Straddling the main Delhi–Mumbai train line, Gwalior is northern Madhya Pradesh’s largest city and boasts one of India’s most magnificent hilltop forts. The sandstone citadel, with its temples and palaces, peers down from the edge of a sheer-sided plateau above a haze of exhaust fumes and busy streets. The city’s other unmissable attraction is the extraordinarily flamboyant Jai Vilas Palace, owned by the local ruling family, the Scindias. Their personalities and influence are everywhere, from the chhatris (cenotaphs) north of Jayaji Chowk to the excellent Sarod Ghar classical music museum. Despite its proximity to Agra, 119km north, Gwalior sees few foreign tourists and its drab modern centre lacks the charm of its nearby Rajasthani counterparts. That said, it is a worthwhile place to pause for a day, particularly around late November or early December, when the old Mughal tombs host one of India’s premier classical music events, the Tansen Samaroh Festival.

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