Thoughts of wind-carved sand dunes covered step-by-step on the back of a camel is par for the course in the remote Rajasthan city. And the Thar Desert plays perfect host for travelers eager to connect with one of India’s most iconic images. Specifically, the sand dunes of Sam (pronounced ‘Sum’), 42kms from Jaisalmer, provide the playground for novice riders.
The silky Sam sand dunes, 41km west of Jaisalmer along a good sealed road (maintained by the Indian army), are one of the most popular excursions from the city. The band of dunes is about 2 -3 km long and is undeniably one of the most picturesque in the region. The terrain at Sam is more “authentic” in the sense of climbing up and down sand dunes compared to other safaris available in Bikaner and Osian which are more long distance flat walks.
Some camel safaris camp here, but many more people just roll in for sunset, to be chased across the sands by dressed-up dancing children and tenacious camel owners offering short rides.
Plenty more people stay overnight in one of the couple of dozen tent resorts near the dunes. The tent hotels cater primarily to group tourists with one-night packages that generally include a camel ride, cultural show (traditional Rajasthani music and dance), campfire, dinner and breakfast. The tents have carpets, brightly patterned bedspreads, big bathrooms with hot water, and nice blue linings with white stars.
The place acquires something of a carnival atmosphere from late afternoon till the next morning, making it somewhere to avoid if you’re after a solitary desert sunset experience. However, it is still just about possible to frame pictures of solitary camels against lonely, wind-rippled dunes.
The best time to visit is in the months of November – March with New Year’ eve being the hot spot. The desert festival organized amid these dunes in February is the showcase of Rajasthani culture as a whole. Open-air cultural extravaganzas, puppet shows, folk dance performances, camel races, competitions and general festivities mark this annual event that is held with great pomp and show at the Sam Sand dunes in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.
How to get there ? Sam is an hours drive from Jaisalmer, set in a picturesque drive though many of a wind mill farms on the way. Enroute, stop over for para sailing and desert jeep safaris before you reach the camps at Sam.
Don’t like crowd and the carnival – then head to Khuri, 38 Kms away for a less crowded, more pristine and lesser commercialised desert dunes.