Madhya Pradesh or ‘Madhya’ and ‘Pradesh’ literally translates to ‘Centre’ and ‘State’. And that’s just the first striking thing about this state! The Heart of India, as it is lovingly called, might not be as popular a holiday destination as some of its neighbouring states, but it is just as fascinating. The serene Sanchi, the captivating Kanha and Bandhavgarh, the sensuous Khajuraho, the riveting Pachmarhi – all this and much more – Madhya Pradesh is an experience you just can’t miss!
Begin your journey from Bhopal, the magnificent city of Nawabs and the capital of Madhya Pradesh. On your first day, visit the beautiful and serene Moti Masjid. It’s a quaint marble mosque built by Sikander Jahan Begum in 1862. Spend your time admiring its pink minarets and gold-spiked cupolas. Spend the rest of your day exploring Shaukat Mahal, Lakshmi Narayan temple, Bharat Bhavan, Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, the Lower Lake and the Upper Lake.
In the wee hours of the next morning, embark on an excursion to Sanchi, the popular Buddhist pilgrimage place. Recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site, Sanchi houses stupas that store the relics of Buddha. The Great Stupa of Sanchi was commissioned by Emperor Ashoka. The must visit attractions in Sanchi, besides the Great Stupa, include Stupa 3, Ashoka Pillar, Mauryan Apsidal, and Temple 17. When in the eastern area, do visit Temple 45, while in the southern part, visit Temple 40.
On day 3, after breakfast, head towards Bhimbetka and Bhojpur for a full day excursion. The Bhimbetka rock shelters are located in the foothills of the Vindhyan Mountains. They house five clusters of natural rock shelters and display paintings that appear to date back to the Mesolithic Period. In 2003, these rock shelters were recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
On day 4, post breakfast, drive towards Pachmarhi. Situated at an altitude of 1,067 feet, Pachmarhi offers a variety of attractions ranging from ancient caves to beautiful monuments. The lush greens and the majestic hills with the cascading waterfalls are a mesmerising sight to behold. You’ll probably be tired by the time you reach Pachmarhi, so check-in to your hotel and spend the remaining day resting and relaxing.
Next morning after breakfast, embark on a sightseeing tour of the beautiful city. The major tourist attractions of Pachmarhi include Handi Khoh, also known as the Suicide Point. Handi Khoh is a viewpoint on the lip of a 100m-deep, densely forested canyon. The city houses beautiful caves, cascading waterfalls, natural pools, Chauragarh Peak, Mahadeo hill and the Duchess Falls. Do visit the Priyadarshini Point to get a panoramic vista of the whole town.
On day 6, post breakfast, leave for Kanha National Park. One of the finest wildlife areas of the country, Kanha is filled with huge varieties of flora and fauna. Upon reaching, get accommodated at any of the listed wildlife resorts and get set to explore the numerous vegetative attractions and the well-known swamp deer.
Early in the morning, take a jeep safari to observe the wildlife in the thick and lush green forests of Kanha National Park. In the jeep, you will be at ease to explore especially those places, which are otherwise difficult to travel via any other mode of transportation. Later in the day, enjoy bird watching in the company of a naturalist. Then, return to your resort for dinner and an overnight stay.
Post breakfast, depart for Jabalpur which is approximately a 4-hour long journey. Upon arrival, proceed to your hotel and in the evening, visit the famous Dhuadhar waterfalls and Marble Rocks in Bhedaghat. Enjoy boat rides on Narmada river in the moonlight, flowing through the breathtakingly beautiful marble rocks on both the sides. In the 45-minute ride, the boatman will describe various spots and locations in a singsong hilarious way. He will also narrate the story of Bhura and the crocodiles that lurk downstream. After the mesmerising tour, return to the hotel, have your dinner and stay overnight.
After breakfast, proceed for a sightseeing tour of Jabalpur.
Stop at the Hanuman Tal Bada Jain Temple first. The temple houses several images from the Kalachuri, Mughal, Maratha, British and post-independence periods.
Next, visit Madan Mahal. The structure reflects an aura of awe. It is compact and fully equipped for martial encounters. The stable, the war rooms, the small reservoir and the main pleasure chamber of the rulers offer visitors much to see and admire. On the way to the fort, keep an eye out for a geological wonder, the Balancing Rock, which is a huge stone balanced on the tip of another.
Next, proceed to Rani Durgavati museum. It houses a fine collection of sculptures, inscriptions and many prehistoric relics. Towards the evening, visit the Chausath Yogini Temple which is one of the oldest heritage sites in India. The temple is situated atop a hill and one has to climb around 150 steps to reach it.
Once you have visited all the places for the day, return to the hotel for a relaxing dinner and an overnight stay.
Next morning, leave for Bandhavgarh. Upon reaching and after checking-in at your resort, proceed to explore the famous Bandhavgarh fort. Towards the evening, visit the Baghel Museum which preserves the personal belongings of the Maharaja of Rewa. Also, visit the Tala village that has many mud houses and abounds with natural landscapes. After that, return to the resort for an overnight stay.
After breakfast, set out on an excursion to Bandhavgarh National Park. This small national park is perfect for game viewing. The density of tiger population here is the highest in India. Take a jeep or an elephant safari to explore the park and view the animals in their natural habitats.
Up next is the UNESCO world heritage site, Khajuraho temples. Located in the Bundelkhand region, these temples are housed within a small town and are renowned the world over for their clusters of Hindu and Jain temples and their beautiful and erotic rock carvings. The major tourist attractions of Western Group of Khajuraho temples include the Lakhmana Temple, Devi Jagdamba Temple, Chausath Yogini and the Vishwanath Temple while the Eastern Group of temples include Parsvanath Temple, Ghantai Temple, Adinath Temple and the Vamana Temple.
According to an inscription in its mandapa (pillared front pavilion), the Lakhmana Temple took 20 years to build and was completed in around AD 954 during the reign of Dhanga. It’s arguably the best preserved of all the Khajuraho temples.
Next, visit the Kandariya Mahadeo Temple. 30.5m-long and built between AD 1025 and AD 1050, it’s the largest temple in Khajuraho and represents the highpoint of Chandela architecture. It also houses the maximum carvings of female beauty and sexual acrobatics. There are 872 statues, mostly 1 m high – taller than those at the other temples.
On Day 13, post breakfast, drive straight to Orchha. After lunch, embark on a sightseeing tour of the town.
First, visit the Chandrashekhar Azad Memorial, built in the honour of one of India’s greatest freedom fighters. Next, visit the Chhatris (Umbrellas) or the funerary monuments of Orchha royalty. The huge and serene Chhatris are situated beside the Betwa River at the south end of the town. They’re best seen at dusk, when birds reel above the children playing at the river ghats and cinematic sunsets are visible across the river.
Later, proceed to visit Dauji Ki Haveli and Ram Raja temple. At the west end of a lively square is the pink and tangerine domed Ram Raja Temple, the only temple where Rama is worshipped as a king. Bustling with people all day long, it was built as a palace for Madhukar Shah’s wife in the 16th century. It became a temple when an image of Rama, temporarily installed by the rani, proved impossible to be moved. In the evening, witness an enchanting puja ceremony at the Laxmi Narayan Temple.
In the morning, after breakfast, drive straight to Gwalior. Upon reaching, check-in at a hotel and rest for a few hours.
When you are ready to explore, visit the Gwalior Fort first. Stretched majestically atop a 3km-long plateau overlooking Gwalior, the fort is a dominant sight, brimming with fascinating palaces, temples, museums and other picturesque buildings.
Next, visit the Jai Vilas Palace, built by Maharaja Jayajirao in 1874. Its museum occupies some 35 rooms of the entire palace. The convicts who helped build it were rewarded with a 12-year job to weave the hall carpet, one of the longest ones in Asia!
Post lunch, proceed to visit the famous Man Singh Palace. The imperial-style palace, built by Tomar ruler Man Singh between 1486 and 1516, is one of India’s quirkily decorated monuments: its colourful exterior tilework includes a frieze of yellow ducks and mosaics of elephants, crocodiles and tigers in blue, yellow and green! Naturally, it’s also know by the name, Chit Mandir or the Painted Palace. Explore the Teli Ka Mandir, used as a drinks factory and coffee shop by the British after the First War of Independence (Indian Uprising) in 1857. This 30m-high, 9th-century temple is the oldest monument in the compound.
Next, visit Suraj Kund, Padavali Temple and the Bateshwar Valley before you head towards your hotel for a scrumptious dinner and an overnight stay.