Hawa Mahal

The stunning façade of the Hawa Mahal defines Jaipur's wonderful Old Town. Constructed from red and pink landscape, the Hawa Mahal in Jaipur (also known as the Palace of the Winds) exhibits a startling and simply beautiful crimson hue that's shared by many of the buildings in the area. One look at the Hawa Mahal, however, and it somehow stands out from the rest. Grand, large, and intricate, it's quite unlike any other building you'll likely see regardless of how far you travel.

The Hawa Mahal in Jaipur was constructed in 1799 under the guidance of Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, who wanted to create a structure from which the ladies of his household could easily gaze over the city as it went about its business. The result is the building we see today; a delicate five-story flat façade that contains numerous windows looking out onto the streets below. For visitors who want to access these windows and the views they provide, a small charge is levied at the front gate, though expect to pay more for the privilege of taking a video camera along with you. The views are frankly astounding, and spending hours at one of the windows peering out through their shutters is easily one of the top things to do in this part of India.

For the very best view available, climb up to the rooftop of the Hawa Mahal in Jaipur. From here you can take the rest of the city palaces, and much of the Old City which extends around it.

The Palace of the Winds is called this because of the breezes that constantly come through the building's 953 windows. Effectively, they form an eighteenth century air-conditioning system, allowing cooling wind to blow through the palace's rooms. Even today, there is little need for added cooling ventilation, with the Palace of the Winds remaining at a naturally comfortable temperature throughout most of the year.

Away from the Hawa Mahal, Jaipur is typical of Indian cities in that it is both frustrating and rewarding, riddled with congestion and dotted with out-of-this-world tourist sights. Once they've toured the Hawa Mahal in Jaipur extensively, many visitors elect to spend more time in the Old City, which is characterized by more pink edifices that glow cherry-colored at sunset. The rest of the buildings, gardens, and courtyards at the city palaces, of which the Hawa Mahal is one, are certainly worth a visit, as is the nearby Jantar Mantar, a slightly surreal observatory that makes for a great few hours of exploration.

Jaipur is part of the famous Golden Triangle tours that also head to Delhi and Agra, so tourist amenities are in plentiful supply here. There are Jaipur hotels to suit every budget and taste, while the city also boasts a good line of Indian and international dining options, though you should be prepared to pay more for going overseas, so to speak. Transportation to and from the city is equally easy, with trains proving an efficient, exciting, and wonderfully affordable public transport service. Consequently, access to major cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai is excellent.

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