Looking for places to visit in Orchha? This small town is absolutely a must-visit on your next India trip and this guide has you sorted with the best things to do.
The town of Orchha is over 500 years old and is conveniently close to the city of Jhansi, from where you can easily catch trains all over India. The town is well known as a religious centre and for its historical monuments.
Set on the banks of the Betwa River, Orchha is a great place to escape the crowds and see a quieter side of India.
I visited Orchha as part of a 2 week India trip that also included Abhaneri, Alipura, Varanasi and the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Jaipur and Agra).
A day trip from Jhansi is an easy way to see Orchha, although I would recommend overnighting in the area so you can see more.
Best Things to Do in Orchha
1. Orchha Palace
The Orchha palace, or Orchha Fort, is the number one place to visit in Orchha. Built by the Bundela dynasty, Hindu rulers of the princely state of Orchha from the 16th century.
The complex technically includes two major palaces as well as a bunch of smaller (but still impressive) outbuildings. It’s heavily fortified, with the river acting as a moat on one side, and outer walls covered in archer slits and elephant spikes.
The Raja Mahal was the residence of the kings and royal family and is richly decorated inside although simpler outside.
The Jahangir Palace was built for the Mughal emperor Jahangir, who sadly only visited once. It’s a stunning combination of Indo-Islamic architecture with countless arches and intricate carvings.
You can climb to the upper levels of the Jahangir Palace to get great views over the palace courtyard and surrounding area. Although don’t try this if you’re afraid of heights or have mobility issues as there are no barriers on the balconies and the steps are very steep.
We hired a local guide from the fort office to explain the history of the complex and I’d definitely recommend this as you learn a lot and there are very few signs to tell you what you’re looking at. Current guide fees are displayed at the ticket office and are typically a few hundred rupees dependent on group size.
Entry is only around 12rs although you will have to pay extra to take cameras in (smartphones are fine). The complex is open 8 am to 5 pm but subject to change on holidays.
2. Orchha Temples
Orchha is well known as a Hindu religious hub and particularly for its devotion to Rama, the god who is worshipped as a king (Ram Raja) in Orchha.
There are two main temples in Orchha, the Ram Raja temple which is newer and used for puja ceremonies throughout the day, and the older Chaturbhuj Temple which does technically have an operating shrine but is not used for mass worship.
These temples were built by a previous king and queen of Orchha for their respective favourite deities, with the Ram Raja temple being a converted palace.
Visitors can attend prayers at the Ram Raja temple which is absolutely a must do as the energy here is incredible, creating a very powerful experience. Just remember to remove your shoes, dress (and behave) conservatively and leave room for worshippers.
You can also climb the stairs up to the Chaturbhuj Temple which features panoramic views over the fort, cenotaphs, and surrounding countryside. There is a small shrine to Vishnu at which visitors can make offerings and ask for blessings.
3. Orchha Chattris
Chattris are tombs similar to Western cenotaphs but these monuments are unlike any grave or memorial you would find elsewhere in the world. These memorialise different kings of the Bundela dynasty, who also built the Orchha fort.
Set in a large garden and surrounded by flowers in vibrant reds, oranges and yellows, this is the most peaceful spot in Orchha to explore and is especially brilliant at sunrise or sunset.
There are four large chhattris and ten smaller ones. Each chattri is a multi-storey building, largely hollow with rows of arches that you can walk between and glimpse the river through. They are topped with domes, some short and rounded and others tall and pointed to mimic the Himalayas. This makes for awesome photos!
4. Saket Museum
This museum, next to the Ram Raja temple, is easy to miss but a must-add to your list of places to visit in Orchha.
The museum is small, but it has some beautiful artworks from all over India representing the stories of Lord Ram in markedly different artistic styles.
The main attraction at the museum is the life-size statues of the gods, brightly coloured and made of fibreglass.
5. Betwa River rafting
As Orchha is built around the river, getting out on the water is a great way to see a different side of the town and a very different experience to your typical sightseeing.
There are a couple of companies offering rafting trips, generally one-way starting from just past the main bridge with jeep transfers back to your starting point. The easiest way to book is to call ahead.
Expect to pay anything from 200-2500rs per person depending on inclusions (ie hotel transfers, lunch).
The river is fairly calm but there are some rapids (Grades 1/2) to keep things interesting. And the water is much cleaner than elsewhere in India so if you end up falling in its not the end of the world.
6. Rajni Cooking School
Learning to cook some Indian cuisine is a must-do on your trip and there is an opportunity to do this in Orchha with Rajni Cooking Classes.
Rather than a hands-on school with an industrial kitchen, these classes are hosted by a local woman in her family’s home. While you can help out with making dishes, the classes are mostly a demonstration.
Each class typically starts with masala chai and can include 10+ dishes, depending on group size. And yes, you do get to eat them all at the end!
There is no schedule or online bookings so the best way to organise a class is to make a request via the Facebook page.
Like all Indian towns, Orchha has a main street full of small shops and market stalls. The area around the Ram Raja temple in particular, is full of stalls selling both tourist souvenirs and religious paraphernalia like garlands and ribbons.
The shopping here is good, considering the size of the town and provides a calmer alternative to the larger markets in the big cities. You do still need to bargain hard though!
I found most shops to sell similar goods of relatively cheap quality but found some great bargains on clothing.
There are very few options available for scheduled guided tours to Orchha, especially for foreign visitors. However, you can easily organise a private driver to take you around, make enquiries at Jhansi station.
How to get to Orchha from Jhansi
Orchha is only 20km from the city of Jhansi which is the closest transport hub.
The best way to get to Orchha from Jhansi is by hiring a taxi which are easiest to find at the train station. The drive takes around 30-45 minutes, depending on the time of day and can cost anything from a few hundred rupees to a few thousand depending on your bargaining skills.
There is technically a local train that runs between Jhansi and Orchha however it stops quite a way out from the main attractions and accommodations so it’s not a great option if you have baggage with you.
If you are doing an Orchha day trip from Jhansi, I’d recommend focusing on the palace and two main temples.
If you have another day, try getting up early to see the cenotaphs (chattris) at sunrise then head out for a bit of river rafting. Hit the markets for some food and a bit of shopping.
Where to stay in Orchha
Like most of regional India, there are no chain hotels and most accommodation is small family-run ‘hotels’ that are very basic however there are 2-3 higher quality options aimed at foreign tourists.
Luxury: Amar Mahal Hotel – Mahal means palace and this place truly does look like one, right from the front gates
Mid-range: Orchha Resort –this is a mass-market tourist option but offers all the more comfortable touches like a pool, spa and buffet that are less common elsewhere
Budget: Hotel Ganpati – a friendly family-run spot with river views and basic but clean rooms
A tip for Indian accommodation: you get what you pay for so if something looks like a great deal don’t expect it to be as good as the pictures. Things like wifi, AC and hot water may be advertised but not actually working.
Frequently asked questions on Orchha
When is the best time to visit Orchha?
While peak tourist season in India is from November to February and has the coolest temperatures, you’ll find the place quieter and get even better deals if you come slightly before or after.
I last visited in October which had good weather (hot and humid but manageable with some cooling drizzle).
Given the road quality, it’s best to avoid the monsoon season (July to September).
What is Orchha famous for?
While there are many attractions in Orchha, the town is most famous for its fort/palace, closely followed by the temples of Ram Raja and Vishnu.
How long do you need in Orchha?
This really depends on how much you like to cram into a day and how many of the things to do in Orchha are of interest to you. Most people only do a day trip, but I would say overnighting (2 days) is ideal.
Visiting Orchha is a truly unique experience and a great option for travellers wanting an off-the-beaten-path experience.