The monsoon rains bring quite a few emotions for the people in India for various reasons. It signals a respite from the sweltering summer across the country and also brings cheer for the farmers. For a Mumbai resident, it also means endless traffic snarls as the city comes to an absolute halt.
One of the best thing the rains do is that they unleash the greenery across the western ghats and the beauty on display right from northern Maharashtra right through Konkan and South West India is a visual delight. A week into the monsoons, I went for a small road trip from Mumbai to explore the Ajanta and Ellora Caves. I planned the trip almost a month in advance and booked Vivanta by Taj in Aurangabad. I used the American Express Taj Voucher worth INR 10,000 for booking one night and booked the other through Make My Trip, where a Citi cashback scheme ensured that I got the room at just INR 4500.
I took a day off on Friday and started at 8 in the morning for Aurangabad. The 340 km ride was not as pleasant as I expected it to be. The drive out of Mumbai was smooth with no traffic. Igatpuri was beautiful as you would expect it to be during the monsoons and driving through the mountains where the clouds kissed the road was ethereal.
However, the last stretch of the road from Kopargaon to Aurangabad was disappointing. The road is broken and narrow which does not allow consistent speeds and constant braking is needed. I covered the 340 km journey in 6 hrs 15 mins which included two small 5 minute breaks.
As mentioned, my stay was in Vivanta by Taj Aurangabad. It is by far the best hotel in Aurangabad and I would rate it a 3.5 on 5 given the expectations that come with a “Taj” tag. I have reviewed the hotel on Trip Advisor at it can be found here. I did not do much after arriving at the hotel at around 2:30 pm and rested for a while after having lunch.
The next day which was a Saturday, is when I drove down to Ajanta Caves. The 100 km ride took 2 hours without any breaks. The road is narrow but smooth and has a lot of motorists which do not allow you to go fast. The Ajanta Caves themselves are a beautiful spectacle. I took a guided tour which costs INR 1190 and the 2 hour tour across the 26 caves was worth the effort and money. The fact that some of the work you see is more 2200 years old makes it an unbelievable sight. While you can find most of the history and context about the caves on Wiki, the guide gives a lot flair and local context to each of the caves and is highly recommended. The caves themselves are nicely maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India and are in a very good shape. The only damage done was by some ignorant tourists years ago who have scribbled there names on some of the paintings which is such a shame. The weather supported us immensely as it was cool and overcast. As I understood from the locals, winters are the best time to visit the caves as it gets incredibly hot during the summers. Below are some the pictures from the caves.
The entire tour took approximately 2 hours. Coupled with the drive to the caves and back, it took approximately 6 hours to do the entire stretch. You can keep an additional hour as we did not take any breaks and had lunch only after we came back to the hotel. After resting for a while at the hotel, we went to see Bibi ka Makbara in the evening which is touted as a “Poor man’s Taj Mahal”. Honestly, it can be skipped as the structure is no where close to the Taj and is badly maintained which is a pity.
The plan was to see Ellora Caves on Sunday for a couple of hours and then head back to Mumbai but we eventually decided to skip it as it would have meant a really early start to the day and reaching Mumbai late in the evening. Since I had to drive all the way, I decided it was too much of stretch and gave it a miss.
I will not recommend doing Ajanta and Ellora in the same day and it would be ideal if you could split it. A good two day itinerary can be Ajanta and Bibi ka Makbara on one day and Ellora with Daulatabad Fort on the other day. My idea for the trip was more to relax and spend some time off and hence I did not stretch a lot to see Ellora.
Do let me know your views on the post or if you recommend something more. You can reach out to me on @prateektweeting on Twitter or mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org