With an opulent period of a glorious past, India has the finest heritage forts and palaces to explore. You can step into the shoes of warriors and maharajas by traversing across royal hunting grounds, walking through high-ceiling corridors, sitting on sprawling lawns and gorging on royal delicacies.

Here are 5 must-visit forts and palaces across India:

Leh Palace, Ladakh

Nestled atop the deserted Tsemo Hill, Leh Palace, also known as Lhachen Palkhar. It stands as a testament to Ladakh’s rich history and architectural grandeur. Built in the 17th century by Tsewang Namgyal, the founder of the Namgyal dynasty. With its nine stories, Leh Palace was once among the tallest structures, offering a panoramic view of Ladakh’s mountain ranges and the town below.

The architecture of Leh Palace mirrors the medieval Tibetan style. It was constructed using mud, wood, sand, and stones. The structure is known for its adaptability, appearing cool in summer and warm in winter.

Amber Fort, Rajasthan

Amber Fort, also known as Amer Fort, is yet another testament to the architectural and cultural heritage of Rajasthan. Atop a hill, the fort is a fusion of Rajput and Mughal architectural styles making it a unique destination for tourists. The use of red sandstone and white marble reflects the grandeur of the historical era it represents. The fort’s location overlooks Maota Lake and provides a stunning panoramic view.

Amber Fort has been a witness to numerous events, battles, ceremonies, and celebrations over the centuries. The sound and light show in the evening narrates the fort’s history, bringing the past to life for visitors theatrically.

Ganesh Pol and Diwan-e-Aam inside the fort have intricate craftsmanship and artistic brilliance. The Mirror Palace, or Sheesh Mahal, is a standout attraction with its exquisite mirror work, creating a dazzling effect when illuminated.

Lakshmi Vilas Palace, Gujarat

Photo credit: Gujarat Tourism

Constructed in the late 19th century at a staggering cost of Rs 6 million, Vadodara’s Laxmi Vilas Palace spans over 500 acres. It is the largest private home built to date and four times the size of Buckingham Palace. The palace’s elaborate interiors feature well-maintained mosaics, chandeliers, and artworks by renowned artist Raja Ravi Verma.

The palace’s construction was overseen by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III in 1890, and Major Charles Mant is credited as the main architect behind this architectural marvel. Laxmi Vilas Palace not only serves as a residence for the royal family but also stands as a historical and cultural landmark.

The palace is set in expansive park-like grounds, which include a golf course. The Navlakhi stepwell is an ancient water resource system built by kings to address the arid conditions of Gujarat.

Additional structures within the complex include LVP Banquets & Conventions, Moti Baug Palace, and the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum building.

Chittorgarh Fort, Rajasthan

Chittorgarh Fort, located in the town of Chittorgarh in Rajasthan, India, is a historical landmark that draws visitors from far and wide. Spread across an expansive 700 acres with a perimeter wall spanning 13 km, it stands as one of the largest forts in India. The fort was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013 as part of the Hill Forts of Rajasthan.

The fort is a testament to the pride, loyalty, and sacrifice of the Rajputana era. Its history is deeply intertwined with tales of valour, tragedy, and romance. One of the most poignant stories associated with Chittorgarh Fort is the torment faced by Rana Ratan Singh at the hands of Alauddin Khilji, the ruler of the Delhi Sultanate. Khilji’s attack on Chittor was driven by his desire to capture Queen Padmini, known for her exceptional beauty.

Chittorgarh Fort is not only a symbol of tragic love tales but also holds associations with other historical figures. Rani Meera Bai, the poetess devoted to Lord Krishna, resided within the fort.

Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh

Gwalior Fort is perched on a steep mass of sandstone. It has witnessed historical events, battles, imprisonments, and jauhars (mass suicides). The fort is celebrated for its legacy.

The entry to the fort is a steep road with statues of Jain Tirthankaras carved into the rock face. The outer walls of the fort stretch to two miles in length and rise 35 feet high.

Inside the fort, medieval architectural marvels include the 15th-century Gujari Mahal, constructed by Raja Mansingh Tomar in dedication to his Gujar Queen, Mrignayani. It stands as a symbol of their love. It also has an Archaeological Museum housing rare antiquities, some dating back to the 1st century A.D.

One notable exhibit within the museum is the statue of Shalbhanjika from Gyraspur, a representation of the tree goddess. This statue is considered the epitome of perfection in miniature. It can be viewed on request under the custody of the museum’s curator.