Orchha often turns out to be the unexpected highlight of tours across India’s northern plains. Now little more than a sleepy village, the site on the banks of the rocky Betwa River served in the 16th century as the capital of the redoubtable Bundela Dynasty, arch foes of the Delhi Sultans. A superb collection of deserted palaces, temples, havelis and cenotaphs remain from this era, most of them in an advanced state of neglect, with weeds growing from their domed cupolas and spectacular sanctuary towers.
The defining landmark here is a line of huge chhatris, or memorial shrines, whose great towers soar in a line along the riverbank – a particularly wonderful view when water levels are high and reflections of the pale-ochre buildings shimmer between the boulders.
Vestiges of onion-domed royal apartments, cloistered courtyards, romantic pleasure pavilions and ornamental gardens are scattered further north, providing plenty of scope for walks and cycles. Wanders around Orchha can feel like genuine exploration.
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