5 must-visit places in Madhya Pradesh

Maheshwar-Fort-Sunrise

A compilation of ‘5 must-visit places in Madhya Pradesh’ was pretty difficult than I had imagined. Often considered as heart of India, Madhya Pradesh in Central India is one of the ancient regions of the Indian sub-continent, and has a plethora of must-visit destinations for both solo and family travellers.

Steeped deep in culture, history and wildlife, it might come as a surprise that the state of Madhya Pradesh is also host to India’s first and only water carnival named the Jal Mahotsav.

Top-cities in Madhya Pradesh

Many years back, I had criss-crossed Madhya Pradesh for a few months. However, the state at large has always eluded me; until recently, when I had the privilege to be hosted by the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board, on a trip to some of the places rich in culture and architecture.

During this recent trip, an aspect of Madhya Pradesh that stood out for me, is the impeccable hospitality and sense of cleanliness among people, especially in the city of Indore. Undoubtedly then, Indore is one of the top-cities in Madhya Pradesh.

Khajuraho, Gwalior and Kanha might strike a chord with people not much familiar with the state. However, there is much more to explore and experience across this heart of India.

So, here are the 5 must-visit places in Madhya Pradesh with a bit of focus on history, things to do, how to reach and where to stay. Hope this write-up helps in planning your next trip to this wonderful state in India.

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Must-visit places in Madhya Pradesh

This list of must-visit places in Madhya Pradesh has been compiled especially for culture, heritage, food and adventure enthusiasts.

Indore: Tops my list of cities to visit in Madhya Pradesh

Located in Malwa region surrounded by the Vindhyas, the city of Indore gets its name from Hindu God Indra – the presiding deity of the Indreshwar Mahadev temple in Indore, who had at one time performed a penance here.

In medieval centuries, Indore acted as a trading hub between either side of the Vindhyas, connecting Delhi and Deccan. From the 17th century onwards, it came under the rule of the Marathas, who appointed the Holkars to hold power in the region until Ahilyabai Holkar moved her capital to Maheshwar.

Popular for its ubiquitous Poha and namkeen (savouries), Indore is supposedly the most populous and largest city of Madhya Pradesh, and an emerging educational hub of India. Crowned the ‘cleanest city in India’ four times in a row, and a well-deserved one at that, Indore is also the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh.

Must-see places in Indore

With vibrant street art and eclectic temples like Kanch mandir, Annapurna mandir, Khajrana temple and Bada Ganpati mandir; a rich repository of antiques and sculptures at its Central museum and Lalbagh Palace; and a gastronomical feast awaiting inside the alleyways of the Sarafa Bazar and Chappan Dukan, Indore is a must-visit family destination.

You might want to read my listicle post on the Top 15 Things to do in Indore , that I had put-together for TripSavvy.

How to reach Indore

By Air: Devi Ahilya Bai International Airport at Indore has daily flights connecting to major cities of India. You might want to utilise this private taxi service to drop you at your hotel in Indore from the airport.

By Rail: Well connected to all major Indian cities.

Where to stay

On our recent trip to Indore, we stayed at a four-star property by the name Effotel, which is almost 18 km from the airport.

The in-house restaurant at Effotel dishes out amazing lip-smacking varieties, while the rooms are quite comfortable and compact!

Of course, there are other innumerable stay options across the city for all price ranges, you might want to consider on your trip to Indore.

How to explore Indore

Indore is a well-connected city, with a robust public transport system of buses, shared autorickshaws and cab-services.

You may choose to explore Indore on your own , or opt for a guided tour of Indore offered by Viator. I haven’t yet utilised these guided services in Indore though. Doesn’t matter which mode you utilise to explore Indore, do not forget to visit Sarafa for sure:))

Gulab Jamun at Indore
Gulab Jamun being sold at Sarafa Bazar, Indore
must-visit destination in Madhya Pradesh
Annapurna temple @ Indore
Khajrana Temple at Indore
Ganesh ji at Khajrana temple, Indore

Maheshwar: Must visit historical place in Madhya Pradesh

Once the capital of the glorious Holkar dynasty under the aegis of the saintly Ahilyabai Holkar, the now Maheshwar town oozes with an old-world charm.

A town popular for its namesake handloom sarees – revived due to efforts of the saintly Queen and the Holkars at large, Maheshwar also takes pride in its pristine ghats along banks of the revered River Narmada.

Maheshwar Fort

A simple Rajgaddi with the life-statue of Ahilya Bai adorns the Rajwada complex, while a massive Maheshwar fort is richly adorned with sculptures and carvings, as it stands perched majestically on a small-hillock overlooking River Narmada.

Some historians believe that the fort was constructed by the Parmar dynasty, while others are of the opinion that a local ruler by the name Subandhu constructed the Maheshwar fort.

Nevertheless, what is indisputable is the fact that Queen Ahilyabai Holkar reconstructed a large portion of the fort as we see it now.

Tip : Do not miss indulging in a boat ride along the River Narmada to catch the captivating sunrise and sunsets.

How to reach Maheshwar

By Air: The nearest airport is at Indore (91km)

By Rail: Nearest railway stations are at Barwaha (39km), Khandwa (110km), Indore(91km) and Mhow.

By Road: Regular government-run buses are available from  Barwaha, Khandwa, Dhar and Dhamnod.

Best Season: July to March

Where to stay

Narmada Retreat overlooking the river Narmada has the best rooms in town. They also dish out decent local fare, sandwiches, as well as hot beverages.

The Holkar Palace, a must-visit place in Maheshwar
Holkar Palace @ Maheshwar
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These steps of the ghats have been many a filmmakers’ muse. The beautifully carved jharokhas, the perfectly chiselled sculptures and the glossy moss-filled walls have served as props to the cinematic frames, all the while enhancing the beauty of the characters. . I’ve been on a trail of the legendary film-maker ManiRatnam’s film locales for a while now. The Maheshwar fort in this pic is one such! . Guess the movies shot here! #filmquiz #quiz . #travelgrams #traveltheworld #travelphotography #fort #architectures #architecturephotography #architecturelovers #archilovers #architecture #heartofindia #mptourism #maheshwar #heritage #incredibleindia #filmlocation #maniratnam @madrastalkies #tamilmovie #heritage #agameoftones #teampixel #pixel3a

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Maheshwar Sunrise from MPTDC
Maheshwar at Dawn from MPTDC property
Maheshwar-Fort-Sunrise
Maheshwar Fort at Dawn

Omkareshwar: Top religious destination in MP

Situated on the banks of westward flowing river Narmada – holiest of the five Indian rivers, 78 km away from the cleanest city of Indore, Omkareshwar is a sacred town in the Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh.

Home to the Shri Omkar Mandhata temple that enshrines one of the 12 jyotirlinga, this small town with innumerable temples, an old yet majestic palace surrounded by lofty hills and a cantilever type bridge reverberates with divinity and humanity all around the year.

Shri Omkar Mandatha temple is a five storeyed modern complex with stairs and columns, and a must-visit temple while in Omkareshwar.

The main temple tower is built in the Nagara style north-Indian architecture with spires. Adorned with granite pillars and sculptures, the interiors of the temple ooze of old-world charm.

Nearby is the Mamaleswar temple complex dedicated to various gods and goddesses, and adorned with exquisite carvings and sculptures. It is on the mainland, unlike the Shri Omkar Mandatha temple which is accessible only by a crossing a bridge on foot or ride on a small ferry ride. The Mamaleshwar temple complex is divine and spotless!

You may want to read more about Omkareshwar and Mamaleshwar in my detailed write-up on the sanctified island rock of Lord Shiva at Omkareshwar.

How to reach Omkareshwar

By Air: The nearest airport is Indore at 77km.

By Rail: The nearest railway station is 12km away at Omkareshwar Road.

By Road: Well connected by bus services from Indore, Khandwa and Omkareshwar road.

You could also book a guided tour of Omkareshwar, Maheshwar and Ujjain, from Indore instead of travelling to these pilgrim destinations on your own.

Best Season: July to March

Where to Stay 

MPT Temple View at Omkareshwar is an ideal property run by MPTDC.

Omkareshwar-Boat-Ride
A view of Omkareshwar temple
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Pilgrims at Omkareshwar
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Mamleshwar temple @ Omkareshwar

Mandu: Another important historical place in Madhya Pradesh

Perched along the Vindhyas and looking out at the Malwa Plateau beneath is Mandu – the fort-capital of the yesteryear Parmar rulers of Malwa. While in the 13-century it came under the Sultans, and then subsequently under the Mughals during when it was converted to a pleasure resort.

The architectural structures and monuments in Mandu could be grouped under three categories for our convenience – The Central Group consisting of the Royal Palace, Rewa Kund Group and Other Monuments.

While the famed Jahaz Mahal and Hindola Mahal falls in the first category, the mystic Roopmati Pavilion and Rewa Kund fall in the Rewa Kund category. The Hoshang Shah’s tomb is India’s first marble edifice and is of Afghan architecture. This later inspired the design of the Taj Mahal!

Mandu is a treat to heritage and architecture enthusiasts, while its manicured lawns, quirky step-wells, and mysteries surrounding the stones and structures, makes it a perfect destination for a family day-trip from Indore.

How to reach Mandu

By Air: Mandu is just 98 km from the nearest airport at Indore, which is well connected with major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and others.

By Road: Pre-paid taxis are available from Indore airport and railway station. State-run buses ply from Indore, Dhar, Maheshwar to Mandu, frequently.

By Rail: The nearest railhead is at Indore.

Instead of travelling to Mandu on your own, you could also book a guided tour from Indore to Mandu.

Did you know that there is also availability of a guided tour from Mumbai to Indore ! Do check them out. Hope you find it useful.

Where to stay in Mandu

  • Do check MP Tourism’s property MPT Malwa Retreat
  • The food at the restaurant of MPT Malwa Retreat is praise-worthy
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Jahaz Mahal @ Mandu
Hindola Mahala at Mandu
Hindola Mahal @ Mandu
Must-visit destination in Madhya Pradesh
Jahaz Mahal @ Mandu
Ashrafi Mahal @ Mandu , a must-visit place in Madhya Pradesh
Ashrafi Mahal @ Mandu

Must-visit place in Madhya Pradesh: Hanuwantiya Tapu

Host to India’s very first and only water carnival – Jal Mahotsav, on the banks Narmada [ a catchment backwater of the river owing to the Indira Sagar Dam], Hanuwantiya campsite in Khandwa district is a wonderful endeavour of MP tourism.

Already home to an MP Tourism resort, the adjoining Hanuwantiya tent city is a perfect family destination to indulge in adventure and water sports, apart from cultural activities and island hopping.

With 104 luxurious Swiss tents, a multi-cuisine dining hall and a conference hall, the Hanuwantiya tent city is a self-sustainable model of tourism – providing recreation to tourists, as well as livelihood to the local people of Madhya Dweep islands.

While at the Hanuwantiya tent city during the Jal Mahotsav, you may want to indulge in hot air ballooning, water parasailing, para motoring, overnight camping and other adventure activities.

The Jal Mahotsav fest also offers island hopping, cruises and village visits, making it one of the must-visit places in Madhya Pradesh.

How to reach Hanuwantiya

By Air: Indore Airport is the nearest to the Madhya Dweep group of islands that houses the Hanuwantiya Tent city.

By Rail: At 50km away, Khandwa has the nearest railway station.

By Road: Buses from Indore, Bhopal and Khandwa ply till Mundi village post, from where taxis are available for hire.

Where to stay in Hanuwantiya

Hanuwantiya tent city in itself is the best place to stay. Although, you may also opt for the adjoining MPT Hanuwantiya Resort that has non-tent accommodations.

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Dawn at Hanuwantiya
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Hot air ballooning at Hanuwantiya
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An aerial view of Hanuwantiya taken while Para-Motoring
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Attending the Jal Mahotsav at Hanuwantiya

Hope you plan to visit these beautiful must-visit places on your next trip to Madhya Pradesh. Look out for detailed posts on each of these destinations in the coming weeks. Until then, stay safe. Ciao!

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12 thoughts on “5 must-visit places in Madhya Pradesh”

  1. I had visited and the experience was so beautiful. The atmosphere of madhya pradesh is so chill. The boating experience was beautiful and worth taking. The river there is breathtaking.

  2. Wonderful post. This blog has an amazing information about the destination places of Madhya Pradesh beautiful visiting spot……and captures very impressive photos.

  3. Although I have had the privilege of traveling most parts of India on either work or pleasure, there are only few places that I have visited in Madhya Pradesh. They being Indore, Bhopal and Gwalior. Would love to visit Hanuwantiya for the hot air ballooning experience.

  4. Madhya Pradesh has eluded me too since a very long time. A couple of my planned trips just flopped and somehow I still haven’t been there. Its a place that I adore and there’s a long list of places that I want to go there! Maheshwar is definitely in the list, want to get some sarees there as well as walk on the ‘Alaipayudhe’ shooting spot! I haven’t heard much about Mandu…. you’ve just added one more place to my list. The architecture there is amazing!

  5. Doibedouin || Travel Blogger (@BedouinDoi)

    Madhya Pradesh was on my September to-do list. I hope these hard times pass soon. Your post is so going into bookmark… this aptly points out the not-to-miss destinations.

  6. I’d really like to see Holkar Palace in Maheswar and the Maheswar Fort. They both look lovely! Hot air ballooning in Hanuwantiya also looks like a bucket-list item! The grounds at the Jahaz Mahal are additionally very stunning.

  7. How nice to be able to return to Madhya Pradesh as a guest of the tourism board. And to get a view of all there was to see and do. There is so much history in this area to explore. And some great sunrises and sunsets to capture. The architecture detail continues to amaze me. The Jal Mahotsav water festival sounds like a great time to visit.

  8. Maheshwar Fort looks incredible! I love visiting places like this when traveling. That and food. With so many neat places to visit, I’m not sure where to start. Maybe the water carnival in Hanuwantiya, maybe Maheshwar? Looks like I need to plan a trip to India soon!

  9. Madya Pradesh sounds like a perfect mix of culture, cuisine and adventure! Omkareshwar looks stunning overlooking the river Narmada and home to the Shri Omkar Mandatha complex. The architecture in Manda looks exquisite. You’ve introduced me to many new places for my bucketlist.

  10. I love to see posts and photos from India. So colourful and cultural and full with heritage. I have to say Maheshwar Fort at dawn and the steps are so beautiful.

  11. What an inspiring post. I have never thought there are so many interesting historical places to see in Madhya Pradesh. I loved Maheswar Fort, especially how you presented it at sunset, but Mandu looks great too with so many gardens and pure defensive architecture. I have postponed India until now but step by step I’ll make courage to come and see all these beauties by myself. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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