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Known as the Pink City, Jaipur is the gateway to Rajasthan. Its open promenades make it fairly easy to navigate, and a climb up to the Amer Fort gives you views across the old and new cities and the landscape beyond. There are markets stacked high with colourful spices, and there's plenty of delicious local food to try on the street stalls and in the restaurants. You can follow a meal with a cup of sweet masala chai while overlooking the teeming streets – traffic ranges from beeping cars and rickshaws to elephants and camels.
Hostels in Jaipur offer a taste of Indian culture. Many owners run food tours, so you get to experience home cooking and the exotic smells of a spice market. There are also roof terraces for joining in a daily yoga class or sipping a cold beer as the city lights come on below. Air con and female-only dorms are widely available, too. There is even one Jaipur hostel in a palace with bejewelled gardens and its own restaurant.
The neighbourhoods of modern Jaipur are built around the old city, which sits inside pink-toned sandstone walls. Here you'll find bazaars full of fabrics, silver jewellery and leather sandals. The Central Palace District houses the City Palace, and travellers come here to admire the intricate architecture. To get off the typical trail, stroll around Bani Park District to people-watch from under a shady tree or try contemporary Rajasthani cooking. Art lovers can visit Ashok Nagar District to stop in at its quirky galleries.
Jaipur is home to the Hawa Mahal – the delicate orange-and-white facade is the second most photographed building in India after the Taj Mahal. Nearby, you can wander the fanciful courtyards, halls and gardens of the City Palace. Take a walk at sunset to the magnificent Amer Fort, which has watched over the city for 400 years. Fans of astronomy should head for the UNESCO-listed Jantar Mantar, an observatory built in 1728 for measuring the heavens. To experience Jaipur like a local, take in the latest Bollywood release at Raj Mandir cinema – be prepared for lively audience participation!
Getting around Jaipur is easiest on a cycle rickshaw. There is a metro, but it's limited to just nine stops. Jaipur International Airport is 12km out, and you can prepay your ride at a booth inside the terminal. If you're getting around by bus, there are both local buses and air-conditioned coaches leaving the main station for cities such as Delhi, Agra and Udaipur daily.