Goa’s glorious beaches have attracted travellers for decades, but comparatively few explore the other two states along India’s western flank – Maharashtra and Gujarat – despite the fact they hold some of Asia’s most wonderful ancient monuments and a fascinating array of traditional cultures. Foremost among the former are the rock-cut cave complexes at Ellora and Ajanta, two UNESCO-listed treasures that reached from Mumbai, and served by a choice of top hotels.
Having toured the caves, you can press on further north to the chimeric hilltop temple complex of Shratrunjaya in Saurashtra, Gujarat, then see India’s last pride of wild lions at the Gir Sanctuary en route to Kutch, where dozens of minority communities retain their elaborate traditional dress and handicrafts traditions – a must for anyone interested in textiles and disappearing ways of life.
Thanks to the plentiful flights that these days zoom over the Konkan Coast of southern Maharashtra, the area between Mumbai and Goa, is virtually undiscovered by tourism. Yet its coastline holds a string of magnificent Maratha island forts and miles of empty, palm-fringed beaches – one of which recently acquired a particularly gorgeous boutique hotel.
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Places to visit in West India
Inconspicuous on its traffic island amid the chaos of central Ahmedabad, the diminutive mosque of Sidi Sayyid encapsulates the flawed charms of Gujarat’s largest city. Blink and you could miss it. But the building holds some of the greates...
Ajanta & Ellora
Nowhere else in India does the distant past feel closer to the surface than the rock-cut complexes of Ellora and Ajanta, a day’s journey northeast of Mumbai. Carved from the mountains of the Deccan Plateau between 2nd century BC and 11th c...
The capital of Madya Pradesh, Bhopal, is infamous for the appalling industrial disaster of 1984 when an American-built pesticide plant leaked poisonous gas into the city, causing death and injury on an unprecedented scale. But don’t let th...
Champaner succeeded Ahmedabad as the seat of the local sultans in the 16th century before Akbar swept through to annex Gujarat for the Mughals. Inscribed with exquisite calligraphy and elaborate, Hindu-inflected motifs, its ruined mosques,...
Aside from the landmarks of the British era, Mumbai’s other unmissable sight are the ancient rock-cut cave temples of Elephanta Island, a boat ride across the bay. Hollowed from a hill of brownblack basalt 13 centuries ago, the pillared sh...
Gir National Park
This reserve in western Gujarat is internationally renowned as the last stronghold of an animal that once roamed free across southern Europe, North Africa and Asia, but which now only survives on the Saurashtra peninsula in the far west of...
Virtually the entire 105-km coastline of Portugal’s former colony is edged by glorious, golden-sand beaches. The warm surf of the Arabian Sea here has soothed weary foreign travellers since the 1960s, when fishing shacks and dilapidated ol...
Hindu and Jain pilgrims from across India come to Junagadh in Saurashtra to climb Mt Girnar, Western India’s holiest location. Over the week of Shivratri in February/March their ranks are swollen by tens of thousands of naked, dreadlocked ...
This remote region in the far northwest of Gujarat has long been a land apart from the rest of India. A pan-shaped island sandwiched between Indian Saurashtra and Pakistani Sind, it used to be cut off for months on end by monsoon floodwate...
Scattered across a high plateau overlooking the Narmada Valley are the ruins of a once great city dating from the earliest phase of Muslim expansion into central India. Echoes of Persia, Samarkand, Herat and Kabul are clearly discernable i...
Trade across the Arabian Sea to the coast of Africa and Middle East has for many centuries formed the cornerstone of Gujarat’s prosperity, and at Mandvi in southern Kutch, you can take a look at the giant wooden ships that would until rece...
Mumbai has been India’s busiest port and industrial centre since the opening of the Suez Canal in 1969. As famous today for its traffic jams as its record-breaking movie industry, the Maharashtrian capital tends not to feature high up most...
Less than an hour’s drive northeast of Bhopal lies one of the country’s most evocative archaeological sites, dating from the very dawn of Indian history in the third century BC, when most of the subcontinent was ruled by the Mauryan Dynast...
Shatrunjaya Hill (Palitana)
Some 3,200 steps have to be scaled to reach the top of Shatrunjaya Hill, the holiest pilgrimage site in India for Svetambara Jains. Extravagantly carved towers rise from the sacred complex, where around one-thousand walled shrines seem to ...
West India Experiences
Hunted to the point of extinction in the early twentieth century, barely four-hundred Asiatic lions now survive in the wild – all of them in the Sasan Gir National Park in southern Saurasthra, Gujarat. The reserve is close to the coast and...
It’s said that 30 million people travel on India’s railway system every day – a statistic not hard to believe if you’ve ever scrambled though the mêlée of porters, chai wallahs and passengers trying to board a long-distance express out of ...
A testament to the wealth that passed through the port of Goa in the early-17th century is the splendid crop of Baroque churches and cathedrals just inland from the modern capital, Panjim. The most revered relic of the UNESCO World Heritag...
The Wild Ass Sanctuary
The great salt flats lining the coast of the Kutch peninsula in the far west of Gujarat are among India’s signature landscapes – vast, shimmering expanses of white desert, dappled with pools of milky brine, where flocks of pink flamingos a...
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