visiting jaipur's forts

How to Visit Jaipur’s Three Forts in 1 day [Amber, Jaigarh and Nahagarh]

If you like forts, then you need to come to Rajasthan, India.  If you love forts, then you should come to Jaipur, where you can indulge your fort love easily.  You can even, like we did, visit all three in one day.  Here’s our guide to Jaipur’s Three Forts In One Day– Amber, Jaigarh and Nahagarh

We start our exploration of Jaipur’s three forts at the most famous, Amber Fort.  It’s just a short ride out from Jaipur city.

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Amber Fort – Jaipur

How to Get to Amber Fort

Amber Fort is around an hour from the railway station in Jaipur.  It’s situated in the small town of Amer and is often alternatively called Amer Fort.  You will most likely see signs for both, and whether you called it Amer or Amber, people will understand you.  The first budget option to get there is the number 5 bus, which costs 15 INR from MI Road and the Ajmeri Gate.  You can alternatively catch it near the Hawa Mahal.

The second option, and the one that we took, is an auto.  Ours cost 200 INR from the railway station and most of our hour was spent bouncing over horrendous roads getting out of the city.

The first sighting of the fort is glorious.

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There are two entrances to the road up to Amber Fort.  First of all the walking up entrance is through the gardens where you see the AMBER FORT brown sign.  This is opposite the Moonstone restaurant.  This is the route that the Elephants take up and this the entrance is further along the road and down the hill.  You can walk alongside them on a small path.

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Amber Fort and Composite Tickets

The ticket office is at the top, inside the fort, directly opposite the main gates as you walk through.   We, had, however, already purchased the composite Foreign Tourist ticket for 350 INR.  (2016 rates are 400 INR).   The Jaipur combined ticket gives you entry to Amber Fort, Nahagarh Fort, the Albert Hall Government Museum, Jantar Mantar, the Hawa Mahal, the Sisodia Garden and the Vidhyadhar Garden.  It’s valid for two days.

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Our visit to Amber Fort

The fort is actually only eleven kilometres from Jaipur, in the town of Amer.  We just must have had the slowest auto driver in the world.  The fort is glorious on first appearance.  It’s constructed from red sandstone, which is covered in white plaster, which gives it a marble like appearance.

Guides at Amber Fort

The fort itself is extensive.  Lonely Planet will tell you that you need an audio or human guide as there are lots of corridors and it’s hard to find your way round.  We disagree.  What you actually need is either a map or further detailed information about the fort, which you can get from the following sources.  We collated them, downloaded them to our Kindle and combined it with an audio guide and had a great time at the fort.  However, as you’ll read below, we think the audio guide is a waste of money.

Human guides will find you as you attempt to climb the steps to the left of the first gate and into the palace.  Audio guides are available once you have climbed these steps and gone through the “security” check at the top.  Turn right. 

Audio guides cost 150 INR each and the most useful part of them is the map.  Otherwise, the audio guide is wordy, lengthy but mostly uninformative.

Here’s the map.

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The fort and palace is quite stunning in areas, especially the Sheesh Mahal, or the Hall of Mirrors, and you’ll get some glorious views of the floating gardens and Jaigarh fort behind the fort.   Come early or late for the best light on the walls and significantly less tourists.  Amber Fort gets a HUGE number of tourists, so you’ll really want to try and avoid the crowds (and holiday times) as much as possible.

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It’s easier if you think of the Palace at Amber Fort as being split into four main sections.  Each section has its own entry gate and courtyard.  The main gate is the Sun Gate, Suraj Pol.  This leads to the first main courtyard, which is called Jaleb Chowk.  It’s here that returning armies would hold victory parades.

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Diwan-i-am

In the second courtyard is the Diwan-i-am – the public audience hall.  It’s a beautiful structure, with 27 fabuous pillars and a gorgeous ceiling.   There are latticed windows above the next gate, so that the royal ladies could watch the functions.

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Ganesh Pol

The next gate is beautiful.  This is Ganesh Pol.  It’s a popular place for photos and we wait our turn more patiently than most.   The Ganesh Gate is named after Lord Ganesh, the Hindu God and it’s the entrance to the Maharajas private palaces.

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Sheesh Mahal

This is where it gets REALLY beautiful.  There are two buildings here, separated by a Mughal style garden.  On the left of the entrance gate is the Jai Mandir or the Sheesh Mahal – the Mirror Palace.  It is covered in panels inlaid with glass, not just on the walls, but the ceilings as well.  It’s very easy to imagine this at night, lit by candles, because even now, in the heat of the day, it’s glorious.

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Views down to the Maotha Lake are also pretty special here too.

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The Sukh Niwas, Sukh Mahal or Hall of Pleasure is the building on the opposite side.

The fourth and final courtyard is where the royal women lived.  This is the zenana.

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Jaigarh Fort

Amber Forted out, we took our leave and continued up the slightly steep paved road to Jaigarh Fort.  Visiting Jaigarh Fort is a no brainer if you’re already at Amber Fort.

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The ticket prices is included in the Foreign Tourist Composite Ticket and if you don’t feel up to the walk then you can apparently get a ride up.  It’s about 25 minutes slow wander up the hill.

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The only sign of the proposed electric golf cart access to the fort was one that was being lounged on by the security staff at the bottom and another at the top with a broken front axle.

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It’s a pleasant walk up and with a breeze it wasn’t too hot.  There are drinks sellers at the top in the fort and also a restaurant.

As you approach Amer, and at the bottom of the hill, actually even from Amber Fort itself, it looks like there are two forts – one much higher up the hill than the other.  It is all in fact Jaigarh Fort and the seemingly separate buildings are connected, so you will be walking up to the tower where you see the flag flying.

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There’s a 50 INR camera fee, but the only place that anyone is watching you is at the Jai Vana cannon area.    So if you want a photo of Jai Vana, the world’s largest cannon, then you’ll need a camera ticket.

Navigating Jaigarh Fort

As you enter the fort, there is a map detailing the layout.  Take a look and then wander around.  To the right are toilets (clean, not smelly) and if you follow around the road around you’ll find the cannon foundry, some great views down over the Amber Fort and an enclosed courtyard with random displays of arms, beds and other “stuff”. Back at the entrance heading to the left, you’ll enter a courtyard, where cold drinks and snacks (20 for a dried out veg ‘samosa”) are on sale.

In this courtyard are two indoor exhibits.  On the left the military life of Jai Singh II.  It’s mainly photographs and some personal items, but it’s well laid out, well signed and worth a look of 10-15 minutes or so.   On the right, although the entrance is at the far end, is a corridor of cannons and armoury with poor signage and little clarity on the displays. Walk through in 5 minutes unless you’re a cannon buff.

Also off this courtyard, through the first arch, on your right as you enter is the palace complex.  It’s a bit of a maze.  There are lots of open courtyards, random displays of maharajahs and ladies dining rooms and a puppet theatre, where of course, you can buy the puppets as a souvenir.  There’s also a lovely formal garden and plus some spectacular views down to the Amber fort.   You’ll likely be tailed by a “guard’, but you can lose them easily if you don’t want the unofficial “tip” tour.

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The World’s Largest Wheeled Cannon – Jai Vana

Jai Vana can be found by passing through the courtyard with the cold drinks.  Then go through the archway and past the restaurant.  Finally you’ll start to see a sign and a structure with a corrugated tin roof.  It’s perhaps 10 minute walk from the first courtyard.

They will check your tickets again here and warn you about taking photos without a camera ticket and they’re definitely watching you here!

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The world’s largest cannon on wheels is quite spectacular and also from here you can see magnificent views of Jal Mahal (the palace in the water) back towards Jaipur and further views down to Amber Fort.

It’s well worth heading up to Jaigarh.  It might not have the palatial splendour of Amber, but the fortifications are superb and it’s an easy walk around.

So, that’s two of Jaipur’s three forts, next stop is Nahagarh, which is back closer to Jaipur City.  There are a couple of ways to get there.

Jaigarh Fort to Nahagarh Fort

You can take an auto from Jaigarh Fort to the bottom of the fort road in Jaipur and walk up.  We negotiated a cost of 180 INR.   It’s pretty much like going back to where we started.  However, two forts in, and still another to see, we succumbed to lassitude and took the much longer road route all the way to the top, to Nahagarh Fort.  This much longer trip cost us 300 INR.  It has marvellous views of the Jal Mahal and of course your auto driver will stop on request.  Actually he’ll probably stop and demand you take photos, or have your photo taken.

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Nahagarh Fort – Jaipur

Our Foreign Tourist Composite Ticket (400 INR in 2016) covered us for entry to Nahargh Fort.  If you don’t have a ticket, then there’s a ticket office that you’ll see as you walk through the arch way, however, if you have a composite tickets, then they aren’t checked until you get to the palace.  Nahagarh Fort is huge.

There are extensive grounds up here and also two cafes that open 530pm – 1030pm where you can watch the sunset.  If you plan to stay in one of them and watch, then there are cover charges to pay as well as the cost of your drinks and food.  It’s 30-50 INR per person.

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The Palace at Nahagarh Fort

The palace is beautiful.  There’s no audio guide, but you can take a human guide, although we didn’t, however it is a lovely palace to just wander around.   Wall and ceiling decoration is gorgeous in a faded elegant sort of way.  There are fabulous views down over Jaipur and you can specifically see the Jantar Mantar.   The best views, are of course, from the roof.

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And the award for the best toilets of the day goes to the palace here.  They’re behind the palace and are clean, although there are no lights.

Walking Down from Nahagarh Fort to Jaipur

We cheated by taking an auto to the fort, but we did walk back down.   To get to the road down, you have to walk back out through the entrance archway until you get to a fork in the road, then turn back on yourself, follow this road until you get to the fort wall, where there’s a gateway, go through the gateway and then you’re on the road down.   The map might help that make a little more sense.

It’s pretty steep and you’ll be sharing it with two wheelers, who will take great delight in wanting to share whatever part of the road you are on despite there being lots of space for them. It’s not nice at the bottom of the hill.  This is a pretty poor area, it’s dirty, there are lots of wandering animals and you’ll need to be very careful where you step.

I can’t imagine this is a walk that the Jaipur tourist office would promote.  There were very few auto and cycle rickshaws here, and no one tried to give us a ride.  It’s definitely not an area where I would willingly walk as a single female.

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We did, however, of course, make it back to our hotel, the lovely, Aashiyana, where we were staying for three nights in total.

So there you have it.  Jaipur’s three forts in one day – easy, gorgeous and definitely unmissable.   We’re heading north now, to Jaisalmer.  Oh yes, there’s another fort in our future and this one is really, truly, spectacular.

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