Rising perpendicular and impregnable from a rocky hill that itself stands 120m above Jodhpur’s skyline, Mehrangarh is one of the most magnificent forts in India. The battlements are 6m to 36m high, and as the building materials were chiselled from the rock on which the fort stands, the structure merges with its base. Still run by the Jodhpur royal family, Mehrangarh is packed with history and legend. You don’t need a ticket to enter the fort itself, only the museum section.
Mehrangarh’s main entrance is at the northeast gate, Jai Pol. It’s about a 300m walk up from the old city to the entrance, or you can take a winding 5km autorickshaw ride (around ₹120).
Jai Pol was built by Maharaja Man Singh in 1808 following his defeat of invading forces from Jaipur. Past the museum ticket office and a small cafe, the 16th-century Dodh Kangra Pol was an external gate before Jai Pol was built, and still bears the scars of 1808 cannonball hits. Through here, the main route heads up to the left through the 16th-century Imritia Pol and then Loha Pol, the fort’s original entrance, with iron spikes to deter enemy elephants. Just inside the gate are two sets of small hand prints, the sati (self-immolation) marks of royal widows who threw themselves on their maharajas’ funeral pyres – the last to do so were Maharaja Man Singh’s widows in 1843.
Past Loha Pol you’ll find a restaurant and Suraj Pol, which gives access to the museum. Once you’ve visited the museum, continue on from here to the panoramic ramparts, which are lined with impressive antique artillery. The ramparts were fenced off in 2016 after a fatal selfie accident. Hopefully a temporary measure, as the views are spectacular.
Also worth exploring is the right turn from Jai Pol, where a path winds down to the Chokelao Bagh, a restored and gorgeously planted 18th-century Rajput garden (you could lose an afternoon here lolling under shady trees reading a book), and the Fateh Pol. You can exit here into the old city quarter of Navchokiya.