Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, is one of the most fascinating, compelling cities in India. Nowhere else will you find such a concentrated mix of history, culture, cutting edge modern design and infectious energy in the people who live here. It is also a city of contrasts; from the most expensive house in the world, to the largest slum in Asia. A stay or visit at the iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel will complete your Mumbai experience, there are views to the Gateway of India from most rooms. But there’s a lot more to Maharashtra than Mumbai; explore ancient caves with amazing paintings at Ellora and Ajanta, take a safari in Tadoba Wildlife Reserve and experience India’s vastly improved wine on a vineyard tour in Nashik.
Gateway of India and Taj Mahal hotel
Billion Dollar House
Britania Inn – checkout
Tiger at Tadoba
Rock carving in a cave temple – Ellora
Cotton picking guys – near Aurangabad
2000 year old cave paining of a rampaging elephant – Ajanta
Cave temple – Ajanta
Lonar lake formed from meteor impact
Ghats – Nasik
Maharashtra, the third largest state of India both in area and population, is a state in west central India. It has a western coastline stretching 330 miles (530 Km) along the Arabian Sea from Goa (former Portuguese territories) in the south, to Daman in the north.On the northwest is the state of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh on the north and east, Andhra Pradesh on the southeast, and Karnataka is on the southwest.
Maharashtra was formed in 1960 when the Marathi and Gujarati linguistic areas of the former Bombay state were separated. Bombay (Mumbai) city is the capital of the state.
You will find suggested tour itineraries on our website which cover the most popular sights in Maharashtra. These are for guidance only as we offer you the freedom to create your own tour, allowing you to explore places that are not found on conventional itineraries or to alter the travel pace. You can build your itinerary to suit your own personal interests, budget and schedule with the help of our experience.
Gateway to India
This is Mumbai’s most famous landmark and the first sight to greet visitors to India during the heyday of the British Raj and ironically, the departure point for British troops after India gained independence in 1947.
It was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. There are wonderful views over the sea from here and the monument looks particularly impressive at night when illuminated. It sits in the heart of Mumbai’s tourist district and is always teaming with locals, tourists, vendors and boatmen.
Today it is an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and residential areas. One of the Causeways most famous restaurants is Leopolds cafe, which was established in 1871 and has been a popular meeting point ever since. More recently, it has attracted more interest being a central ‘character’ in the novel Shantaram which vividly portrays life in Bombay (its on sale in the cafe and makes a fascinating holiday read). Further down the Causeway are the Sassoon Docks, worth visiting in the early morning (we can arrange a bike ride) to see the fishermen unload their varied and fascinating catches at the wholesale fishmarket. You can see everything from numerous large rays to the small ‘Bombay Duck’.
As impressive as the structure (it is a World Heritage site), is the fact that it deals with 1,000 trains and two million passengers daily.
Festivals are a common feature in India and there are few bigger or more important than Ganesh Chaturthi, or Ganpati. We witnessed Ganpati in 2015. We saw the Ganesh idols in their many forms; small creations in family homes to massive structures carried on flatbed trucks. the idols represent the Hindu god with an elephant’s head.
Dharavi is said to be the biggest slum in Asia with over 1 million people crammed into a square mile. This doesn’t at first seem very appealing, but we think it is wonderful. Sure, the living conditions are poor but the sense of community is astonishing. All manor of enterprise exists here, from an extensive recycling industry to pottery, chemical and engineering operations.
Dr. Bhau Daji Lad MuseumWe thought this museum was well worth a visit, especially for the old maps of Mumbai from before and during colonial times.The Museum was established in 1872 as the erstwhile Victoria and Albert Museum, Bombay.
Prince of Wales Museum
The Chhatrapatī Shivaji Mahārāj Vastu Saṅgrahālay, formerly Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, is the main museum in Mumbai. The foundation stone of this museum was laid in 1905 by the Prince of Wales, the future George V and severed as a military hospital during the First World war.
If you want to see how the locals shop, head to Crawford Market. This old-style market, housed in an historic colonial building, specialises in wholesale fruit and vegetables. It’s also got an entire section devoted to pets of all shapes, sizes, and breeds.
Marine Drive is possibly Mumbai’s best known road. This 3 kilometre stretch of boulevard, with Girgaum Chowpatty beach at the northern end, curves around the coast. Its feature is a seaside promenade where people flock to catch the evening breeze. Marine Drive is also referred to as the Queen’s Necklace because of its string of sparkling lights, reflective of a row of jewels. View it from the rooftop Dome bar at the Intercontinental Hotel while sipping on a sunset cocktail.
Elephanta Island is dotted with numerous ancient archaeological remains revealing evidence of occupation from as early as the 2nd century BC and include the UNESCO World Heritage designated caves. The caves were constructed about the mid-5th to 6th centuries AD and are dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Elephanta Island can be reached by a short boat ride from Mumbai and also offer a delightful view of the Mumbai skyline.
Dirty laundry from all over Mumbai is brought to this massive open air laundry and painstakingly hand washed by the dhobis (washermen) in the seemingly endless rows of concrete troughs. It provides an unforgettable glimpse into the inside of the city, making it one of the top 10 attractions in Mumbai.
Hutatma Chowk, meaning “Martyrs’ Square” in the local language, was renamed from Flora Fountain in 1960. The name is in memory of the members of Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti, who lost their lives when police fired upon their demonstration. It was part of a struggle with the Government of India for the creation of Maharashtra state.
The Hutatma Chowk square is bordered by buildings constructed during the British Raj. In the middle of it, the ornate Flora Fountain was created in 1864. It represents the Roman Goddess Flora, the Goddess of Abundance.
This is one of India’s most holy cities, with almost 200 shrines. The ghats (steps) on the river are the venue for the most spectacular Kumbh Mela. However, even outside this festival, this bustling temple town is well worth a visit with lots of character conveyed by its permanent cadre of holy men.
We were impressed with the wineries a short journey from Nasik town. There is also a good standard and growing amount of accommodation at some of the wineries so this area can easily be incorporated into a tour. There has clearly been a step change in the quality of Indian wine in recent years which, I am sure, will start to allow the industry to compete with New World producers in the near future.
Above is the Chand Minar tower 64 m high, set within the fortifications.
Ancient Cave Monuments
There are 34 caves at Ellora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hewn out of a 2 km escarpment. The architecture and engineering involved is spectacular in terms of its scale, geometrical accuracy and aesthetics. There are Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples which have been created either by tunnelling horizontally into the rock face or by digging down from the cliff top.
To the left is the Buddest temple, Vishwackarma, it is so finely carved that it gives the appearance of being made from wood. This cave (10) also has the most amazing acoustics allowing chanting to seemingly be amplified as it reverberates around.
The caves at Ajanta are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and if anything, are even more spectacular than those at Ellora. There are 30 temples carved into a horse-shoe shaped cliff overlooking the Waghora river.
Probably the most impressive aspect of these caves is their paintings. Despite their great antiquity, the detail and colours are still vivid. The art work is also quite astonishing with techniques used to show movement and perspective not seen in Europe until the reformation.
To the left is Apsara, a celestial maiden, adoring the Buddha.
Lonar is a salt water lake 1.8 km diameter, created by the impact of meteor some 50,000 years ago. The huge crater is ranked among the world’s five largest craters and the third-largest salt water lake in the world. Due to its very alkaline water, there are no living organisms in the lake and even trees whose roots get into the lake water die.
The lake is located in central Maharashtra around 160 km from Aurangabad and can be visited in conjunction with a tour of the ancient caves of Ellora and Ajanta.
As always, our tours are all completely bespoke and private. This allows you to spend time seeing the places that really interest you and at your own pace. Of course we will be happy to guide you in your choice of location and accommodation.
During your tour you will have an english speaking driver and be accompanied by a guide during sightseeing.
The tours below are examples of some of the most popular itineraries to help you get started. However, they can be altered, shortened, extended or added to as you require. Our aim is to devise the best holiday for your needs.
Click on itinerary title to go to separate detailed itinerary page.
Discover Maharashtra (14 nights)
This is a great introduction to the wide variety of experiences possible in Maharashtra; a private tour includes a stay in the Mumbai including a number of historic and cultural experiences. The tour also includes the ancient holy city of Nasik and its surrounding vineyards. You will also experience the incredible temple caves of ellora and Ajenta. There will be wildlife experiences in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve and time in a luxury treehouse in the forest of the Western Ghats near Pune.
We have selected a number of accommodation options, some luxury chains, some boutique hotels with character, and even a forest treehouse! Whatever your preference, talk to us and we will be able to suggest something appropriate.
For more details on our selection of accommodation in Maharashtra, click here.