Explore the Mystic City of Lakes - Bhopal
Updated: Feb 5
One of the underrated gems of the country, Bhopal may not be a place that comes to mind first when thinking of travel; but the solace and serenity you will find here amidst delightfully beautiful backdrops will undoubtedly charm you and make it a special trip for years to come. Bhopal, popularly known as the "City of Lakes" is the capital of Madhya Pradesh, which is situated at the heart (central part) of India. The 'Nawabi' city abounds in a variety of beautiful and interesting places ranging from national parks to zip-lining spots and has recently also captured the attention of several filmmakers, with many popular Hindi shows and movies being shot here. The city is divided into two areas, 'Old Bhopal' and 'New Bhopal' with the latter being a hotspot for many tourists. So, let's take a tour of one of the greenest cities in India, Bhopal.
How to reach:
By Air: Bhopal has direct connectivity with the major cities in India including Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Raipur, and Hyderabad, with several flights available around the year. From the eastern and southern parts of India, you can get connecting flights via these cities to Bhopal.
By Rail: The ‘Old Bhopal’ and ‘Bhopal Habibganj’ stations are regarded as World-Class Stations with well-maintained amenities, and have connectivity with most cities in India. Trains like the ‘Shatabdi Express’ and ‘Bhopal Express’ have a wide reach and are very convenient and reliable mode of transportation.
By Road: Bhopal is linked to several cities via road. The roads are well maintained with multiple rest stops along the way. There are many highways like MP SH 18 which connects Bhopal to Ahmedabad, there is NH46 which connects Gwalior, Bhopal, Guna, and terminates in Betul. Bhopal is connected to many 2 and 3 tiers cities through state bus services, like Indore(190km), Ujjain(189km), Nagpur(354km). You can easily take a bus from Bhopal to Indore, Shirdi, and various other cities.
Now that we have talked about how to get there, let’s look at the activities you can indulge in when visiting the regal city of Bhopal!
Van Vihar is a profound National park and Zoo in central India and is definitely a place to 'vihar' that is, to visit. The place consists of various spots like the rescue center, zoological gardens, conservation breeding centers, and of course, the national park. The zoo houses a diverse variety of fauna ranging from the tiger, hyena, sloth bear, leopard, as well as the fear-inducing reptilian display including pythons and many more scaled creatures. A park is set right next to the famous Upper Lake, also known as the 'Bada Talab' of Bhopal.
You can also engage in various events like Bird Watching Camps, Photography competitions for various categories, and Wildlife week celebrations. The wildlife celebrations begin from 1st October to spread awareness around the conservation of wildlife.
Van Vihar is a beautiful spot with lush green trees, swampland, and even boasts of a cycling track. Tourists and locals alike often rent bicycles to enjoy a tranquil ride amidst the forests and alongside the beautiful lake shimmering in the light of the rising sun while the whole city sleeps.
Van Vihar is open throughout the year and the timings are 6 am to 7 pm from Saturday to Thursday (closed on Fridays). You can take a cab to reach this attraction.
Kerwa Dam is known for its scenic beauty and is a hotspot for tourists who want to try out zip-lining and other adventure sports conducted here. You can see different hues of green at the rich gardens, relish street food at the Kerwa restaurant, children can have a great time at the swings near the garden. There is also a good spot in the garden for people to view the entire dam backed by the breathtaking sight of rich greenery.
You can book your spot for zip lining at a booth near the dam and enjoy a splendid experience. Camping at the Kerwa Dam is another major attraction, the Serenity Camp nearby offers an exciting camping experience including fun ice-breaking sessions and sports like cricket, water volleyball. There are bonfire nights filled with fun and frolic, and you can also enjoy your own company and indulge in stargazing in the serene night sky lit up like diamonds, away from the hustle-bustle of the city.
Kerwa Dam is open on all days from 8 am to 6 pm. The best time to visit is during the rainy season when the dam is gushing with water and its gates are opened. You can either hire a taxi or take a rental car and enjoy a lovely drive along the fields.
Jehan Numa Palace is one of Bhopal's finest hotels with a legacy of over 100 years. It beautifully replicates the old 'Nawabi' style of Bhopal.
Bhopal has inculcated the Mughlai touch in its cuisine and is extremely famous for its Mughlai dishes, the most famous of them being the 'Bhopali Gosht Korma Mughlai'. You can relish this appetizing dish at the Jehan Numa Palace which will definitely take you back to the reign of the Mughals. The beautiful palace is a great place for lodging as well. You can avail of various services provided by the hotel, like the 'Chakra' spa, where one can pamper oneself with some relaxing massages, body treatments, and skin therapies. You can even explore the wellness center which entails the gyming area, steam and sauna rooms, a grand swimming pool, and lastly the cherry on top: a jacuzzi as well.
Make sure you visit, ‘Under the Mango Tree’, which is one of the many restaurants within Jehan Numa, and enjoy a delightful barbeque dinner and drinks. The Jehan Numa Palace is 20 minutes away from the airport and can easily be reached by cab.
The Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum brings the tribes of Madhya Pradesh back to life. The place is ablaze with vibrant colors, well-crafted pieces, and creative paintings. The museum has six galleries, each displaying a unique and interesting part of tribal culture and history. You begin with 'Cultural Diversity' which clearly shows the geographical location of Madhya Pradesh and the tribes who migrated here. Then comes the 'Tribal Lifestyle' which depicts the lifestyle of the Madhya Pradesh tribes. There are ceramic structures of tribes playing tug of war, making pottery, reciting tales. The place is also adorned with a big white jute tree which depicts the tree climbing activity of the tribes. You can take a look at the small huts made during that time. In total, you get a glimpse of their lifestyle in one place itself. You then move on to the 'Tribal Aesthetic' area where you get to view the insights of the tribal perceptions of art in their daily lifestyles. Small pieces of jewelry like bangles, necklaces, earrings made of terracotta are displayed on small mantels. There are even pieces and pictures showing the wedding celebrations of the tribes. Then you drift towards the divine calling coming from the 'Tribal Spiritual World' showcasing the pictures and structures of deities, which do not exist in concrete form but were existent in the form of stones, flags, earthen lamps, etc. Finally, you step into the 'Chattisgarh and Rakku gallery', where actual pictures of the tribes are displayed on colorful walls.
You can also enjoy theatre plays named ‘Abhiyaan’ held every Friday and can learn about the traditions and performing arts of the tribes, ‘Uttaradhikar’ held every Sunday. Hence, the Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum is a must-see place in Bhopal. You can visit this place between 12 pm to 7 pm and it is open from Tuesday to Sunday.
Taj-ul-Masjid, 'Crown of Mosques' is the largest mosque in India and the second largest in Asia. Its beautiful design is reminiscent of the Mughal period. Its construction work went down to many generations starting during the reign of Sultan Shah Jehan Begum of Bhopal. The construction remained incomplete for a few years due to the war but was resumed by Allama Mohammad Imran Khan Nadwi Azhari and Maulana Sayed Hashmat Ali Sahab of Bhopal. Finally, it stood complete in 1985.
The masjid is also a symbol of devotion as it depicts the determination of the female ruler. It looks absolutely majestic, with its pink exterior and carvings, and arch-shaped windows adding up to its beauty. You need to take a flight of small stairs to climb up to the masjid. The entrance gate stands tall and has an arch-shaped structure graced by mesmerizing blue and white patterns. You can see two minarets and three domes at the masjid made up of red stone. It is situated by the 'Motia Talab' adding to its aesthetic look.
Taj-ul-Masjid is located in Koh-e-Fiza in Old Bhopal, you can also visit the ‘Azad Market’ near the ‘masjid’ and buy some souvenirs Bhopal is known for. The masjid is open on all days from 6 am to 8 pm, but non-Muslims are not allowed inside on Fridays as there are special weekly prayers that are conducted. Taj-ul-masjid is far from the main city of New Bhopal, you can get there by cab, though we suggest exploring the narrow crowded streets on foot or in local rickshaws that you will easily find.
Another spectacular attraction is the Lakshmi Narayan Temple, more popularly known as Birla Mandir, a structure of grandeur and enchanting design. Constructed by the Birla Industrial Group and inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi, the temple was built in the honor of Lakshmi - the goddess of wealth, and her consort Narayan (or Vishnu), the preserver of the universe.
Devotees visit to pay homage at the shrine of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, especially during the festivities of Janmashtami and Diwali. Surrounded by greenery and overlooking a stunning panoramic view of the city, the temple is a picture of old-world charm with its mesmerizing lawns, fountains, and sculptures. The Birla Temple also houses the famous Birla Museum in its premises with collections dating back to the 12th-century boasting some sculptures from the era of Paramaras.
Birla Mandir is nestled in the Arera Hills and spreads across 7.5 acres. It is situated near important bureaucratic buildings such as Vidhan Sabha and Vallabh Bhawan. It can be reached by cab or even an 'autorickshaw'.
Bhopal offers a break from the bustling lifestyle of metropolitan cities; there is a certain warmth and comfort that the city offers that immediately makes one feel at home. From finding solace in the serene temples, being at one with wildlife in their natural habitat to checking out the more modern part of the city where several restaurants and cafes have come up recently, Bhopal is the perfect mix of intertwined ancient and contemporary charm. Bhopal is lively year-round and you can enjoy its sights anytime you visit. So, book your tickets and get ready to fall in love with the unique and mystical charm of Bhopal.