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The India of myth and magic – elephants and tigers, enchanting scents and spices – enchants even the most jaded travelers to Rahasthan. Dubbed the “land of kings,” medieval cities have long prospered amidst the Great Indian Desert covering much of the Republic of India’s largest state. One of the most intriguing of these ancient cities, and its capital, is Jaipur, and there’s no better way to enter into the region’s rich history than the elephant rides at Amber Fort. Built in 1542 by Emperor Raja Man Singh, with improvements by later monarchs, Amber Fort has withstood the test of time and tourists – as many as 5000 make the climb daily, although not all go by elephant. In fact, if you don’t arrive early – by 10 a.m. at the lastest – to get in line before the elephants go on break, you’re out of luck. Reliving memories of when my husband and I visited 20 years ago, my children and I experienced the pomp and splendor of climbing the hill to Amber Fort aboard a majestic Indian elephant.
Amber Fort Photos
We lined up at the entrance to Amber Fort (located on the outskirts of Jaipur in the town of Amer,) where 900 Rupees (approx. $16.00) buys you a seat built for two on an elephant ride up the steep hill leading to the palace. I took very few photos aboard the elephant as I had to hold on tight or risk toppling over. Luckily, we have several excellent photo prints thanks to a slew of young photographers sporting Nikon cameras. Antonio was particularly persistent, and since he managed to get a few great shots of the kids, we ended up buying his photos (with the added benefit that my daughter had a chance to practice her haggling skills.) My elephant tamer (is the politically correct term, elephant driver?) was kind enough to stop en route so that I could catch a photo of my children (and their elephant’s excellent rump.) And of the view of Amer below. Entering through Suraj Pole (Sun Gate), as soldiers and royals did long ago, we could easily imagine that little had changed in hundreds of years. While the elephant ride was the highlight of the trip as far as we were concerned, it wasn’t all that there was to do at Amber Fort. For only 200 Rupees per person (approx. $4) – less for students with valid school ID – we toured Amber Palace with an audiobook on hand to explain what we were seeing.
Amber Palace is built atop the hill, spread across a series of courtyards that flower one above the other. Leaving the first courtyard where soldiers once celebrated victories, we continued on foot onto the second courtyard which houses Diwan-i-Am or the Public Audience Hall.
One building, among many within the series of courtyards, held my rapt attention more than any other – Jai Mandir, the Mirror Palace.
And yet, what truly kept me enthralled were the views of the valley.
Well, the view and the snake charmer.
For the rest of our family adventures in India and Nepal, see our Travel to India guide.