trip to the sub-continent is incomplete without visiting the magnificent forts of India. They tell the story of India’s long history riddled with tales of conquest and domination by several different rulers and kingdoms. Today, these forts with their crumbling facades, spectacular views and romantic palaces make for a worthwhile visit.
To give you an idea of the best forts to visit during your trip to India, below is a list of the top ten forts of India.
1. Amber Fort (Amer Fort)
Located 11 km to the northeast of Jaipur, Amber was the capital of the Kachhawa Rajputs before Jaipur was built. The strongly fortified complex of Amber Fort is set on a steep hill overlooking the beautiful Maota Lake. It was originally built by Raja Man Singh I but was completed by Jai Singh I and Sawai Jai Singh II over a hundred years later. The palace consists of a series of courtyards, audience halls and private apartments on different levels. Most noteworthy in this complex are the features of the impressive Ganesh Pol gate and the magnificent Shish Mahal.
2. Mehrangarh Fort
Rising perpendicular and impregnable from a rocky hill that itself stands 120 metres above Jodhpur’s skyline, Mehrangarh Fort is one of the largest, most impressive and best preserved forts in India. The fort comprises of a vast interconnected network of palaces, museums, courtyards and halls. Most notable among them are Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Phool Mahal (Flower Palace), Sheesha Mahal (Mirror Palace), Sileh Khana and Daulat Khana. Due to its beautiful backdrop, Mehrangarh Fort is also a popular site for filming. It was one of the filming locations for the movie, The Dark Knight Rises, which was released in June 2012.
3. Agra Fort
Largely overshadowed by the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort is one of the finest Mughal forts in India. This massive red sandstone fort was built on the banks of the Yamuna River in 1565 by Akbar, the first Mughal emperor in India. Further improvements were made by his successors; Shah Jahan built the impressive imperial quarters and mosque, while Aurangzeb added the outer ramparts. The fort was built primarily as a military structure, but Shah Jahan transformed it into a palace, and later it became his gilded prison for eight years after his son Aurangzeb seized power in 1658.
4. Red Fort (Lal Qila)
Built out of red sandstone, hence the name Red Fort or Lal Qila, the Red Fort in Delhi resembles Agra Fort but is not as well preserved. Built by Shah Jahan in 1639, it houses several palaces in addition to the hall of public and private audiences. Unfortunately, many of the highlights (Peacock Throne, semi-precious stones) were ransacked by earlier invaders and the British converted many parts into army barracks.
5. Gwalior Fort
Believed to date back to the 3rd century A.D., Gwalior Fort is the oldest surviving Hindu fort in the Bundelkund. It changed hands repeatedly and was admired by all who invaded it, even the first Mughal emperor, Babur, who admired very little else of India, famously described it as “the pearl among the fortresses of Hind”. The massive Gwalior Fort stretches for nearly 3 km (2 miles) atop a 100-m (328-ft) high sandstone and basalt hill. Its formidable bastioned walls, 10-m (33-ft) high, enclose exquisite temples and palaces, step wells, and underground pools, but its most significant structure is the monumental Man Mandir Palace. Built between 1486 and 1516 by Raja Man Singh of the Tomara dynasty, this double-storeyed palace is regarded as one of the finest examples of pre-Mughal Hindu palace architecture in India, embellished with superb stone carving and latticework.
6. Jaisalmer Fort
Jaisalmer Fort rises like a fabulous mirage out of the Thar Desert, the awesome contours of its bastions softened by the golden hue of the yellow sandstone. It is also known as the Golden Fort as its massive yellow sandstone walls are a tawny lion colour during the day, fading to honey-gold as the sun sets, thereby camouflaging the fort in the yellow desert. This is the only fort with living quarters for the townsfolk. Royal palaces, a cluster of Jain temples, mansions and shops are all contained within its walls.
7. Chittorgarh Fort
The great, battle-scarred Chittorgarh Fort is one of the greatest forts in Rajasthan and is well worth reshuffling your itinerary to explore. It epitomises in its tragic history the valour, romance, chivalry and strict death-before-dishonour code glorified in Rajput myths and legends. It rises from the plains like a huge rock island, nearly 6km long and surrounded on all sides by 180m rocky cliffs. Sprawling across 280 ha (692 acres), Chittorgarh’s ruined palaces, temples and towers bear witness to its illustrious and turbulent past, when it was the capital of the Sisodia rulers of Mewar, between the 12th and 16th centuries.
8. Daulatabad Fort
Located 13 km from Aurangabad, Daulatabad Fort is an attraction straight out of a Tolkien fantasy. Perched on a granite outcrop of the Deccan Plateau, this formidable fort has witnessed some of the greatest carnage in the region. Part of the ascent goes through a pitchblack, bat-infested, water-seeping, spiralling tunnel. It’s a fascinating place to explore! The crumbling staircases and sheer drops can make things difficult for the elderly, children and those suffering from vertigo or claustrophobia.
9. Golconda Fort
Located 13 km west of Hyderabad, Golconda Fort, one of the greatest medieval fortresses in India, was the capital of the Qutb Shahi kings who ruled over the area from 1507 to 1687. Golconda consists of four distinct forts with a 10 km long outer wall with 87 semicircular bastions (some still mounted with cannons), eight gateways, and four drawbridges, with a number of royal apartments and halls, temples, mosques, magazines and stables inside. Golconda Fort was also famous for its great hoard of diamonds, mined nearby, which included the celebrated Kohinoor diamond, now part of the British crown jewels.
10. Kumbhalgarh Fort
Situated about 80 km north of Udaipur, Kumbhalgarh Fort is a remote yet fantastic 15th century fort that fulfils every romantic fantasy and summons up thoughts of the chivalrous, warlike Rajput era. Built by Maharana Kumbha, who also built the great fort of Chittorgarh, Kumbhalgarh Fort was justly reputed to be the most impregnable fort in Rajasthan. The isolated fort is perched 1100 m above sea level, with endless views melting into the blue distance. The journey to the fort, along twisting roads through the Aravalli Hills, is a highlight in itself.