When we booked it this seemed like a good idea. Taking a series of three overnight flights from Kathmandu to Delhi, then to Mumbai and from there to Aurangabad, so that we could spend the day visiting the UNESCO world heritage Ajanta and Ellora caves. Remind me of this in the future.
We arrived at Aurangabad airport at 06:15. We left Kathmandu at 14:00 yesterday and in the meantime have been to both Delhi and Mumbai airports We spent most of the night outside check in at Mumbai Airport. It was NOT a good way to get here.
However, don’t let that put you off coming to Ajanta and Ellora.
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How to Visit Ajanta and Ellora in a Day
We pre-booked a car and driver using the TripAdvisor forum. Mr Taqui Hussein picked us up from the airport, drove us to Ajanta, then Ellora, and finally dropped us outside the Railway Station in Aurangabad. He was fabulous. We paid 3,500 INR for the full day, including any parking charges. Our route took us to the Ajanta Caves for opening time, then back to Ellora and we were dropped off at the Aurangabad Railway Station at the end of the day. Our total distance was 230 kilometers.
Visiting Ajanta & Ellora as a day trip
It always feels like we’re cheating when we arrange a car and driver, but this is only the second time we’ve done this in India, so I think we’re excused! The reason for the overnight flight, and trying to see Ajanta and Ellora in one day is that our time frame has changed. We need to be back in Bengalaru for an Indian wedding, so we have a GREAT reason to step things up!
How to Go from Aurangabad to Ajanta
It’s 100 kilometers, or around 2.5 hours from Aurangabad to Ajanta. Aurangabad is the closest town that we could fly to. We managed a quick stop for breakfast on the way before arriving at Ajanta at opening time.
You can head to Ajanta on a day trip from Aurangabad – and also take in Ellora – there are more details here.
What to See at The Ajanta Caves
Since 1983 the Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Indian Archeological Society describes them as the “finest surviving examples of Indian art, particularly painting”. The caves date from 400 BC and contain Buddhist religious art and Jataka depictions. The Jataka are native to India and tell the stories of the previous lives of the Buddha. There are about 30 caves cut into a cliff in a gorge above the river Waghur.
Ajanta was rediscovered by accident by a British hunting party in 1819. It’s thought that the paintings are related to the gorgeous Sigiriya in Sri Lanka. You can read our guide about visiting Sigiriya here.
How to Access Ajanta Via Bus
Mr Hussein drops us in the car park, where we head to the buses. It’s not exactly busy here, so while the sign might say that there are AC buses, there aren’t. But there’s a breeze, so the open window works reasonably well. The bus up to the bus park by the caves doesn’t take long. And its not even worth considering walking to save the 15 INR that the bus costs, unless of course, you’re nuts in this heat.
Cost of Ajanta Caves Tickets
We buy a ticket here for 250 INR, the Foreign Tourist price. There are guides available, pricing depends upon the size of your group, but we stick with the Indian Archeological Society notes we’ve downloaded. From here it’s all walking.
Exploring The Ajanta Caves Site
The caves are located in the cliffs on a bend in the river. It’s a horseshoe shaped gorge. The site itself is lovely. The paths are well maintained and the signage is great. If there’s a large tour group anywhere near you, then stop and wait until they pass, it’s well worth the solitude.
Tips for Visiting Ajanta Caves
- Take water with you. There is water available at the restaurant by the ticket office, but not once you leave there.
- The restaurant by the ticket office does a great thali for lunch and looked much cleaner than the places near the car park.
- Take a hat or an umbrella, outside the caves the sun is amazingly strong and reflects off the rocks.You will need to remove your shoes to visit some caves, so consider your footwear. The paths are in good condition, but there are some steps/uneven areas and it’s a little slippery.
- Remember the Camera! There are several viewpoints throughout the site – we didn’t make it to the high one because of the heat, but it didn’t detract from the fact that this is an incredible site and reasonably well preserved.
Ajanta Cave One
This (and cave two) are the most beautifully painted caves here. There are fragments of the paintings left and they are quite stunning. Try and visit when they’re empty of people. You can take photographs but there is no flash photography.
Ajanta Cave Two
Be sure to look up when you walk around this cave. The ceiling paintings are just spectacular. It is incredible to see the brightness of the colours and consider their age.
As you walk around the gorge, it really is a simply stunning spectacle. You’ll stop each time you come out of a cave, slip your shoes back on, and just, well, look.
The paintings are simply gorgeous, the caves are incredible and this is well worth a visit, but we must move on. We have a quick thali and a cold drink at the restaurant by the ticket office and then head back on the bus to the car park.
How to Go from Ajanta to Ellora
It takes nearly two hours to drive to Ellora, its back in the direction of Aurangabad, so we’ll be close to our final destination for the day when we’re finished.
How to Visit the Ellora Caves and Temples
We arrived at the Ellora Caves area by 14:00. It was pretty hot and pretty busy too, so we took the advice of Mr Hussein to focus our time here. Ellora is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and combines Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain temples and caves. There are 17 Hindu caves, 12 are Buddhist and 5 are Jain. They’re all in amazingly close proximity and were carved and built between the 5th and 10th centuries.
We headed to the biggest cave first. This is Cave 16.
The Kailasa Temple, Ellora
The Kailasa Temple, or Cave 16, is dedicated to Shiva. It looks more like a multi-storey temple complex but was actually carved out of a single piece of rock. This area is twice the size of the Greek Parthenon in Athens. It is VAST.
The Dashavatara, Ellora
This is also known as Cave 15. These caves are so very different from Ajanta. They’re much bigger for a start. The ones that we visit have multiple storeys to them and, while this cave was started as a Buddhist monastery, this is now a Hindu cave.
We managed to visit several of Buddhist and Jain caves too.
The carving here is spectacular, and the sheer size is amazing. The crowds lessen as we move to the smaller temples, but it’s so very hot and we spent the night outside an airport. The cool relief of the caves is marvelous. If you make it here, be sure to go to the smaller caves, get away from the crowds, and walk through the seeming maze of different routes.
How to Go from Ellora to Aurangabad
At the end of the day, Mr Hussein dropped us off at the Hotel Preetam in Aurangabad. We selected this place because, if you were any closer to the train station you’d be sleeping on the tracks. We have a 06:00 train tomorrow, to Nashik, where we’re going Wine Tasting India style.
USING TRAINS IN INDIA
UNESCO Sites to Visit in India
If you like visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites, then you’ll love our guides to India’s best World Heritage sites
- Champaner Pavagadh, in Gujarat
- The Taj Mahal in Agra
- The Ajanta Caves
- Ellora Caves
- Khajuraho’s Temples
- Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi
- The Hill Forts of Rajasthan
- The Darjeeling Hill Railway
- Qutub Minar in Delhi
- The Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya
Travel Tips for Exploring India
- Considering travel insurance for your trip? World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation, and more.
- Protect your data – use a VPN in India – use this coupon to get 3 months free.
- Book the best tours and guides in India on GetYourGuide or Klook
- Find the right accommodation for you via Booking.com
- Book Trains and Buses in India with 12goAsia
- Where we stayed in Aurangabad – the Hotel Preetam
- Our next stop after Ajanta and Ellora Caves was Wine Tasting India Style in Nashik
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