No trip to Jaisalmer is complete without riding a camel through the Thar Desert’s sand dunes. It’s a popular activity and numerous outfits organize overnight camel-riding tours, but trips can also take multiple days and even weeks.
To be clear, it’s not the Sahara or the Empty Quarter. The Thar Desert is mostly arid scrubland with patches of sand dunes, but those dunes are large enough to conjure images of Arabian Nights, and the overall experience is magical, especially at night sleeping under the stars.
I booked a few days earlier a tour with Real Desert Man Camel Safari, which is highly recommended by Trip Advisor users. We leave their office near the fort at around 2pm on a 4×4 jeep. After about a half-hour cruising the highway, we stop briefly at Kuldhara, a village established in the 13th century village but was abandoned in the 19th century for unknown reasons. There are block houses and crumbling walls all around, but it’s hard to get a sense of the supposed haunted quality of the place with day-trip visitors all over.
We push on a few minutes later to our destination, arriving just another half-hour later to a roadside spot where our camels and camel drivers are waiting for us. We climb on our camels’ backs and soon we’re riding into the sand dunes. The ride takes about an hour and 15 minutes before we arrive at the camp, just in time to witness the sunset.
It’s a romantic experience, having that middle-of-nowhere feel despite your phone still getting a 4G signal. But with your group the only people you can see and the sands around you stretching for a few kilometers, there’s a rustic vibe all the more highlighted by the drivers’ songs and stories around the campfire, and the primeval feeling of sleeping under the stars. The desert night is freezing, but the thick blankets surprisingly provide enough warmth and comfort. I doze off in a matter of minutes.