Hawa Mahal or "Palace of the Winds" in Jaipur, India

Jaipur is bursting with forts, museums, and palaces – and most are well worth seeing. But every travel book will tell you all about them, so here we take a different approach. Instead, we’ve handpicked nine itinerary items that will keep your Jaipur trip lively and fresh because travel is about adventure and experience, not just dusty artifacts and ancient architecture.

Get to know the city on foot

Before you do anything else in Jaipur, grab yourself a copy of Dharmendra Kanwar’s 10 Easy Walks in Jaipur (there are several good bookshops on Chaura Rasta, south of Jantar Mantar). This favorite of both visitors and locals alike will enrich your street wanderings.
Of course, if you are staying in a Mahindra Homestay, your host will be willing to furnish you with directions and recommendations, and may even offer to guide you around the neighborhood.

Start your day with something sweet

Mishri Mawa, made with milk, cardamom, and pistachio nuts, is the signature dish of Jaipur. To taste it in its most beautiful form, enter the cult kachori joint Rawat Mishtan Bhandar on Station Road and place your order. Founded 135 years ago, the shop has served royals and heads of state.

Inspect Jaipur’s best-known feature

There’s not much to see inside the Palace of Winds, but that shouldn’t stop you standing outside Hawa Mahal and marveling at its towering pink sandstone façade. The five tiers of window arches and balconies were built by an 18th-century maharaja, so that the palace’s ladies could observe the streets without being seen. For a different perspective, try it at night when the front is dramatically illuminated.

Witness a dying art

The quintessential Indian image of the turban-wearing snake charmer is under threat. Snake-charming is dying out due to stricter law enforcement. However, Jaipur is somewhere you may still spot a practitioner of this ancient street theatre. He will most likely be an Indian Romani, plying the same trade as his father and grandfather. Look out around the MI Road and City Palace.

Take a royal ride

If you’re going to visit a hilltop fort, why not choose the best one in India. Glorious Amber Fort sits over serene Lake Maotha, just five miles outside Jaipur. To get fully immersed, climb aboard a royally-decorated elephant and ascend the hill in regal style.

Bag some quality handicrafts

Jaipur is the crafts capital of India, with a tradition of craftsman and artisans that stretches back to the city’s original foundations. Here you can find the best the country has to offer, in everything from jewelry, pottery, and marble to carpets, sarees and paintings. The government emporium on MI Road is a starting point.

Get lost in a puppet story

Puppetry is one of the oldest forms of popular entertainment in India, and it retains its national allure. Jaipur, which plays regular host to the Putul Yatra puppet carnival, has a large number of enthusiasts. The local Kathputli form, using small wooden dolls on strings, has been around for a thousand years, conveying moral messages and exploring social issues. Even today, it deals with modern themes such as global warming. Jawahar Kala Kendra arts center is an excellent place to find out about shows – or if you’re staying in a Mahindra Homestay, your host will be able to help you.

Watch polo with thousands of others

Jaipur loves polo, and Rajasthan has proudly produced most of India’s best players. When you consider its aristocratic traditions, it’s no surprise that the game thrives in Jaipur’s royal culture. It’s not unusual for over 20,000 people to watch a polo final. Rambagh Polo Ground in the center of the city plays host to the big games.

Float across the city rooftops

When you’ve finished exploring the deep corners of Jaipur at street level, get an impressive overview of the whole city by taking a balloon ride. This new way to see the Pink City comes at a price – around $300 for a one hour trip – but with views to the Aravalli mountains and the desert, it’s the perfect way to end your Jaipur jamboree.