Nagpur usually pops-up in a tourist map as a transit city when you are traveling to wildlife sanctuaries such as Tadoba and Pench to spot Tigers; or Mahatma Gandhi’s Sevagram Ashram; or nearby places of religious interest such as Ramtek, Adasa and Markanda.
A lot of people also end up in Nagpur as they follow their cricket teams to watch them play at T20 and international tournaments. The Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) Stadium in the city is the is largest cricket stadium in India in terms of the field area.
Whatever may be your reason for traveling to Nagpur, if you are in a wheelchair and have a day to spend in the city, read on to find out about the things you can do.
Kick start your morning with having breakfast at Haldirams in Dharampeth. Nagpur is known as the home of Haldirams, a chain of food outlets that has beaten McDonald’s and many other global and local players in popularity. Indulge in their Chole Bature or Raj Kachori with a glass of sweet Lassi and give yourself a desi-morning boost.
There are many Haldirams outlets in the city and most of the new ones are wheelchair accessible. I have visited the one in Dharampeth. They have a ramp at the entrance and a capsule lift to go on the first floor, that is the restaurant area. The ground floor has a store where they sell sweets, namkeen snacks and other ready to eat savories. The place opens up by 9 AM in the morning.
After breakfast, you can start your journey to explore Nagpur with a visit to the iconic Deekshabhoomi. This white monument has a dome-shaped structure, also known as the stupa. It is a place of worship for people who follow Buddhism.
This monument was established in the memory of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, who is the architect of the Indian Constitution. It is on this very land that he embraced Buddhism because he believed that conversion was the solution to abandon the caste system.
The Deekshabhoomi stupa is hollow from inside and is the largest hollow stupa among all Buddhist stupas in the world. Inside there is a large hall with an image of Buddha placed in the centre. They also have a photo exhibition of the events in the life of Dr. Ambedkar.
When in a wheelchair, you can only move around the external campus area. The inside of the stupa is not accessible. My wheelchair had to be lifted across the fleet of 10 steps; 5 up and 5 down at the entrance of the stupa.
Not many people know that the city of Nagpur has a unique distinction of being the geographical center of India. This location is called the Zero Mile. This place is marked with a sandstone pillar surrounded with four horses and a tiny garden. Zero Mile is located at the cross-section of two streets which are usually crowded. There is nothing fancy about the place. However, you can get down to take a selfie or to read the inscriptions on the pillar. And that’s pretty much it.
Except for a couple of months during December and January, Nagpur has a warm climate throughout the year. The temperatures range from 30 to 40°C during the day. After going to Deekshabhoomi and Zero Mile, drive over to Checkers restaurant in VCA complex for a cold coffee. This is hardly a five-minute drive from Zero Mile. After reaching, honk your car horn and someone from the restaurant will come over to your car with the menu to take your order. Not required to get out of the car.
Pick up your cold coffee and drive to the other side of VCA complex for a quick bite at Kathi crossing at Heritage hotel. Honking the car horn will work here too. You can choose from over 15 vegetarian (Mushroom Tikka, Corn and Spinach, Paneer Saoji Roll, etc.) and 19 non-vegetarian (Bhuna Mutton, Chicken Kali Mirch, Chicken Lahsooni Malai Tikka, etc.) Kathi rolls.
Both the above have a few steps to go to the restaurant. However, I would recommend you to choose take away, as most people from Nagpur do the same.
In the absence of wheelchair-accessible destinations in Nagpur, you can drive through the civil lines area to see beautiful Government buildings made in the British era. You can also drive around the Futala lake area; sitting around here is a calming experience, but this place is inaccessible for wheelchair users.
If you are interested in shopping, then the only 100% accessible location in Nagpur i.e. Empress Mall is where you can spend the evening. It has the usual multi-brand outlets, supermarket, restaurants and a movie theater. Note that there is no accessible restroom in the mall.
If you are interested in having some calming time, then head over to the Ambazari Lake and Garden. The blooms and greens will refresh your senses. Just watching the huge orange ball of the sun melt into the lake at sunset and listening to the chirping of birds returning to their nests is extremely calming. This place is more fun if you are traveling with kids. They will enjoy the playing area. Approximately 40% of the entire garden campus is accessible in a wheelchair.
For dinner, you must try out the famed Saoji cuisine. It would be a crime to leave Nagpur without letting your taste buds relish Saoji. This is mostly a delight for nonvegetarians. The striking characteristics of popular Saoji food items like Saoji Chicken and Kheema Kaleji are a thick layer of oil on top of the preparation when it is served and its fiery spicy taste. There are a number of small Saoji restaurants spread across the city and you can spot them on roadsides.
The best where I would recommend you to go is Jagdish Saoji Bhojnalaya in Gandhibagh area. The restaurant was recently renovated and has a ramp at the entrance making it easily accessible for a wheelchair user.
Saoji food is extremely spicy. If you have a weak stomach or cannot handle hot and spicy food, then feel free to skip it. Alternatively, you can also ask the hotel where you are staying to make this preparation mild.
However, if you want to play it safe on the food front, you can end your day by having dinner at Zinq lounge in Sadar area. In its 40 pages long menu, you will find North Indian, Chinese, Italian and continental items to choose from. They also serve a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. A wheelchair user will just have to cross one step to come up to the footpath from the road. From then on, there are no steps to enter the restaurant and inside it.
Basics of getting around in Nagpur
I won’t dare to say the words ‘Nagpur’ and ‘wheelchair accessibility’ in the same breath. The city’s public transport that includes buses and auto rickshaws are not accessible. There are many radio cab options, but none of them are wheelchair-friendly. Wheeling through the city on your wheelchair is a strict NO because of the traffic and non-existent pathways for pedestrians/ wheelchair-users.
Popular shopping areas such as Sitabuldi, Sadar and Itwari market are not accessible. Most touristy places in and around the city are likely to give any wheelchair user an off-roading experience.
If you are not comfortable in shifting from the wheelchair to the car every time you want to go out, then the best way is to either bring your own modified car or hire a wheelchair accessible taxi from these service providers in Mumbai. Most of these taxis have permits to travel across India.
Hope you find the above information useful. If you have questions about other places in Nagpur and their accessibility status, then drop me a comment below. I’ll try my best to help you with the required information.