Jaipur is the state capital of Rajasthan and is known to all as the "Pink City" because of the colour of all the old buildings(above). But in reality, the Jaipur of today is two cities, with the old city at its heart and a new city that has sprung up outside. It is the old city that appeals to the visitor, and at this time of year, after the monsoon, it is lush and green and there are many gardens and green spaces to visit because Jaipur is in bloom. That said, it would be impossible to write here, without referring to some of the other majestic sights on offer.
I have been here for just two brief days, and been captivated by the Hawa Mahal (also known as the Palace of Winds, above), the glorious City Palace, Amber Fort, Jantar Mahal and the gardens; I have ridden elephants, camels, the infamous tuk-tuk and bicycle rickshaws; and shopped in the old city's bazaar, which is a maze of streets filled with colours and sights that leave you reeling - for Rajasthan is one of the most glorious and colourful states, with all its handicrafts, jewellery and love of bright colours.
One of the most fascinating sights in the city is Jantar Mantar (right) - the observatory built by ruler Sawai Jai Singh II (also an astronomer), who built Jaipur in the early 18th century - and once you have been here, you will understand why the rest of the old city is so well planned. The strange structures here are actually complex astronomy instruments, and at this time of year the surrounding gardens are green and peaceful. Jantar Mantar lies at the heart of the old city near the City Palace, so don't miss it if you are sightseeing.
It is also the faces you find here that will capture your heart - the old city is filled with fascinating people and I saw some amazing faces (left) in the bazaar. But be careful when you photograph the people here in India - when I took this picture, this man asked first for money and then for food, but when we offered him some of our western snacks, he was spectacularly unimpressed! I'm afraid that I left it to my driver to resolve the problem because my command of Hindi is non-existent.
On the way to the Amber Fort you pass the spectacular Lake Palace (below), which is really stunning at sunset. It is here that you will be able to take an elephant or camel ride and marvel at the palace as the evening light sets in. There are also elephants at Amber if you want to ride up to the fort, and this is a wonderful way to to approach the honey-coloured edifice.
But for me, the best sight of all here in Jaipur was, Kanak Bagh gardens (below), built at the far end of the lake and overlooking the Palace. They are particularly lovely at this time of year and although you won't find carefully planned flowerbeds like you do in Europe, there are large green lawn areas flanking the many fountains and pavilions that make this garden so special. There is also a temple complex here and the views are stunning - well worth making a detour for, particularly in the early evening when it is cool!
I have visited Jaipur many times over the years, but for me there is only one place to stay - Jas Vilas - an enchanting family-owned and run hotel with peaceful gardens and a lovely pool. The staff here are delightful and one of the greatest joys of being here is that you don't get the constant hassle of street vendors, touts and taxis, selling their wares as soon as you walk out of the door. My regular readers will know that I rarely recommend hotels when I am writing, but this is one of the few that really is worth knowing about if you are visiting the fabled pink city!