If you’re like me and enjoy visiting old historic sites, Mandu and Maheshwar are definitely places you should check out. The old palaces and the fortress town are beautiful and impressive. It wouldn’t surprise me if Mandu is soon on the UNESCO list, which would certainly increase the popularity and tourism.
Mandu is about a 2.5 hour drive from Indore (the closest city with an airport) and Maheshwar is about an hour past Mandu. Maheshwar is an old fort with a small temple complex within it. Mandu is a massive fortress town that has multiple sites where one could easily spend an entire day.
First thing to realize is that you’re going to need to hire a driver to take you or you have nerves of steel to drive in India. Driving in India is basically a contact sport so you have to be up to the challenge to do it as an outsider. That said, I spoke with my Uber driver who gave m a lift the day before from the airport and we agreed to $4000 INR (about $55 USD) to drive for the whole day. I was only expecting him to drive but he even acted as a bit of a guide as well so I thought it was well worth the cost.
Maheshwar is a tiny town but the fortress is beautiful. It’s located right along he river and you can there weren’t really a whole lot of people there. There were a few people but nothing in terms of crowds. I honestly don’t know if major tour groups even make it that far. The site itself isn’t that large and you can easily walk around the entire site in about an hour. If you remember, you might want to pick up some grains or bread to feed the fish along the river or even some hungry goats while you’re there. Obviously there will be children willing to sell you fish food for a price if you’re interested.
The highlight is certainly Mandu. This fortress town sits atop a mountain and is certainly a big tourist draw. The area is massive and there are numerous sites to visit. It seems like the government is in the process of restoring many of the structures (which is both a blessing and a curse in my book since restorations can sometimes erase the mystique of a site) so many are very easily accessible via bus.
Now there is a cost to get to these sites but I got incredibly lucky and wasn’t charged at all. I happened to go on a day that was some kinds of holiday and so access to all the sites was free If I had a drone and wanted to fly it, even that would have been free to fly since there was no one really there to prevent me from doing so. That said, I don’t know if there is a cost to visit each site or if there is a day pass of sorts. It seemed like there were ticket offices at the major sites but not at the smaller sites so I’m not sure how that works. I have to imagine that the sites are pretty expensive for tourists because the price discrepancy between citizens and foreigners is typically massive.
The major sites are clustered together around a massive lake. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. That said, this is probably the site you want to start at since it’ll take the most time to walk around. If you get to Mandu first thing in the morning, definitely start with the ship palace site first since that is the most popular site and will fill up with tourists very quickly.
Also, this is definitely a time to wear some comfortable walking shoes. I probably goes without saying but you will definitely be doing a lot of walking. I will say that the stairs aren’t as steep and narrow as other I’ve found in other historical places like Angkor Wat or the Mayan ruins so in that regard it is much easier to walk around.
If you’re in the Indore area, you might as well stop by these sites since it’ll probably be the only reason you’ll be in the area. They’re a bit far from Indore and getting to them isn’t as simple as getting off a train and walking around so it takes some effort. However, it’s definitely worth the trip. I also believe that Mandu will become a UNESCO World Heritage Site at some point so it might be better to visit before it becomes official since that will certainly increase tourism.