Temples, churches and monasteries
Central India is home to some of most spectacular and diverse architecture and monuments in India, all steeped in rich history. On this journey we will visit multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We'll begin at the Hindu/Buddhist/Jain rock temples in Ellora, the most splendid examples of rock-cut architecture on the continent, followed by the ancient Buddhist caves of Ajanta, filled with magnificent sculptures and paintings of Buddha. Goa offers a complete contrast, as we visit the medieval Christian churches of Old Goa, another World heritage Site, built by the Portuguese during their 451 years of rule. And perfectly interspersed between site visits, you'll have time to relax at the beautiful beaches of Goa.
Our Private Adventures in India
This adventure in Central India is designed to be taken as a stand-alone journey, or as part of an exploration of the entire country, combined with one of our North and South India itineraries. We're more than happy to help you combine this with any of our other itineraries, assist with internal flights between destinations, to help make your dream of India become a reality!
7 days easy to moderate touring
- Experience the contrasting religions and cultures of central India—from Indian Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain faiths to Portuguese Christianity
- Explore the Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain rock-cut cave temples of Ellora and of Ajanta, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Visit the medieval churches in the Portuguese colonial town of Goa
Duration: 7 days Start Location: Mumbai End Location: MumbaiDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Mumbai
Arrive in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India's largest city, and the financial capital of the country. A Mountain Travel Sobek representative will meet you outside the customs and immigration area at the airport. He or she will answer questions, brief you on the immediate arrangements, and escort you to your hotel. The remainder of the day is free to rest after your long flight. NOTE—It takes two to three days (depending on your airline schedule) to travel to Mumbai. The date and time of arrival vary greatly from carrier to carrier.
You should plan to arrive in Mumbai sometime in the afternoon on Day 1. We're holding reservations at the hotel in Mumbai for you starting the afternoon of Day 1. If your flight will arrive in early morning, you'll need to request an additional room night (we'll add this to your invoice) beginning the previous night. Additionally, we encourage you to arrive a day early to have time to rest before the adventure begins.
Day 2 : Aurangabad - Ellora Caves
This morning we take a one-hour flight to Aurangabad. Aurangabad became the headquarters for the fearsome Mughul Emperor Aurangzeb, who used the city as the base from which he conquered the Deccan area of central India and named it for himself. Mughul monuments remain today; the most famous is the Bibi ka Maqbara, which was built in imitation of the Taj Mahal. We'll visit some of Aurangabad's Mughul monuments as time permits, but our main objects of desire require that we go out of town to explore much older Buddhist and Hindu archaeological wonders.
In the afternoon, we drive (one hour) to the Ellora Caves. The 34 caves here are the most splendid examples of rock-cut architecture in India. The sacred temple caves represent three religions: Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain. The most magnificent monument is the Kailasanatha Temple. Created in the 8th century, this giant complex was carved out of a rocky cliff face. The sculpted temple depicts Mount Kailas, the mountain abode of Lord Shiva. It is one of the chief wonders of India, and with more than 25 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and countless temples, palaces, national parks, and other wonders, this only begins to give you a sense of its importance and impact.
Day 3 : Aurangabad - Ajanta Caves
After breakfast, we drive (2 hours) to Ajanta. At Ajanta, 30 rock-cut caves occupy a horse-shoe bend in a gorge cut by the Waghora River. The oldest of these caves date back to the second century BC. At this time, the Buddha was not represented in human form, but by symbols such as the Wheel of Law or the Bodi Tree. Later, in the fifth and sixth centuries AD, artists of the Mahayana Period were allowed a much freer hand, and the artwork they produced is magnificent. The many caves are carved into the cliffs, and are filled with sculptures of the Buddha, with intricately carved columns supporting the ceilings. Most famous are the painted murals that depict the Buddha's life and recount the Jataka Tales, stories about the Buddha's previous lives. These are the oldest and finest Buddhist paintings in India. In color and composition they are magnificent, as they depict scenes of courtly and daily life in a long vanished age. We return to Aurangabad for overnight.
Day 4 : Goa via Mumbai
Morning flight to Goa via Mumbai (both flights are roughly one hour, plus layovers). Best known for its beaches on the Arabian Sea, and infamous for its golden hippy years, Goa contains more variety and energy than almost anywhere else in the country. A former Portuguese colony, Goa was isolated from the rest of India for 451 years of Portuguese rule, and it was not until 1986 that Goa become part of the Republic of India, it's 25th of what are now 28 states. This separation from and recent incorporation into India are in many ways what shapes its current reality. This includes a respect and acceptance of multiple deities—Hindu, Christian, etc.—regardless of which faith the individual professes as their primary belief. When we arrive this afternoon you'll have a chance to relax in the hotel or walk along the endless beaches.
Day 5 : Goa
We'll visit Old Goa, the former colonial capital of Goa. Here we'll find the Basilica of Bom Jesus, which contains the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. Built in 1695, this is one of the oldest churches in Goa, yet its marbled floors and gilded altars are still in excellent condition. Later we'll visit the Se Cathedral, Goa's largest, and most troubled—it took almost eighty years to complete. Rounding out our morning of colonial sightseeing, we'll stop by the St. Francis of Assisi Museum and the Latin Quarter of the modern-day city of Panaji. In the afternoon, we will continue our visit of the city of Panaji. Panaji, called Panjim by the Portuguese, means "the land that does not flood." Here we'll visit Altinho (Portuguese for 'high' or tall), a locality atop the hillock of Panaji, and Dona Paula, where we'll have an excellent view of India's largest natural harbor, Marmagao.
Day 6 : Goa
Today is a free day to explore Goa further on your own, relax at the hotel, or indulge in Goa's beautiful beaches.
Day 7 : Mumbai - Depart
Late morning flight to Mumbai (one hour) and transfer to hotel. The afternoon is free to relax before catching your flight home (you’ll have day rooms available at the hotel until 9:00 p.m.). Transfer to the airport for departure on homeward-bound flight, or combine this trip with one of our other adventures in India!
DATES: Best time to go: January - March, October - December Departures: Private departures are available on the dates of your choice, pending availability. Call us for details.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.