Visiting Kuldhara, India

Story of the Forgotten Indian Village


In dusty Jaisalmer, travellers tend to do the same things. For good reason – camel safaris in the rippled desert and shopping in the colourful bazaar are affordable and a lot of fun.

After a fast pace and lots of overnight train rides, my travel companion and I were tired. After we’d done the tourist activities we weren’t quite ready to get back on the road. We lounged in the heat, fanning away the steam from our steaming curries and wishing we could add ice to our drinks. After two days of long lie-ins interrupted by stamping cows and religious chants from the streets outside, we were looking for something to do.

Had we been to Kuldhara, our hotel manager asked us?

We hadn’t. After hearing that it was a beautiful yet abandoned village just 20 kilometres from Jaisalmer, we jumped in a tuk-tuk. As the vehicle ate up the bumpy road that runs through the sand dunes, our driver started to explain the story.

Apparently, it was the perfect village. Built with golden sandstone, the buildings were perfectly spaced with all the necessary amenities. It enjoyed a peaceful location, surrounded by sand dunes and with only wiry shrubs and wandering goats for distraction. Many of the buildings were (and still are) carved with intricate details: animals, people and scenes of daily life. The town viewpoint gives beautiful views of the desert and an attractive temple sits in the heart of the village. The only thing wrong?

There are no people. None whatsoever. We were the only ones to see the shimmering heat haze from the viewpoint that day, the ones to kick up dust through the abandoned streets. Despite the heat of the day, I felt a shiver run through me. The colourful culture in India was something I had become so accustomed to and I suddenly missed the clamouring kids, the hectic roads and the bright and beautiful saris.
What was the story, we asked our driver? Where were the people and why had they abandoned their perfect village? He shifted from foot to foot, seemingly unsure what to say. No one knew, he told us. We pushed gently – did they not even have an idea?

As soon as he mentioned the word ‘curse’ I understood his reluctance to talk about it, especially here in the village itself. However, once he’d glanced around (I don’t know who he was expecting to find listening) and got into the swing of his story, we’d have been hard pushed to stop him! He told the tale of a bride: beautiful yet deeply unhappy. She was the daughter of the village chief, forced into marriage with Salim Singh, the wealthy Diwan of Jaisalmer. She had expressed her reluctance to marry him but her words fell on deaf ears – he was the most powerful man in the whole region and the girl’s father had little choice but to give her away.

The smug Diwan and his disgruntled bride went to spent their honeymoon night in golden Kuldhara. I wondered what the bride was thinking as she travelled the same bumpy, dusty road we had earlier that day.

Whatever happened during the honeymoon night changed the village forever. While we know the couple arrived, they were never seen or heard of again following one fateful night in town. With rumours of bloodshed, the locals evacuated the village and vowed never to reside there again. Almost two hundred years later it still remains totally abandoned and has crumbled into disrepair.

Once our driver had told us all he knew, we stood in silence. We watched the gentle breeze pick up and drop grains of sand as it moved through the streets. If walls could talk I wondered, what blanks could it feel in about beautiful, abandoned Kuldhara?

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SEE – Photos & Videos

WSE Travel - Kuldhara, India - Story of the Forgotten Indian Village - Ruined Kuldhara homes

Ruined Kuldhara homes

WSE Travel - Kuldhara, India - Story of the Forgotten Indian Village - Temple in Kuldhara 2

Temple in Kuldhara

WSE Travel - Kuldhara, India - Story of the Forgotten Indian Village - Temple in Kuldhara

Temple in Kuldhara

WSE Travel - Kuldhara, India - Story of the Forgotten Indian Village - The ruined village of Kuldhara

The ruined village of Kuldhara

WSE Travel - Kuldhara, India - Story of the Forgotten Indian Village - View of Kuldhara

View of Kuldhara

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GO – Getting There

The best way to get to Kuldhara is by taking a day trip from Jaisalmer. Plenty of local tuk-tuk drivers will be happy to take you for a small free and your accommodation is the best place to book this. To get to Jaisalmer, you’ll likely arrive by train – we came on an overnight journey from Jaipur.

WSE Travel - Kuldhara, India - Story of the Forgotten Indian Village - Map

Kuldhara, India – Story of the Forgotten Indian Village – Map

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Do – Activities & Attractions

Coming Soon!

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Stay – Accommodation

Our hostel, Mystic Jaisalmer, was absolutely incredible! We only paid €5 a night in the dorm but we had access to a roof terrace which had the best views out across to town to the fort.

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Eat – Restaurants

Unfortunately, there are no eateries in the abandoned village of Kuldhara but there are plenty of places to discover Indian cuisine in Jaisalmer. I’d highly recommend the restaurant within Mystic Jaisalmer where we indulged on many a palak paneer (cheese cubes in a spinach curry), mopped up with a chapatti and washed down with a fresh mango lassi.

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Time – Seasonality & Schedules

November to March is the peak time to visit North India as the weather is fairly cool. If you’re planning to ride camels in the desert it’ll be more enjoyable as the temperature is likely to stay under 25 degrees Celsius. Saying that, I visited in August in hot, sticky monsoon season and it didn’t ruin the trip!

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Safety – Possible risks

While visiting Kuldhara itself is relatively low risk, I’d advise a few general safety tips around India in general. Because the region is religious and fairly conservative, it’s advisable to cover your legs and shoulders, especially when visiting places of worship. Keep a close eye on your belongings and avoid walking alone at night. Jaisalmer is a small and sleepy city with low crime levels but it’s always a good idea to travel in groups where possible. When booking a trip to Kuldhara ensure your tuk-tuk driver is reputable by arranging the journey via your accommodation. They can advise you on the rate you should be paying so you don’t get overcharged.

Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.

Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.

Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).

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Pay – How much does it cost?

A return tuk-tuk ride with a local driver will only set you back around 600 rupees ($10).

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Responsible Travel – Best Practices

Consider that your driver may be working for a third party company and subsequently receiving a low wage for the day. A tip of a few dollars is advisable and well worth it when you consider the local knowledge they can add to your day trip!

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Reality Check – Be Aware

Prepare for it to get very hot out in the desert – there’s no shade so it will likely feel hotter than in the city. Bring lots of water as there are no shops en route. The temperature in the desert drops considerably at night so bring an extra layer if you know you’ll be travelling back later in the day.

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JOIN US! WSE Travel Packages

This sounds like quite the adventure, right? We thought so too! Though we realize it can be pretty intimidating to get out there into the world on your own, especially when travelling to some of these off the beaten path locations. We love it when our readers give it a shot and try it for themselves! In fact, please leave us feedback if you do!! If trying something ‘this’ adventurous on your own is just a bit outside of your comfort zone, WSE Travel is here to help!

Follow this link for our ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Tours – packages that are highly personalized and tailored at your request.

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Have you ever been to a city that had a really unique historical or cultural feature? Where was it and what made it so unique?

Please feel free to share your stories and thoughts in the comment section below!

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