Modern Cities – Ancient Caves
Route : Mumbai - Elephanta Caves - Aurangabad - Ellora and Ajanta Caves - Aurangabad - Mumbai
This tour takes you from a very cosmopolitan & bustling Bombay to the much quieter & uncrowded Aurangabad & the fabulously carved Ellora & Ajanta cave temples nearby.
A tour packed with things to see & places to visit; this is one for the “culture buffs” among us – particularly those who are interested in early Buddhist and Hindu history.
In Bombay you will see as an appetizer, Elephanta Island with its elaborately carved caves; the Parsee “Tower of Silence”; the Hanging Garden; the Gateway of India and Marine Drive; Colaba Causeway; the beaches of Chowatti and Juhu, with their markets and street entertainers; Crawford Market, where you can find one of Bombay’s famous foods-“Bombay duck”; Malabar Hill, with its 1,000 years old temple, dedicated to the Hindu sand god, Walkeshwer, nearby.
After a few days in Bombay, a short flight takes you to Aurangabad. Though overshadowed by the famous cave temples at Ajanta and Ellora which are nearby, Aurangabad is itself a place of interesting sites here is the “Bibi-Ka-Maqbara”. Known as the “poor man’s Taj”, it was built in 1679 by Aurangzeb’s son, for Aurangzeb’s wife, Rabia-ud-Darani. It is the only example of Mughal architecture on the Deccan plateau.
Also in Aurangabad are Panchakki gardens, built around the tomb of a Sufi saint who was an advisor and spiritual guide to Aurangzeb. A short distance from Panchakki is Aurangabad’s own series of carved caves-ten in all & like their near neighbours, also Buddhist, thought here you will also see a representation of Hindu god Ganesh. These caves are famed for their particular well-carved sculpture of scantily clad, but heavily bejewelled ladies & a bodhisattva, surrounded by carving off the eight fears-chains, snakes, lions, mad elephants, shipwreck, fire, sword, and death, represented by a fearsome demon.
On the way to the caves at Ellora and Ajanta, you will visit the magnificent hilltop fortress of Daulatabad, towering 200 meters above the Deccan plains.
About 200 miles from Aurangabad are the caves of Ellora. Unlike the caves at Ajanta, here the caves are a mixture of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain and are known for their carvings, where Ajanta caves are famous for the magnificent and elaborate cave paintings.
In all there are 34 caves at Ellora, the earliest being the Buddhist, followed by Hindu and Jain when the popularity of Buddhism began to decline in the Deccan. Ranging from fairly simple assembly halls to vast and intricately carved temple caves, with massive calming representations of Buddha, to vibrant and energetic carvings typical of the Hindu caves, most of the caves were carved straight from solid rock. It has been estimated that the carving of the Kailasha cave alone constituted the removal of more than 200,000 tons of rock! All the caves were carved from the top down, which removed the need for any scaffolding. The skill involved in the carving of these caves was immense-there was no room for mistakes, once carved rock was gone forever.
The caves at Ajanta predate those at Ellora and are all Buddhist, dating from 2000BC to 650AD.
The caves are at end of the valley, high up on an escarpment & fronted by an elaborate veranda, with an excellent view across the ravine. Abandoned & forgotten centuries ago and again discovered by a British hunting party in 1819, their isolation contributed to the exceptional state of preservation of the paintings. Five of the caves are temples and the remaining 24 are monasteries, or, viharas. Generally, the caves are known for their paintings, though some also have exceptional sculptures which are later additions. One of the most interesting sculptures is one of four deer sharing one head. The majority of the paintings covering both the walls and ceilings of the caves are from the ‘Jatakas’, episodes in the life of the Buddha, but many are of “Cloud Dancing Maidens”, similar to the ones on Sigiriya in Shri Lanka & others of various Boddhisatvas and animals of all kinds.
Two more days in Bombay complete this quiet exceptional tour.
• Local insights into the madness and magic of the fascinating city of the financial town of Mumbai. Elephants caves, Prince of Wales Museum and Dharavi visit
• The historical caves Ajanta and Ellora depicting Hindu, Buddhist and Jain art in Aurangabad
See Full Itinerary
Arrival TimeMidnight or Late night
Dress CodeCasual, comfortable and light
Tour Itinerary : - Modern Cities – Ancient Caves
Day 01: Arrive Mumbai
Arrive at Mumbai International airport. After completing the immigration and customs, proceed towards the arrival area. Meeting and assistance upon arrival with a traditional welcome of garlanding and transfer to the hotel (Room being held from 1400 hrs).
Mumbai once a group of seven islands and over the century has been the most vibrant, commercial, industrial and center of theatre, art, music center of India which the British had acquired from the Portuguese in 1665 and handed it over to the East India Company in 1671.
Overnight in Mumbai
Day 02: In Mumbai.
This morning after leisurely breakfast, we set off to explore a few highlights of the financial capital of India, Mumbai Gateway of India, Prince of Wales Museum, Dhobi Ghat. We start with the visit of Gateway of India, a crude jetty use by the fishing community which was later built and renovated to commemorate the visit of King George and Queen Mary to India in 1911 and the only gateway available to India before the invention of air travel. This will be followed by the drive along the Marine drive, known as the Queen's Necklace. The Jain Temples built of marble and dedicated to the first Jain Tirthankara. Take a drive via Tower of Silence – a round-shaped stone building where the dead of Parsi people are placed and vultures come and eat them, also drive to Hanging Gardens which is constructed over Bombay's reservoir. We cannot miss the Dhobi Ghat(open-air laundry) at Mahalaxmi, where some 5000 men use rows of open-air thoughts to beat the dirt out of the thousands of kilograms of soiled clothes brought from all over the city each day. This is followed by the visit to Mani Bhawan (Gandhi Memorial), the house where the Father of the Nation stayed during his early visits to the city.
We will wind up the day by visiting The Prince of Wales Museum and one of the UNESCO Terminus. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya also known as Prince of Wales Museum was established to commemorate and honour the visit of George V to India in the 2nd century. Note that the museum remains closed on Mondy. The foundation was laid in 1905 by Prince of Wales. The museum boasts of a significant collection of Indus valley artefacts and the miniature paintings – nearly 2000 of them are from various stylistic schools of India.
Mumbai VT, also known as Victoria Terminus. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and a historic railway station built-in 1887 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
Overnight in Mumbai
Day 03: In Mumbai
This morning after leisurely breakfast, we proceed to the excursion of Elephanta Caves. The excursion begins with the transferred to the Gateway of India to board the motor launch(shared) for an hour's travel, the only way to access the Caves located 22 km off the coast of Mumbai. An amazing collection of 7th-century rock-cut caves containing a fine example of Hindu architecture. The beauty and power of these sculptures are dedicated to Shiva depicting the different manifestation of Shiva.
On our return, we disembark at the Gateway of India and proceed to our hotel.
Later in the afternoon, we proceed for the local shopping experience where you will be taken first to the Crawford Market for introduction to Indian Spices. Crawford Market itself has a rich history behind it wherein it has been in existence from 1871 as the main Municipal Market in South Mumbai. This will be followed by a visit to Zaveri Bazaar and Lohar Chawl both of which is a vibrant market known for its history and old culture. Walking past these markets you will come across many old heritage buildings which are still intact and few of them have given way to the new development, which gives a good balance of seeing new merged with old. Our next visit is Chor Bazaar ( Thief Market ) which is a unique place in itself – the place again is one of the oldest markets in Mumbai. It is good to visit on a Friday then you are in for a stroke of luck as there is a Flea Market in Chor Bazaar.
Overnight in Mumbai
Day 04: In Mumbai.
This morning, we start the Byculla Heritage Walk - it takes us through many places of interest such as the market area, Masina Hospital, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, among others.
We will make a stop at interesting places so that we can click photographs. These places include old Irani cafes, vintage cinema screens and of course, of the architecture.
Later, we will enjoy our Dabbawala tour. Dabbawala word can be translated to English as ‘lunchpail man’ or ‘box carrier’. Dabba in Hindi and Marathi means box which is generally a cylindrical container made up of aluminium. More specifically, this word is used for the person in Mumbai who delivers home-made fresh food in lunches to different offices.
After this experience, we start off to explore Dharavi Slums(tour of the commercial area of the slum) locally. From Churchgate Station, we board a local train(this is an experience in itself) till Mahim Station and reach Dharavi (10 minutes of walk from the Train Station).
On this tour, you will be taken to the commercial area of the slum. The waste recycling in Dharavi is considered as a big business activity. From plastic chairs to old aluminium cans, the workers and residents who are involved in scavenging work, collect the waste from all over the city and bring them to the small workshops where the waste is cleaned, processed and recycled. This place also produces foodstuffs like biscuits or pottery. A visit to the roof straight in the center of the settlement provides a view to get the complete impression of how vast the place and the crowd of people working and living here. A tour of Dharavi takes you close to its people and introduces you to its lifestyle, living standards and teaches you history.
We return to the hotel after this experiential day with some interesting highlights, which are very rarely available.
Overnight in Mumbai
Day 05: In Mumbai
This morning, we start very early, maybe around 0430 hrs for the Mumbai by Dawn Experience - one of the signature experiences, where we can see the real unseen side of Mumbai. Our first halt is at the Victoria Terminus Railway Station now called Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to witness the madness in the morning when the newspaper vendor is busy sorting the editions received in the morning of various newspapers in so many other languages besides Hindi or English. Also, see the Milk Vendors busy getting ready to deliver it to homes and the Milk Man riding past the milk cans nicely tucked up on the sides of their bicycles.
We take a drive to the City Bakery where you will be introduced to the staple bread Pav or the Mumbai Bread, without which the Mumbaikars can’t survive. Our next visit is at the Dadar Flower market – located under the Dadar bridge is a place where you get all sorts of flowers in the early morning. It is also a place for photographers to catch the essence of Mumbai and the locals busy shopping during the early morning.
To wind up this mesmerizing experience we will stop at the Sassoon's Dock in Colaba – the place is home to Mumbai's traditional Koli fishing community. This place was built in the year 1875 on reclaimed land, by David Sassoon & Co. The time is best spent by observing the auction of the fishes by the local fisherman.
As the sun starts to rise and the Mumbaikars awake and start their day, you have experienced one more aspect of Mumbai’s life as to how it gets ready for the long day.
This afternoon, we are in for another exciting visit to Mumbai city – Bollywood tour (without movie) and learn about the how Bollywood (the Indian Film Industry) has evolved and originated, starting from the era of silent movies to today’s full-fledged movies. You will also get a chance to see the shooting and other mechanics. In case you are lucky can also witness a shooting, get a chance to dawn your dancing skills by tapping your feet into the beats of a Bollywood number. During this tour, you will also experience the feel of a recording studio to understand the VFX working which might be amazing.
From here we head to take a glimpse of the residences of a few famous Film Stars (from outside). We will then take you to watch a Bollywood film for a short while to wind up the experience.
Overnight in Mumbai
Day 06: Mumbai – Aurangabad Flight
This morning we start very early from the hotel to the airport to board the flight to Aurangabad – dating back from the time of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Many Mughal monuments can be seen in and around the city.
Meeting on arrival at Aurangabad airport and we will proceed for the excursion of Ellora caves(27 km - closed on Tuesday) - though it is more raucous, has always been a place of worship. This comprises 34 rock-cut shrines representing the high point of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain art (4th–9th centuries A.D.). Ellora also holds the distinction of being, in a sense, Shivaji's native place. The extravagantly beautiful Kailasa Complex depicts scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
We return to Aurangabad with a stop by at Daulatabad Fort - a massive hilltop fort and was often described as impregnable. Once known as "Devgiri" this magnificent 12th Century fortress stands on a hill just 13kms from Aurangabad. It was given the name Daulatabad – the city of fortune by Muhammad Tughlaq, the sultan of Delhi. We visit the Jama Masjid with 106 pillars taken from a Hindu temple and a large tank located on the opposite.
Late afternoon, we proceed for the visit of Aurangabad visiting Bibi Ka Maqbara which Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb commissioned in 1660 in the memory of Dilras Banu Begum who was her chief and first wife and is regarded as the symbol of the emperor's ‘conjugal fidelity’. The architecture of the monument resembles that of Taj Mahal dedicated to Mumtaz Mahal, Aurangzeb’s mother. Since it resembles with Taj, this monument is also referred to as Dakkhani Taj and Panchakki (the watermill). Attached to Baba Shah Musafir dargah, the building is situated in a garden which is close to Mahmud Darvaza and contains a madrassa, a minister’s house, a mosque, zananas houses and a Sarai.
Overnight in Aurangabad
Day 07: In Aurangabad – Excursion to Ajanta Caves 115 km about 3 hrs
This morning after breakfast we head for the excursion to Ajanta Caves (Closed on Monday), winding through ancient hills to visit the Buddhist cave temples and monasteries cut into the rock, dating from 200 BC to 650 AD. The caves here are renowned chiefly for their magnificent wall paintings, depicting scenes from the life of Buddha. In addition, there are notable sculptures and of course, the overwhelming architecture. Caves 16 and 17 contain the finest paintings in Ajanta. Caves 1,2,4,6,7,8,9,10,19,27,28,29 also contains paintings and sculptures which are worth seeing.
We return to the hotel.
The rest of the day is at leisure.
Overnight in Aurangabad
Day 08: Aurangabad to Mumbai Flight
This morning, we depart early from the hotel to the airport to board the flight to Mumbai.
Meeting on arrival at Mumbai airport and straight drive to visit Kanheri Caves, a group of rock-cut monuments demonstrating the Buddhist influence on the art and culture of India which deeply nestles surrounded by the tranquillity of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivali. More than 100 Buddhist caves are found there which are also called Kanhagiri or Krishnagiri as per an ancient inscription which translates to black mountains (Krishna means Black and Giri means Mountains), famously named due to deposits of black basaltic stone.
After the visit proceed to your hotel, where the rest of the day is at leisure
Overnight in Mumbai
Day 09: Mumbai to Home Flight
Today, as per the international flight schedule, you will be transferred to the airport to board your flight back home with some historical memories of the trip, Modern Cities – Ancient Caves.
Reviews Scores and Score Breakdown
Price, Inclusions and Exclusions
Prices per person
01 paying person in a Single Room
02 paying persons in a Double Room
Validity - January till April 2021.
• Accommodations in one room for 09 days/08 nights
• Meal plan
✓ Buffet Breakfast at all cities
• Transport services using Good Conditioned Small Car as follows
✓ Beginning with the pick up at Mumbai airport on Day 01 till drop at Mumbai airport on day 06
✓ Beginning with the pick up at Aurangabad airport on day 06 till drop at Aurangabad airport on day 08
✓ Arrival transfer in Mumbai on day 08
✓ Visit to Kanheri Caves on day 08
✓ Departure transfer in Mumbai on day 09
• Meet and greet services in Mumbai and Aurangabad only.
• One time entrance fee to monuments/temples/parks as per the program.
• Common speed boat to Elephanta Caves
• Dharaavi Tour
• Mumbai by Dawn experience
• Bollywood tour with Lunch
• Services of English speaking local guides (different guides in each city) as per the itinerary
• All currently applicable taxes
• Domestic air travel (ONLY INDICATIVE)
> Airfare(economy class)
> Mumbai to Aurangabad
> Aurangabad to Mumbai
• All currently applicable taxes
• International airfare for travel (from your home country to the destination and return)
• Visa charges or fees
• Airport taxes
• Camera fees during the visit to the monuments, temples or National Parks
• Tips to driver/guide/naturalist
• Additional meals
• Drinks or mineral water at the hotels or restaurants
• Ayurvedic massages or treatments, laundry etc or any other items of personal nature
• Travel, health and cancellation insurance
• Any other expense/changes due to unforeseen circumstances while in India
• Any other thing not mentioned in program or “Price Inclusions”
CLICK HERE ROAD BOOK