Updated: Jun 16
Ever since I read about Ajanta and Ellora caves in our school days depicting the rich history of Ajanta & Ellora, I wanted to be there to witness the magnificent historical carvings of Ajanta and Ellora caves. At that time I didn't realize, that it would take me at least 15 more years to be there myself along with my soulmate/travel partner, staring at those stone carvings in the heart of Maharashtra. That day arrived in Feb'2019, when I was in Mumbai (just 3 months before then, I Moved to Mumbai in search of a change in travel fortune). And then we both could plan the entire Aurangabad trip most of it circled around Ajanta and Ellora caves visit.
Ajanta and Ellora caves are renowned as one of the Unesco World heritage sites in India. We took overnight train journey from Thane to Aurangabad on Friday, then we opted for rented scooter to travel around Aurangabad for next 2 days.
The Ajanta caves and carvings dates back to 2nd Century BCE and 6th Century AD and consists of various carvings of Buddhist monuments. They were mostly built in 2 periods of Satavahana and Vakataka dynasty and are located in one site. Both of these sites are situated in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra state.
The Ellora caves however were built during 6th Century and 10th Century AD, during Rashtrakutas and Yadava dynasties.
The main attraction in Ellora caves however is Kailasanath Temple carved out basaltic rocks formed in the shape of a chariot of Lord Shiva.
The Ellora caves has several caves which are numbered and offer magnificent carvings which attracts tourists and archaeological experts from all over the world. These caves include the paintings/carvings depicting Buddhist/Hindu and Jain religion carvings/monuments and has numerous small temples or places of worship.
Caves from 1-12 has monuments and carvings related to Buddhist origin constructed between 5th - 8th Century AD.
From these cave number 5, 10,11 and 12 are architecturally important and magnificent caves.
Caves from 13-29 has monuments related to Hindu religion constructed or carved between 6th and 8th century AD.
Caves numbered 15, 16, 21 and 29 are the most noted and visited caves and cave 16 being the Kailasa temple being the most famous overall.
Caves from 30-34 are related to Jain religion and hosts monuments and carvings related Jain Thirthanakara and has monuments of Lord Mahavira, Bahubali etc.
We took it slow and steady walking cave by cave, awestruck looking at the ancient carvings and cursing the modern world which has forgotten or cornered these art forms. Unfortunately, we didn't hire the services of a local guide to explain us the heritage and story behind each of those caves and carvings, as we are comfortable in exploring the places on our own, and not much of history buffs. But do hire the services of Local Guides, if you are into History and Architecture.
We spent Day-1 at Ellora caves, spent at least 4 hours overall and visited other places around Aurangabad to spend our full day-1.
Day-2 was entirely devoted for Ajanta caves, as distance was over 100kms (requiring 5 hours of Travel time to and from Aurangabad.
Distance from Mumbai/Road conditions:
The best way to reach here Ajanta & Ellora is from Aurangabad city.
Aurangabad is at 340kms away from Mumbai.
Aurangabad -> Ajanta Heritage site distance: 102 kms (3 hours drive approx)
Aurangabad -> Ellora Caves site distance: 30kms (1 hour drive approx)
If you planning to visit both, which makes lot of sense, then you would need at least 2 full days to cover both these sites along with other places of interest around Aurangabad city.
Road condition was really bad from Aurangabad city to Ajanta caves were under re-construction/Widening during our visit on February 2019.
The road to Ellora are in really good condition and easy to navigate, and recommended for self driven car/bike borne visitors.
How to Reach/Travel mode options:
There are numerous bus run by state transport and private tour buses plying to these 2 Heritage sites.
From Aurangabad city you need to book cab for 2 days at least, as both these sites are at a distance from each other and best visited on 2 different days. There are plenty of cab rentals in Aurangabad, best being the below:
AurangbadTaxi.com -- 095952 81281, located in Osmanpura in Aurangabad city.
There are train option only to reach Aurangabad city at the moment.
We reached Aurangabad from Mumbai, via overnight Train which was peaceful to say the least, and stayed close to station, for next 2 days, and planned our travel to Ajanta and Ellora from the same hotel.
If you love riding around the city to visit places, then you have the option open in Aurangabad.
Yes, We hired Scooter (Suzuki Access 125, brand new) for our road trip around Aurangabad and Ajanta/Ellora visit.
We discovered and explored Auangabad and Ajanta/Ellora on 2-wheeler non gear scooter, and it was memorable and comfortable/pocket friendly too.
Best Scooter/Bike rental in Aurangabad:
Bike Rental Services Aurangabad -- 090284 02415 -- Garkheda, Aurangabad.
The service was really quick, and handed over the bike personally close to our stay in Aurangabad.
Scooter was in very good condition, pick up and drop was really peaceful.
Other places of Interest around Aurangabad:
1. Bibi ka Maqbara (Tomb of the Lady):
This is right in the middle of Aurangabad City (Old part) and resemble like Taj Mahal of the Agra.
For a traveler like me, who cant afford to go visit Taj Mahal, this was a blessing in disguise.
It was built around 1668-69 AD under the commission of Aurangjeb, in the memory of his chief wife, Dilras Babu Begum. This is the principle monument of Aurangabad city and its history.
A nominal ticket of 25/- rupees for Indians and 250/- for foreign nationals, along with free parking space available.
2. Daulatabad Fort (Devagiri Fort) :
A 12th Century fort built by Bhillma of Yadava Dynasty, which was later captured and renamed as Daulatabad Fort by Tughlaq Dyansty ruler (Mohd. Bin Tughlaq) around 14th Century.
This fort has various temples specially a Bharat Matha Temple which is really unique and a long pavement yard. Also has garden and granary inside it, along with a mosque with a huge minaret.
The fort entrance is well covered off and positioned with Old huge battery canons which might have been installed by Mughal Dyansty.
This fort is just 17kms from the Aurangabad city and is on the way to Ellora caves, and you can plan on the same when you visit Ellora caves.
There is paid parking available at the site.
Stay & Where to Eat:
We stayed in a hotel very close by to the railway station (Around 2kms from Aurangabad Station). Also, we found a very nice Breakfast eatery on the way to station road, Hotel Kailasa Veg, where food specially Dosas, Vada's were amazing with Coffee/Tea to our liking and we opted for the same hotel next 2 days breakfast/quick bites.
And at the end of the trip, we celebrated our journey with yummy food in Banana Leaf Restaurant in Aurangabad.
Photo Gallery of Ajanta/Ellora and Yummy food in Aurangabad:
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