Luxury Ajanta Ellora Caves Tour: a fascinating pre or post tour extension
Luxury Ajanta Ellora Caves Tour: a fascinating pre or post tour extension
Mumbai – Aurangabad
Our journey to the Ajanta and Ellora caves is a fascinating extension to a broader tour of the region. These spectacular structures date back many hundreds of years, with the Ajanta caves displaying the earliest and finest examples of Buddhist painting in India. Executed between the 2nd century BC and 5th century AD, the murals show scenes from Buddha’s life and from the Jataka Tales. The caves at Ellora, hewn from a 2km (1.3 miles) long escarpment, are amongst the most splendid examples of rock-cut architecture in India.
To connect the dots, prior to exploring the caves we suggest a three-night stay in Mumbai. Not only is this bustling city full of rich culture and history, it’s also an ideal linking point from anywhere else in the country, to seamlessly add-on your visit to the caves on a wider tour of Rajasthan and north India.
Arrive in Mumbai (stay at the Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai)
Upon your arrival in Mumbai, you’ll be met by a member of our team at the airport and chauffeured to the legendary Taj Mahal Palace – one of India’s most famous luxury hotels. Built in 1903, this iconic hotel is centrally located on the waterfront, nestled in front of the Gateway of India and overlooking the Arabian Sea; the views of and around the hotel are fabulous. During your stay, you can indulge in a number of excellent restaurants and bars, and a choice of designer shops. If the Taj Mahal Palace is not to your taste, we’d also highly recommend The Oberoi Mumbai for a truly luxurious stay.
There is no better wake-up call than that of Mumbai by dawn. In the very early hours, this morning you’ll be met by our guide and accompanied to the local marketplace; from here you will see Mumbai’s life unfolding at dawn. Enjoy the bustling bazaar teeming with traders all set to do business. Meet the local traders who give life to Mumbai, selling vegetables, milk, fish, newspaper and other daily supplies.
Later today you’ll be reunited with your guide to explore the Gateway of India and Elephanta Island. Mumbai’s most famous landmark, the Gateway of India was the first sight to greet travellers to Indian shores during the heyday of the British Raj. Ironically, it also became the exit point for British troops after India gained independence in 1947. From here, you’ll take the launch to the caves on Elephanta island, which date from around the 7th century. During the previous few centuries, the Gupta empire had been at its height, literature and the arts had flourished and it is thought that the initial impetus for the creation of the caves was derived from this. The cave has a large sculptured veranda and the inner part contains a huge 18-foot statue of Lord Shiva. The Portuguese named the island Elephanta because of a large stone elephant near the shore It has since collapsed and been removed.
Explore the architectural highlights of bustling Bombay today, accompanied by your local guide. An orientation tour around the majestic sites of Bombay may include Victoria Terminus, Horniman Circle, Flora Fountain, the High Court and Bombay University. Continuing along Marine Drive, you can stop to visit the Hanging Gardens and Jain Temple. On your return towards Colaba and the Fort Area, you can stop at Chowpatty Beach.
Mumbai to Aurangabad (stay at ITC Rama International, Aurangabad)
Take it easy this morning to relax and enjoy your surroundings at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. In the early afternoon, you’ll be chauffeured back to the airport for your onward flight to Aurangabad. Founded in 1610, the city of Aurangabad is the closest air-link to the splendid caves at Ellora and Ajanta. Your base here in Aurangabad will be the ITC Rama International – one of the ubiquitous ITC chain, this hotel is an imposing building surrounded by 13 acres of lovely gardens. Meals are served in the multi-cuisine restaurant: Chinese, Indian and continental food are all available. The bar is open in the evenings to help you unwind after your sightseeing – or you may prefer a dip in the outdoor swimming pool.
Explore the Ajanta Caves
With an early start this morning you’ll be met by your guide to explore the magnificent Ajanta Caves (closed on Mondays). A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 30 extraordinary rock-cut caves at Ajanta lie within a horseshoe-shaped escarpment. The caves were occupied for only a short period and, over time, the surrounding jungle concealed their existence. They were rediscovered quite accidentally in 1819 when John Smith of the 28th Madras Cavlry suddenly saw the top of the façade of Cave 10 while on a tiger hunt.
Ajanta’s caves fall into two groups. The early group belongs to the more austere Hinayana phase of Buddhism (2nd century BC), during which the Buddha was not represented in human form but only by symbols such as the Wheel of Law or a Bodhi tree. The second group dates from the Mahayana period (5th century AD), carved out during the rule of the Vakataka dynasty when artistic expression was more exuberant. The caves were inhabited by monks, artists, and craftsmen, who used them as varshvatikas or monsoon shrines. Magnificent, detailed compositions, the murals include depictions of court scenes, princes, and musicians, and offer fascinating glimpses of daily life in the 5th century. The colours, derived from plants and minerals, are in rich shades of ochre, lime, black, green and lapis lazuli.
Visit Ellora and Aurangabad before flying to Delhi
This morning you’ll be reunited with your guide to the Ellora caves (closed on Tuesdays). The finest of the Ellora group of rock-cut caves is the magnificent Kailasanatha Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Commissioned by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I in the 8th century, this mammoth complex was carved out of a huge rocky cliff face. Sculptors chiseled through 85,000 cubic metres of rock, beginning at the top of the cliff and working their way down. The resulting marvel, embellished with huge sculptural panels, was meant to depict Mouth Kailasa, the sacred abode of Lord Shiva.
After lunch, return to Aurangabad to explore its highlights, including the city’s most famous monument, the Bibi ka Maqbara.
Later today you’ll be chauffeured back to the airport to board the daily flight to Delhi. Depending on your schedule and wider itinerary, you may like to stay in Delhi to explore the capital, or instead connect directly to your international flight.
The luxury Ajanta Ellora caves tour we’ve described here is merely a starting point to share a flavour of the possibilities, and absolutely every aspect is flexible (from the hotels, to the destinations, to the length, to the sightseeing). A popular way to include our Ajanta Ellora caves tour in a more comprehensive itinerary, would be to combine it with this luxury Rajasthan tour, flying from Udaipur directly into Mumbai. Those with tighter schedules may consider a shorter stay in Mumbai, or connecting directly to their international departure from Aurangabad. On the other hand, you may like to stay a bit longer to head down to the beaches of Goa or the backwaters of Kerala. Let us know what you’d like to create and we can make it happen!
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Indian Excursions: the experts in tailor-made tours of Rajasthan. Anything you would like to see or experience in Rajasthan, we can make it happen! All our tours are private, and tailor-made to our guests individual requirements.
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