Set against the rugged Vindhya hills, the medieval ghost-town of Mandu, 98km southwest of Indore, is one of central India’s most atmospheric monuments. This tranquil backwater sees far fewer visitors than it deserves, save for the busloads of exuberant Indian day-trippers on weekends. Visit at the height of the monsoons, when the rocky plateau and its steeply shelving sides are carpeted with green vegetation, and you’ll understand why the Malwa sultans christened their capital Shadiabad – “City of Joy”.
Even during the relentless heat of the dry season, the ruins are an exotic spectacle. Elegant Islamic palaces, mosques and mausoleums crumble beside large medieval reservoirs and precipitous ravines, while below, an endless vista of scorched plains and tiny villages stretches off to the horizon. Mandu can be visited as a day-trip from Indore, but you’ll enjoy it more if you spend a night or two, giving you time not only to explore the ruins, but also to witness the memorable sunsets over the Narmada Valley.