The sheer magic and brilliance of the Thar desert | Jaisalmer, India

The desert town of Jaisalmer, in the Rajasthan state of India, will once you have visited, be forever etched in your heart.

It is one of India’s destinations that offers an unforgettable and enchanting experience whereby you can witness the rustic and rural desert life of this diverse country.

It is located just 30kms from Pakistan's border, which means that getting there is quite the journey, 18 hours by train from Delhi to be precise.

But, having visited there myself, I can assure you that it is worth every minute of the gruelling journey.

Camelback Safaris

The camelback safaris through the rippling, windswept golden sand dunes of the Thar Desert are the town’s most beloved activity.

If you really want to go off the beaten path and have a rustic experience, then opt to spending a night under the canopy of stars.

You can choose between a simple outdoor camp, whereby you will sleep on customized bedrolls, or if you are a luxury lover, spend the night in one of the many luxury tented camps available that will make you feel like you’re glamping with the Royals.

The Thar Desert

The Thar Desert, also known as the Great Indian Desert, is one of 18 of the worlds largest deserts. It spans an area of 200,000 km2 and forms a natural border between Pakistan and India.

As a matter of fact, 85% of the desert stretches across 5 states in India, with the remaining 15% in Pakistan.

Equally important, is that the Thar Desert dates back billions of years. The desert sand over metamorphic rocks formed about 2.5 to 4 billion years ago.

By the same token, the sand covers sedimentary rocks which have been formed about 2.5 billion to 541 million years ago.

The Journey

Due to its diversified ecosystem and vegetation,  human culture and animal life is very rich here in contrast to the other deserts of the world.

Your thrilling ride will take you through the arid of landscapes that changes dramatically as you travel through it. Stretches of sand are interspersed by hillocks, gravel plains and rocky plateaus.

Keep your eyes peeled for some of the desert’s wildlife.  Leopard, the Asiatic wild cat, caracals, wolves, snakes, scorpions, gazelles, red foxes and mongoose can usually be spotted.

The Sam dunes, standing 45 to 50m’s high fall part of the popular tourist route. It is insanely commercial and overcrowded, detracting from the tranquillity the desert offers.

My favourites are the more quaint sand dunes near the Khuri Village in the Desert National Park. The natural patterns of the Pukhar dunes are also pretty impressive to!

Village Life

Your camel will be lifting her legs off the sand rhythmically, passing by small Dhanis (villages). You will learn about the traditional daily life of the locals and get to know the culture of Jaisalmer more deeply.

Surprising, this desert is the most civilized in the world. Whats more, is it is also the most populated one, with a population density of 83 people per km2

Taking the size of this ancient land into account, its very seldom that you will see an abundence of people along the way.

A Midday Siesta

You will appreciate the lunch stop and the subsequent siesta that follows your ride. Set up camp at the nearby Lokhri dune, perch yourself under the acacia trees, and catch a snooze while your guides cook up a feast.

After lunch, you will veer off the track, and head to a village water cistern so your camel can drink its stomach full.


Once you arrive at your camp, enjoy the serene silence as glowing red rays of the splendid sunset illuminates the dunes.

A light cool breeze fills the area as dinner is prepared on an open fire. Usually, dal curry and chapati make the menu.

Stories unfold around the bonfire as the canvas of glittering stars makes their presence. Admire the closeness of the galaxy before falling off to sleep.

The Next Day

Wakeup to darkness slowly fading and view the yellow hues, given off by the rising sun.

Breakfast is usually chai tea prepared on an open fire followed by a basic breakfast. You will then depart on a 6 journey back your pick up point where a jeep will be waiting for you.

Thar Desert Festivals

Why not plan your trip around Rajasthan’s annual desert festival? Every year during winter, locals celebrate with great zest and zeal in a colourful celebration of tradition.

They dress in brilliantly hued costumes and haunt ballads of valour, romance and tragedy.

Snake charmers, puppeteers, acrobats and folk performers attribute to the rich and colourful culture of the region. Competitions exist for the best-dressed camel and the person who excels the most at turban tying.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit is during the cooler dry months, from September to March. After March, the desert becomes unbearably hot, and then the monsoon season starts.

Article first published on THE SOUTH AFRICAN.

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