When it comes to UNESCO world heritage Sites, Maharashtra actually has the largest number of sites in the entire country. From 2nd century BC onward architectural marvels at Ajanta and Ellora Caves, to the iconic CST (previously Victoria Terminus) in Mumbai, Maharashtra has it all. Not to mention Maharashtra's very own valley of flowers at Kaas, the state indeed has much to explore and see.

UNESCO world heritage sites ellora caves maharashtra
Kailasa Temple at Ellora

I have been living in the state for a few years now and have been to all the sites, except the Elephanta caves near Mumbai, which is quite a shame. Having explored all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Gujarat, I hope to finish them all in Maharashtra as well this summer.

So are you tempted to explore these wonders of Maharashtra? Here's a travel guide to help you do just that!

1. Ajanta Caves

The Buddhist Caves at Ajanta are some of the best known and preserved examples of Indian art, particularly cave paintings. Built over hundreds of years from 2nd century BC onwards, the Caves are next to the river Waghora in a horse-shoe shape.

Ajanta is not how they were originally known, it's a name given from a near-by village and somehow it captures beautifully the enigma of the place. The serene and away-from-the-world location provided the Buddhist monks a perfect place to meditate.

UNESCO world heritage sites ajanta caves maharashtra
The most famous painting at Ajanta Caves

However, over time the Caves were lost to humanity and were discovered by a British officer in the 19th century. Ever since, it's been a celebrate and protected monument, most famous for depicting the life of the time through paintings and sculptures.

Alternatively, you can buy guide books there also and they are also quite fine. Some Caves did have mixed up data in these, and caused us some confusion but it wasn't a big problem.

Timings: 9am to 5pm (closed on Monday)
Entry fee: Citizens of India and visitors of SAARC and BIMSTEC Countries - Rs. 30
Others:  Rs. 500
(children up to 15 years free)

To reach:
The best way to travel is through your is car or in a cab. There are buses also from Aurangabad and other nearby towns.

To stay: Here are two options to stay in Ajanta town itself.
Sathe's Heritage Home Stay
Hotel View Point

2. Ellora Caves

Locally known as 'Verul Leni', Ellora Caves are a collection of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain Caves which are cut from the volcanic basaltic formation of Maharasthra, known as ‘Deccan Trap’.

Unlike Ajanta, Ellora Caves were never lost to oblivion and it's often attributed to its proximity to the trade routes. There are about 100 Caves out of which 34 are visited by tourists. Caves 1 to 12 are Buddhist; Caves 13 to 29 are Brahmanical and Caves 30 to 34 are Jain.

UNESCO world heritage sites ellora caves maharashtra

It has passed through many kingdoms, but it was only under the Nizams of Hyderabad that extensive repair work was undertaken here.

Timings: sunrise to sunset (closed on Tuesday)
Entry fee: Citizens of India and visitors of SAARC and BIMSTEC Countries - Rs. 30
Others: Indian Rs. 500
(children up to 15 years free)

To reach:
It's best to visit both Ajanta and Ellora Caves during one trip itself as they are only about 100km apart. It's often recommended to make Aurangabad as base for these, but I actually recommend actually staying near Ajanta caves to see the caves there, and in Aurangabad to see Ellora caves.

It's very useful to have your own car/ motorbike or a cab to see these places well and at the best times. Of course, that's not necessary at all. Aurangabad is well connected by buses from Pune and other major town and cities in the state. There is bus survive to Ajanta town as well.

To stay:
In Ajanta we stayed at the MTDC guest house, and also in Aurangabad. Both are well located and also very affordable.