Straddling the main Delhi– Mumbai train line, GWALIOR is the largest city in northern Madhya Pradesh and the site of one of India's most magnificent hilltop forts – dubbed "the Gibraltar of the East" by artist William Hodges. The old sandstone citadel, with its temples and palaces, peers down from the edge of a sheer-sided plateau above a haze of petrol fumes, busy streets and cubic concrete houses. The city's other unmissable attraction is the extraordinarily flamboyant Jai Vilas Palace, owned by the local ruling family, the Scindias.
Despite its proximity to Agra, 119km north, Gwalior sees few foreigners and with its drab modern centre, it lacks the charm of its counterparts in nearby Rajasthan. Nevertheless, it is a worthwhile place to pause for a day, particularly around late November/early December, when the old Mughal tombs in the Muslim quarter host one of the premier Indian classical music events, the four-day Tansen festival.