Outrageous Escapism: Ellora Caves, India

Outrageous Escapism: Ellora Caves, India

A short flight from Mumbai, the Ellora Caves is a network of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples carved into rocks – and among the world’s largest complexes of its kind. Quieter than Hampi and more ancient than the Taj Mahal, its fascinating structures are far from the tourist trail.


Ellora Caves, Maharashtra, India


The Ellora Caves might be a Unesco World Heritage Site – one of
38 on the Indian subcontinent – but the journey there is far from
the well-trodden path. Unless you arrive at the same time as a
busload of local school children, you’ll likely be undisturbed as
you wander the series of temples carved into cliffs. A lack of
towns and other attractions nearby means the Ellora Caves don’t get
the attention they deserve as one of the most impressive examples
of rock-cut architecture from ancient India. There are 35
individual caves and temples to get through, including dank
bat-filled grottos to vast colonnaded halls.

Built into volcanic basalt cliffs some time between the sixth
and tenth centuries, the Ellora Caves took more than 500 years of
laborious hand carving to complete. The diversity of religions on
display is particularly fascinating: there are dedicated Buddhist,
Jain and Hindu temples built into adjacent caves, interspersed with
myriad smaller caves and statues telling epic tales from ancient

Within the complex, the most famous is the staggering 32m-high
Kailasa temple, the largest rock-cut monument anywhere in the
world. It’s dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, and is believed to
have been built by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I. Equally
magnificent is the Buddha statue in Cave 5, where the high vaulted
roof gives the sensation of being inside a giant whale. What the
Ellora Caves lack in tourist amenities, they make up for in sheer

Where to stay

Boutique accommodation is lacking in nearby Aurangabad, so an
impersonal but clean hotel such as Lemon Tree Hotel is probably your best option.
Zostel Aurangabad is also a solid choice.

What to pack

You’ll need long and modest clothing to enter the sites as it’s
a place of worship for many of the people visiting – a pair of
loose Graham & Spencer linen trousers will keep
you cool and concealed. If you’re going during monsoon season, this
Rains Ultralight raincoat is also

Travel tip-off

Don’t bother spending much time in Aurangabad; get straight out
and see the caves. And if you have energy on the way back, do a
detour to Daulatabad Fort, a dramatic walled citadel perched atop a
hill. It’s worth hiring a driver to take you to and around the
Ellora Caves for the day – pick one up from hotels and hostels.

How to get there

Aurangabad is the nearest major city to the Ellora Caves. To get
there, either take a domestic flight from Mumbai
to Aurangabad Airport or catch one of the many cheap, direct buses
which take six to eight hours. From Aurangabad, the Ellora Caves
are less than an hour away by car.

Discover More
Outrageous Escapism: Danakil Depression, Ethiopia