Life is short and the world is wide, isn’t it? And don’t you think Abhi you should explore other wider parts of the world too? Yeah, I do, and since I had covered many forts in Maharashtra this time I decided to take a U-turn and explore something new, so my thirst for exploration led me to the extraordinary UNESCO world heritage site “Ajanta and Ellora caves“.
Ajanta Caves Aurangabad
Are Daman and Diu a single place? Hell no, that’s a common misconception among the people. Administratively, they constitute a Union Territory but in terms of geography, they are two distinct coastal enclaves separated by about 700 km. Abhi, am I reading a post on Ajanta and Ellora caves or Daman and Diu? Just like Daman and Diu, it’s a misconception among people that Ajanta and Ellora caves are a single place.
Kailasa Temple Ellora Caves Aurangabad
Geographically, Ajanta and Ellora caves are separated by around 100 kms. Located in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, Ajanta and Ellora caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring great examples of human-made architecture. To witness the beauty of this architecture, each year lakhs of tourists make a visit to these extraordinary caves from all around the world.
Buddhist Cave 10 at Ellora Caves Aurangabad
How to reach Ajanta and Ellora Caves
The cheapest and convenient way to reach Ajanta and Ellora caves is via railways. The nearest major railway stations to the caves are Aurangabad railway station (96 km from Ajanta and 30 kms from Ellora) and Jalgaon railway station. Aurangabad and Jalgaon have rail connectivity with major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Nagpur, and Pune. If you are coming from the Northern part of India, you can opt for Jalgaon railway station.
From Pune, the frequency of trains is quite low, so one can opt for a direct bus to reach Aurangabad (5 hours – 233 kms). Once you reach Aurangabad, you can take MSRTC buses to Ajanta and Ellora which runs at a regular interval from central bus stand(CBS). Charges for Ajanta are around 130 INR and for Ellora is 30 INR. The frequency of buses is quite high and you can get a bus as early as 5:00 am.
For returning back to Aurangabad from Ajanta Caves, you can come back to the highway next to Ajnata Caves and stand at the opposite side and wait for the bus going toward Aurangabad.
Cave 4 at Ajanta Caves Aurangabad
Getting around Ajanta and Ellora Caves
The bus from Aurangabad drops you at the highway just outside the premises of Ajanta. From there one needs to walk along the local market and reach up to a point from where shuttle service is available to reach the main caves (10 min – INR 10 – 4 kms). For Ellora, the bus drops at the entrance itself. Since both the caves are so large, one needs to walk a lot to explore the place to its fullest.
Opening hours and ticket prices to visit Ajanta and Ellora Caves
Entry charges: INR 40 for Indian Nationals and INR 600 for Foreign Nationals.
Timings: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (closed on Monday’s), open on National holidays
Cave 19 Ajanta Caves
Entry charges: INR 40 for Indian Nationals and INR 500 for Foreign Nationals.
Timings: 6:00 am to 6:00 pm (closed on Tuesday’s), open on National holidays.
Note: Both caves been touristy are generally very crowded, so I would advise you reach as early as possible if you don’t want to ruin your photographs. There is no ATM at Ajanta so carry enough cash with you.
My journey to Ajanta and Ellora Caves
It all started when I boarded for a bus for Aurangabad from Pune at around 11 pm. Generally, I prefer rail journey’s over roadways but owing to the low frequency of trains between the two towns, I was left with no other option. It’s an overnight journey and the bus dropped me to Aurangabad at around 5 am.
A giant structure at Kailasa temple Ellora Caves Aurangabad
My plan was to visit the Ajanta Caves and the famous Bibi Ka Maqbara Masjid on Day 1 and Ellora Caves and Daulatabad Fort on Day 2. I wanted to reach Ajanta as early as possible in order to beat the crowd and hence enquired for the bus to Ajanta. There was a bus at around 5:30 am from CBS which drops at the Ajanta caves at around 7:30 am which was the perfect time to reach there.
Sleeping Budha at Ajanta Caves Aurangabad
Now talking about Ajanta Caves, these magnetic caves got its name by a nearby village Ajanta. In total there are 30 caves including the unfinished ones. Archaeological Survey of India has described it as ‘the finest surviving examples of Indian art, especially painting’. The location of this place provides a calm and composed environment due to which the Buddhist monks used to meditate at these secluded places.
Cave 24 Ajanta Caves
Cave 9 at Ajanta Caves Aurangabad
There are chaityagrihas and viharas and a tall Buddha statue in the cave. It is one among the several masterpieces of Buddhist religious art, with depictions of the Jataka tales and figures of the Buddha. Looking at the magnificence of the caves at the first sight, I was like wow!! Some of the magnificent paintings for which Ajanta is world famous can be seen in caves 1,2,9,10, 16 and 17. It takes somewhere around 4-5 hours to explore the caves to their fullest.
Beautiful paintings at Ajanta Cave
Buddha Statue at cave 17 Ajanta Caves Aurangabad
I would recommend one to climb the hill which is exactly opposite to the caves and go till the farthest end. From there one can enjoy the breathtaking views of Ajanta caves and the Saptakunda Waterfall. The waterfall has a 7 level of individual circular small ponds via which water flows before it reaches the Waghora river beneath.
Saptakunda Waterfall at the backside of Ajanta Caves
Once you are back to Aurangabad, I would highly recommend you to visit the Taj Mahal if you aren’t tired enough. Abhi, Taj Mahal is in Agra. Is it?? LOL!! I am talking about the Taj Mahal of Aurangabad known as Bibi Ka Maqbara. The tomb was built by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s son Prince Azam Shah in the memory of his mother and it has a striking resemblance to the famous Taj Mahal of Agra, hence also known as “Taj of Deccan”.
Bibi Ka Maqbara Aurangabad
Day 2 was planned to visit the Ellora caves and Daulatabad Fort. The queen of Sahyadri hill, Ellora Caves are also known as ‘Verul Leni’. They are one of the largest rock-cut monastery-temple cave complexes in the world and contains a total of 34 caves.
Symmetric walls at Ellora Caves Aurangabad
My favourite cave amongst the all was definitely the cave no 16 where Kailasa Temple is built. The temple is the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world. Standing inside the premises of this giant structure and glaring at its architecture was definitely a moment I would remember for my entire life. Google the story about the construction of this temple and you will be left stunned. Do climb the mountain at the backside of this temple if you are looking for some great shots.
Kailasa temple Ellora
The Ellora caves have a division of different Hindu, Buddhist and Jain caves, which includes rock-cut temples, viharas and mathas. It shows religious harmony of this time of Indian history. Try to start your day very early as Ellora opens at 6 am. I was misguided by an article on the timings and by the time I made it Ellora Caves, it was already brimming with tourists. I am sure you will be proud of yourself if you are the first one to make it to the Kailasa Temple on that particular day.
On the way back to Aurangabad from Ellora caves, you can explore the Daulatabad Fort which lies in the midway. Built on a 200-meter high conical hill, it was one of the most powerful Forts of the medieval Deccan. It is considered to be one of the seven wonders of Maharashtra and you shouldn’t give it a miss.
Daulatabad Fort near Aurangabad on a trip to Ajanta and Ellora Caves
Best time to visit Ajanta and Ellora Caves
The best time to visit the caves are the months from November to February as the weather is very pleasant. One can also make a visit to the caves in the monsoon months of July to September. The summers are not an ideal time to visit the caves as scorching heat makes it unbearable to enjoy any site.
Stay options in Aurangabad
You can stay at the Zostel Aurangabad which is located around 3.5 kms from Aurangabad Railway station. With a cafe, a common area full of games, and a happening rooftop, being bored is not an option there. The charges for the stay at Zostel is INR 349/night for a bed in a dormitory. I am sure that you will love your stay over there.
Picture Credit: Zostel Aurangabad
My expenses: Pune to Aurangabad (700 return journey), Stay: INR 350, Aurangabad to Ajanta (INR 250 return journey), Aurangabad to Ellora (60 return journey), Food: 500 for 2 days, Miscellaneous: INR 200
Total: INR 2000(approx.)
Both of the caves are meant for spectacular adventure, being here made my feet wander, eyes marvel and soul ignite. I travel because distance and differences are the secret tonics of creativity. When I get back home, it’s still the same but something inside my mind is changed and that changes everything.
The feeling of zest was incomparable, the smile of Buddha in his preaching pose, the feel of the excavated wall on my hands, the different shades of colour on cave rock, everything was just splendid. After exploring all this at the end of the day, my feet were dirty, hair messy and eyes sparkling. Travelling is therapy, isn’t it?
Cave 19 Ajanta Caves Aurangabad
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Are you looking for some essential travel gear? Check out my blog post on What’s in my Backpack.
Looking for more weekend gateway options near Pune and Mumbai? Check out these blog posts:
- A cycle trip to Lavasa city from Pune (INR 100)
- Andharban jungle and Devkund Waterfall Trek – Time to get lost in the dense forest
- Satara – A road trip to the Maharashtra’s Valley of Flowers from Pune (INR 800)
- Tikona Fort Trek and Pawna Lake – One day trip near Pune (INR 250)
- A two-day trip to Torna Fort and Madhe Ghat Waterfall(INR 400)
- Matheran – Asia’s only automobile free hill station
- Daman – A Glimpse of Portugal Heritage
- A road trip to Harihareshwar, Shrivardhan and Diveagar Beach from Pune (INR 1200)
- Kalsubai Peak – Trek to the highest peak of Maharashtra (INR 600)
- Korigad Fort Trek – Exciting one day trek near Pune Mumbai (INR 300)
- Bendewadi, Laalwadi and Jagtap waterfalls – Go get lost in the land of waterfalls!! (INR 300)
- Experience the sunrise from Lohagad Fort near Pune/Mumbai (INR 150)
- Visapur Fort Trek – Thrilling one day trek near Pune Mumbai (INR 200)
- Rajmachi Fort Trek, adventurous one day trip near Mumbai and Pune (INR 350)
- 12-hours monsoon road trip exploring Tamhini Ghat (INR 300)
- An exciting road trip to Purandar Fort from Pune (INR 300)
- Tung Fort Trek – A journey through the clouds (INR 250)
- Nashik City – An exciting two day trip from Pune/Mumbai/Surat (INR 1500)
- Rajgad Fort Trek – An exciting one-day trek near Pune/Mumbai (INR 200)
- Katraj to Sinhagad night trek – An exciting trek near Pune (INR 250)
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