Astonishingly carved into hillside rock in the middle of nowhere are the Ajanta and Ellora caves. There are 34 caves at Ellora dating from between the 6th and 11th centuries AD, and 29 caves at Ajanta dating back to between the 2nd century BC and 6th century AD.
The caves at Ajanta are all Buddhist, while the caves at Ellora are a mixture of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain.
The caves are in northern Maharastra, around 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Mumbai.
The closest railway stations are in Aurangabad for the Ellora caves (45 minutes away) and Jalgaon for the Ajanta caves (1.5 hours away). There’s also an airport in Aurangabad. It’s possible to hire a car and drive between the two cave sites. Traveling time is around 2 hours.
9am until sunset (around 5.30 p.m.). The Ajanta caves are closed on Mondays, and the Ellora caves are closed on Tuesdays. Both caves are open on national holidays. However, try to avoid visiting then as the crowds can be maddening and you won't have a peaceful experience.
Entrance Fees and Charges:
Admission for foreigners is $US10 for the Ajanta caves. The Ellora caves are free to enter except for the magnificent open air Kailasa temple which charges $US 5. Children younger than 15 years are free at both places.
Ajanta and Ellora Festivals:
The four day Ellora Ajanta Festival is held at Soneri Mahal (Golden Palace), an historic 17th century architectural marvel in Aurangabad near Ellora, in the last week of November each year. The festival features some of the most distinguished singers and dancers of India. Note: The festival recommenced in January 2014 after a three year absence.
Where to Stay:
The Hotel Kailas
is located right opposite the Ellora caves. It's a relaxing, tranquil place with stone walls and a scenic landscape. Rates are 900 rupees ($20) for a hostel room, 1500 rupees ($35) for a cottage, and 2000 rupees ($50) for a cottage facing the caves. The hotel has plenty of amenities for guests including a restaurant, internet access, a library and games. You can also go paragliding. Quality accommodations at Ajanta are limited so if you need to stay in the area, it's best to head to the Maharastra Tourism Development Corporation's Holiday Resort in nearby Fardapur. Phone: 02438-244230.
The most incredible thing about these caves is that they were crafted by hand, with only a hammer and chisel. While the Ajanta caves are rich in paintings and sculpture, the Ellora caves are renowned for their extraordinary architecture. You can get an excellent view and perspective of inside the Kailasa temple by climbing up the hill around it. Its immense size covers twice the area of the Pantheon in Athens and is one and a half times as high. Bring a torch with you to the Ajanta caves as many of them are quite dark and lighting is poor. The best time to visit is from November to March when it's cooler and dry.