dropped a mix of Mexican desert seeds from his private plane, hoping they would create food and wood for his people. But some seeds grew into bushes that invaded the land and let nothing else grow. So in the early 2000s, a project began to pull out the invasive species without destroying the rocky terrain. Six painstaking years later, the land was replanted with native species and the area is now christened Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park – perhaps Jodhpur’s most underrated attraction.
We spent hours hiking the different trails, taking in the imposing views of Mehrangarh Fort and the old blue city, watching birds dip into the man-made lakes, looking out for tiny desert creatures in the wilderness… with hardly anyone else in sight.
Tip: The 100 rupee (>2$) entry fee is totally worth it.
Have a romantic evening on a candle-lit rooftop
Like most visitors to Jodhpur, we first landed up at Indique (Pali Haveli) – a popular restaurant with incredible views of Mehrangarh Fort, but unfortunately, with a rather disappointing choice of food and drinks. So every night in Jodhpur, we tried a different rooftop hangout, like the newly opened Indigo and the rustic Dagley. But it was on our last night that we finally stumbled upon a true gem – Darikhana, a cosy, candle-lit, understated rooftop bar, with stellar views of the fort, sumptuous food with many ingredients sourced from their own organic garden, and a feeling that this is how the royals must’ve savoured the city.
Tip: Prior reservation is required at Darikhana for dinner or drinks.
Feast on wild desert berries
From my first visit to Jodhpur with my family many years ago, all I remember eating is gatte ki sabji (fried balls of chickpea flour in a curry). And while that’s a local delight I still enjoy, what I love more is ker sangri – wild berries that grow all over the Thar Desert. Stir-fried with Indian spices, it is savoury on the taste buds and always evokes wistful memories of my time wandering around the endless sand dunes of Rajasthan’s desert.
In fact, the chaotic street market at the clock tower in Jodhpur was once a traditional market where local textiles were bartered with passing Arab merchants, for vegetables, lentils and other food – because ker sangri was the only thing people could get from their own land.
Tip: I loved the ker sangri preparation – with less oil on request – at Ekatra, the in-house restaurant at Radisson Jodhpur.
Stay in a hotel built like a traditional red sandstone haveli
It would be a shame to travel to Jodhpur and stay somewhere that’s not an original indigo house or a red sandstone haveli. So I was happy to settle into Radisson Jodhpur – using my Radisson Rewards points on assignment – for the hotel is designed to emulate the original red sandstone architecture of Jodhpur, complete with a shaded leafy courtyard and relaxing day beds in the balcony. I loved the restful sleep, lavish breakfasts and the rooftop with a serene view of the fort.
Tip: Say no to plastic bottled water; ask housekeeping to send you a glass bottle with RO water instead. Every bit counts.
Cycle through the old city
I won’t try to sugarcoat the “blue city” of Jodhpur for you. As much as I wanted to see the naturally coloured indigo rooftops, hear water from the catchment area – filtered by sand, an engineering feat to get clean drinking water – trickle into the many baolis (step wells) of the city, and stand in awe before majestic old havelis with intricately carved doors, I couldn’t ignore the trash lining the streets and the stench from the open sewage. I couldn’t ignore the honking of bikes and autos as they manoeuvred the narrow by-lanes, or the flies I had to keep swatting away…
And yet, somewhere in the chaos, the crumbling havelis still stand, elderly men still play cards under the banyan tree at the chowk, the baolis have become the playground of pigeons and a hint of our heritage still lives on. And you want to experience it anyway, right? We took it all in on an early morning guided bicycle ride that took us through the narrow by-lanes to undiscovered gems, and transported us to Jodhpur’s rich history with untold stories of the days gone by. You’ve been warned though.
Tip: We booked our bicycle trip through Jodhpur Cycling Tours, run by Jodhpur locals.
Indulge in healthy food at Cafe Filos
Let’s face it – Rajasthani food can be pretty heavy on the tummy, especially on a long and hot day out in Jodhpur. So I was delighted to stumble upon a local hangout – The Filos, a cosy 4-storey cafe, which sources organic ingredients and serves up delicious comfort cafe food. The staff is happy to customise dishes to be vegan; I loved their avocado bruschetta and hummus with baked pita. If I were staying longer in the city, it would totally be the cafe I’d work out of.
Tip: Encourage them to say no to straws and plastic packaging. If more of us demand it, they’re more likely to care!
Zip line with a panoramic view of Mehrangarh Fort
While hiking in Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park, I was surprised to see someone zoom past on a pretty long zip line, in the surreal backdrop of the historic Mehrangarh fort and above the rocky desert wilderness. Unfortunately I didn’t carry enough cash with me that day to try it, but I can imagine it must be one of the world’s most unique zip lines – and hey, I could use an excuse to go back and explore more of Jodhpur!
Tip: Book the zip line aka flying fox in Jodhpur online to get a discounted price.
Have you been to Jodhpur or do you plan to visit? Which of the above would you most like to try? What else would you add to my Jodhpur list?
*Note: I wrote this post in collaboration with Radisson Rewards, as part of a campaign to find memorable moments across India. Opinions on this blog, as you can tell, are always my own.