incredible must visit indian hill forts

Incredible Indian Forts You Must Visit [10 Forts in India to Explore]

India’s forts are famous for their construction, defences, and intimate archaeological and design detail and there are many of them to see.  We’ve put together the definitive list of the top 10 incredible Indian Forts you must visit in your lifetime.

Most Indian forts are castles or fortified palaces, several are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.  The name fort came into popular use following the British cataloging of defenses during British rule in India.  The word fort was used to collectively describe many of the monuments and it stuck.

You’ll often find the fort name in the local language, or forts with multiple names, here are just a few examples of what you might see.  We’ve also noted the popular local names for these most famous forts in India in each section.

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Indian Fort names in local language

  • Durga – Sanskrit
  • Qila or Kila – Hindi
  • Garh or Gad – Rajasthan, Assam, and Maharastra

Travel Tips for Exploring India

Where are the most famous forts in India?

Rajasthan has the most forts, but there are forts to be found throughout India, marking where previous kingdoms were situated.  Each Raja or chief of an area built a fort and a township around it, and so areas developed.  The names that we see on forts and surrounding towns and cities originate in the main from their founder.

  • Rao Jodha – founded Mehrangarh Fort above the city of Jodphur
  • Rawal Jaisal founded Jaisalmer fort and city
  • Maharana Kumbh founded Kumblagarh

Top 10 Incredible Indian Forts to See in Your Lifetime

Delhi Red Fort – Lal Quila

Located in Old Delhi and constructed in 1638 by Shah Jahan, the 5th Mughal Emperor, the Red Fort is named for the walls of red sandstone that enclose it.  The Red Fort, or Lal Quila, is one of the most important historical buildings in India.    Built on the Yamuna River, one of India’s holy rivers the fort contains many buildings, palaces, and holy places within its walls.

Delhi-in-Three-Days-red-fort-4

Most Forts in India are actually palaces (or contain palaces within them) and this is no exception.   It was the Mughal dynasty’s main residence for around 200 years.     Inside the walls of Lal Quila is an archaeological museum, an Indian War Memorial, a mosque, and palaces. Be sure to try and also visit Humayun’s Tomb while you’re in Delhi, it is quite spectacular.

It is here at Red Fort that India’s Prime Minister raises the flag on Independence and Indian Republic Day as well as where he addresses the nation.

Where:                               Chandni Chowk, New Delhi.

Built by:                             Shah Jahan

Entrance Fee:                     500 INR (Foreigners) 35 INR (Indians)

Opening Times:                  Tues-Sun – Sunrise to Sunset.  Closed Monday

Sound & Light Shows:         6 pm. 80 INR (Adults) 30 INR (Children)

Guide Services:                   Audio Guides and Human Guides Available

Highlights:                         Namesake red sandstone walls, Lahore Gate, Independence Day celebrations.

Agra Fort – Lal Quila Agra

Often overshadowed by the Taj Mahal, this is a stunning fort that is well worth a visit. The ticket to enter is included in the foreigner’s ticket if you visit on the same day.  Built of the same red sandstone found at Delhi’s Red Fort, much of the fort is occupied by the Indian Army, but there is still plenty to see.  There are views to the distance of the Taj Mahal.

Awe Inspiring Agra - Agra Fort (1)

The fort is semi-circular and surrounded by a 21-meter high wall, covering around 94 acres.    Just 30 Mughal buildings survive from around 5,000.   Shah Jahan was imprisoned here for 8 years until his death when he was buried in the Taj Mahal.

Where:                         Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Built by:                       3rd Mughal Emperor, Akbar

Entrance Fee:               550 INR* (Foreigners) 40 INR (Indians), Children U15 = Free

*(Note includes entrance to Taj Mahal on the same day)

Opening Times:            Sunrise to Sunset

Sound & Light Shows:   30 mins after sunset (Hindi), followed by English.  200 INR Foreigner                                                       70 INR Indian.

Guide Services:            Human & Audio Guides Available

Highlights:                  Stunning palaces, views of the Taj Mahal.

Amer Fort

The stunning Amer (sometimes Amber) fort, is 11 km from Jaipur.  Originally built around 967 AD many expansions took place later.  The fort is well known for the Amber Palace and the Sheesh Mahal, the mirror palace. The fort is built of yellow sandstone and marble.  It is part of the same complex as the Jaigarh Fort, which is included in the same ticket price.   It is well worth visiting the Jaigarh Fort, it gets significantly fewer visitors.

Jaipurs-Three-Forts-Amber-Fort-4

The detail of architecture and decoration is stunning at Amer.  Marble, Mirrors, and Glass adorn many of the areas of the palace.  Views are spectacular from the Jai Mandir and the corridors between the Maharaja and the zenana are stunning.

You’d be advised to take an auto-rickshaw on from Jaigarh fort to the spectacular Nahargarh Fort.

Where:                          Amer, 11km from Jaipur, Rajasthan

Built by:                        Man Singh I

Entrance Fee:                500 INR (Foreigner) 100 INR (Indian).  Different fees apply for an evening ticket

Opening Times:             8am – 530pm, 630pm – 930pm

Sound & Light Shows:    730pm (English) 830pm (Hindi) 200 INR Foreigner 100 INR Indian

Guide Services:             Human Guides & Audio Guides Available – recommended

Highlights:                   Diwan-i-Aam, or “Hall of Public Audience”, the Diwan-i-Khas, or “Hall of Private                                       Audience” and the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace).

Nahargarh Fort

Nahargarh Fort sits on a ridge above the city of Jaipur.  The name means the “abode of tigers”, and the fort was built in 1734 by Jai Singh II.   It’s easy to visit by walking up from Jaipur (there is a footpath) or by taking a taxi or auto-rickshaw from either Jaipur by the longer road route, or from Jaigarh or Amer Fort.  It’s a popular spot for a picnic or a sunset drink.

Jaipurs-Three-Forts-Nahagarh-Fort-5

You’d be advised to take an auto-rickshaw on from Amer and Jaigarh forts to the spectacular Nahargarh Fort and then return to Jaipur either by autorickshaw or on foot.

Where:                            Amer, 11km from Jaipur, Rajasthan

Built by:                          Jai Singh II

Entrance Fee:                  200 INR (Foreigner)

Opening Times:               10am – 530pm

Sound & Light Shows:      No

Guide Services:                Human Guides & Audio Guides Available – recommended

Highlights:                      Stunning views over Jaipur

Mehrangarh Fort

One of the largest forts in India, Mehrangarh Fort is located in the blue city of Jodphur, Rajasthan.  Built in 1460 by Rao Jodha the fort is 125 meters above the city and is known for the palaces within its thick walls.

Mehangarh Fort Jodhpur

The fort is entered by 7 gates, each built by successive Maharajahs to celebrate victories.  The fort contains the Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), the Phool Mahal (Flower Palace), and the Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace.  The fort’s position over the city of Jodphur affords superb views.

Where:                            Jodphur, Rajasthan

Built by:                          Rao Jodha

Entrance Fee:                  600 INR Foreigners 100 INR Indians

Opening Times: 9 am to 5 pm

Sound & Light Shows:       No

Guide Services:                 Audio Guide is included in the fee.  Human Guide fees are extra.

Highlights:                       Views, the museum, and Moti Mahal.

Jaisalmer Fort

Jaisalmer Fort in Rajasthan was built by Rawal Jaisal in 1156 in the Great Thar Desert.  It’s also known as the Golden Fort on account of the sandstone that it’s built from.  It is the second oldest fort in Rajasthan and one of the Indian Hill Forts on the UNESCO World Heritage list.  A whole city lives inside the fort – hotels, palaces, temples, homes, and restaurants, it’s known as a living fort as more than 25% of the city’s population live inside the walls.

Discover-Jaisalmer-26

The fort stands well above the surrounding countryside and incorporates 99 bastions and 4 gates from the town.  Inside you’ll find the Raj Mahal Palace, 7 Jain temples, and many elaborately carved merchant houses, or Havelis.

Where:                              Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

Built by:                            Rawal Jaisal

Entrance Fee:                    Free to enter.  There are fees to enter the palace and Jain temples.

Opening Times:                 24 hours, the Raj Mahal palace has specific opening times.

Sound & Light Shows:        No

Guide Services:                 Audio Guides are available to the Raj Mahal.

Highlights:                       Winding alleyways, views from the walls, the Raj Mahal

Chittaurgarh Fort –  Chittor Ka Kila

A stunning location overlooking the city of Chittaurgarh, this fort is best visited by autorickshaw.   Chittaurgarh Fort is the largest of the Rajasthan Hill Forts and was built in the 7th century.  Udai Singh, the founder of Udaipur was born here and the fort was mentioned in the Mahabharat and can be found in many Indian legends.  Over the course of the fort’s history, when the fort was sacked, the women and children of the fort committed suicide (Jauhar).

Chittaurgarh-Fort-1

It’s necessary to pass through 7 gates to enter the fort, which covers 700 acres and contains many temples and structures.  This fort is one of the largest in India.  Chittaurgarh Fort contained as many as 84 water tanks in her history, the most picturesque of which is the Gaumukha Kund.  It’s a deep tank filled by a spring coming from what’s described as a ‘cow mouth’.

Where:                          Chittaurgarh, Rajasthan

Built by:                        Chitrangad

Entrance Fee:                200 INR (Foreigners) 15 INR (Indians), Children U15 = Free

Opening Times:             945am – 630pm

Sound & Light Shows: 7 pm 50 INR  (Adults) 25 INR (Children)

Guide Services:              None

Highlights:                    Gaumukha Kund, Vijay Stambha (Victory Tower), and the stunning Padmini Palace                                        Ruins.

Kumbhalgarh Fort

Built at 1900 metres above sea level Kumbhlagarh fort is encircled by the 36 kilometre long “Great Wall of India”, the second longest wall in the world, behind the Great Wall of China.  There are 7 huge gates, watchtowers and 360 temples inside the great wall.

Kumbhalgarh-Fort-13

The Palace of the Clouds, the Badal Mahal, is well worth the hike to the top of the structures, where you’ll find glorious colours inside and stunning views as far as the Thar desert outside.

Where:                          Kumbhalgarh, Rajsamand district, 64km from Udaipur, Rajasthan

Built by:                        Maharana Kumbha

Entrance Fee:                200 INR (Foreigners) 15 INR (Indians), Children U15 = Free

Opening Times:             9am – 5pm

Sound & Light Shows:    645pm 100 INR (Note show only in Hindi)

Guide Services:             Human Guides Available but good signage.

Highlights:                   Badal Mahal, 36 km Great Wall of India, Views of the Thar Desert.

Ranthambore Fort

The fort is in Ranthambore National Park, once the private hunting grounds of the Maharajahs of Jaipur until Indian independence.  It is on the Indian Hill Forts on the UNESCO World Heritage list.  Inside the fort are Jain and Hindu temples and as the fort is within the National Park, wildlife roams freely.

Ranthambore-Fort-12

The National Park is known for the Tigers who make it their home. Find out how to see Tigers in the Wild in Ranthambore

Where:                             Ranthambore National Park, Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan

Built by:                           Chauhan ruler, name unknown

Entrance Fee:                   Take a Tour, to include a guide and jeep. Not possible to visit without                                                     transport as the Fort is within the National park.

Opening Times:                Sunrise to Sunset

Sound & Light Shows:       No

Guide Services:                Human Guides & Drivers Available from Sawai Madhopur.

Highlights:                      Incredible views, Temples & Wildlife

Gwalior Fort

One of the most stunning and largest forts in India, Gwalior Fort is located in Madhya Pradesh.   The fort is known as the Pearl of Indian Fortresses and holds a stunning position over the city of Gwalior on a 3km long rocky outcrop.

Gwalior-Fort-Man-Singh-Palace-8

Walking up from the Eastern Entrance, the Gwalior Gate gives a sense of the vastness of the fort.  The painted tiles of the Man Singh Palace are spectacular to see in person.  Further palaces and temples throughout the complex are stunning, as are the Jain sculptures as you exit via the Urvai (West) Gate.

Where:                            Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh

Built by:                          Rana Man Singh Tomar

Entrance Fee:                  250 INR (Foreigners) 10 INR (Indians)

Opening Times:               6am – 530pm

Sound & Light Shows:      630pm- 830pm Start times vary depending on the season. 250 INR (Foreigner)                                        100 INR (Indian)

Guide Services:                Human Guides Available

Highlights:                      Hiking up to the Eastern Gate, Man Singh Palace, Jain Sculptures below the                                            Urvai Gate.

How Many Indian Forts Are There?

India is full of forts.  There are more than 1,000 forts in India, in varying states of repair.  As dynasties fell, many were dismantled, with materials used to build new properties.  The Archaeological society of India maintains a list of heritage monuments by state and is well worth checking out if you’re planning a trip around the forts of India.

Visiting just these 10 incredible Indian Forts will give you a sense of the history of different areas of India and the vastness of this land.  Pick the right time of day and the right guides and the stunning history of India’s forts will come alive for you.

UNESCO Sites to Visit in India

If you like visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites, then you’ll love our guides to India’s best World Heritage sites

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