Have you seen the Great Wall of India? Yes, it exists in Rajasthan! The UNESCO World Heritage Site, located near Udaipur, is a fort called Kumbhalgarh. The spectacular structure is known for its long wall on the Aravalli Hills. It is the second largest fort complex in India, right after Chittor Fort. Built by Rana Kumbha ji 💓, the Mewar Kingdom ruler back in the 15th century, the beautiful fort sits 1100 m above sea level. It is now open to the public, so you can visit this wonderful place. The fort is 3600 ft tall, and 38 km long covering a vast area. An interesting fact about the fort is that it has some 360 temples, most of which are said to be Jain temples. You will also find step-wells, palaces, gardens, and 700 cannon bunkers. The fort consists of a famous Ganesh Temple that you can visit, and it is considered to be one of the earliest temples. Also, there is a Shiva Temple called Neel Kanth Mahadeva Temple, which was built in 1458 CE. Headed over Lions Bridge and made our way to the Sofia Synagogue, then sheltered in the Central Market Hall until the recurrent (but short-lived) mid-afternoon rain passed. Feeling refreshed after an espresso, we walked a short distance to the small but welcoming Banya Bashi Mosque, then descended into the ancient Serdica complex. We were exhausted after a long day of travel, so we headed back to the hotel and crashed. I had low expectations about Sofia as a city, but after the walking tour I absolutely loved the place. This was an easy city to navigate, and it was a beautiful city – despite its ugly, staunch and stolid communist-built surrounds. Sofia has a very average facade as you enter the city, but once you lose yourself in the old town area, everything changes.
THE GREAT WALL OF INDIA
The fort is located within Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, just over two hours north of Udaipur in the Aravalli Hills of Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district. It sits at the boundary of the erstwhile kingdoms of Mewar and Marwar (which ruled the region to the west around Jodhpur).
How to Get There
Kumbhalgarh is commonly visited on a day trip or side trip from Udaipur. You can easily hire a car and driver from the multitude of travel agencies in Udaipur. Expect to pay anywhere from 2,800-3,600 rupees for a full day, depending on the vehicle type.
If budget is a concern and you don’t mind a longer (and somewhat inconvenient) journey, buses run every hour or so from Chetak Circle in Udaipur to Kelwara village near the fort. Travel time is about three hours and costs 50 rupees. Get off the bus at Kumbhalgarh Circle, a couple of kilometers (1.25 miles) before the fort, and take a jeep taxi from there. Local buses run between Kumbhalgarh Circle and Kelwara.
The fort is officially open daily from 8 or 9 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m., depending on the time of year. People actually live inside the fort though, so it’s possible to remain in there!
Entry tickets cost 40 rupees for Indians and 600 rupees for foreigners. There’s no entry charge for children under 15 years of age.
What to Do There
Plan to spend three to four hours exploring Kumbhalgarh Fort. There’s quite a bit to see and some strenuous uphill walking is required, as vehicles aren’t permitted to go inside (unlike Chittorgarh). The unforgettable view from the top of the fort makes the effort worth it, and the sheer size of the fort’s exterior wall alone is simply awe-inspiring.
Guides are available at the fort entrance and you can expect to pay 300-400 rupees for one, depending on your group size. Alternatively, you can wander through the fort by yourself if you’re not interested in its detailed history.
There are more than 360 temples scattered within the fort, most of which belong to Jain deities. You’ll come across a cluster of temples after you go through the gargantuan main gate. From there, follow the paved path upwards through successive fortified pols (gates) to the fort’s three palaces, at different levels. These are Kumbha Palace, Jhalia ka Malia (Palace of Queen Jhalia) where Maharana Pratap was born, and the topmost Badal Mahal. A building housing several canons is another highlight.
The fort is particularly spectacular around sunset and just afterward, when its structures are evocatively illuminated. Those who want to learn more about the history of the fort may want to stay on for the evening sound and light show (offered in Hindi only). There’s no fixed starting time. The show begins as soon as it’s dark enough. This could be as early as 6 p.m. or as late as 7:30 p.m. It runs for about 45 minutes. Tickets cost 118 rupees for adults and 49 rupees for kids.
You’ll get a fabulous view of the fort and its exterior wall from the viewpoint about a kilometer (0.6 miles) before the main entrance. A zip-line runs across the valley to the fort wall as well. Feeling energetic? It’s possible to walk along the wall, into the wilderness, starting out from the entrance gate (Ram Pol). Those who are particularly adventurous can hike the entire length of the wall. It takes two days.
If you stay at Kumbhalgarh longer than a day, you’ll be able to enjoy numerous nature trails and outdoor activities in the area. The Kumbhalgarh-Ranakpur trek through Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary is a popular option. It’s quite an easy downhill trek that’s approximately four hours in duration. Take a local guide with you.
Many people combine visiting Kumbhalgarh with Haldi Ghati, or the Jain temples at Ranakpur.
Rajasthan Tourism organizes an annual three-day Kumbhalgarh festival at the fort from December 1-3 every year. It features music and dance performances by folk artists, puppet shows, fun traditional games, and a heritage walk.
Where to Stay
The Aodhi, owned by the Mewar royal family, is the most renowned hotel in the area. It’s nestled into the jungle close to the fort, has an outdoor swimming pool and offers horse riding. Expect to pay about 6,000 rupees per night and up for a double room.
Club Mahindra has a resort at Kumbhalgarh, which is ideal for families. If you’re not a member, rates start from about 10,000 rupees per night during the tourist season. Breakfast is included.
Fateh Safari Lodge, perched high in the hills, will appeal to outdoorsy travelers. It’s a relatively new luxury property that opened in late 2014, and is part of the same group as the Fateh Garh hotel in Udaipur. Expect to pay upwards of 5,000 rupees per night for a double room.
There are numerous other new luxury resorts in the area, with rates starting around 6,000 rupees per night. These include Via Lakhela Resort & Spa, The Wild Retreat, and Kumbhalgarh Safari Camp.
Hotel Kumbhal Palace is the closest budget option to the fort, not far from The Aodhi. It has decent rooms and luxury tents priced from 2,500-3,500 rupees per night.
Otherwise, head to Kelwara village for cheaper budget accommodations. Try New Ratan Deep Hotel or Karni Palace Hotel there.
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