Maharashtra travel-A Perfect adventure
India’s third-largest state is full of wonders, and somewhere you don’t want to miss out on when travelling on the subcontinent. In my guide to Maharashtra travel, you can find everything you need to know about planning your very own adventure here. As my readers would have come to expect from my posts, it will be yet another concise guide to travelling in this incredible country. I aim always to provide you with unbiased, honest and well-researched advice, and this time will be no different.
So what’s the big deal about this state? It could be the seemingly endless wealth of historical treasures. Perhaps it will be the impressive cultural heritage that grabs you. Whatever it is that that brings you here its a safe bet you won’t be sorry you came.
I will walk you through the incredible highlights of this state and go on to tell you where I stayed. I include this as I was delighted with every choice I made on hotels. I will be providing you with reliable recommendations. I will of course also touch on where to get the best food as travelling out tastebuds is all-important to any traveller, isn’t it? You will also need to know how to get from one point to the next so I will briefly touch on that. That is a lot to get through in just one post so let’s get started.
Places of interest in Maharashtra.
For the sake of keeping you engaged and my own sanity, I am unable to go through every place of interest in the state. While there are stacks of them, only a handful stand out as unmissable. Presumably, you will be pressed for time, so we will stick to the big hitters for convenience. Let us start with the biggest of them all.
Also known as Bombay, this epic city is the capital of the state. If this is your introduction to India, then hold on to your hats because it is intense. Overcrowded, heavily polluted, brash and unforgiving. This city is sure to leave your jaw dropped. It is a city of contrasts where industrious billionaires live within spitting distance of some of the biggest slums in the world.
There is a lot to keep you interested here, but the obvious winner is the impressive collection of Raj Era buildings that dominate the skyline of the fort and Colaba districts. Most tourists stay in these upmarket areas, and you can dine on fine international cuisine. Honestly speaking, it is one of the least interesting cities for tourists, and there is not much point spending more than a few days of your precious trip here.
I have read the guide books for the highlights of Mumbai, and people say come here to see the laundry being done here on a massive scale. Or take a tour around the slums? For me seeing people doing their laundry is not a good reason to fly from the other side of the world. I have been to see this, and I can confirm it is just as interesting as it sounds. I always want to be honest with you, so I would suggest sticking to what’s really interesting. India has so much to offer the tourist, so my advice is dont waste your time with minor attractions.
Let us talk practicalities now. Finding a cheap bed is not easy as this is one of the most affluent areas of the whole country. I found the Seashore hotel in Colaba to be clean, good value and the staff are helpful. There is an even cheaper hotel downstairs, but I dont recommend it as it uncomfortable and is not clean. You will be hard-pressed to find a better deal in these areas but of cause shop around if you wish.
There is a useful government office where you can book your trains for future travel using the tourist quota. For those of you who do not know why that is useful check out my post on getting around India.
For eating out, you can’t go wrong in Mumbai. The best place I found to eat was the Bademiya Seekh Kebab stall not far from hotel Seashore. Portions are small, but it is incredibly delicious. This place is popular with the locals for a good reason. For tasty street food check out the trademark dish for this city, Pav Bhaji. Its a thick vegetable curry that is served with bread rolls. You won’t be able to miss it as it is served all over the city and it tastes as good as it smells trust me.
If Mumbai is the financial capital of the state, Nasik is the spiritual capital of Maharashtra. This tiny little city is well worth the time to visit. The old part of the city is centred around Ramkund. A small sacred portion of the river fringed by Ghats. It is incredibly atmospheric. There is also a market here that sells anything and everything. It just adds to the allure of this place.
Nasik is essential in the Hindu faith and is one of the selected destinations where the mighty Kumbh Mela is held every few years. It is hard to invasion what that is like as the city only has about one and a half million people living in it. The Kumbh Mela is the worlds largest religious gathering. The most recent was held in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. Over the 50 days of festivities 220 million people visited so I can’t imagine what it must be like around the tiny lake. The next time Nasik will accommodate this madness will be in 2027. Keep your eyes peeled guys.
If you would like to find out more about the extraordinary Kumbh Mela checkout the BBC write up of the last one in 2019. It is well written and will give you an insight into what it takes to set up an event on this scale.
The nearby Temples of Kala Rama and Sita Gumpha are well worth a days excursion. The relaxed pace of life here can keep you entertained for days. It also serves as a reliable base to travel to Bhandardara.
As for places to stay, there is only one clear winner. Hotel Abhishek is owned by a super friendly fellow who will happily take care of your needs. The rooms are clean enough and affordable. The food is delicious, and the staff are friendly. They also recommended lots of places nearby I would have never have found by myself. Ask within to discover a whole list of other things to do around the area, including treks in the eastern ghats and an ancient set of cave temples that was fascinating.
Nasik is connected to all major towns in the state by rail or bus. There is no tourist booking office for foreigners, but there are enough connections not to need one. There are also numerous private buses you can book and that leaves you with more than enough options for getting there and away not to be a stress.
Nestled in the foothills of the Eastern Ghats this town is quite spectacular. I went there is the monsoon season as I hear it is wonderful at this time. The truth is I would have gone there after the monsoon as it was raining so hard trekking was out of the question. This is prime walking country, and the scenery is exceptional. You will be able to stay entertained here for a long time if you love the great outdoors. There are no fixed attractions as the whole area is pretty. Base yourself somewhere and go explore till your heart’s content.
When I asked in town about how to get here, all arrows pointed at the MTDC government lodge near Arthur lake. Fortunately, I did not book here as the room offered was like a broom cupboard and was very dirty. There are many hotels nearby so find your way out here and shop around. My hotel I stayed in eventually was 500 rupees and perfectly comfortable.
To reach here, you can get a bus to Ghoti where shared jeeps can take you the rest of the way. I would strongly advise paying for the row as these jeeps become jam-packed with local people on the luggage rack and hanging on the doors. I decided not to pay for the row since I thought how bad can it be? Bad! There were five people on the two seats at the front of the jeep. Its 40km to where the accommodation is over mountain roads. You can do the maths there. It is excruciating so just pay the extra. How much money do you need to save?
This seemingly ordinary town is the epitome of what’s so good about India, in my opinion. Just thirty kilometres outside of town lies the breathtaking Ellora caves. One of the worlds most underrated works of art in the ancient world. It took one hundred and fifty years and seven thousand workers to create this masterpiece. It will take the whole day to be able to take it all in, and that is from dawn to dusk. Even if you are not really into art, you can’t help but be taken back by the grandeur of this place.
Almost every inch of it is carved, and this is one of the times where your entrance fee is money well invested. The entrance fee is currently forty rupees for Indian nationals and six hundred for foriners by the way. There are plenty of busses that ply this route so getting there and away is a breeze.
Along the same road, you will see the entrance to the whimsical ruins of Daulatabad. The one time capital of the country came into its own in 1328 when the contents of Delhi where marched over 1000 km to their new home. Its glorious reign was short-lived due to a water crisis and the sultan Muhamid Tughlaq ordered the capital to be once again moved back to where it came. It was abandoned completely and left to the ravages of history.
As I said, it is along the same road, but seeing both sights in one day would be mindbending difficult as both places occupy masses of space. Not to mention the latter is situated atop a hill. The entrance fee is currently twenty rupees for Indian nationals and two hundred and fifty for foriners. That’s a big hike in price I know but if you are a foreigner get used to it.
In the heart of Aurangabad, you will find the Bibi-Qa Maqbara. That’s a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it? Known widely as the poor mans Taj it certainly bears a striking resemblance to the one we all know and love. If I am brutally honest, I enjoyed my visit here more than the actual Taj. The Agra hustle is exhausting on your soul, and you have to share your experience with oodles of other tourists. Here is a stress-free and intimate visit. Entry fee is now 25 rupees for Indian nationals and 300 for foreigners.
When it comes to sleeping in Aurangabad, I was more than happy with my choice and wholeheartedly recommended Hotel Panchavati. This slick and well-run operation comes with a big thumbs up from me. It has a delicious rooftop restaurant and is quite affordable for the state you are in. It is also within walking distance of the railway station.
However, the railway station is poorly connected as it is not on the mainline. There is a tourist window that means you won’t have to line up for hours and there are a few options, but trains get booked up quickly. Both private and public busses fan out in every direction. They are surely your best bet if you want to get to and from here as they are so frequent. Many busses run to Ellora and Dulatabad throughout the day, and I can’t see you having to wait long.
To find good food and by that, I mean local cuisine, head to training station road. You will find many highly recommended restaurants by the guidebooks. Curiously I found one of the best Chols Bhatoras I have ever had? Considering it is a North Indian dish, I found that odd.
I saved the best till last. Ajanta is a historical wonder that many of us hear whispers off. The ancient frescos alone make these ancient set of caves a historical treasure trove. I have to admit I enjoyed my journey to Elora much more as Ajanta. The later is considerably smaller and less grand. However, it is well worth the excursion and is much older.
It was lost to the Maharashtra jungle for more than one thousand years until British hunter John smith stumbled upon it in 1819 while on an expedition. It was purely by chance and what a sight it must have been. The dramatic horseshoe-shaped gorge is something to behold even today.
The incredible cave complex is a little over one hundred kilometres from Aurangabad. Entrance will set you back 40 rupees for Indian nationals and a hefty 600 for foriners. That’s a bit of a shame as, unlike Ellora, you can take in Ajanta in just a few hours as it is only half its size. I stayed at the MTDC Ajanta Tourist Resort. It is slightly overpriced but comfortable enough for a nights stay and only a few kilometres from the sight entrance.
In summary of my blog on Maharashtra travel.
As you can tell, there is a lot here to grab your attention. It lacks a little on national parks as there are only five. The oldest and largest of them all is Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. I have never been, so I am unable to give you any honest information. As I understand it, you can expect to pay a handsome sum to visit this park, and that is not overly useful for backpackers.
It is, however bursting at the seams with history and culture. If that is your jam, you could do a lot worse than aiming your compass at this impressive state. That capped off with tasty food, friendly locals and a stress-free environment to travel in how can you go wrong?
As I stated before I can’t cover all of the places of interest as there are so many. You can, however, check out my Pinterest page on this as it is packed with blogs on everything from the whimsical Konkan Coast to the many forts that dot the landscapes. These blogs have been carefully selected to make sure you get the best of everything.
So there you have it. My honest no-frills take on my experiences here. Of course, everyone’s journey will be different, but it pays to read the travels of other backpackers as you can get a genuine feel of what you will be getting. That’s without the flowery descriptions from the guide books and tourist brochures. I hope you have enjoyed my blog and found it of value. Perhaps even amusing in places. If you have any further questions, I am sure to help if I can. Just leave your questions or comments in the box provided. So until the next time my fellow intrepid travellers, happy travels.
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