The Best Places to Visit in Mandu, India: Exploring Atmospheric Ancient Ruins
According to Lonely Planet (at least the decade old one I was using on my recent trip to India), Mandu is one of the best places in India to visit if you’re a fan of ancient ruins. With that promise in mind I boarded a rickety old bus in Indore in the height of summer and made my way to Mandu (also known as Mandav – most towns and cities in India have multiple names). This place was the seat of power of the Malwa Sultanate, a Muslim kingdom which thrived in these parts during the 15th – 16th centuries. Are you curious about the best places to visit in Mandu? Keep reading to find out (I’ll also give you some tips to make your trip to Mandu as smooth as possible).
The Best Places to See in Mandu
I visited Mandu completely out of season (in June) and the town was pretty much dead. I didn’t see any other western tourists in the two days I was there (and only a few local tourists). I managed to find a guy who rented me a bicycle, and with that I was off on my tour of the ancient tombs and ruins in Mandu.
Jahaz Mahal (and other ruins)
This sprawling set of ruins a kilometre or so from downtown Mandu is easily one of the best places to visit in Mandu – if you only have a short time to explore and aren’t too fussed about seeing everything then this is your best bet. The main thing to see in this set of ruins is the Jahaz Mahal (ship palace), which is surrounded by ponds and is said to look like it’s floating. As I visited in the middle of summer there was no water to speak of, so I didn’t immediately get a “ship” vibe. It’s a nice piece of architecture anyway and there is heaps more to see nearby. The ruins close to the Jahaz Mahal are atmospheric and I had them all to myself – it’s a fun place to explore and the ruins are in pretty good condition.
Hoshang Shah’s Tomb
Built in the 1400s, Hoshang Shah’s Tomb is said to be the oldest marble tomb in India (a couple of hundred years older than the Taj Mahal). The main marble tomb is the highlight but there are several other tombs in the complex – it doesn’t take long to look around and is easily one of the best places to see in Mandu.
While there is plenty to see right in town, you’ll need to organise some kind of transport to see Mandu’s outer ruins. I rented a bike and headed out to Roopmati Pavilion, which would have been quite easy had it not been 40 degrees outside. It was mostly downhill for a start but it was extremely hot – I was exhausted by the time I reached Roopmati Pavilion and I’d also ran out of water. Luckily there is a series of small shops just outside, so I loaded up on ice cream and water and walked up the steps to the pavilion. You can walk through the labyrinth-like rooms and get some nice views from the top of the pavilion. I’m not entirely sure it was worth such an uncomfortable bike ride, but there is quite a bit to see along the way so I’m glad I did it.
Ruins on the Road to Roopmati Pavilion
If you’re cycling to Roopmati Pavilion you’ll pass by heaps of tombs and other ruins. They make for easy diversions from the road and from memory the ones I visited were free. One of my favourite things to do while travelling is explore ancient ruins and I love places like Mandu where there is heaps to see on the way to the main sights. Some of these ruins on the road to Roopmati Pavilion include Neelkanth Palace, Malik Mughith’s Tomb / Mosque, Dai Ka Mahal and various other small buildings which I can’t seem to find the names of. I was the only tourist at these – the only other people I saw were a big group of locals swimming in a tank (a pool / step well thing) outside one of the palaces. It was probably the most enjoyable part of my time in Mandu.
Beautiful carvings and a mass of arches and domes greet you at Jami Masjid. This old mosque is one of the most impressive pieces of architecture in Mandu and is located pretty much right in town, meaning no scorching bike rides!
Other Ruins in Mandu
Pretty much everywhere you look in Mandu there’s something old and slightly crumbling to set your eyes on. It’s a paradise for historical architecture fans like me. I’m not one to hire a guide or read too much about the stories behind the architecture – I just like to see interesting buildings – so I can’t go into too much depth about all the other places to see in Mandu. I can say that it’s a fun place to explore and the ruins have stood the test of time nicely. I’m sure there are things I missed but my Mandu experience was a great one – I got to explore countless ancient ruins and they were almost all devoid of other tourists (certainly foreign ones at least).
Where to Stay in Mandu
Visiting in low season meant I could easily bargain for a room – I ended up staying at Shivani Resort and it was nice. The staff were great too and they had no problem ordering food for me and bringing it to my room. There seemed to be power cuts every few hours, but I guess that’s part for the course in summer. Mandu is a very small town and most places are easy to walk to from any of the hotels in town.
Getting to Mandu
I caught a bus from Indore to Mandu, which took around three hours. It was one of those ancient buses which get crammed full of people – luckily I got a seat, which isn’t always the case on these kinds of journeys.
Are you planning a trip to India? Will you seek out ruins like these? Let me know in the comments below!