This India itinerary takes you well off of the beaten track. This is a part of India often ignored by backpackers due to poor transport links and very limited accommodation options. For some backpackers however this is the real deal; this is real exploring and if you persevere you will be rewarded with holy ghats, cave temples and ancient citadels. Unless you have already been travelling in India for a while I do not recommend starting with this itinerary. Consider exploring Hampi or Rajasthan first.
Mumbai gets hot! Try to visit between October and march.
Suggested itinerary; Mumbai – Ajanta and Ellora – Nashik – Bidar – Bijapur (2-3 weeks)
Top Things to See and Do
- Mumbai – let’s start with the name. Nobody calls it Mumbai, the city is very much Bombay. Now that the name is out of the way let’s get onto the city, in a word; Bombay is intense! If you survive Bombay you have done well! Bombay is not only dirty, crowded and full of touts, it is also the most expensive city in India and can quickly drain your bank account. I loved Bombay and spent over 2 weeks there but I was couchsurfing and had some great friends. I highly recommend trying to make a friend in Bombay! You should definitely brave the local trains at some point, they are packed to bursting but a lot of fun / terrifying. Don’t do this if your a girl on your own, it’s too dangerous. From Bombay you can easily catch a train to Aurangabad; your next stop.
- Ajanta and Ellora – You will need to make a base in Aurangabad, I recommend staying and eating in the ‘Hotel Shree Maya’ which is a five minute walk from the station. Aurangabad itself is pretty boring and ugly. You need one day to go to the amazing cave temples of Ellora by tuk tuk (600RS) and make a stop at the awesome ruined fortress of Daulatabad. The next day take a taxi (1200RS) if in a group or a bus (150RS each way) if you are on your own to the Ajanta Caves. Once you have seen Ellora, Ajanta and Daulatabad there really isn’t much else to do so you should probably get ready to leave. Catch a train to Nashik. The train from Aurangabad to Nashik takes just six hours.
- Nashik – The ghats here are truly mesmerizing and there are no pushy touts like in Varanassi. It is worth spending a morning wandering the ghats and an afternoon in the cinema. The next day make a day trip to Trimbak for a pleasant day hike. Make no mistake; Nashik does not have a lot in it and receives almost no tourists. It has quite a nice genuine feel to it but is an unappealing city non the less. I Couchsurfed here and had a great time. From Nashik you can arrange sleeper buses towards Goa, or if you are feeling adventurous catch a train to Gulbarga and then onwards to Bidar and Bijapur, you may have to go via Bombay.
- Bidar and Bijapur – From Gulbarga, a bus (three hours) runs to Bidar where you should spend a day wandering around the truly awesome fort. Get an attendant to unlock all the hidden passageways for you, tip him 100RS. The fort alone is worth coming to Bidar for and this is a good thing as there isn’t much else. ‘Hotel Mayura’ is right next to the bus station and is OK for a nights stay, conveniently it has a half decent restaurant. After a day in Bidar catch a bus, seven hours, to Bijapur. Bijapur has a few very worthwhile sites but you still only need a day. The cheapest accommodation is next to the bus stand. In the evening you can catch a bus to Hospet, 30 minutes from Hampi, and begin ‘The Triangle of Awesomeness’. After doing this admittedly challenging itinerary you definitely deserve a break!