336km (208 miles) E of Jaipur; 260km (161 miles) NW of Udaipur; 295km (183 miles) SE of Jaisalmer

Founded in 1459 by Rao Jodhaji, chief of the Rathore Rajputs who ruled over Marwar, "land of death," Jodhpur was to become one of Rajputana's wealthiest cities, capitalizing on its central position on the Delhi-Gujarat trade route and protected by one of the most impenetrable forts in history. Today it is the state's second-largest city, much of it a sprawling, polluted metropolis, but within the old walls -- where every building is painted the same light blue hue, earning Jodhpur the nickname "Blue City" -- you'll find a teeming maze of narrow medieval streets and bazaars, where life appears much as it has for centuries. Towering above is Mehrangarh (Majestic) Fort, its impenetrable walls rising like sheer cliffs from the rocky outcrop on which it is built. From its crenelated ramparts you enjoy postcard views of the ancient blue city below and, in the distance, the grand silhouette of Umaid Bhawan Palace, residence of the current Maharaja and award winning (Condé Nast Traveler 2009 Hotel of the Year) heritage hotel. Within the fort is a typical Rajput palace that today houses one of the state's best-presented museums, artfully displaying the accumulated accouterments of the royal house of Rathore in the beautifully preserved royal apartments.

The labyrinthine Old City is a more visually exciting experience than Jaipur, but besides exploring these medieval streets and visiting Mehrangarh Fort and Umaid Bhawan Palace, there's not much to hold you here for more than a day or two -- most people use Jodhpur as a jumping-off point to Jaisalmer or as an overnight stop before traveling on to Jaipur or Udaipur.