Discover the Ghost Town of Kuldhara

posted in: Asia, Heritage, India, Rajasthan | 114

It was one of my most awaited destinations in Jaisalmer. The haunted village of Kuldhara intrigued me with its strange story – one where a hustling town was reduced to rubble, where walls still shared their stories & restless souls wandered in the abandoned streets. A medley of emotions hit me as I took my first step into this ghost town. These are best described as below:

  Eerie Silence through the rumbles,

Shivers through your spine as you explore the crumbles,

They say it existed, it isn’t a story,

There used to be a village in its times of glory.

Kuldhara - the haunted village in India
Kuldhara – the haunted village in India

From the first time that I had heard of this village in Jaisalmer, I was gripped. It was an unsolved mystery that I needed to see for myself. Kuldhara always left me with a lot of questions.

Why was it abandoned? 
What was the real story?
What is still there? 
Is it really haunted?

The hope of finding answers to these made this village an uncompromisable destination for me. I am pretty sure that once I share my experience, it will add itself to your list of things to do in Jaisalmer. It is bound to bring out the Indiana Jones in you!

Wondering what else you can do in Jaisalmer? Read through this post that showcases the best places to visit in Jaisalmer.

Story of Kuldhara Village

Ruins of the Kuldhara Village
Ruins of the Kuldhara Village

The story of Kuldhara starts with the settlement of Paliwal Brahmins. They are a tribe that flourished in trade and were well settled here over several generations. Salim Singh, one of the ministers here, had an eye on the beautiful daughter of the village chieftain. He gave the entire village an ultimatum that either they hand-over the girl to him or be ready to face the consequences of not acquiescing to his demands.

The village elders asked for a few days to come to a decision. Instead of handing over the girl, the chiefs packed their belongings and vanished from the village overnight. The entire settlement consisting of over 83 villages disappeared – and no one knew where. While leaving they cast a curse on the village of Kuldhara that no one will ever be able to inhabit the place. Therein, starts the story of the ghost town.

Ghost Town of Kuldhara in Jaisalmer
Ghost Town of Kuldhara in Jaisalmer

Another version of this story available online is that Salim Singh increased the taxes on the village. He raised them to a point that the villagers could not take the load. They hence, abandoned Kuldhara overnight. Yet another rational reason states that the village faced a severe famine and thus, was left behind by the Paliwal Brahmins.

It wasn’t the 2nd and the 3rd explanation that held my interest. I could not get over the first one – it just seemed so mysterious . I wanted to know if there was any truth at all in that explanation. Did Salim Singh actually, ruin an entire village for a girl? And with that on my mind, I set off for Kuldhara.

Heading to Kuldhara Village

Entrance to ghost town of Kuldhara, Rajasthan
Entrance to ghost town of Kuldhara, Rajasthan

3 centuries later, I found myself heading 18 km away from Jaisalmer – towards Sam Desert. As I entered the gates of the Kuldhara Village, I could not help those little tingles of excitement and curiosity. Not many people visit this village, considering the eerie stories of the ghosts roaming around. The lack of people frankly, added to the mystique of the place. 

Ruins of various homes in Kuldhara
Ruins of various homes in Kuldhara

As I walked along the roads, all I saw were ruins. Homes that had decayed and fallen, dusty roads and overgrown shrubs were pretty much the scenario. I ventured into a few of these- to figure out the layout. All the while I kept wondering, what would it have been like when the Paliwal Brahmins actually lived here. Where would the kitchen have been, who would have lived in this room, what would have been the view from these windows etc… the questions kept popping in my head – adding further mystery to this town.

Exploring a reconstructed home of Kuldhara

Reconstructed house in Kuldhara
Reconstructed house in Kuldhara

My travel companions and I reached a set of re-constructed homes. These were being re-created by the Rajasthan tourism is trying to emulate the homes before Kuldhara Village fell to its decline. You can venture into the re-constructed homes to get a feel of the layout and in my case, get a few answers to the questions that were running through my head.

Inside a reconstructed home of Kuldhara Village
Inside a reconstructed home of Kuldhara Village

This is where we met this little boy, who self-appointed himself as our guide. He insisted that since his parents are from thereabouts and he knew every little story, legend and nook and corner of this town. He re-affirmed the story of Kuldhara village after adding that the elders in the village did not go with the rest of the families owing to their age. They slowly died in the village, leaving behind the curse. According to him, the reason for their leaving was the story of Salim Singh falling for the village belle!

Balconies of the reconstructed houses
Balconies of the reconstructed houses

While he shared his version of the story, we explored the rest of the house – taking in the views from the terrace, the balconies and various rooms. He insisted that we go atop that building to see a small temple-like structure. This might have been a shrine but apparently was a feature of only the important homes.

The traditional artistic Balconies of a home in Kuldhara
The traditional artistic Balconies of a home in Kuldhara

Our little guide told us that the restoration team was trying to piece together the same designs that existed 300 years back. The typical Jharokha styled windows, the intricated carvings around the doors, the open kitchen and the multi-floored homes.

He also told us that in a hurry to leave, the villagers are said to have left behind quite a few of their belongings. When this abandoned village was discovered, the remains were pilfered and taken away by the local residents, leaving behind just rubble and ruins that one can still see on their visit.

Other Significant Ruins of Kuldhara Village

A Pavilion at Kuldhara Village of Jaisalmer
A Pavilion at Kuldhara Village of Jaisalmer

Walking away from the reconstructed house, I stumbled upon a few significant ruins that gave clues to the village of yester-years. Like this pavilion which was possibly the village shelter. Further down the twisted lanes, I came across a huge step well that lay abandoned . While there was no restriction on entering the same, somehow the state of disrepair told me to exercise caution and avoid being too adventurous.

Steep Step well at Kuldhara
Steep Step well at Kuldhara

Ahead of the step well, was a regular well – that has not been fenced. I tried taking a peek into the same to see how deep it was but honestly, my heart skipped a beat – for two reasons. One – there was no protection or a handrail to hold while I attempted peeking into the well and two – there did not seem to be an end or a bottom that was visible from where I tried standing. Adding on to the goosebumps, were the shivers of a desolate ghost town. 

A deep well in Kuldhara
A deep well in Kuldhara

Amid the various wells around this area of Kuldhara, I found these artistic poles, erected in honor of the dead. In other words, these were cenotaphs of Kuldhara Village, possibly representing the village elders or headmen.


When it comes to cenotaphs, you got to see the Royal Cenotaphs of Jaisalmer. The Bada Bagh will thrill you with its beauty.

Cenotaph at Kuldhara Village
Cenotaph at Kuldhara Village

Below the beautiful carvings of the Hindu deities was a strange text that indicated the dates 1217 CE. After a bit of research, I realize that the text was in Devali, paying tribute to the person who died in that particular year.

Devali Inscription on Cenotaph at Kuldhara Village, Rajasthan
Devali Inscription on Cenotaph at Kuldhara Village, Rajasthan

There wasn’t anything more that our little guide could point out to. It was as if the whispers of the crumbling walls had ceased. They say that they are even more active in the nights when the ghosts of the past roam around this abandoned village. There have been reports of inexplicable lights and sounds within the village.

I might have wanted to stay back to check that. Maybe then, I might have known –

What happened really?
Is there really a curse? 
Where did the Paliwal Brahmins go? 
What happened to the girl? 
How did they escape without noticing – all 83 villages, disappearing overnight is a feat…

Or maybe not. I guess, I may never know the answer but it is precisely the reason why this place will always remain intriguing for me.  I bid goodbye to my little guide with a small tip and set out feeling incomplete.

How to get to Kuldhara Village?

  • Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, is the closest town to Kuldhara. It is 18 kms away and the best approach to this is road.
  • There are no buses that take you here. You need to hire a cab to reach here. Cabs are easily available in Jaisalmer for the same.

Where to stay?

  • The best place to stay around Kuldhara is the main Jaisalmer city. There are plenty of hotels in Jaisalmer that can fit any kind of budget that you have. 
  • Another option is to head out for a desert stay in Sam Desert. You can stay in tents and enjoy an overnight in the cool dunes of Rajasthan.

Travel Tips:

  • Kuldhara is often, covered by the Desert Safari operators as a part of your Desert Safari package. Make sure you check on the same.
  • Like any other town in Rajasthan, the best time to visit Kuldhara or Jaisalmer is between October to February.
  • A lot of my general tips on Rajasthan can be accessed here. A lot of these would hold true for your visit to Kuldhara.
  • A visit to Kuldhara is permitted only during daylight owing to the rumours of a Ghost town. Hence, you can plan your visit in such a manner that you visit it on the way to the Sam Desert for this is just a small diversion on the same road.
  • Sure it is a ghost town, but there isn’t anything spooky about it. So, stay chilled and calm. Remember not to venture out on your own, especially near the well as the entire area is desolate and there are no safety precautions or fencing around.
  • The tickets to enter this town is available at the entrance. It is a minimum of INR 10 per person and INR 50 for a vehicle.

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114 Responses

  1. Sri Kri

    Lovely shots Ami.We had been to Jaisalmer but not to this place.Really missed this place.Thanks for taking us to the haunted place virtually.Really a place to be explored.The travel tips are really helpful.
    You could also visit the link about Jaisalmer in the link given below.
    http://www.srikri.com/2011/04/jaisalmer.html.

    Cheers,
    Sriram & Krithiga

  2. Ami Bhat

    Thanks Sriram and Kritiga….pity you missed out on Kuldhara. In fact a lot of people do miss out on it. Next time maybe….

  3. VJ Sharma

    Lovely post and beautiful photographs. Such places have different versions of stories but I love hearing these tails, especially if there is an interesting guide around 🙂

  4. Dale Cody

    Great story and photos Ami!! What a fascinating mystery. I've always been curious about ghost towns and even old abandoned buildings just sitting out in the world. I wonder about who lived there, what their lives were like and why they left. If only those buildings could talk…

  5. Alok singhal

    This is exactly the sort of place where I would like to go often. Historical sites, especially ruins, are my favorite.

    I would have those questions too…maybe I will be there some day to experience these beautiful, yet spooky, sites again.

  6. Richa Singh

    Ami I have obviously read about Kuldhara being a huge rajasthan enthusiastic but never before have I read such a well outlined post 🙂

  7. Saru Singhal

    Whatever was the reason – taxes or girl, it definitely arouses my interest. I would love to go there and get a feel of it. Tourism should promote such places more rigorously.

  8. Ami Bhat

    Hey Thanks for dropping by Saru…I tend to agree…these kind of places really pique the interest of tourists and one must promote them aggressively

  9. shilpi3005

    I had read about this village only last year and thought about visiting it. But did not get a chance to. You well written post made me visit it virtually 🙂

  10. nellivagabond

    Well written! I read a lot of posts about Kuldhara but your story sums up everything. Thanks for the detailed yet chrisp information: )

  11. 2traveldads

    I did a search for ghost towns and this came up! Which I love, but is so different than what we’re visiting in Colorado today. So cool and beautiful! I would love to visit Kuldhara.

    • Ami

      🙂 Thanks Rob. Kuldhara is fascinating for the fact that no one has any answers 🙂 It is like a quest

  12. Fly With Shaunak

    Yeah I heard about this too. There was one Bollywood film shot in this town. The cover pic is very nice. Thanks for posting. Thinking of visiting this place, along with another ghost town called BHANGARH, also in Rajasthan.

    • Ami

      I have heard of Bhangarh and wanted to visit the same in this trip. Unfortunately fell short of time. Keeping it for next time 🙂

  13. Samarpita Sharma (@write_to_travel)

    This is definitely eerie. My post is below yours on Travel Blogs Promotion and my post talks about Kuldhara too! Loved the post, what else can I say! 😀 Wish to explore Bhangarh as well but a friend went there recently and as it is in the daytime, there was nothing eerie 🙂

    • Ami

      I would still want to do Bhangarh. Hope to do it some day. Kuldhara was a mystery and continues to be. Someday hope someone can solve it.

  14. The Spirited Sloth

    Wow, this really does look spooky! Your shots and descriptions make me all the more curious! I’ve been hearing of a few ghost towns that I’d love to visit and I might just add this one to the list. Thank you for a great post!

  15. Joe

    I’ve been here! Agree that it’s a very evocative place to visit, with a very real sense of the eerie supernatural in its atmosphere. Thanks for providing the two separate accounts of why the village was abandoned – I think I prefer the first one. I’m a bit of a romantic at heart 😉

    • Ami

      Me too…I like the first one better. But well, who knows what is the truth. Someday hope to know.

  16. Sandy N Vyjay

    Kuldhara is really fascinating. The stories behind that town is really what makes it worth visiting.Rajasthan has so many haunted towns with different stories. The ruins in this one have an aura of their own.

  17. Rashmi and Chalukya

    Agree these stories of haunted villages sounds so fascinating. We had been to Kuldhara some 3 years back when these structures were still under construction. 83 families disappearing overnight is really huge we really wonder where and how it must have been for them to resettle somewhere else without the knowledge of the king!

    • Ami

      It really puzzles me everytime i think of it…how they disappeared. I guess some questions are never answered 😀

  18. Adam Biernat

    Kuldhara is such a magical place! I’m fascinated by this magnificent architecture and I hope to see it this year. Very helpful and really informative post 🙂

  19. Soumya Nambiar

    In most old stories, pretty girls are the reason for everything. I pity the pretty girls of yester years. I am also wondering now where the Paliwal Brahmins vanished too. I love all the photos and the well does look scary.

    • Ami

      Thanks Soumya. Pretty girls back then did not have such a glam life as one would imagine. The more I visit these places, the more I realize that.

  20. Marlene Marques

    This is such a crazy place. Kind of makes us wonder how it was like when it was fully inhabited. Of course, when I read that there are ghost stories or paranormal activity, I have some doubts about a visit. But I guess going during the day, with the sun high, can help. 😉

  21. Ana Ojha

    What a fascinating place! Usually, I avoid going to doomed places or Ghost tours on my trips but I really liked the beautiful architecture of traditional Kuldhara’s balcony!

    • Ami

      Doomed places for me make the best of travel stories. 🙂 Hope you get to Kuldhara. I am sure you will not be disappointed.

  22. Neha Verma

    Ghost towns are so intriguing. And on top of that, those India have such interesting stories besides them. The whole cluster of villages got abandoned to protect one girl!! I feel so much respect for the tribals. I will definitely visit this ghost town when I plan a trip to Jaisalmer

    • Ami

      I think that is exactly what made me curious about this village. A mystery that still remains. Thanks for stopping by.

  23. TravelPeppy

    Love hearing stories behind the places. And this is a ghost story ;). But i really avoid visiting a ghost palace. Your pictures have beautifully captured the architecture of the building.

    • Ami

      It is fine to get there in the morning. I definitely would recommend a visit here. It is fascinating.

  24. Dane

    I love the history behind this! Ancient stories of ultimatums and abandonment. Your photos are really beautiful as well!

    • Ami

      Thank you Dane. I think these stories is what makes the place so attractive. Glad you liked the post.

  25. travellingslacker

    Although I visited Jaisalmer, I missed out on the nteriors of the desert. I have heard many stories about Kuldhara but I guess I will have to wat for the next winter. BTW Did you come accross any paranormal activty? 😛

  26. Joanna

    I wish I would have known about this place when I visited Jaisalmer. For some reason, Jaisalmer still remains one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to in India. I have spent a few days there and I would have loved to go to Kuldhara as well. I like legends and stories and I would have walked through the ruins and imagine the layout of the houses, same as you did.

    • Ami

      Am sure you will enjoy this place. It throws more questions than answers. Thanks Joanna for stopping by.

  27. Nerdventurists

    This is so neat! I’ve always been fascinated by ghost towns. It’s especially great when there’s a story behind why it was abandoned. Thanks for sharing the backstory! Wonderful photos, as always!

  28. Indrani

    I didnot enter the village but have heard similar stories. Good that Rajasthan Tourism is doing its part to revive tourism there.

  29. AllGudThings

    Lovely pictures. Whatever may be the reason for abandonment of this towns but it is quite fascinating for me. i want to explore this town. And good to know that Rajasthan Tourism is making efforts to revive this place. One more thing did you find any paranormal activity there?

    • Ami

      I suppose it must be. Possibly that is why it is not allowed to enter here after 6

  30. awaradiaries

    Interesting story. Would love to visit the place for the curiosity. Is it possible to stay there overnight? Camping or something like that? Or its the government of Rajasthan who doesn’t allow it?

    • Ami

      Nope, the place closes down by 6 pm and you are chased out 🙂 Makes you more curious right?

  31. Ankita

    I liked the article but leaving a village instead of handing over the girl seems too far fetched to me. Handing her over as a sacrifice to the village would have been easier and more popular given the patriarchal system in Rajasthan. Maybe the romanticism in the myth is made up.

    • Ami

      Possibly but you cannot deny that it is quite a tale. And honestly, that is what I wanted to know…whether it was the truth or not!

  32. Parul Jain

    Thank you Ami for sharing this. I visited this place last dec. I had a very different feeling when i visited this place. I was feeling very emotional and sad thinking about what the villagers had to go through during that time. It must have been very hard for them to leave their home land in one night. All i can sense is their grief. I think it’s a beautiful place and i felt so connected and totally empathise with them. All i wish is peace for these people now. Thank you!

    • Ami

      Indeed, there is a rational explanation to their leaving and like you said, I did feel pretty sad about it. The curiosity of the tale surrounding the village is something that draws people here. I am not sure if we will ever find the truth.

  33. Parul Jain

    Btw there is third story that i have heard about Kuldhara. The reason behind abandoning this is severe drought that year and this could be the reason that till date that place in still abandon.

    • Ami

      Indeed, like I said, there are three reasons in play. However, it was the first that drew me there.!

  34. Sinjana Ghosh

    I love to read about places with such mysterious appeal. The first folklore is really strange, but I must confess I have heard stranger stories about abandoned places. It reminds me of our visit to Talakadu, a former pilgrimage site which was submerged in the sand after the “curse of alamelamma”. I totally love the photographs of this place, makes me feel like I am already there.

    • Ami

      Thanks Sinjana. Talakadu too, is quite intriguing. I totally loved discovering that too. Time to revisit that while you visit Kuldhara 😀

  35. Pooja

    I remember visiting this place 2 years back. It was so isolated and barren that it looked and felt really eerie. Infact I found it more spooky than Bhangarh. It’s sure an interesting place with and an even more interesting story attached to it

    • Ami

      I so want to get to Bhangarh. Hope that I can visit that. Am sure I will find it as eerie. Glad though that you managed to see this one too. 😀

  36. Angelica Kajiwara

    I absolutely love ghost stories like this one. The do truly pull you to a destination. Your impromptu guide must have been so fun. I love that you captured these beautiful photos, almost abandoned.

    • Ami

      Thanks Angelica. The guide did make the experience more fun. I hope you can get here to enjoy the place for yourself and maybe, even solve the mystery 😉

  37. Lisa

    I got chills reading that story! The colour alone of this place is incredible,and I like the stories behind its ‘ghost like’ appearance too. It’s really an interesting place to visit, but I wouldn’t venture down that steep step well, you may not come back out!

    • Ami

      Good thinking on the step well. It definitely is deeper than what the pics show. Thanks for stopping by Lisa.

  38. Jane Dempster-Smith

    I love reading intriguing stories like this. Thanks for sharing this interesting article. Your photos are amazing. I want to visit and have your young guide show us Kuldhara.

    • Ami

      I do hope that you can visit and get this fella. Might have grown up now though 😀

  39. Elena

    Abandoned villages and ghost towns are one of my favorite subjects. It’s all started in Cyprus in a few years back when on a hike I found myself in the middle of a ruined settlement. In comparison, Kuldhara looks like a sizable town. I suspect that taxes perhaps is the most plausible reason for abandonment. Of course, the girl’s version is much more sinister and, with a possibility of the curse hanging over the place, carries a whiff of magic.

    • Ami

      I know what you mean Elena. Definitely the rational reason might be the case but I like the whole aura of the curse 😀

  40. Manjulika Pramod

    I had also known it as haunted town but when I visited Kuldhara 4 years ago, I realized it was just the rumors. Yes, it was quite intriguing though to see a whole village, unoccupied and with signs of life that existed there. A little kiddo showed me around too. And he was the first one to say, its not a ghost town. People are defaming it. We don’t allow visitors in the evening because nobody lives here. Beyond all the hearsay, its a place worth visiting.

    • Ami

      Oh yes, like I said, even though it is all possibly rumors, its fascinating. Somehow the ghosts romanticize the place.

  41. amar singh

    The architecture of Kuldhara is absolutely outstanding and if it is not as promoted or left out due to the ghostly stories then an absolutely pity I must say. I would visit it for sure if I was in the area and specially as its only a short drive from Jaisalmer shouldn’t be missed out. It is a beautiful village and the life there would have been so peaceful until all was lost and now it has stories. I’m not a big fan of spooky places but this one I would go to visit for sure.

    • Ami

      It is more intriguing than spooky. I am glad that you want to visit it for it is quite an unmissable one. Thanks for stopping by, Amar.

  42. Ankit yadav

    Hey!! I had also visited Khuldhara village but your pics are totally fascinating…Truly speaking I was frightened once in night!! there

    • Ami

      Oh, you managed a night here. Now that must have been fun. Thanks for stopping by, Ankit.

  43. Trisha

    Wow! I’ve been to Jaisalmer and never heard of this village! The golden city has definitely some golden secrets that are still needed to be explored!! Feels more peaceful to me than ghostly though! Thank you for the detailed information!

    • Ami

      It is just so intriguing rather than spooky. This incidentally, falls along the way to the desert. Guess you will have to get back here again to see it. 😀

  44. Christina

    A ghost town in Jaisalmer sounds like an intriguing place to visit. I’ve never had any luck meeting ghosts myself but I have a few friends who claim they see them often! I’m sure it would be fascinating to find out what the ghosts have to say.

    • Ami

      I hope they tell you why they are there and why the village was abandoned :D. Good luck with that. Cheers

  45. Christopher Rudder

    I am really not a fan of visiting ghost towns as I do not want to be in a place where “relentess souls wandering in the abandones streets” plus an unexplained curse. However, what I do like about your posts is that you are a very good storyteller. I mean, these topics aren’t the ones that are shared by other travel bloggers in India. You are making a difference of telling “untold” stories for us located in the other parts of the world to learn a bit about your country’s heritage.

    • Ami

      That is a lovely praise – Christopher. Glad you are enjoying our country with my posts. Cheers

  46. Danik

    I would love to take my daughter here in a few years time when she has grown up so I can play hide and seek in this ghost town. It looks mysterious and eye catching. Love the way you describe India in your posts, brilliant read. Have bookmarked this page for future reference.

    • Ami

      Thank you Danik. I am glad you like the various colors of India through my posts. And yes, do come soon with your daughter so that she enjoys it all!

  47. Tom Bourlet

    Oooh you had me at ghost town! The ruins of Kuldhara look eerie and beautiful in equal measure, I’d love to take a stroll through them.

  48. Punita Malhotra

    Abandoned towns have such a mystique to them. You have captured the essence of the place in your pictures and narration. Inspired me to visit it when we go to Jaisalmer.

  49. Rosemary

    Very mysterious and intriguing town. I wonder how much of it is based in reality vs. local myths. It’s interesting to me that tours are only allowed during the daytime. An interesting read and I’m sure a fascinating journey.

  50. Lisa

    Oh, I love mystery too and so cool that you went to look for answers to your questions! I love that Rajasthan tourism re-created the homes and I would love to visit Kuldhara Village because all your questions intrigue me too.

    • Ami

      I do hope we find the answers to these questions. Maybe you will have better luck 🙂 Thanks for stopping by Lisa.

  51. MEENAKSHI J

    I did not know that some of the houses of Kuldhara are being reconstructed for tourists. A good move! I’ve lived for over 5 years across the Thar but could never visit these ruins. Thanks for the virtual tour.

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