Bhopal in north India is often referred to as the 'city of lakes'; it's the ideal spot for long relaxing vacations, and the two beautiful lakes divide the city into the Muslim northern district and the more modern southern district.
Bhopal lies at either side of two man-made lakes and several smaller bodies of water. Explore Van Vihar National Park or take a boat trip on the Upper Lake (Bada Talab) or walk over the scenic bridge to the Lower Lake (Chota Talab).
The Tribal Museum was created by local tribal people using only materials from the region. On a more somber note, the Remember Bhopal Museum commemorates the victims of India's biggest industrial disaster.
Visit the Muslim old city for reminders of the Begums of Bhopal, the four female rulers responsible for much of the city's development between the 19th and 20th centuries, or shop at the Jyoti Mall in the new city.
The world's biggest mosque was founded by Shah Jahan Begum, the city's third female ruler, in 1877. The magnificent rose pink building was only completed in the 1980s.
The people of Madhya Pradesh are friendly and welcoming. Stop for a chat in the Chowk Bazar, or enjoy the lakes with the locals.
Occupying an area of about 445 hectares, the Van Vihar National Park is one of the most captivating in Central India. Since it was opened in 1979, its natural beauty has led to it being considered one of Bhopal's best places to visit. Located opposite Upper Lake, it hosts numerous wildlife enthusiasts, nature lovers, and photographers every year. There is a distinct zoological ambiance here, with the park providing plenty of opportunity for admiring beautiful bird life, including herons, spoonbills and many more.
More properly known as the Bhojeshwar Temple, this incomplete Hindu holy building was constructed during the mid-11th century reign of the Paramara dynasty king, Bhoj. It is located 28 km from Bhopal and within the archaeologically recognized locale of Bhojpur. Pilgrims from far and wide travel in large numbers to pay their respects to Shiva, to whom the temple is dedicated. Step into the square-shaped interior of the Bhojpur Temple and feast your eyes on the artistically carved stone sculptures on the dome, walls and façade.
Established in 1977, the National Museum of Mankind spreads across 200 acres and is located fairly close to Upper Lake. This unique and largely open-air museum is a world-renowned monument that houses a magnificent collection of painted prehistoric rock shelters. View the dwellings of the various tribal villages of the different Indian states, complete with their uniquely styled interiors.
A visit to Bhopal is incomplete without a trip to the architecturally appealing Lakshmi Narayan Temple, otherwise referred to as Birla Mandir. It is built upon the tranquil Arera Hills, next to the Birla Museum. Views from the inside of the temple are simply awe-inspiring. It has a yellowish exterior that features the most elegant form of architecture in India, which closely resembles the ancient Nagara style. Gaze at the picturesque fountains and colorful flower beds as you relax on the extensive lawns.
Often called 'The Crown of the Mosques,' the Taj-ul-Masajid sits on the shore of the Motia Talaab in Bhopal. India's largest mosque is spacious enough to accommodate a maximum of 175,000 individuals at any given time. Its construction began between 1844 and 1860 and finally ended in 1971. The Taj-ul-Masajid features a style of architecture resembling that of the Mughal Empire, mostly due to its octagonal 18-floored minarets. Walk through the motif-decorated entrance and marvel at the artistically crafted designs on the interior walls.
The city can be very hot in summer, so many visitors choose to visit between November and February. Temperatures are cooler and it's the ideal time to enjoy the lakes.
Although there are few international flights to Bhopal, you can take domestic flights from cities like Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai to Raja Bhoj Airport (BHO).
The city is a hub for Western and Central Railways, so it's very easy to reach by train. There are regular services from all over India stopping at Bhopal Junction Railway Station or Habibganj Railway Station.
Bhopal is also easy to reach by road. Take Madhya Pradesh State Highway 18 from Ahmedabad or Ujjain.
Buses from the south arrive at Kushabhau Thackre Inter State Bus Terminus, which is just a few minutes walk from the Habibganj Railway Station.
Choose popular hotels like Courtyard by Marriott Bhopal or Sayaji Hotel, or try affordable hotels like the Sonali Regency Hotel.
New Market - a neighborhood sheltered by the Shyamla and Arera hills that is known for its upscale hotels and restaurants.
Old City - north of the lakes, this predominantly Muslim area is where you'll find traditional markets and bazaars.
New Town - New Town is south of the Lakes and home to new developments like the Aashima Mall.
Good bus services plus local minibuses and three-wheeled auto-rickshaws ensure that visitors can easily reach any part of the city.
Taxi is one of the most popular ways to get around. Taxis can be rented on a daily basis via your hotel concierge and prices start at ₹975.
Bhopal is less intimidating for drivers than many Indian cities. Rent a car for ₹1,040 per day from local companies and see the city at your own pace.
Head to the Chowk Bazar in Lakherapura for saris, silk, pashminas, and beaded purses, or try the Mrignayani Emporium for local arts and crafts.
Local supermarkets include Aapoorti Supermarket and Reliance Fresh. Expect to pay ₹54.78 for 12 eggs.
Dine on Mughlai-inspired dishes at a former palace by the lake at Under the Mango Tree, or try Indian fast food at Bapu Ki Kutia vegetarian restaurant in the Jyoti Mall. Be sure to visit local favorite Manohar Dairy and Restaurant for delicious desserts. A simple lunch costs ₹100 while dinner for two in a good restaurant starts at ₹500.