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Rising 3,600 feet (1,098 metres) high above sea level and fortification stretching 36km (22 miles) long, the Kumbhalgarh Fort in the western Indian state of Rajasthan is the ‘Great Wall of India’ and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Said to be the second largest wall in the world, the fort is majestic and historic. And, within its fortification walls lie numerous palaces, wildlife and ancient temples that are equally as magnificent. Before you plan a trip to this remote and worthwhile site, here’s everything you need to know to make the best of your trip.
Nestled in the Rajasmand district of Rajasthan, the Kumbhalgarh Fort sits majestically at the base of the rugged Aravalli ranges amidst the cluster of 13 hill peaks of the ranges. The fort is characterised by seven huge gates, step-wells, nearly 360 Jain and Hindu ancient temples from different periods of history, around 700 cannon bunkers, massive watch-towers, rare and thriving wildlife, dense forest and mesmerising views of the Aravalli Range. The front walls of the fort are 15 metres wide.
The walk to the fort is quite a task, with meandering paths through the lush forest, deep ravines and mountain cliffs. Once you reach the fort, you’ll be awestruck with its grandeur and beauty, and it will surely be one of the standout memories of your trip.
Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan 313325, India +91 294 241 1535
Created in the 15th century and later enlarged in the 19th century, the Kumbhalgarh Fort was established by Rana Kumbha, the ruler of the Mewar kingdom of western India, and was among the 32 forts built during his period of rule. This fort was built to protect the kingdom from its enemies, and legend has it that this fort was never conquered. Also, it was the birthplace of Maharana Pratap, a legendary king of Mewar.
This massive structure is historically, architecturally, culturally and artistically rich, and depicts the story of a civilisation that thrived centuries ago.
Spread over miles, Kumbhalgarh has a plenty of things to see and do in and around the fort, particularly the 19th-century Badal Mahal, also known as the ‘Palace of Clouds’. It’s a two-storey palace that sits majestically atop the fort and comprises of Mardana Mahal, for the royal men, and the Zanana Mahal, which was for the royal ladies. The highlight isthe palace’s interior in subtle colours with beautiful wall murals. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along its perimeter, marvel at its fine carvings, enjoy the bird’s eye view of the scenic landscape, and watch the palace turn into a gorgeous palette of colours at sundown.
Within the Kumbhalgarh Fort lies a 60 feet deep tank, known as Lakhola Tank built by Rana Lanka. It is one of the major attractions of the fort.
Another prime spot to visit is the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary that extends over 578 sq km (223 sq miles) and offers shelter to an assortment of flora and fauna, including the Indian leopard, Indian wolf, jungle cat, sloth bear, Indian hare, antelopes and over 200 species of bird. Visitors can take advantage of the jeep safari to get close to the wildlife.
Kotdwar Pauri Road, Kotdwara, Uttarakhand 246149, India, +91 97569 80267
Another temple within the periphery of the fort is the Vedi Temple, a three-storey Jain temple built in 1457, standing majestically on the top of 36 pillars, thus creating an octagonal shape. Legend has it that the construction of the wall failed multiple times, but after a voluntary human sacrifice, all the problems disappeared and the wall was formed. To this day, the Hanuman Pol (main gate of the fortress) has a shrine and temple that pays respect to the sacrifice. This temple is said to be the only surviving pilgrim sacrificial place in the country.
There are remnants of numerous other Hindu and Jain temples in the ambit of the fort that not only hold immense religious significance, but also are a fascinating display of art and architecture.
Every day, in the evening, the fort is lit up with lights for an hour and it’s quite a sight to behold. There is a light and sound show that depicts the tale of the fort’s royal past – a must-have experience for all visitors.
A three-day festival is organised by the Rajasthan Tourism Department every year, which involves a special light and sound show, heritage walks, dance events, concerts, and games, such as tug-of-war and turban-tying.
There is a fair share of lodging options to choose from.
The Kumbha Bagh
If you’re looking for sheer opulence, head straight to The Kumbha Bagh , an all-suite resort, settled 3,500 feet (1,066 metres) above sea level. It is known for its beautiful amalgamation of traditional and modern touches and amenities, plus the mesmerising views of the surrounds. The suites are 1,000 sq ft and adorned with Rajasthani decor and historical artefacts. There are also private balconies, Jacuzzi and decks in every suite.
If you prefer traditional stay option, Dera Kumbhalgarh is the best option. It provides deluxe rooms, Swiss tents as well as cottages, en-suite bathrooms and luxury facilities. Camp fires, jeep safaris, meditation camps and camel rides are just cherries on the cake.
Dera Kumbhalgarh, Kumbhalgarh, Post Kelwara, Rajsamand, Rajasthan. +91 099839 96511
If you wish to stay amidst verdant hills, the Aodhi Hotel near to the Fort is your best bet. This heritage hotel will make you feel like a royal, with its high-end amenities, including each room with private balconies, terrace with stunning views of the fort, and an in-house restaurant, Chowka, that serves lip-smacking regional cuisine.
The Aodhi, P.O: Kelwara, District Rajsamand, Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan. +91 080037 22333
Kumbhalgarh Safari Camp
The Kumbhalgarh Safari Camp puts you right in the lap of nature. It comprises 25 plush tented cottages, complete with private balconies with picturesque views of the lake and Aravalli Range, plus modern facilities, including sir-conditioning, a well-stocked bar, private sit-outs, TV and more.
Devi Palace Resort
Known for its traditional charm, hospitality and Rajasthani decor, the Devi Palace Heritage Resort is a stunning heritage resort, complete with deluxe suites with modern amenities, swimming pool and an in-house restaurant. Adventure activities, such as rock climbing, hiking and abseiling, are on offer.
All the hotels and resorts in Kumbhalgarh have their own in-house restaurants. Other options include Gujarat Restaurant, KKR Restaurant and Kumbhalgarh INN restaurant, all of which serve authentic regional food.
Maharana Pratap Airport in Udaipur is the nearest airport to Kumbhalgarh, approximately 115 km (71.4 miles) via NH27. The nearest train station is Falna, approximately 41.8 miles (67.3 km) from Kumbhalgarh Fort. Visitors can also opt for the bus or private cab from the airport or railway for the rest of the journey.
The best time to witness the fort and its splendours is October to March. The fort opens every day from 8am until 6pm, year-round. A nominal fee is charged – INR 10 for Indian nationals, INR 100 ($1.56) for tourists; INR 100 for the Light and Sound Show.