With its golden palaces and tranquil gardens where peacocks like to strut, there is a sense of grandeur and magic to Jaipur that is unparalleled in India. The Rajasthani capital is steeped in history and culture, and the splendours of its past come to life everywhere you turn. Dubbed the Pink City because of the colour of the stone used throughout its ancient walled town, this city unashamedly conjures a sense of flamboyance and celebration…

Travellers who choose to explore Jaipur will be transported to another time and place, where adventure and chance encounters can unfold at unexpected moments. Jaipur, with its Raj-era museums, bustling treasure-filled bazaars, exquisite bars, cafes and gardens, and those majestic sunset-shaded forts and palaces where the maharajas once lived, is the jewel in the crown of Rajasthan. Although it has a population of more than 3 million, Jaipur doesn’t dwarf you. It has all the colour and noise of Mumbai or Delhi but feels easily navigable and relatively relaxed, due in part to its hidden pockets of tranquility. Just as the old and new co-exist beautifully here, so too does the bustle and the calm.

Play… There is so much to do in Jaipur but shopping in the bazaars and visiting the city’s historical sights are undoubtedly its biggest drawcards. At its heart lies the sprawling City Palace, a striking blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture, still home to the former royal family. Wander leisurely through the regal complex of museums, textile galleries, shaded courtyards and gardens all housed within its walls. On another day, discover the narrow lanes and by-lanes of the Old City’s ancient bazaar. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to meet and shop from craftspeople who use basic tools and ancient traditions to make the most extraordinary variety of handicrafts, jewellery, wood-block printed textiles and household goods. Each street within the old market has its own designated lanes, and you will pass shop after shop of happy vendors sitting cross-legged on the floor sipping chai or crouched over their benches fashioning trinkets.

An early morning visit to Phool Mandi, the Janta (flower) market in the Old City will reward your senses with glorious smells and eye popping colour — bright orange marigolds overflow abundantly from sacks at your feet, the scent of roses fills the air and garlands of jasmine hang from stalls, all ready and waiting for the weekend’s wedding festivities.

The magnificent, honey-hued 17th century Amber Fort, just 11km northeast of Jaipur, is an ethereal example of Rajput architecture

and is possibly the city’s number one must-see historical sight.

And if you are looking for a romantic adventure outside of the city, try a private night safari at Dera Amer Elephant Camp. You get to spend time with the elephants, bathing and decorating them.

Another very smart thing to do in Jaipur is to eat and drink…

Eat… Rajasthani fare is not to be missed. Eating from street vendors when travelling through India is always a fun experience and will offer you authenticity, flavour and surprise, however Jaipur’s exceptional hotel restaurants offer some of the best examples of traditional local cooking. Saba Haveli hotel is one of the best-kept foodie secrets in the city. Come here to try the most delicious challis (sample platters) at great value. Ingredients are bought at the market daily and cooked fresh to order. Anokhi Cafe is a much- loved restaurant in the city, located next to their block print store. The menu features all organic products collected from their farm each day. Or for a change of pace or a special night out, Bar Palladio is one of Jaipur’s chicest and most luxurious destinations. Set within the sumptuous gardens of the Narain Niwas Palace, it is the perfect fusion of classic European elegance mixed with an unmistakable Indian twist. Created by a Swiss-Italian who left Venice for the textile world

of Jaipur, it is an incredibly elegant destination yet one completely lacking in pretension. With its tented pavilions dotted throughout the garden and its wandering peacocks, as well as the bold use of blue and white paint within the interior salon walls, Bar Palladio has a sense of the exotic — as seen through the fantasizing gaze of Europeans. It has the best wine list in the city and the Italian food has a spicy Indian edge.

Stay… There is no shortage of beautiful heritage hotels in Jaipur. Narain Niwas Palace was built in 1928 as a getaway for one of the maharaja’s confidantes and was later converted into a hotel. The building has remained with one family for 90 years so there is an authenticity to it that is hard to duplicate. The hotel joyfully reflects the city’s charms and quirks — mango-yellow facades, ornate chandeliers, caged parakeets and verdant lawns and gardens. It is a relaxing antidote to the bustling city outside.

Jobner Bagh is a hidden oasis right in the middle of the bustling city. It is a small guest- house with just 12 rooms that are set within the grounds of a tranquil garden, perfect for reading or enjoying a quiet gin and tonic. Home cooked Rajasthani food is served on the rooftop here, accompanied by one of the best views of Tiger Fort — a must at sunset! The guest house also has a charming spa and wee antiquities store within the grounds.

Photography and travel tips— Lara Hotz