Route & Distances: Indore—32 km/1 hr—Dewas—37 km/1 hr—Ujjain—58 km/1 hr 30 min—Fort Amla—60 km/1 hr 45 min—Dhar—36 km/1 hr—Mandu—38 km/1 hr 20 min—Maheshwar—65 km/1 hr 45 min—Omkareshwar—78 km/2 hr 15 min—Indore
Day 1 INDORE
Starting from the moment you land at Rani Ahilyabai Holkar Airport, it’s hard to miss the imprint of the Holkars wherever you go in Indore. The seven-storeyed Rajwada, with a small museum on the first floor, has become the city’s emblem. Set in a 26-acre garden, the opulent royal residence Lalbaag Palace currently houses a museum. Drop by at the popular Khajrana Ganesh temple, the Jain Kanch Mandir with interiors made up of colourful mirrors, and get a taste of Indore’s legendary street food at the night market of Sarafa. Overnight at Gokul Homestay, or any of the city hotels in town.
Day 2 DEWAS/UJJAIN
Leave early for the erstwhile royal principality of Dewas to visit the hilltop shrines of Maa Chamunda (Chhoti Mata) and Tulja Bhawani (Badi Mata). Near the base of the cable car terminal, don’t miss the World War II memorial that notes the sacrifice of the medical corps unit, Dewas Senior Medical Detachment.
Continue on to Ujjain, capital of legendary king Vikramaditya. Located on the banks of the holy Kshipra river, the temple town teems with tourists and pilgrims who come for a holy dip by the ghats, and to visit its temples. Its eight main sights are: the jyotirlinga at Mahakaleshwar temple; Mangalnath temple or the birthplace of mangal (Mars); Kalbhairav Mandir with the unique offering of alcohol; Gadhkalika Temple where Kalidasa received the blessings of goddess Kali; Sawai Jai Singh’s observatory Vedshala; Harsiddhi Temple with its twin giant lamps; Ram Mandir Ghat and Sandipani Ashram where Krishna, Balram, and Sudama are said to have learnt archery. Grab a typical Malwa meal of dal-bafla at Shahi Palace near Mangalnath temple and witness the evening aarti at the ghats in Ujjain. Overnight at the Trolet Inn homestay.
Day 3 FORT AMLA
In the morning, cover Ujjain’s remaining sights, like Durgadas ki Chhatri, Bhartrihari Cave and the serene riverside samadhi of Matsyendranath, worshipped locally as a pir.
Drive past Barnagar to reach Fort Amla, originally a garrison outpost set up by descendants of the Mewar royal house, to protect Ujjain from Mughal armies returning from their Deccan conquest. Currently run as a small heritage hotel, it is the ideal midway stop between Ujjain and Dhar. At this 300-year-old fort, host Raghavendra Singh explains how Malwa’s fertile black cotton soil gave Egyptian cotton a run for its money, and how wealth from the cotton trade in Indore funded the Bombay Stock Exchange. As part of their agri-tours, go on a village walk, and visit nearby fields to see how maize, green pea, and soya are grown. Malwa is the largest pea-growing region in India, one of the largest onion growing regions, and also the largest producer of oil-grade soyabean.
Day 4 DHAR
Wake up to the call of peacocks and set off for Dhar, another royal outpost. In 920 A.D. King Vairisiṃha transferred his headquarters from Ujjain to Dhar, which became the seat of the Parmar chiefs of Malwa. Dhar Fort, located on a hillock, is reachable by a rock-paved road that ends at an old prison housing a small Archeological Museum. To the left, a path leads to the 16th-century palace Kharbooja Mahal with melon-shaped domes offering spectacular views over town. Visit the royal chhatris (cenotaphs) en route to the temple of Kalika Mata, patron deity of local kings. Continue to the beautiful Lat Masjid and the 11th-century Bhojshala, a contested site adjacent to the dargah of Kamal Maula. Stay overnight at Jhira Bagh Palace, built on the town’s quiet outskirts by the Puar royal family as an English guesthouse, later remodeled in art deco and Bauhaus style and now a hotel.
Day 5 MANDU
Leave Jhira Bagh after breakfast for the short drive to Mandu, the medieval capital of Malwa. The monuments are located in three broad clusters—the Rewa Kund group in the south with Baz Bahadur’s Palace and Roopmati’s Pavilion; the Village group at the town square with Ashrafi Mahal, Jami Masjid inspired by the great mosque of Damascus, India’s first marble mausoleum Hoshang Shah’s tomb, and the vast royal complex housing a hamam; Tabeliya Mahal (the erstwhile stables), Hindola Mahal with its sloping side walls shaped like a jhoola or hindola (swing) and the pièce de résistance Jahaz Mahal. When the surrounding tanks Munj Talao and Kapur Talao are full in the monsoon, the palace literally looks like a ship afloat.
Everything in Mandu is larger than life, including local treats like balam kakdi (succulent cucumbers) and Khorasani imli or giant tamarind from the baobab tree. Try the local staple dal-baphla or dal-paniya at Hotel Gurukripa or Malwa fare like bhatta bharta (brinjal mash) and ghuian ki sabzi (colocasia) at your overnight halt Malwa Retreat.
Day 6 MAHESHWAR
On your way out of Mandu, stop by to catch the dramatic view of the valley below from Nilkanth Mahadev, a Shiva temple in a shikargah (hunting lodge) built by Akbar. It’s a short descent to Maheshwar, capital of Malwa during Ahilyabai Holkar’s reign. Visit the famous queen’s gaadi (royal seat) at Ahilya Fort. Walk down the steps of Ahilyeshwar Temple to the Narmada Ghat lined with a string of temples: Tilkeshwar Mahadev, Kashi Vishwanath, and Narmada Mata, and the chhatri (samadhi) of Ahilyabai. End the day with a boat ride to Baneshwar Mahadev temple mid-river to enjoy the sunset and then a Narmada arti. If your budget permits, nothing beats the royal hospitality of Ahilya Fort overlooking the ghats and river, though humbler lodgings are available in the old guardhouse, run as Labboo’z Lodge.
Day 7 OMKARESHWAR
Drive to Omkareshwar, located on Mandhata Island on the Narmada. Visit the Omkareshwar Temple to pay your respect to the venerated jyotirlinga and cross the bridge or take a boat to the older shrine of Mamleshwar on the mainland. Those who have three hours on hand can do the six-kilometre-long panch-kosi parikrama (circumambulation) around Mandhata Island to shrines like Rin Mukteshwar, Lete hue Hanumanji and Siddhnath Mahadev. Or in half the time, do a half-parikrama to cover the Gauri Somnath Temple before driving back to Indore.
Where to Stay
Address: Scheme 78, Slice 6, Sector-B Plot 60, Vijay Nagar, Indore.
Tel: +91 98931 13762, 94247 74982
Tariff: Double room ₹1,800 (₹1,300 for the smaller room), breakfast included.
Address: 7/64, University Road, Ingle Compound, Ujjain 456010.
Tel: +91 98265 93004, 98931 17817
Tariff: Double room ₹1,249.
Address: Heritage Village Amla, Tehsil Barnagar, Dist Ujjain.
Tel: +91 07367-260133, 99778 33323.
Tariff: Double room ₹6,000-8,000; inclusive of breakfast; plus taxes.
Buffet Meals: Breakfast ₹175; lunch ₹400; dinner ₹450, taxes extra.
Address: Main Road, Mandav.
Tariff: Double room with AC ₹4,290; AC tent ₹2,990; non-AC room ₹1,590; plus taxes; includes buffet breakfast.
Address: Roopmati Road, Near Lake
Tariff: Double room with AC ₹3,590-2,590; plus taxes
Website for both: www.mpstdc.com
Address: Ahilya Wada
Tariff: Double room ₹26,000 per night upwards; min stay 2 nights
Labboo’z Café & Lodge
Address: The Gatehouse, Outside Ahilya Fort, Maheshwar.
Tel: +91 77710 04818, 77710 04811
Tariff: Double room ₹1,900
Café hours: 10 a.m.- 8 p.m.
Address: Mortakka Omkareshwar Road, Khandwa Dist. Omkareshwar.
Tel: +91 72802 71455
Tariff: Double room ₹3,528 (AC)
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