10 Perfectly Good Reasons To Ski In Val Di Sole

10 Perfectly Good Reasons To Ski In Val Di Sole

If you are a fan of winter sports, you have to ski in Val di Sole, Trentino.

Val di Sole is one of the most charming valleys of Trentino; the kind of place where you may get the impression time has stopped. Surrounded by beautiful mountains that called to be hiked and home to forests, rivers and a multitude of lovely small villages and mountain farms, this is a great place to visit if you love nature and adventure – regardless of the season.

Yet, mention Val di Sole and the first thing that comes to the mind of many is the incredible ski slopes. Skiing in Val di Sole is as good as it gets, if you ask me.

I went to Trentino (again) in mid December, and my trip was nothing short of amazing. Needless to say, the highlight of it was the chance to ski in Val di Sole. In this post, I will underline the reasons why you should ski in Val di Sole and share some tips and information to make the most of your winter trip in the region.

If you need more reasons to visit Trentino, check out my post Ten Reasons To Visit Trentino.”

Ski in Val di Sole

Skiing in Val di Sole means having fantastic slopes to yourself

10 Reasons Why You Have To Ski In Val Di Sole

The slopes are fabulous

Skiing in Val di Sole is as good as it gets. The Folgarida – Marilleva ski area is huge, even more so as it is linked to that of Madonna di Campiglio and Pinzolo, for a total of 150 km of slopes and 62 ski-lifts (cable cars, gondolas etc). There are slopes for just about anybody – from the easiest, mellow blue slopes of Folgarida – Marilleva ski area to the hardest ones of Madonna di Campiglio.

I am hardly a pro at skiing (I got back on the slopes last year after 17 years – you can read more about my experience in my post How to have the perfect winter weekend”). so I went straight to the Folgarida – Marilleva ski area, where there’s plenty of slopes of varying length and difficulty, all offering amazing views of the surrounding mountains.

After trying a few nice and easy blue slopes, I felt more confident and went down a bunch of red ones (I especially enjoyed the Malghetto). The quality of the snow was excellent – it is throughout the winter, with artificial snow being added to the natural one whenever this is isn’t enough to guarantee perfect ski conditions.

The slopes of the Folgarida – Marilleva area are all connected by a series of ski-lifts, cable cars and gondolas, and they are linked to those of Madonna di Campiglio. In other words, if you go skiing in Val di Sole you can easily reach any slope – should you care for a change of scenery and environment.

It’s great even for beginners and families

If you aren’t confident enough to ski or snowboard by yourself, or you want to improve your skiing technique, you can count get lessons in one of the 4 schools located at the Folgarida – Marilleva ski station.

And if you are traveling with your kids, you can rest assured that even children will have a great time skiiing in Val di Sole as you will be able to count on 3 kindergartens in the Folgarida – Marilleva area. It means that your kids can get entertained and learn how to ski while you enjoy the slopes.

The slopes are easy to reach

One of the biggest concerns for people who like skiing is how to get to the slopes. The good news for those who plan to ski in Val di Sole is that the slopes can be reached easily reached in a variety of ways.

By car

If you prefer to move around independently, the best way to reach the slopes to ski in Val di Sole is with your own means of transportation. If you don’t have a car, you can rent one here.

By bus

If, on the other hand, you are a fan of public transportation, you will be happy to know that you can easily ski in Val di Sole even if you don’t want to drive. Indeed, other than the public buses that connect the various villages around the valley, there also is a free ski-bus service that links the villages to the ski stations. The bus timetable works around that of the cable car, so the first ride to the ski station is typically around 8:00 or 8:15 (which is when the cable car starts working) and the last ride back to the villages departs from the stations at around 4:45 pm, when the cable car closes. You can find the ski-bus timetable here.

By train

Last but not least, you can go skiing in Val di Sole by train! The Dolomiti Express train connects Trento (the biggest city in Trentino) to the ski stations of Daolasa and Mezzana ski, where you can enjoy a changing room and a deposit room before you hit the slopes.

val di sole ski

The views of the mountains when skiing in Val di Sole are fantastic

The view is amazing throughout

One of the perks of skiing, anywhere in the world really, is the chance to admire the mountains around. Sure enough, you won’t be disappointed by the views when you ski in Val di Sole.

If you decide to opt for the Folgarida – Marilleva ski area, you’ll enjoy the views of the Brenta Dolomites, which incidentally are also one of the best places to go hiking in the region (For more incredible hikes in the Dolomites, read my post Three Hikes In The Dolomites Of Trentino”). I admit that I got regularly distracted by the views, and stopped a few times to admire the mountains and take photos of them as I went down the slopes, while I waited for my lunch in one of the mountain huts and even as I sat on the gondolas to get back on the slopes. 

You can have the most delicious meal right on the slopes

One of the perks of skiing in Val di Sole is that you can have lunch in one of the many beautiful rifugi (mountain huts) scattered throughout the slopes. These are cozy and easygoing places that serve light lunches as well as earthy meals that will give you the necessary energy boost to continue skiing. Most rifugi offer a selection of tasty traditional food (try the canederli or the polenta with one of the many delicious toppings) and some even serve freshly baked pizza. Continue reading as I will be sharing some tips on the best places to eat in Val di Sole below.

Val di Sole ski

A bombardino is a must after you ski in Val di Sole

And indulge in an apres-ski drink 

The best way to end a long day of skiing is having a drink that will restore your energy and sugar levels. Italians’ favorite apre-ski drink is bombardino, which is made with Vov (a sort of eggnog liquor) and brandy mixed together, and served hot – preferably topped with cream. It’s sweet, creamy and delicious and it’s the best drink to have when you ski in Val di Sole.

Or a spa treatment

Did I just say that the best way to relax after a day on the slopes of Val di Sole is having a bombardino? Ok, how about having a bombardino and indulging in a wellness center? And what if that wellness center gives you the most incredible mountain views? If you decide to ski in Val di Sole, make sure to spend at least one night at the lovely Rifugio Orso Bruno: guests can access a small but well equipped wellness center. There’s nothing better than relaxing in a warm jacuzzi while admiring the sun setting behind the mountains! 

You can ski at night  

I have only tried skiing at night once, ages ago when I lived in Colorado. I remember it was absolutely fabulous and a lot of fun. The slopes are significantly less crowded, which means you don’t have to worry about other people getting in your way (which is a problem if you are not a pro-skier!).

One of the most fun things to do when you ski in Val di Sole is getting back on the slopes at night. Every Thursday, the Biancaneve slope of the Folgarida – Marilleva opens again from 9:00 to 11:00 pm and if you have a ski-pass you can ski at no additional costs.

Other slopes where you can ski at night in Val di Sole are the Valena (open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 to 11:00 pm) and the Valbione (open on Wednesdays and Saturday from 8:00 to 11:00 pm) in the Ponte di Legno – Tonale ski area.

Finally, family with kids can enjoy the Biancaneve Snowpark in Val di Peio, which is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 to 10:30 pm.

And you can even sleep on the slopes  

If you are the kind of person who doesn’t want to waste a minute commuting, you may be thrilled to know that there are accommodation options directly on the slopes of Val di Sole. In other words, if you plan to ski in Val di Sole you can opt to sleep in one of the lovely mountain huts where you can enjoy a cozy room with fabulous mountain views, a delicious traditional meal and the additional perk of being able to start skiing as soon as you wake up. Continue reading for my recommendations of the best accommodation options on the slopes of Val di Sole.

Ski in Val di Sole

Don’t feel like skiing in Val di Sole? There are plenty of other things to do!

There’s plenty to do other than skiing

One of the nicest things about skiing in Trentino is that the region is incredibly charming and has a lot to offer other than incredible slopes. If you go skiing in Val di Sole but feel like taking a day off the slopes, you can count on a fantastic selection of things to do and places to see: lovely villages; cooking classes; mountain trails; wellness centers and spas are just a few of them.

If you would like more information on the many things to do and see in Val di Sole, head over to my post A Winter Guide To Val Di Sole.”

Useful Information To Ski In Val Di Sole

When to ski in Val di Sole

Val di Sole gets regular snowfall throughout the winter, with the first snow falling as early as November. Snow falls more regularly from mid-December onwards, with mid January reaching its peak for quantity and quality. The presence of snow-making machines throughout the slopes guarantees good levels of snow even when natural snow is somewhat lacking.

The costs of skiing in Val di Sole

Other than the regular expenses to travel to Val di Sole, the main costs you will incur in to ski in Val di Sole will be those for the ski-pass and the rental of ski equipment.

A ski-pass for the ski-area Dolomiti di Brenta, Val di Sole and Val Rendena costs €51 per day; for the Folgarida Marilleva area it costs €42 per day. If you buy a ski-pass for longer periods of time, the price decreases significantly. You can buy a ski-pass at any cable car station (they usually open at 8:00 am) or online, here.

Ski equipment (ski, boots, rackets and helmet) rental costs €25 per day in any of the rental places in the Folgarida – Marilleva ski area.

Getting to Val di Sole

There are no airports in Trentino, so if you plan to ski in Val di Sole you have to fly to either Verona (the closest option), Venice (the best connected airport internationally) or Treviso (the one with most budget flights). From there, you can take a combination of trains to get to Val di Sole, or rent a car. Here you can get a quote for a car rental.

Val di Sole

Agritur Solasna is one of the nicest places to stay and eat in Val di Sole

Where to stay and eat when skiing in Val di Sole

Whether you dedide to sleep in one of the many lovely villages or prefer staying right on the slopes, there are many good hotels and restaurants in Val di Sole. This is a selection of places to stay and eat, all approved by yours truly:

  • Albergo Dimaro, in Dimaro, is an excellent options for families. The rooms are on the small side but comfortable and clean, there’s an on site wellness center where you can relax after a day of skiing, and an onsite restaurant. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
  • Rifugio Orso Bruno is the best place to stay right on the slopes of the Folgarida – Marilleva ski area. It’s located at 2200 meters above sea level, there is an onsite restaurant and guests have access to a fabulous wellness center with views of the mountains. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
  • Rifugio Solander is also on the slopes of the Folgarida – Marilleva ski area. The onsite restaurant serves a fantastic high tea in the afternoon; and there are lovely, comfortable rooms. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
  • Agritur Solasna, in San Giacomo di Caldes, is located in a 13th century building. Guests can stay in one of the beautiful rooms and enjoy a delicious traditional meal prepared from scratch using ingredients coming directly from the farm.
  • Rifugio Albasini is in the Folgarida – Marilleva ski area, at 1800 meters above sea level, and offers direct access to the slopes. The food served at the onsite restaurant is delicious.
  • Rifugio Spolverino, in the Folgarida – Marilleva ski area, serves delicious local food and bakes the best pizza. The views of the Brenta mountains from the restaurant and the terrace adds to the atmosphere.
  • Il Maniero is one of the best restaurants of Val di Sole. Located in Ossana, it serves dishes prepared using local ingredients. Try the pappardelle: they are homemade!

What to wear to ski in Val di Sole

If you plan to ski in Val di Sole, you will need a few selected items to make sure you are comfortable and warm throughout the day. I have selected a few for you.

More information

For more information about skiing in Val di Sole and other things to do there, visit the websites of Trentino and Val di Sole tourism boards.

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Trentino and Val di Sole Tourism Boards during my trip to Val di Sole, and wish to thank them for the incredible experience. Needless to say, all the views expressed in this post are my own and without any bias.

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Discover 10 excellent reasons to ski in Val di Sole - via @clautavani

A Winter Guide To Val Di Sole

A Winter Guide To Val Di Sole

Val di Sole is one of the most scenic valleys of Trentino, in Northern Italy, and a side valley to the more famous Val di Non. This is the kind of place where you’ll find majestic mountains, glaciers, forests and rivers, charming villages and mountain farms.

With altitude ranging from the roughly 700 meters above sea level of Malè, the main town in the area, to those of 3500 of the Cevedale and San Matteo peaks in Stelvio National Park, and home of the Adamello and Brenta Mountains, Val di Sole is a great place to visit for anybody who loves nature and adventure sports in both summer and winter time, and at the same time wants to enjoy good food and wine, a bit of history and culture, and relax every now and then.

I visited Val di Sole for a short winter getaway in mid December, and enjoyed every single moment I got to spend there. So I thought I’d write a mini-guide for anyone who wishes to visit in the winter, highlighting the best things to do and see and how to make the most of it. At the end of the post, I will also share some practical information that will help you plan your trip.

Val di Sole

The fabulous slopes of Val di Sole

Everything You Need To Know For A Winter Trip To Val Di Sole

The fabulous slopes of Val di Sole

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Val di Sole in the winter is the incredible range of ski slopes. There’s something like 150 km of slopes only in the Folgarida – Marilleva area (and another 100 km of slopes in the area of Presena Glacier, Passo Tonale and the village Ponte di Legno), with slopes varying in length and difficulty, not to mention the fact that each of them offers a different view and overall experience.

The most important ski station in Val di Sole is Folgarida. Part of Dimaro, this was founded in 1965 on the way that links Dimaro to Madonna di Campiglio, and it quickly grew to become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area in the summer and, even more so, in the winter.

The web of slopes of the Folgarida – Marilleva area are connected through a series of gondolas and cable cars, so that people who go skiing in Val di Sole can easily reach the many slopes and have a change of scenery throughout the day.

The slopes of Folgarida have good quality snow throughout the winter, and are perfect even for beginner and intermediate level skiers. Indeed, aside from the black level slopes that attract experienced skiers, there are various blue ones, and the red ones are easy enough even for inexperienced skiers. I had no issues going down, and trust me I am no champion at skiing (I started skiing again after a 17 years break last January, when I went on a weekend trip to Cortina d’Ampezzo).

In any case, if you aren’t confident enough on the skis or want to improve your technique, you can take ski or snowboard lessons in one of the 4 schools located at the station. There even are 3 kinder-gardens, which are perfect for families with small children, who can have a great time learning how to ski.

Scattered throughout the slopes there are several mountain huts, locally known as “rifugi” where you can have a break during the day, to enjoy a hot drink, a earthy, freshly prepared meal and to take in the incredible views of the mountains surrounding Val di Sole.

For more reasons to ski in Val di Sole, read my post 10 Perfectly Good Reasons To Ski In Val Di Sole.”

Practical information about skiing in Val di Sole

How to reach the slopes

By car

The easiest way to move around Val di Sole is by car. You can easily rent one here.

By bus

If you prefer using public transportation, you can rely on the free ski-bus that connects the various villages of Val di Sole with the ski stations. The first ride is usually in the early morning (between 8:15 and 9:00 am, depending on the village) and the last ride back is after the last arrival of the cable car, around 4:45 pm).

By train

Another option to reach the ski slopes of Val di Sole is catching the Dolomiti Express train, which connects Trento (Trentino’s main city) to Daolasa and Mezzana ski stations, where passengers have a changing and deposit room where they can lock their stuff before getting on the slopes.

Ski-pass

The cost of the ski-pass for the ski-area Dolomiti di Brenta, Val di Sole and Val Rendena starts at €51 per day; whereas that for the Folgarida Marilleva area only starts €42 per day. The longer the validity of the ski-pass, the lower the prices per day. You can get a ski-pass in any of the cable car stations (they open at 8:00 am) or even online, here.

Where to rent ski equipment

You can rent ski equipment (boots, skis, rackets and helmet) in various places in Val di Sole. There’s at least 3 different places that rent equipment at the Folgarida Marilleva cable car station. It costs €25 per day to rent the full equipment.

Good to know

Biancaneve slope in Marilleva is artificially illuminated so you can continue skiing after dark.

Val di Sole

Monclassico is one of the nicest villages in Val di Sole

The lovely villages of Val di Sole

Scattered around Val di Sole there are several small villages, each of them worth visiting. The main one is Malè (not to be confused with the one in the Maldives!). This counts around 2200 inhabitants. It located at 740 meters above sea level and here you can find the interesting Civil Museum of Solandra, and a local parish church which dates back to the 16th century.

Another important village of Val di Sole is Dimaro, which is located at 766 meters above sea level, at the foothills of the Brenta Dolomites and at the entrance of Val di Meledrio, on the way to Folgarida and Madonna di Campiglio.

Dimaro is a lovely place to visit. For as small as it is, there are some beautiful historical buildings. The most prominent one is the 15h century church of Saint Lawrence, which has some gorgeous frescoes inside. More importantly so, Dimaro is an excellent starting point to explore the rest of Val di Sole and enjoy all that this part of Trentino has to offer.

Another lovely village in Val di Sole is Ossana, which used to be the political, administrative and clerical center of the higher Val di Sole. The village, which is really tiny, is dominated by the beautiful San Michele castle, built in 1191, which is a pleasant place to visit and from which there are beautiful views of the rest of the village and the valley where it is set.

One of the most interesting places to visit in Val di Sole is Monclassico, known as the village of artistic sundials. Other than the ancient sundials built throughout history, there now are 50 sundials that have been created between 2002 and 2012 by local and international artists.

Free guided tours of Monclassico are available but have to be booked at least a day in advance. A guided tour is a great way to get to know more about the history and culture of Val di Sole. Other than providing information on the region, the guide generally shows visitors how to read the time on sundials, something which isn’t nearly as straightforward as one would imagine. For example, did you know that other than the classic sundials, known as French, which simply indicate the time, there are others that indicate how many hours have passed since sunset (Italian kind) or since sunrise (Babylonian kind)?

Val di Sole

The stunning view of the suspended bridge, not far from Val di Sole

The winter wonderland landscape of Val di Sole

Winter in Val di Sole means enjoying a fairytale landscape, especially when everything is covered in snow. One of the nicest places in Val di Sole is the area of Passo Stelvio and Val di Rabbi. Here, there are a multitude of hiking and walking trails which make it a fantastic place for nature lovers.

The area is a popular place thanks to a 100 meters long suspended bridge from where there are incredible views of the Rio Ragaiolo waterfall. The bridge can be crossed throughout the year. It is a fairly popular place in the summer, and there often are lines to go across. The good news is that there hardly are any visitors in the winter months, so chances are that you’ll have the place all to yourself.

The views of the frozen waterfalls surrounded by the forest covered in snow is simply breathtaking. It’s a real winter wonderland!

The bridge can be reached on an easy hike that departs from the parking lot of Terme di Rabbi. Follow the river and the trail that goes by Malga Fratte, and before the bridge go up the steep, zig zag trail. It shouldn’t take you more than 45 minutes to get all the way to the bridge.

TIP: Although this is an easy walk, hiking boots are recommended. The trail is steep in parts, and especially with snow, it does get slippery.

Another incredible scenic place in Val di Sole is Lago dei Caprioli (Roes Lake), in Fazzon. An easy walk around the lake offers incredible views of the surrounding mountains, and the reflection of their image on the clear waters of the lake makes it special. Hiking lovers will be happy to know that there are several good hiking trails in the area.

For more hikes in the Dolomites of Trentino, read my post Three Short But Rewarding Hikes In The Dolomites Of Trentino.”

Val di Sole

A cooking class at Agritur Solasna, in Val di Sole, turned out to be a great experience. We learned to make apple pie!

Food in Val di Sole

Eating the delicious food is one of the reasons to visit Trentino (for more reasons to visit Trentino, check out my post Ten Reasons To Visit Trentino In The Summer), and sure enough the food in Val di Sole doesn’t disappoint.

Much like the rest of the region, Val di Sole makes it a point to use local products to prepare fantastic dishes that at the same time reflect local traditions and constant culinary innovation. There are many fantastic restaurants and mountain huts in the region where you can try the local specialties. Many of them also rent out rooms – continue reading to discover the best places to stay and eat in the region.

Val di Sole is a land of high quality apples and cured meats such as speck and carne salada – the latter often served in the form of carpaccio, with rocket and Trentingrana, the local Grana cheese. Mushrooms of any kind are used to prepare fantastic pasta dishes, which are served with local wines such as Lagrain. Polenta is often used to accompany meat and cheese dishes.

Among the dishes you have to try in Val di Sole, there are the famous canederli – a sort of dumplings made with stale bread, speck, luganega sausage and casolet cheese, mixed with eggs, chives and milk. They are guaranteed to give you an energy boost to get on the slopes!

If you want to uncover some of the secrets of local cuisine, make sure to take a cooking class. The best place to do so is the lovely Agritur Solasna. This is located in the tiny San Giacomo di Caldes, in a traditional mountain house that dates back to the 13th century from where there are stunning views of Val di Sole below. Here, you can join a cooking class run by the lovely Nicoletta, who will help you prepare canederli and apple pie. At the end of the class, you will be invited to sit in the cozy restaurant and eat what you have cooked, as well as some other local specialties.

Relaxing in Val di Sole

There are two beautiful spas in Val di Sole: one is in Rabbi and the other one in Pejo. The latter is open throughout the year. Other than these, there is a multitude of wellness centers, usually associated with hotels, where you can enjoy a jacuzzi, a hamam or a sauna.

The most unique wellness center in Val di Sole is that of Rifugio Orso Bruno, located at 2200 meters above sea level in the ski area of Folgarida Marilleva. There, you can relax in a jacuzzi and at the same time enjoy the most incredible view of the peaks of Cevedale to the north, and of the Brenta massif to the south. Needless to say, the view is absolutely marvelous at sunset. It’s the ultimate place relax after a day on the slopes.

TIP: The wellness center of Rifugio Orso Bruno is only available to guests spending the night at the rifugio. If you love the idea of waking up directly on the slopes and relaxing right after skiing, this may well be the best place to stay in Val di Sole. Remember that the prices include breakfast and dinner, as well as access to the wellness center and a ski-pass.

val di Sole

The winter atmosphere in Val di Sole is fabulous

Christmas in Val di Sole

One simply can’t talk about winter without mentioning Christmas. Needless to say, the Christmas atmosphere in Val di Sole is magical, with beautiful markets and exhibits.

The best place to experience Christmas in Val di Sole is Ossana, where a Christmas market takes place every year with booths scattered around the village and even inside San Michele castle.

Adding to this there is the yearly exhibit that, between the end of November and mid January, shows around 1000 nativity scenes of varying style and size, which can be seen in various courts and squares in the historical center of Ossana, as well as in the castle. The Presepe Grande Guerra, inside the castle, recollects an episode that took place in World War I. The Presepe Monte Giner was built in memory of the victims of a plane accident on Monte Giner, which occurred right around Christmas time in 1956. The Venezuelan exhibit celebrates the culture of one of the most diverse countries in the world.

Planning your trip to Val di Sole

When to visit Val di Sole

Any time is good to visit Val di Sole, but a winter trip there is guaranteed to satisfy your quest for noise and cozy atmosphere. The first snow usually falls in November, and that’s when the slopes start receiving artificial snow. If you want to see snow in the valley too, make sure to plan your visit from mid-December onwards.

How to get to Val di Sole

The closest airports to Val di Sole are those of Verona, Treviso and Venice, which are all well connected to the rest of Europe with both regular and budget flights. Public transportation may require several changes and take a long time, so you may be better off hiring a private transfer or renting a car, which also makes it easier to move around once in the region. Here you can get a quote for a car rental.

You can also reach Val di Sole by train from Trento.

How to move around Val di Sole

If you don’t want to rent a car, you can move around Val di Sole by bus. Other than the regular bus service that connects the various villages of the valley, you can also rely on the ski-bus which connects the villages to the main ski stations. Keep in mind that the ski-bus runs during the day only, when the slopes and the cable cars are open. You can find the ski-bus timetable here.

Val di Sole

Agritur Solasna is one of the nicest places to stay and eat in Val di Sole

The best places to stay and eat in Val di Sole

There’s no shortages of excellent accommodation options and restaurants in Val di Sole. This is just a selection:

  • Albergo Dimaro, in Dimaro, is perfect for families. Rooms are comfortable and clean, and there also is a wellness center. The hotel also serves dinner. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
  • Rifugio Orso Bruno is at 2200 meters above sea level, right on the slopes of Folgarida Marilleva ski area. Guests can enjoy the onsite restaurant and the wellness center with views of the mountains. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
  • Rifugio Solander is right on the slopes of the Folgarida Marilleva ski area. The restaurants serves delicious food (make sure to have the cake selection!) and the rooms are cozy and comfortable. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
  • Agritur Solasna, in San Giacomo di Caldes, is a beautiful historical home with cozy rooms and a fantastic restaurant serving food prepared using strictly local ingredients – most of them coming directly from the farm.
  • Rifugio Albasini, in Folgarida is located at 1800 meters above sea level and you can directly access the slopes from there. The on site restaurants serves delicious local food.
  • Rifugio Spolverino serves excellent pizza baked using local ingredients, as well as traditional local dishes. The environment is cozy and informal, and the views of the Brenta mountains from the terrace are simply spectacular.
  • Il Maniero is a fantastic restaurant in Ossana that serves delicious local dishes prepared with local ingredients. Pasta dishes are prepared using home made fresh pasta. The “straccetti” – thin stripes of beef with porcini mushroom and truffle oil are mouthwatering.

What to pack for a winter trip to Val di Sole

Winter is cold in Val di Sole, with temperatures regularly going well below zero even during the day. Whether you are planning to ski or not, there are a few items that you need to pack in your suitcase.

  • A very good jacket. I am a massive fan of Kuhl Arktik Parka: it keeps me nice and warm while at the same time looking pretty.
  • Good hiking boots. They are the best to wear if you plan to do a bit of walking, and before changing into ski boots. If you have extra space in your suitcase, you can even pack a pair of after-ski boots.
  • Gloves: take a good pair of technical ski gloves, and add a pair of wool or fleece ones you can wear when you are not on the slopes.
  • A hat and a  scarf.
  • Technical thermal underwear and extra warm socks.
  • Ski pants (they are more comfortable than a ski jumpsuit) and a good ski jacket.
  • A whool or techinical shirt (I love Alva Thermal by Kuhl) over which you should wear a thick fleece – I am a massive fan of Kuhl Alska.
  • Super warm pants, flannel shirts (I love Kuhl Greta Flannel), and good whool sweaters.
  • Hand warmers: you can wear them inside your gloves if your hands tend to get cold. I actually put mine inside my socks as my feet freeze when it’s cold outside.
  • A swimsuit, to enjoy the wellness centers and spas.
  • A pair of sunglasses or ski goggles.
  • High SPF sunscreen and a very good lip balm – your lips will get incredibly dry in the cold weather.

Other information

The websites of Trentino and Val di Sole Tourism boards have a wealth of information on places to visit, activities, transportation, hotels, restaurants and anything else you may need to plan your visit.

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Trentino and Val di Sole Tourism Boards during my trip to Val di Sole, and wish to thank them for the incredible experience. Needless to say, all the views expressed in this post are my own and without any bias.

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Discover the beauty of Val di Sole, Trentino - via @clautavani

 

 

Visiting Japan Off The Beaten Path: The Gorgeous Shikoku

Visiting Japan Off The Beaten Path: The Gorgeous Shikoku

When travelers commission me to plan a custom Japan itinerary, the majority of them have the same request. They want to go off Japan’s beaten path, but not so far that they need to extend their trip, or skip “staple” destinations like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. My answer—Shikoku—surprises them, but they eventually come around.

The northern reaches of Shikoku, in particular, offer an enticing array of destinations and experiences you can’t find on Honshu that’s within easy reach of cities served by the Shinkansen. These are some of my favorite places to visit in northern Shikoku.

Japan off the beaten path

Who knew Japan off the beaten path has so much to offer? This is the beautiful Ritsurin

Seeing Japan Off The Beaten Path In Shikoku

Places to Visit in Northern Shikoku

Takamatsu

The city center of Takamatsu initially seems unimpressive, with one important exception: Ritsurin, a garden that dates back to 1625, and is according to some (present company included) the most beautiful traditional garden in all of Japan. You can easily spend half a day traipsing through its grounds, maybe longer if you eat lunch at the on-site Garden Café.

To be sure, much of what there is to love about Takamatsu (Ritsurin notwithstanding) exists outside the city limits. The sprawling, hillside Kotohira-gu Temple, for example, sits about 30 minutes away in Kotohira; this will also occupy at least half a day. The small city of Marugame, meanwhile, is home not only to a spectacular garden, but to the understated (and underrated) MIMOCA, dedicated to the work of abstract painter Genichiro Inokuma.

Japan off the beaten path

The incredible Dogo Onsen

Matsuyama

Matsuyama is a much larger city than Takamatsu, but that’s not the only reason why arriving here feels so grand. In addition to Matsuyama Castle, which is perched on a hill overlooking the city (and the Seto Inland Sea) and dates back to 1602, the city is home to Dogo Onsen, which is by most accounts the oldest public onsen in Japan.

To say nothing of the historical street cars that serves as the city’s primary form of transportation, or the hot springs hotels that cluster around the historical bath house building. The site of Yushinden, where the Imperial Family once came to bathe, was first listed as a public bath in 759, though the current construction only dates back to 1899.

Japan off the beaten path

Iya Valley is one of the nicest places to see Japan off the beaten path

The Iya Valley

Although it sits between Takamatsu and Tokushima and less than an hour from each, the Iya Valley can be tempting to skip right over. I urge you not to, however, and not just because of how charming the Hotel Iyaonsen is, or how a Muzak version of Chopin’s “La Fille aux Cheveux du Lin” plays when you ride the funicular down to the main bathing area, which sits at the bottom of a ravine.

Nor do you need to go on marathon hikes to appreciate this scenic part of northern Shikoku, even though more than enough trails are available. After watching the sunrise over a “sea of clouds” at Miyoshi, tap the Peeing Boy of Iya Valley on the shoulder and look down onto the river valley that gives the region its name. Then, head to Oboke Gorge for a scenic boat ride, or to Kazurabashi rope bridge for an experience that’s as rustic and historical as it is terrifying. Japan off the beaten path hardly gets better than this.

Japan off the beaten path

A traditional Awa Odori show is a must even when getting off the beaten path in Japan

Tokushima

Tokushima’s city center, like Takamatsu’s, doesn’t initially appear to be much to write home about. However, there’s a reason why I recommend it as a great place to experience Japan off the beaten path. A quick visit to Awa Odori Kaikan will be enough to understand why it’s worth going. Even if you don’t visit in August, when the annual Awa Odori dance festival takes place, watching a traditional performance of this ancient art form will take your breath away; it also explains why Tokushima residents seem so confident, in spite of their somewhat ordinary city.

Another similarity Tokushima shares with Takamastu? Its star attraction is actually just out of town. Naruto Whirlpool sits just under Great Naruto Bridge on the way to Awaji Island, and can appear terrifying, particularly if you’re in one of the boats that motors over this strange phenomenon. But don’t worry: The “whirlpool” is an illusion—you’ll spin around, but you won’t sink into the sea.

Japan off the beaten path

Marugame Udon – a tasty dish that can be eaten in Japan

How to Get to Shikoku

Assuming you follow my itinerary in order, begin your trip to northern Shikoku by riding any Shinkansen to Okayama. From there, ride the JR Seto Ohashi Line to Takamatsu, and use Hyperdia to find local trains to guide you along the route. (NOTE: Transport within the Iya Valley itself is largely by bus, assuming you don’t hire your own car, which will make your life a lot easier).

From Tokushima, you can ride a JR Highway Bus to Osaka (via Awaji Island) in about two hours. You can also do this itinerary in reverse; in the context of three weeks in Japan (or a bit longer, realistically) a foray through northern Shikoku makes a nice diverse between the Kansai region and Hiroshima (and, if you’re staying much longer, Kyushu island.)

Japan off the beaten path

The Naruto Whirlpool is already enough reason to visit Japan off the beaten path!

When to Visit Shikoku

Shikoku is a 365-day destination if there ever was one in Japan. Like most other places in Japan, however, it shines during cherry blossom season, whether you look out onto the Seto Inland Sea from the keep of Matsuyuama Castle, or ascend the steps of Kotohira-gu. Fall is also flattering to Shikoku; come the last week of November or the first week of December to see a truly magnificent array of colors, particularly at Ritusrin. (The Iya Valley changes a week or two before this, on account of its altitude.)

Shikoku doesn’t get snow in the winter, though the air is rather crisp and the sky clear. In summer, on the other hand, Japan’s tsuyu monsoon is in full force on the island, which is unfortunately quite prone to typhoons. Of all Shikoku’s four well-defined seasons, this is probably the one I’d advise avoiding, if I were you.

The Bottom Line

Shikoku isn’t as celebrated as it should be, but it’s also closer than you think, and it’s easy to experience Japan off the beaten path there. Whether you swirl around the mysterious Naruto Whirlpools in Tokushima, bathe at historical Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama or bliss out in Takamatsu’s Ritsurin Garden, northern Shikoku is the only place in Japan you can have these iconic experiences. Shikoku’s beautiful in all four seasons, too, which simply adds to its appeal. When are you going to take the plunge?

About the author: Robert Schrader is a passionate Japan expert who unapologetically shills for Shikoku. He created Japan Starts Here to inform and inspire any trip to Japan, whether or not you plan to visit the country’s most underrated island. Follow Robert’s next trip to Japan (which, somewhat hypocritically, will be to the Tohoku region of Honshu island) on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

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Trinidad, Cuba: The Most Complete Guide

Trinidad, Cuba: The Most Complete Guide

Time has stopped in Trinidad, Cuba. A fantastic mix of colonial architecture and vintage cars, this city is an absolute must see.

One of the nicest cities in the Caribbean region is Trinidad, Cuba. This is one of the first Cuban cities founded by the Spanish (around 1514), which grew to become the richest in the country thanks to the production of sugar cane, cattle and tobacco by the slaves that were imported from Africa.

Plantation owners made it a point to show their wealth, so Trinidad, Cuba, is an extravaganza of beautiful palaces, airy squares, colonial homes. No trip to the country can be considered complete without visiting this beautiful town, so well preserved that it also is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where the historical center is completely closed to cars.

Sure, this is the most touristic place in the country, second only to Havana. It also is significantly more expensive than other cities in Cuba. But there are many good reasons why travelers flock to this lovely city and are happy to blow their budget there.

To read more about Havana, check my post 27 Absolutely Unmissable, Fun And Quirky Things To Do In Havana and for a more complete guide to Cuba, read my post The Most Fantastic Things To In Do Cuba: The Ultimate Guide.”

Nowadays, Trinidad is a maze of cobbled alleys, colonial museums and fabulous restaurants. Here, live music is a constant: people meet in the squares to dance, sip refreshing drinks, and have a good time. Adding to this there are a handful of gorgeous beaches nearby, and a few hiking trails within easy reach. In other words, Trinidad, Cuba, is the perfect destination for lovers of history, culture, beaches and nature alike and, according to National Geographic, visiting is one of the top experiences in Cuba.

This post highlights everything you need to know to make the most of Trinidad, Cuba, with the top sights and activities in and out of the city, as well as the best places to stay and eat.

Trinidad Cuba

The historical center of Trinidad, Cuba, is lovely to explore

Trinidad, Cuba – What To See And Do In And Out Of The City

Trinidad, Cuba: the city

Visiting the Centro Historico

The historic center of Trinidad, Cuba, is closed to traffic. This makes it particularly pleasant to walk around and take in the views of beautifully kept colonial buildings. The best ones are all in Plaza Mayor, but if you push yourself beyond that, on the side streets, you’ll discover a glimpse of local life, with people sitting on doorsteps, trying to protect themselves from the sun, playing dominos or just chatting with friends. 

Among the sights you’ll be able to see in Trinidad, Cuba, when exploring the historic center, there are:

Plaza Mayor

The heart of Trinidad, Cuba is its Plaza Mayor. This beautiful square was built at the time of the maximum wealth of the city, when it was rich thanks to the sugarcane plantations. The square is surrounded by colorful historic buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

TIP: As one of the main attractions in town, Plaza Mayor is crowded with tourists. Along with tourists there are many touts. Be prepared to be called by them, and asked for just about anything. One even asked me to give her the shirt I was wearing. A firm no helps pushing them away.

Bell Tower

The Convento de San Francisco is one of the most visible buildings in Trinidad, Cuba. Its bright yellow tower can be seen from various parts of town. It’s a famous landmark, where people love taking a postcard photo. The convent is now a museum with an exhibits about the Cuban revolution. Its main attraction, however, it the tower from where there is a splendid view of the city below.

Museo Histórico Municipal, aka Palacio Cantero

The Museo Histórico Municipal is the most interesting one in Trinidad. It’s housed in a mansion off Plaza Mayor that used to belong to the Borrell family and was then bought by Kanter (or Cantero), a German planter. Its exhibit includes lots of objects that date back to the slave trade times. Yet, it’s the views from the tower that make it worth the price.

Museo de Arquitectura

Located in a 18th century mansion that once belonged to the Sanchez Iznaga family, this museum is the best place to visit in Trinidad, Cuba, to get a good idea of what colonial mansions looked like. There even is a 19th century style bathroom.

Museo Romantico

Housed in Palacio Brunet, once the home of rich sugar baron Conde de Brunet, this museum showcases items that belonged to the family.

Trinidad Cuba

Enjoying the views of Trinidad Cuba, on a sunny afternoon

Shopping in Trinidad, Cuba

One of the things I immediately noticed about Trinidad, Cuba, is that as opposed to other places in the country this is a great place for shopping. Here you will be able to buy any sort of souvenirs – from clothing to t-shirts, from art to jewelry, from ceramics to cigars and even musical instruments. Places like Taller Alfarero, Tienda Amelian Pelaez and the Art and Crafts Market are all great to get some souvenirs such as pottery or crochet works. Casa del Habano is a good place to buy quality cigars (avoid buying the cheap ones sold in the streets).

TIP: Make sure to do a bit of haggling when shopping in Trinidad, Cuba, but don’t get too carried away when buying hand made items.

Eating and drinking in Trinidad, Cuba

Food in Cuba has a reputation for being rather bland. I actually liked it (possibly because I am not a fan of food that has the overpowering taste of garlic, or that is too spicy), and during my trip I managed to try several good dishes.

Read more about food in Cuba in my post The Most Delicious Cuban Food: 35 Mouthwatering Cuban Dishes.”

Basic meals in Trinidad, Cuba, cost anything between $5 and $10 USD. But if you are in for a unique experience, make sure to visit one of the paladares located in former colonial homes. They are costly compared to the rest (you pay up to $30 for a full meal), but you get to dine in an incredible setting of a gorgeous patio and garden, with antique furniture on display for customers waiting to be seated. The nicest paladar is Sol y Son.

If you want to try the local cocktail make sure to go to La Canchanchara, a mansion famous for its cocktail (which actually has the same name) made of rum, honey, lemon and aguardiente and served in ceramic cups.

Enjoying Trinidad’s nightlife

Nightlife in Trinidad, Cuba, evolves around drinking cocktails and dancing. Music is really everywhere in Cuba, and at every corner you turn in Trinidad you’ll find a band playing. Every night, from 7:00 pm, locals and tourists head to the Casa de la Musica, order a drink and sit on the stone staircase to enjoy the sunset and the atmosphere. Once the live music starts, people will start dancing to salsa tunes.

TIP: The staircase to Casa de la Musica is one of the few places in Trinidad where you can get decent wifi.

Another place to enjoy a bit of nightlife in Trinidad, Cuba, is Disco Ayala. This is located inside a natural cave.

Trinidad Cuba

A common scene in Trinidad, Cuba

Trinidad, Cuba: the surroundings

The great thing about Trinidad, Cuba, is that it’s incredibly easy to get out of the city and that there is plenty to see and to outside. The following is a selection of attractions and activities.

Valle de los Ingenios

Not far from Trinidad, Cuba, there is Valle de los Ingenios, where most sugar cane plantations that contributed to the city wealth are located. At its highest point more than 30000 slaves working in the mills: this was thought to be the sugar capital of the world.

One of the unmissable places to visit is the Manaca Iznaga. Here you can see the remains of the main house and walk up the 44 meters tower that was used to keep an eye on the slaves working in the fields. You can even ride a steam train all the way there from Trinidad.

This is the best tour that includes a visit of Manaca Iznaga:

Some tours also go to lesser known (and therefore significantly less crowded) sugar mills.

Topes de Collantes 

Not far from Trinidad, Cuba, there’s the country’s second largest mountain range, called Sierra del Escambray. This is where the Topes de Collantes National Park, a beautiful nature reserve, is located. Topes de Collantes is packed with hiking trails, and there also are some beautiful waterfalls. One of the nicest hikes is the one to Salto de Caburni, which goes through a coffee plantation and leads to the 62 meters tall waterfall of Caburni river, below which there is a fantastic swimming hole with freezing but clean waters.

Radio Tower Hill

One of the nicest views of the countryside around Trinidad is that from the radio tower. On a clear day you can see all the way to Valle de los Ingenios.

TIP: The hike to the Radio tower is relatively easy and takes around 30 minutes each way. It’s better to go there early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day and get a better light for pictures. Make sure to carry water!

El Nicho

Of the various places that can be accessed from Trinidad, Cuba, El Nicho is the hardest one to reach (you need a 4×4 vehicle) and the furthest away (it takes around one hour and a half to get there). Having said so, it’s worth the effort of going. It’s a series of small waterfalls and natural pools with water so clear that calls for a swim!

Playa Ancon

Playa Ancon is thought to be one of the nicest beaches in Cuba. It’s located at around 12 km from Trinidad and you can go there by bus, taxi (it takes between $5 and $10 USD each way, depending on your haggling skills) and even bike. It takes around one hour to bike all the way there, but keep in mind that the back trip is uphill. Renting a bike costs around $5 USD for the day.

TIP: Playa Ancon is infested with sand flies so make sure to apply insect repellent!

Cayo Blanco

A boat trip to Cayo Blanco is one of the most popular day trips from Trinidad, Cuba. It usually leaves at around 9:00 am from the city, and the boat ride takes around one hour. The trip returns by 4:00 or 5:00 pm. The Cayo is nice, surrounded by the coral reef and with a small but clean beach. Day trips usually include transportation, lunch and snorkeling gear.

TIP: Keep in mind that this trip varies greatly depending on the weather and sea conditions, so if the day is not clear or if it is windy, postpone it as it won’t stop on the barrier reef.

For other amazing beaches in Cuba, check out  my post “The 31 Best Beaches In Cuba.”

Trinidad Cuba

The staircase is where locals and tourists meet at night for a drink and salsa dancing

Where to stay in Trinidad, Cuba

Trinidad has some of the best accommodation options in the country, with excellent casas particulares. Below is a selection of the best casas in town:

What You Need To Know To Plan Your Trip To Trinidad, Cuba

Traveling around Cuba can be stressful, especially when you have limited time in the country; and planning the trip can be easier said than done. Various companies organize guided trips to Cuba.

These are the best tours that also go to Trinidad, Cuba:

If you like the idea to have a local help you plan your visit to Trinidad, check out ViaHero here.

Make sure to also get a good guide book. I recommend this one.

If you prefer to travel to Trinidad, Cuba, independently, the following information may be handy.

When to visit Trinidad, Cuba

The weather in Trinidad, Cuba, can be separated into three main seasons: dry, from November to April (keep in mind it can still rain in the dry season!), wet, from August to October (this is the rainiest season, with proper tropical storms) and hot, from May to July. Locals may complain it is cold in the winter months, but unless you grew up in a tropical country yourself, you will find the temperatures pleasant. Each season has its own perks, so your decision on when to visit should be based on the kind of experience you want to have.

Trinidad Cuba

Another beautiful view of Trinidad, Cuba

How to get to Trinidad, Cuba

Trinidad is in the center of Cuba and can be easily reached by other tourist destinations. You can get there by car – either renting your own vehicle, or paying for a taxi; or by bus.

By Car

It takes around 4 hours to drive to Trinidad from either Havana, Varadero or Camaguey, and one hour and a half from Cienfuegos.

TIP: If you like the idea of traveling independently, and can share the costs with other people, the best thing to do in Cuba is renting a car. However, this is easier said than done. A car costs around $85 per day with insurance, and you absolutely have to book it in advance (possibly months ahead of your trip). Booking a car locally is virtually impossible.

By taxi

If you are not keen to drive, you may hire a car with a driver to take you all the way to Trinidad. It probably is the priciest option, but the taxi will pick you up at your suggested time and will be at your service.

This site allows you to compare the prices of taxis to Trinidad and to book the exact service you need. You can even decide if you want a regular car or a vintage one. Click here to find out more.

By bus

Viazul buses go to Trinidad from various places in Cuba, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a seat or make a reservation, so you may be better off renting a car or getting a taxi. Having said so, if you can get a seat your trip will be significantly cheaper. You can try to make a reservation here.

Getting to Trinidad, Cuba by bus takes inevitably longer. Traveling time is 7 hours from Havana, 9 hours from Vinales, 6 and a half hours from Varadero and 1 and a half hours from Cienfuegos.

Getting online in Trinidad, Cuba

There are several wifi hotspots in Trinidad, Cuba. The main one is in Plaza Mayor, and the wifi signal even reaches a few restaurants so you can surf the web while you eat. You can also buy wifi cards at the ETECSA center, or at the tourist information center. It costs $2 USD per hour. Hotels also sell internet cards, but they are significantly more expensive.

Scams and safety in Trinidad, Cuba

Much like in the rest of Cuba, scams are common in Trinidad. Though jineteros (hustlers) aren’t nearly as aggressive as in Havana or Santiago, they surely are there. They will try to sell you stuff; tell you the saddest story, and convince you to surrender your shirt; rent a casa particular their recommend; eat at their friend’s restaurant which they’ll swear is the best in Trinidad; let you borrow their bike for a convenient rate (sic.!); suggest a convenient (so they say) taxi to get around, and what not. Smarten up, learn how to haggle, say a polite but firm “no thanks” and never lose your cool.

Read more about my experience in Cuba in this post

Petty crime in Trinidad, Cuba, is not common but it’s on the rise. Make sure to lock your important belongings in your suitcase when you go out; and make sure to count your money before you lock it away. I haven’t had an issue, but I have heard of several travelers who had their stuff raided by the staff at their casa particular. If this happens to you, make sure to call the police. Sometimes, even just threatening to do so will prompt the thief to return your staff.

TIP: Remember that travel and health insurance is required to travel to Cuba. You can get yours here.

Have you ever visited Trinidad, Cuba? What did you enjoy the most there?

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15 Beautiful Places To Visit In Jaisalmer

15 Beautiful Places To Visit In Jaisalmer

Many places to visit in Jaisalmer are so beautiful that it would be a shame to miss them.

There are many incredible places to visit in India, and Jaisalmer is definitely one of them. With its roughly 90000 inhabitants, and much smaller compared to Indian megalopolis, there are many fabulous places to visit in Jaisalmer, which is one of the best cities in India.

To discover more about India, head over to my post The 17 Best Places To Visit In India.” You can also read my post on the best cities in India.

The array of things to do in Jaisalmer is incredible, which is why it remains a favorite of travelers, who often prefer it to the million times more chaotic Delhi, and even to the holiest city in India, Varanasi (by the way, you can read more about Varanasi here). It was certainly my case.

I fell in love with Jaisalmer sheer beauty – so much so that I was hardly bothered by the chaos of tourists and locals, and by the noise of Diwali, one of the most important festivals in India that was happening right when I visited.

This small city can be visited in a mere two days, but I recommend to spend longer to take in all that it has to offer. In this post, I highlight all the nicest places to visit in Jaisalmer and I provided a few tips on how to make the most of the city.

If you are looking for guided tours of Jaisalmer, these are two of the best ones:

places to visit in Jaisalmer

Right outside the Fort, one of the nicest places to visit in Jaisalmer

15 Incredible Places To Visit In Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer Fort

One of the unmissable places to visit in Jaisalmer is its gorgeous fort, which together with other hill forts of Rajastan is UNESCO protected. Located on top of a hill, Jaisalmer Fort is an incredible sight from a distance. What makes it special compared to other forts in Rajasthan is that people still live there – there’s a community of around 3000 people living within the walls.

Jaisalmer Fort is a beautiful combination of narrow, winding lanes, and a series of temples and houses, as well as handicraft shops, guesthouses and restaurants. It was founded in 1156 by the Rajput ruler Jaisal and then reinforced by other rulers, and the place of many battles. You can enter through the eastern gate, near Gopa Chowk, and walk around the other four massive gates until you reach Dashera Chowk, the gate that opens to the square that used to be the fort center.

The number of hotels and restaurants in the fort is seriously affecting the survival of what is one of the most unique places to visit in Jaisalmer. Rumor has it that due to the unrestricted water use the fort is collapsing onto itself.

TIP: Make sure to follow the advice of the city council and avoid staying in one of the boutique hotels in Jaisalmer Fort. For as nice as they are, they have a strong impact on what is one of the nicest places to visit in Jaisalmer. Instead, opt to stay in other areas in the city.

Jaisalmer Fort Palace

Jaisalmer Fort Palace is one of the nicest places to visit in Jaisalmer. This gorgeous seven-storey palace is where the former rulers of the city used to live. It is partially built on top of the fourth fort gate, known as Hawa Pol.

The palace is a series of small rooms and visiting is one of the nicest things to do in Jaisalmer to get an idea of how much buildings, especially important ones, were designed to spy on the outside world. At the palace, the doorways are very low. This doesn’t reflect the actual stature of the rulers, but was done with the idea of forcing anybody who walked in to bend in front of them and keep a humble attitude.

TIP: Most of the palace is now open to the public. To make the most of it, take a guided tour (it lasts around 90 minutes). This also goes to the beautiful Rang Mahal, the mirrored and painted room of 18th century ruler Mulraj II.

The Jain Temples

The whole fort of Jaisalmer is scattered with beautiful Jain temples that date back to the 15th and 16th century. These are among the nicest places to visit in Jaisalmer.

Jain temples are characterized by incredibly intricate carvings and decorations. The ones in Jaisalmer are so beautiful that they rival those of the marble Jain temples of Ranakpur. Among the temples that can be visited there is Chandraprabhu – here’s where you’ll find the ticket stand as well. To its right, there is Rikhabdev temple, which has beautiful sculputres along the walls. Other temples are Parasnath, Shitalnath, Sambhavant, Shantinath and Kunthunath, which feature some incredibly sensual carvings.

TIP: Make sure to check the opening times of the temples before going, because they can be erratic, and note that the temples are always open for worshippers. Make sure to dress appropriately if you plan to visit, as it is forbidden to take things such as food, drinks, cigarettes and any leather item inside the temples.

Laxminarayan Temple

Among the places to visit in Jaisalmer there is Laxminarayan, which is a Hindu temple. It’s definitely simpler than the Jain ones, but it has a beautifully decorated dome.

Read my post about the top temples in India here.

places to visit in Jaisalmer

One of the top places to visit in Jaisalmer is the Palace

The havelis 

Jaisalmer is packed with havelis, which are scattered throughout the city, both inside the fort and outside. These are some of the most interesting places to visit in Jaisalmer. Havelis are beautifully carved sandstone doorways, jali screens, balconies and turrets. There are some that date back to the 18th century, built by notable city merchants.

Among the nicest havelis in Jaisalmer there are Patwa-ki-Haveli, which was built between 1800 and 1860 by 5 rich Jain brothers and is divided into 5 sections; and the Nathmak-ki-Haveli, which used to be the prime minister’s house and is still partly inhabited.

Desert Cultural Center and Museum

One of the most interesting places to visit in Jaisalmer is the Desert Cultural Center and Museum, which helps get a better understanding of Rajasthani culture with exhibits on music, textiles and religion among others.

TIP: Note that the ticket also includes admission to the Jaisalmer Folklore Museum.

Jaisalmer War Museum 

One of the most interesting places to visit in Jaisalmer is the War Museum. It opened in 2015 and it is a great place to learn more about the history of Indian military. There is a strong focus on the war with Pakistan of 1965 and the Battle of Longewala which took place in 1971. The exhibit includes military equipment, and even the aircraft used during the Battle of Longewala. Admission to this interesting museum, which is located by the Military Station, is free.

Thar Heritage Museum 

Visiting the Thar Heritage Museum is what to do in Jaisalmer to get a proper introduction about this incredible desert. This is a small, privately owned museum with a very good exhibit that includes things such as turbans, musical instruments, fossils, and even kitchen equipment.

TIP: If the museum appears rather uninteresting initially, rest assured that it quickly turns into one of the most interesting places to visit in Jaisalmer thanks to the guide, local historian LN Khatri. If you happen to get to the museum and find it closed, try to look for Mr Khatri in the nearby shop, Desert Handicrafts Emporium.

things to do in Jaisalmer

The Thar Desert is one of the nicest places to visit in Jaisalmer

The Thar Desert

Among the best places to visit in Jaisalmer there’s the Thar Desert – though please note this is at a 20 minutes drive the city. This sand dunes desert is the perfect place to get away from the city, and here you can go on walks along the sand dunes, admire an incredible sunset and have dinner in one of the camps listening to traditional music and admiring an incredibly starry sky, and even go on a camel safari.

TIP: If you want to do a camel safari, make sure it is run in an ethical way with animals that are treated fairly and that all garbage is taken back to the city and not abandoned in the desert.

Vyas Chhatri

Speaking of sunset, you want to get the nicest sunset in Jaisalmer city, head to Vyas Chhatry, which is on the nothern edge of Jaisalmer and is dedicated to Vyasa, author of the Hindu epic The Mahabharata. It used to be a cremation ground for Brahmins and there are various empty tombs. It’s one of the nicest places to visit in Jaisalmer for sunset views.

Khaba Fort

Not in Jasailmer proper, Khaba Place is a nice place to go to. It’s a fort in an abandoned Paliwal village that used to be inhabited by Brahmins and that is located at around 40 minutes drive from Jaisalmer. The fort still has the ruins of the homes of the families that used to live there more than 200 years ago. What makes it one of the nicest places to visit in Jaisalmer is the fact that hardly any people go. The peacocks living around the fort add a fun touch to it.

places to visit in Jaisalmer

The alleys are the cutest places to visit in Jaisalmer

The tiny alleys

This isn’t exactly a specific place, but walking along the tiny alleys is one of the nicest things to do in Jaisalmer. The maze of narrow streets gives plenty of opportunities to observe the local life and to bump into some of the most charming sights in town.

The market

One of the nicest places to visit in Jaisalmer is the market, where there is a great selection of souvenirs as well as foods. Other than that, Jaisalmer has a bunch of beautiful shops scattered around town which are perfect if you like shopping and want to buy more unique pieces such as beautifully embroidered spreads and bed covers; oil lamps; antiques; as well as clothing of various styles like saris and cotton shirts.

TIP: Whether you buy in shops or at the market, make sure to haggle a bit before agreeing to buy anything.

Gadisar Lake

Gadisar Lake is one of the nicest places to visit in Jaisalmer. It’s an artificial lake originally built as a water reservoir around 1400. The best time to visit is the morning, when locals go to pray in one of the temples around the lake and then feed the fish in the lake.

TIP: Going to the lake, the view of Jaisalmer Fort is fantastic!

Lassi Shop

Bhang (marijuana), a drug that in Hindu mythology had a special role, is sold openly in Jaisalmer. Lassi Shop, in Amar Sagar Pol and right next to Trotters Travel agency is one of the most popular places to visit in Jaisalmer to get a bhang lassi, a shake notoriously made with yogurt and bhang. Other things to eat are the bhang cookies, chocolates and other sweets.

TIP: Don’t over do it with the lassi. It may taste delicious, it may not feel strong, but it certainly is!

places to visit in Jaisalmer

The market is one of the nicest places to visit in Jaisalmer

Other Things To Do In Jaisalmer

Eat great food

One of the perks of traveling to India is the delicious food. Jaisalmer has many good restaurants serving local and international cuisine, so one of the things to do in Jaisalmer is eating! Local food is generally cheaper and a typical meal consists of boiled jasmine rice, bread (pita or chapati, but there also are other kinds of bread), dhal, which is a sort of lentils soup, or chickpeas, and then many vegetable dishes such as potatoes and spinach, or potatoes and cauliflower.

Drink masala chai

Masala chai is a traditional Indian drink of sweet black tea, milk and spices. Jaisalmer is packed with some lovely cafés, some of them offering stunning views of the fort. Drinking masala chai right outside the fort is definitely what to do in Jaisalmer to recharge and at the same time getting a splendid view of the city.

Where to stay in Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer has many good accommodation options. Though the city fort has some supposedly beautiful boutique hotels, make sure to pick one outside and do your share to preserve this beautiful part of the city.

Here’s a selection of good places to stay in Jaisalmer:

Have you ever been to Jaisalmer? What are the places to visit in Jaisalmer that you liked the most?

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Discover the nicest places to visit in Jaisalmer - via @clautavani