Madhya Pradesh's modern urban center, Indore fizzes with energy, but has a beguiling historical side too. The seat of the Holkar dynasty offers great food, festivals, shopping, and sights, with some exceptional day trips on its doorstep as well.
Indore's ruling dynasty for centuries, the Holkars have left behind some stunning sights, like the Lal Bagh Palace and Rajwada Palace, along with the structure of the superb Central Museum.
The Holkars cultivated great religious architects, resulting in gorgeous constructions like the Khajrana Ganesh Temple and the Chhatris (tombs) by the Khan river.
It's easy to unwind in Indore, whether you take the kids to Shell City Water Park in the southern suburbs, or stroll through the magnificent Meghdoot Gardens.
Around 70 miles southwest of Indore lies Mandu, capital of a 16th-century Muslim state and blessed with some fascinating forts, mosques, and palaces.
Indore is a textile city, and local craftspeople create some of India's most beautiful saris. If you want some colorful Indian textiles, local outlets like MT Cloth Market are the place to go.
The majesty and opulence of the historic Indian Holkar monarchy is self-evident in the corridors, the surrounding greenery and the architecture of the Rajwada residence. Built in the 18th century by the Maratha Empire, its seven storeys, strong, imposing brickwork, historic gates, beautiful columns, ensconced balconies and gorgeous courtyard are a favorite for visitors who love historical architecture. Here, every ornament, carving, window, and hallway is a time capsule but also a cultural capsule. Take the time to view its galleried rooms, simple but austere aesthetic and marble tiled floor. It's especially stunning during Diwali, when Indore pulls out all the stops to light and decorate its palatial pride.
The mark of the British "Raj" or rule is well demonstrated by the stunning interiors of the palace of Lal Baag which, translated, means "red gardens". While the gardens themselves are stunning and very green, the inside of this European Renaissance-inspired royal residence is as red as they come: deep, velvet maroons and carmine reds in its curtains and upholstery set the place ablaze. This is balanced by the generous use of gold and brass in the light sconces, gorgeous detailed moldings, intricate, brocaded wall decorations and even the carpeting. Look overhead and you'll see a breathtaking mural set in an encrusted frame - the spitting image of the entrance of Buckingham Palace.
Don't let the exteriors of this "Central Museum" fool you. While it may look like an opulent but otherwise expected mansion, its interiors play host to Indore's most important and precious treasure: its history. From the prehistoric era to Indus Valley civilizations, Mughal and Maratha rule and the British Empire, you'll be able to gain a real sense of the progression of this important place. Indore played its part in Indian history well. Now, take a trip down memory lane and bear witness to it.
No trip to Indore is complete without paying a visit to the Annapurna Temple. Clearly, Indian deities love a good crowd and majestic carvings because the temple is more like an architectural testament to devotion. Its ornate gates and three interior shrines can be studied, literally, for hours, because they feature so many prominent figures of Hindu mythology and religion.
Its 80 acres consist of a whopping 42 acres of pristine blue lake and 38 acres for nature activities. There's way too much to do, so plan to make this a multi-day spot. Take your choice of paddle boat, speedboat or even small cruiser out onto the water. Work up an appetite that can be easily satisfied at the Fast Food Zone, then head to the bio-diversity garden for a post-lunch afternoon stroll. While children leap through fountains, you can laze nearby. End the evening with dinner on the Malwa Queen mini-cruise.
Indore can be visited all year round. However, summer temperatures (May to September) can be very hot, often nudging above 100 degrees. Then again, with a wonderful cooling breeze, summer nights in Indore are magical, so even the hottest months can be enjoyable.
Devi Ahilyabai Holkar National Airport (IDR) offers excellent connections to other Indian cities. From there, taxis will cost ₹60-90.
You can travel by train to Indore from cities like Mumbai and Delhi with ease. Trains arrive at Indore Junction Railway Station, right at the center of town.
From Delhi, take the Yamuna Expressway to Agra, the AH43 to Gwalior, then the AH47 to Indore. The AH47 also runs straight from Mumbai.
Air-conditioned intercity buses run from all major regional destinations. Operators include Royal Travels and City Link Travels.
Some of Indore's most comfortable luxury hotels include the Radisson Blu Hotel Indore, the Sayaji Hotel Indore, and the Grand Bhagwati Palace, which is slightly outside town.
MT Cloth Market - a neighborhood in its own right, the MT Cloth Market is Indore's most spectacular textile bazaar. If you love fabrics, it's a must-see.
Revenue Colony - the nondescript name conceals a rich variety of historical sights in Revenue Colony, which is home to the Lal Bagh Palace.
Palasia - Indore's wealthiest area is also home to the finest restaurants in town, including Vrindavan and Alav.
Public transportation in Indore isn't well developed, meaning that most locals get around via Maruti minibuses, cycle, foot, or taxis. City buses do run to some areas, and charge ₹8 for their basic fare.
Taxis are a good option for getting around Indore. Expect to pay ₹40 for the meter drop, then ₹30 for every subsequent mile.
Car rental companies in Indore include Sai Travels, and rates start at around ₹350 per day.
For fabrics, head to MT Cloth Market or the Mrignayani Showroom. However, there are great modern malls as well, including Treasure Island on the MG Road, with plenty of international chain stores.
Supermarkets in Indore include Reliance Fresh and Big Bazaar. Prices are generally very low, at around ₹160 for a gallon of milk.
There's a great restaurant scene in Indore, much of it centered around Palasia. Some of the best eateries include Punjabi options like Pind Balluchi, Nafees Restaurant on Apollo Avenue, and Kebabsville at the Sayaji Hotel. Prices vary, but meals should come to around ₹400-600 per head.