History in every corner, religions that happily co-existed for a very long time now, so many cultures and practices and most of all friendly locals. This is a post which summarizes what we did in Aurangabad – the city of caves for three days. You will definitely need three days just to explore three different caves and one historical fort. All these places require you to walk / climb a lot, so space it out to ensure you make the most of Aurangabad.
Let us take you through Aurangabad – the City of Caves.
Passing Ports Quick Info:
- We flew from Chennai to Aurangabad – many flight operators connect to this city with a one stop hop. Airport to city (hardly 12-15kms). Auto / Tuk Tuk costs Rs. 90
- Ideal no: of days – 4
- Stay: Hotel Raj – Best location, super budget friendly, decent stay, friendly staff and yum breakfast. This is ideal only for budget travellers.
- Places of interest – Daulatabad Fort, Ellora Caves, Ghrishneswar Temple (last of the 12 Jyotirlings), Tomb of Aurangazeb, Hanuman Temple (a rarity as the idol is in sleeping position), Ajanta Caves, Aurangabad Caves, Balaji Temple, Mhaismal Hill Station, Gulmandi Markets and about 52 gates in and around the city.
- Food lovers – there is a lot of options to binge on. More details below.
We suggest you buy the guidebooks that are available in Daulatabad forts or one of the caves. It makes it a cheaper option that using a guide.
Our itinerary in Aurangabad for three nights – four days
On the day we landed (which was late night): Chat at Gayatri Chat Bhandar, Dinner at Hotel Bhoj and exploring a bit of Gul Mandi Market (Holi celebrations were crazy here).
Day One: Daulatabad Fort, Tomb of Aurangzeb, Bhadra Maruti Temple (Hanuman Temple), Ellora Caves, Ghrishneshwar Temple (last of the 12 Jyotirlings), Bibi Ka Maqbara and Panchakki for sightseeing, a nice relaxing foot reflexology session at Ellora Thai Spa. Paani Puri at Madhur Milan Sweets and dinner at Kream N Krunch.
Day Two: Ajantha Caves, bowling and snooker at Prozone and dinner at Icy Spicy.
Day Three: Aurangabad Caves and lunch at Thaat Baat.
Distance from city: 18 km
Best time: Either first thing in the morning or around sunset
Climb: Easy to moderate
Also known as Deogiri / Devagiri, this city of fortune has been in existence since the 12th century. This was initially built by the Yadava empire which then fell into the hands of Mughals and Nizams over a period of time. Many famous rulers were held prisoners here.
This fort has a lot of stories to tell and few of those interesting ones are how war strategies evolved, how the ramparts were done, about the Andheri Gate, the gift called Chand Minar and the cannons in the fort. Also don’t miss the Saraswathi well, the Hathi Hauz and Bharat Mata Temple with beautiful pillars.
Tomb of Aurangzeb
Last of the famous Mughal rulers, Aurangzeb was the son of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. He ruled for about 49 years and was considered very efficient that during his reign and the empire grew in strength and spread. By the end of his period, he wanted a simple tomb for himself and earned the money for the same by stitching caps.
This is the last of the 12 Jyotirlings. This temple has been attacked and rebuilt many times in the past. Known to be the smallest of the Jyotirling temples, Ghrishneshwar looks very beautiful and draws a lot of people every day. Men will need to remove the shirt before entering the sanctum sanctorum.
Bibi Ka Maqbara
Have you heard about a mini Taj Mahal. This is the one peeps. When Narayanan and I were discussing this mini Taj before heading there, he was under the impression that it cant look as beautiful as the real one etc.
When we reached there, trust me, it was BEAUTIFUL. Small or big, some of these architectural marvels (perfect or imperfect) just takes your breath away.
This is the mausoleum of Aurangazeb’s wife built by their son Azam Shah. Aurangazeb’s father – Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal for his Mumtaz Mahal.
While people call Bibi Ka Maqbara a so-so representation of what Azam’s grandfather had built in Agra, this is a must visit place in Aurangabad. Go around this place and spend some time here, you will realize that everything in this world is beautiful even with all its defects and faults.
Where can I start about this one? Simple – the Kailash Temple :D. Literally, that’s the first temple that you will notice as you enter Ellora Caves. This temple is Cave no: 16 and is in the centre, so we took left and started our trip from Cave 09. We knew we had only a few hours to cover the Ellora, so we narrowed down on which ones to go to.
We covered Cave 9,10, 11, 12 and then went to 16. Post that we took a bus which will take you to cave 30 to 34. They also stop in between if you want to visit Cave 21 and 29.
Caves 1 to 12 are Buddhist caves, 13 – 29 are Brahminical excavations and Jain excavations are 30-34. Ellora caves is 28 kms long so a day is not enough if you want to explore this place fully. We spent about three hours and felt that an entire day needs to be set aside for this place.
Ellora Caves are closed on Tuesdays
Kailash Temple – Cave No: 16
The star, the celebrity or the main attraction of Ellora is the Kailasha Temple. Known as the largest monolithic structure in the world, the temple has been cut and built from top to bottom while almost all constructions of such nature start from the bottom.
They say hundreds of architects and sculptures were responsible for this grand structure. At least 4 lakh tons of rock has been removed those days with just simple chisels to achieve what we see today as cave no 16.
Take some time – which will automatically happen – and experience energy and beauty at the same time. Walk all the way up to experience this beauty from the top.
Our first impression about this one was, Oh thank God, this is not going to be as exhaustive as Ellora. There are totally 30 caves and you can cover all of them (some are closed though) in under 4 hours.
We took the early morning AC bus at 0730 AM from Aurangabad Central Bus Station. This bus is the same route as Ajantha Caves so the driver was kind enough to stop just for us. Once we reached there, we bought our tickets to pass a park, then waited for the local bus inside Ajantha to take us to the caves. While returning, at 1430hrs there was a direct AC bus to Aurangabad Central Bus Station. IMHO, this is the best way to reach and get back from Ajantha Caves.
The most important caves here are 1,2,4,16,17,19,24 and 26. Caves 9 and 10 are the oldest chaityas caves and 8,12,13 and 30 are oldest viharas.
In whichever cave you enter, don’t miss the paintings on the ceilings – as that intrigued me the most and some of the exteriors of the cave are just so beautiful.
We bought few idols as souvenirs back home and check them out. We bargained a lot and because we went there during the offseason, we were able to make the most 🙂
Ajantha Caves are closed on Mondays
A not so hidden secret, however, is a place not visited by many. Much closer than Ajantha and Ellora Caves, Aurangabad Caves is beyond Bibi Ka Maqbara and the total distance from city centre is about 10 km one way. Hire a car or auto for half day unless you are prepared to walk your way back in that hot sun. We were told that we will get cars (Ola) but we got none, not even Auto/ Tuk Tuk and ended up sitting there for about 45 mins to get a car to get back that day. After walking around the Aurangabad Caves, we weren’t ready for another 2-3 km walk as it was blazing hot!
There are two sides or two groups of Aurangabad caves – Hanuman Tekdi and Soneri Mahal. There is a small juice vendor between these two groups of caves. You can cover all 12 in under one and half hours. You will get a beautiful panoramic view of the city like the picture above and don’t forget to spot Bibi Ka Maqbara 🙂
Don’t miss this one as it’s not a difficult climb at all. We wonder why people give this a pass!
Other places of interest in Aurangabad
Panchakki which we found to be so poorly maintained while the interesting part was how they got water those days from far away.
There are so many gates around the city which gives you the feeling of travelling back in time. There are about 52 gates and some people refer Aurangabad as the city of gates too 🙂
Another place of interest if you are travelling during the season is Mhaismal Hill station. During the monsoon season (June-Jan), this place is supposed to be gorgeous. Don’t forget to visit the Balaji Temple nearby.
Food in Aurangabad
Listing down some of the most sought out eateries in Aurangabad – thank god we had a friend who took us to all these places 😀 So we can safely say that these are highly recommended by the locals and we loved it too.
Gayatri Chat Centre in Gulmandi
Balaji Mithaiwala for Kachoris
Madhur Milan Sweets for Pani Puri and Masala Milk
Icy Spicy in Connaught place for Ice Gola and Sandwich
Tara Pan. There are so many Tara Pan so ensure you head out to the right one.
You can also hang out in Prozone Mall – if you want to. Paithani Sarees are a speciality here. Ellora Thai Spa is where we went to get a foot reflexology done after the long walks.
Travel back in time, visit these caves, be awed and grateful to have visited here 🙂 Happy travelling!