Things To Do In Orchha: Fort Complex, Temples and More
Orchha, the name translates to hidden, is a treasure trove of history and wildlife. It is blessed to have a good mix of so many historical monuments, temples, forests, cenotaphs, and adventure sports. Orchha is a small town located on the Banks of Betwa River in the State of Madhya Pradesh, India. Until now it was one of the hidden gems but now it’s declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site and tourists already started frolicking to visit this architectural marvel. Orchha was established by Bundela Rajputs in the 16th century and is a very small town. I am sharing the best things to do in Orchha in 1-2 days with is best as a weekend gateway, so get away from the hectic boring schedules of life to soak in the medieval aura of Orchha town oozing with the charm of history.
Things to do in Orchha, Madhya Pradesh
There are umpteen numbers of interesting things to do in Orchha that even a 2-day itinerary to tour Orchha may seem less. Worry not; this post is to help you choose the things you love to do the most and exploring the best places of Orchha.
Visit Heritage Orchha Fort Complex
Explore Orchha Fort! This one activity which can easily stretch from 2 to 5 hours, takes you through several palaces and gardens. The must-see palaces of Orchha fort complex are Raja Mahal, Jahangir Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, and Rai Praveen Mahal. Phool Bagh is one garden that you shouldn’t miss visiting.
Raja Mahal, Orchha
King Rudra Pratap Singh of the Bundela dynasty started the construction of this grand palace, Raja Mahal. It could not be completed during his lifetime. His successors contributed to constructing the palace. It was finally completed in the 17th century by Madhukar Shah.
Important architectural aspects that you should look out for are the two rectangular courtyards, which were used by the queens, the elevated balconies, towers, and domed pavilions. The palace has 4 floors, each accessible through stretches of narrow winding staircases at different points built to confuse enemies. You can see the remnants of mirrors and animated paintings that once adorned these walls.
Jahangir Mahal, built-in 17th century, as the name indicates was built to receive Mughal Emperor Jahangir. It was built by Raja Bir Singh Deo as a mark of respect and friendship between the two kings. Raja Vir Singh had helped Prince Jahangir during his clash with Akbar. Jahangir repaid this favor by giving him the charge of the entire Bundelkhand. Your trip to Orchha is worth the visit by seeing the Jahangir Mahal.
As you enter you will be impressed with the traditional artistic gateway just as Jahangir was once! The architectural aspects to note here are, 100 rooms, hanging balconies, chhatris, fine jaali work on windows, and topped domes. Beautiful turquoise colored tiles adorn the front wall. It has three floors. The views of Betwa River, the temples and cenotaphs, and other attractions of Orchha are breathtaking from the third floor! Be warned you will lose track of time here. Jahangir Mahal is one of the most visited tourist places in Orchha being the amalgamation of Mughal and Rajputana Artchitecture.
Sheesh Mahal, Orchha
Another must-visit Palace in Orchha Fort Complex is Shish Mahal. It is located between the Raja Mahal and Jahangir Mahal. The name translates to the palace of mirrors. This palace, built-in 1763 AD, was once the residence of Raja Udait Singh who ruled Orchha. It is now rated among the best heritage hotels of India showcasing a medieval aura with modern amenities and conveniences. You can only access Sheesh Mahal from the inside only if you are a hotel customer.
Rai Praveen Mahal and Phool Bagh
The other famous Orchha tourist attraction is Rai Parveen Mahal. The palace is located within the beautiful garden Phool Bagh. It is a small palace now in a slightly ruinous condition and may not impress you much after you have seen the Raja Mahal and Jahangir Palace. Nevertheless, it is worth going if you are an architecture lover. The palace belonged to a beautiful dancer and poetess Rai Praveen. It is said Akbar smitten by her charm wanted her in his harem. But the intelligent woman outwitted mighty Akbar with the following lines:
Vinit Rai Praveen ki, suniye sah sujan. Juthi patar bhakat hain, bari, bayas, swan.
Which translates to – O’ good and intelligent! Please listen to the prayer of Rai Praveen. Only a low caste individual, barber, and scavengers ate from a plate partaken by someone else. Akbar got the hint and respectfully accepted her love for Raja Indramani, and sent her back with dignity.
Tips while visiting Orchha Fort Complex:
- Take a heavy breakfast as there will be a lot of walking, climbing up and down, squeezing through narrow staircases.
- And yes take your own water. A bottle of water within the complex costs almost double the market price.
- Early morning is the best time; try to enter as soon the complex opens to avoid noisy crowds.
Tickets and Timings for day time to Visit Orchha Fort Complex:
Open from 9 AM to 5 PM, Entry Fee: INR 10 for Indians, INR 250 for Foreigners. Suggested Duration for the tour: 3-4 hours
The Orchha Fort is not as big as the Amber Fort of Jaipur but it is constructed in such a way you may forget your way out if you go without any guide. Also looking at the history and architecture, it is always good to take the Guided tours.
Mesmerizing Light and Sound Show at Orchha Fort
The Sound and Light show at the Orchha Fort/Palace Complex takes place in the summers from 7.30 PM to 8.30 PM in English and from 8.45 PM to 9.45 PM in Hindi. It is one of the tourist attractions in Orchha. In winters, it is ahead by an hour, from 6.30 PM to 7.30 PM in English and 7.45 PM to 8.45 PM in Hindi. It covers the history of Orchha and its glory in an interesting audiovisual medium.
Group of Chhatri (Cenotaphs) of Orchha
The Cenotaphs are erected in respect and memory of Bundela Kings of the 17th and 18th century, situated on Kanchana Ghat of Betwa river bank. Raja Bir Singh’s cenotaph is infused with Islamic features and others are relatively simpler. There are 15 cenotaphs to the Bundela kings and the members of their families. The architecture is stunning and the place is well maintained.
Visit Temples if you are Spiritually Inclined
The streets of Orchha are lined with several temples and considered as most visited tourist places in Orchha. The local people offer their prayers in almost all the temples. You can choose to visit the most popular ones mentioned here.
Related Read : Guide to visit Most Beautiful Temple of Rameswaram
One of the most prominent and famous tourist attractions of Orchha is the Chaturbhuj Temple. The Chaturbhuj Temple has unique huge proportions, so much that if you are not aware you may mistake it to be a castle. It was built for the idol of Lord Ram but Rani Ganeshkunwari, queen of Madhukar Shah, who carried it all the way from Saryu River, placed the idol in her palace (Rani Mahal) because the construction of Chaturbhuj Temple wasn’t complete. The idol remained fixed there and Rani Mahal got converted to Raja Ram Temple described next.
Constructed on a huge raised platform, the domes have carvings both inside and outside. The structure of the temple has a fusion of temple, fort, and palace features. A large hall inside makes it strikingly different from other temples. There is a hidden staircase that leads you to the roof of the temple and you get mesmerizing views of the town around. For long no idol was worshiped inside the temple, later a four-armed idol of Lord Vishnu was placed inside. The temple is open every day from 5 am to 12 pm and 4 pm to 9 pm. No tickets are required for entry.
Raja Ram Mandir
A sacred Hindu pilgrimage destination receives 3000 pilgrims daily and, this is the only temple where Lord Ram is worshiped and honored as a king and not as God. Plan and take time to see the guard of honor given to the seated idol of Raja Ram.
It is open from 6 to 10 am and 7 to 9 pm. It is believed Raja Ram resides in Orchha during day time and leaves for Ayodhya for nights. No tickets are required for entering the temple.
Lakshmi Narayan Mandir
The temple was built in 1622 by Vir Singh Deo and given a facelift in 1793 by Prithvi Singh. Though the temple is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi there is no idol of the goddess inside the temple. Nonetheless, the temple is worth visiting for its architectural splendor, fabulous mural paintings, and the pillars with ornate carvings. You can see the Bundela and Mughal forms of art paintings on the walls and ceiling halls of Laxmi Narayan temple. The paintings cover a mix of mythical, social and secular topics
It was built on a hilltop with the belief that Goddess Lakshmi would shower her blessings on all around her. No tickets needed to enter the temple. Open timings are 8 AM – 12.30 PM and 5 PM- 10 PM.
Connect with Nature in Orchha
Sunrise and Sunset Photography
Orchha is a photographer’s delight, thanks to the Betwa River flowing through the heart of Orchha town. Several spots along the bank of the river give amazing captures of the sun with its reflected glory. Orchha sightseeing is incomplete without seeing the sunset by the river.
Capture the outline of cenotaphs during the golden hour. Position yourself at the banks of Betwa River, armed with tripods and cameras. You get the mesmerizing frames of the monuments reflecting the sun’s rising rays or fine silhouette shots during sunsets.
Go for jungle safari at Orchha Wildlife sanctuary
Orchha Wildlife Sanctuary is just across the Betwa River, opposite the location of Orchha cenotaphs. The probability of animal sighting is high during the mornings. This is one of the best places to connect with nature and ideal for photographing the cenotaphs with their reflections in the river. The best time to visit is from September to March.
Tickets cost: INR 10 for Indians, INR 250 for foreigners. Open from 7am to 6pm.
Go for River Rafting or Kayaking at Betwa River
Betwa River offers mild rapids and is an exciting venue for thrilling and not so aggressive rides. It has turbulent flows at some stretches of its flow before the river merges into River Yamuna. The rapids are of grade 1 and 2, therefore an ideal venue to get a feel of river rafting before you intend to do higher grade rapids. Kayaking on Betwa River is yet another option you can choose if you are a true water sports lover.
The cost per person for river rafting and kayaking ranges from 800 to 2000 INR depending on the length of the course you choose. The river route allows you to see the magnificent cenotaphs dotting the Kanchana ghat of the river and also parts of Orchha Natural Reserve.
Offbeat Things to Do in Orchha
Bathing in Betwa River
This is an optional thing to do in Orchha. People of Orchha believe bathing in the Betwa River washes away all their sins. Before visiting the nearby temples they have a dip here. Nonbelievers too take a swim here purely for fun and thrill. Bathing is permitted in Betwa River but not monitored. Therefore please exercise caution before you get carried away!
Visit to Dauji ki Haveli
During the golden era, the rule of the Bundela dynasty, the merchants flourished in their trade. Many built huge Havelis (mansions) similar in pattern to the palaces, but they have merged with dust. However, one mansion, Dauji ki Haveli, has withstood the test of time. It is in a near ruinous state, nevertheless worth visiting if you are an architecture lover. Locals will guide you to the exact location, where Google maps fail. It is around 8km from Orchha towards Tikamgarh.
If you believe in undying love stories Hardaul Baithak will interest you. This shrine was built in reverence of Lala Hardaul for his loyalty. He was the younger son of Vir Singh Deo. When accused by his elder brother Jujjhar for having an affair with his wife, Hardaul died by drinking poison in a bid to prove his innocence. Locals worship him to the extent that even to this day the first wedding invitation in this area is brought here for his blessings.
Chandrashekhar Azad Memorial
Shahid Smarak of Orchha commemorates the great freedom fighter, Chandrashekhar Azad. There is a life-size bronze statue of him. He carried out his revolutionary work against the British hiding in Orchha during the years 1926 and 1927.
500-year-old Boabab Tree
Orchha is home to one of the few Baobab Trees found in India. It is located roughly 2 km north of Orchha on the road to Jhansi. The tree stands alone in the center of farmland and can be spotted from far. Local people there believe the Baobab Tree was planted by Maharaja Bir Singh Dev almost 500 years ago.
Buy Souvenirs, Help Local Artisans
The most common handicraft work, mostly by women in a small sale level from their houses, are artistically done pottery work, basket weaving, miniature painting, tribal artwork like Gond paintings.
After having toured the palaces and temples of Orchha you would by now be familiar with Bundela art. This art is now done by locals on paper and fabrics. The Mrignaynee Emporium in the town sells various art and handicrafts of Madhya Pradesh.
Day Trip to Jhansi from Orchha
Plan a tour to Jhansi which is 13km north of Orchha and takes roughly 30 minutes by road. Popular for Rani Lakshmi Bai, a woman freedom fighter of India, the town has some interesting historical monuments. You can easily visit these famous sites in a one day tour of Jhansi.
Jhansi was under the control of Chandela Kings from the 11th to 17th century. Jhansi Fort was built by Raja Bir Singh Deo of Orchha in 1613. During the 1857 mutiny against the British East India Company, Rani Lakshmibai showed extreme valor fighting the British army led by 2 generals. It was 1 against 2; ultimately the brave queen succumbed to the attacks bravely in war with the British.
The ancient fort has 10 gates, Karak Bijli and Bhawani Shanker canons used in wars, and a museum with a display of arms used then. Jhansi Museum (separate tickets needed) and Ganesh Mandir where Laksmi Bai and Gangadhar Rao were married are located within the fort complex. YOu can easily spend 2-3 hours at Fort, it also gives a 360-degree view of Jhansi city.
Open timings: Mon: 8 AM – 7 PM, Tue to Sun: 8 AM – 6 PM, Tickets: Indians – INR 25, Foreigners – INR 300.
Rani Mahal Jhansi
Queen’s Palace is located 650m east of Jhansi Fort. It was designed by Raghunath Rao II of the Newalkar family and used from 1769 to 1796. Rani Lakshmi Bai used it in the years 1853-58. The traditional medieval architecture of this palace is attractive. The palace is now converted into a museum and displays paintings of that era and also some archaeological finds. Total tour time required 2 hours.
Open: 7 AM to 5.30 PM, Tickets: INR 25.
Cenotaph of Raja Gangadhar Rao
Gangadhar Rao’s rule in Jhansi lasted from 1843 to 1853. His cenotaph built by his wife Lakshmi Bai in 1853 is located 1.7km east of Rani Mahal. It is a domed structure infused with architectural designs situated in a beautiful garden. Total tour time required less than an hour.
The museum, also known by the name Rani Jhansi Museum. It houses the history of Jhansi, Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh, Indian history of colonial India and has artefacts dated as old as 4th century BC. The museum is divided into many different sections. One section uses the diorama and paintings to describe the uprising of 1857. An art gallery is dedicated to Rani Lakshmibai and her revolt against British East India Company. You can explore the whole museum in 2 hours.
Timings: 10 AM to 5 PM, Closed on Monday and every second Saturday of the month.
Tickets: Indian: INR 5, Foreigner: INR 25 and Camera charges: INR 20
Best Time to Visit Orchha:
The winter months from November to March are the ideal time to visit Orchha. Summer Months from march end -June in Madhya Pradesh can be as high as 47 degrees, so avoid the summer. During the Monsoon season from June-October, chances of rain and flood are high. It is hot and humid during these months.
Also Read : Perfect 2 days Delhi itinerary
How to Reach Orchha:
By Air: Gwalior Airport is 119 Kms from Orchha is the nearest airport to reach Orchha. Mumbai and Delhi are well connected by air on this route. You can take a cab from the airport to Orchha.
By Train: Orchha doesn’t have any railway station, but the nearest railway station is Jhansi(15 Kms) in Uttar Pradesh. Jhansi(Code-JHS) is well connected by train with all the major cities of India. From the Railway Station, you can take a Cab or Auto to reach Orchha. Alternately you can take shared auto if really on a strict budget!
By Bus: There are few Night Buses which run between Delhi and Jhansi, it takes 7-8 hours.
Important tips to Visit Orchha:
*Orchha is best explored by foot, so wear comfortable shoes. Alternately you can hire auto rickshaw’s to get around.
** Orchha is small town and you can visit all the places within 1-2 Km of Radius.
*** There is one composite ticket for all monuments and it is available at Orchha fort complex’s ticket counter. Check the validity of the ticket and keep it safe because it is required at Cenotaphs and Laxmi Narayan temple.
Places to Eat in Orchha:
Orchha is a small town but you will get the real taste of local food. The region is known as ‘Bundelkhand’ and Bundelkhand food is a confluence of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and a little bit of Maharashtra and Rajasthan. The famous Dal Bafla can be found everywhere which is loaded with ghee. Also don’t miss Mater ki Kachori and Karela chaat as a snack. Apart from this, you can have Indian as well as international cuisines at most of the restaurants in Orchha. The ones favorite among tourists are Open Sky restaurant, Jharokha Restaurant in Sheesh Mahal, Cafe Nomads, and RamRaja Restaurant & Cafe.
Places to stay in Orchha
Hotel Shri Mahant – rated well for cleanliness, spaciousness, and proximity to heritage sites. Very basic facilities with friendly staff and has a Google rating of 3.8.
Betwa Retreat: This is a 3-star hotel run by Madhya Pradesh Tourism Department. The hotel comprises 1 Heritage Suite, 14 Rooms, 10 Tents, and 5 Deluxe Tents. All the rooms are equipped with AC, TV, and wifi.
Temple View Guest House : One of the best Budget Guesthouse to stay in Orchha.
Bundelkhand Riverside Heritage Hotel – The hotel has a fantastic location on the banks of Betwa River with river-facing rooms and authentic Bundelkhand cuisine.
Amar Mahal Hotel – Seems more like a palace than a hotel with its grand interiors. Choose rooms facing Betwa River and cenotaphs. Amazing spread at buffet breakfast.
Orchha Palace and Convention Centre: One of the Best Hotel in Orchha.
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I was supposed to visit Orchha along with my Gwalior trip last year, but then I cancelled it later. I’m sure it’s a mesmerizing destination. I appreciate your detailed guide. Thanks!
All images are so Attractive & Historical. Thanks….
Such nice article & great read