A Memorable Road Trip To Ajanta Ellora Caves

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We were searching for a place where we can go during 15th August extended weekend in Maharashtra and which can be covered in 3 days. We had heard a lot about Ajanta, Ellora caves so zeroed down to that for a bike road trip.

Pune ->Daulatabad Fort ->Ellora ->Ghrishneshwara ->Paithan ->Ajanta ->Bibi-ka-Maqbara ->Pune

Tourist Information for Transportation:

MSRTC Red Buses are available at regular intervals from Central Bus Stand to the important tourist destinations from Aurangabad like Ajanta, Ellora, Daulatabad, etc. The frequency is good, safe and fairly comfortable though not very luxurious. Autorickshaw drivers may ask for exorbitant rates from the tourists. Make sure to ask before boarding, if the charges are based on the meter reading. In general, public transport in and around the city is fairly good.

Pune-Nagar National Highway
Pune Nagar Highway 5 in the morning

Traveller’s Guide: 

We were very excited about these world heritage sites – Ajanta and Ellora. It was our first long ride so I could not sleep well the whole night and started early while it was drizzling outside. Pune to Aurangabad distance is 250 km and roads are very nice. I was riding almost at 80 -100 kph. We had breakfast in midway and continued our journey. Within 4 hours, we reached Aurangabad. Initially, we had decided to find a place to stay but we decided to visit Daultabad Fort, Ellora caves first.

Daulatabad Fort:

Daulatabad is a 14th-century fort and was originally named Devagiri. The fort is located on the top of a hill. Chand Minar, Chini Mahal, and Baradari are must-see structures inside the fort. Don’t miss the climb to the very top through the bat cave. The cave is quite scary and stinky due to bats. We spend good 3 hours there and then headed towards Ellora caves which are 13 km away from Daulatabad fort.

Enroute to Daulatabad Fort
En Route to Daulatabad
Daulatabad Fort
Daulatabad Fort Entrance
Chand Minar at Daulatabad Fort
Chand Minar
Daulatabad Fort
Top of the Fort

Ellora Caves:

As we saw the Ellora caves panoramic view, it was like wow! There are around 30+ caves to visit! These caves consist of 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12), 17 Hindu (caves 13–29) and 5 Jain (caves 30–34) caves. Few of the very famous caves in Ellora are “Vishwakarma cave” (cave 10), tantric Buddhist goddesses are carved in cave 12. Largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world dedicated to “SHIVA” named Kailash temple (Cave-16) and Goddess Ganga at the entrance of Ellora Cave 21. You have to walk quite a lot to visit all the caves. We got so tired while we had just covered 20 out of 34.

Kailash Temple at Ellora Caves
Kailash Temple at Ellora Caves
Life Size Sculpture of Elephants In Kailash Temple
Lifesize Sculptures of Elephants in Kailash Temple
Mahabharat Story Carved on the Walls of Kailash Temple
Mahabharat Story Carved on the Walls of Kailash Temple
Buddha in the main room of the temple of Vishvakarma (cave 10)
Buddha in the main temple of Vishvakarma (cave 10)

If a visitor has at his disposal three to four hours, then the Cave nos. 10 (Visvakarma Cave), 16 (Kailasa), 21 (Ramesvara) and 32 & 34 (Jaina group of caves) should not be missed. Thus, by visiting these caves, one can have a glimpse of the Buddhism, Brahmanism and Jainism art and architecture. If a visitor has an entire day at his disposal, the Cave nos. 2, 5, 10 & 12 of the Buddhist group; Cave nos. 14, 15, 16, 21 & 29 of the Brahmanical group and Caves 32 to 34 of the Jaina group should be visited.

Entry Open from sunrise to sunset and Closed on Tuesday.

  • Entrance Fee: Citizens of India and visitors of SAARC (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives and Afghanistan) and BIMSTEC Countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar) – Rs. 30 per head and children up to 15 years free.
  • Others: Rs. 500/- per head
Front View of Ellora Caves
Front View of Ellora Caves
Ellora Caves
Ellora Caves
Carved Shiva Parvathi Panel From the Kailash Temple (Cave 16)
Carved Shiva Panel From the Kailash Temple (Cave 16)
Panoramic View of Ellora Caves
Panoramic View of Ellora Caves

The paintings on the ceiling and walls depict a lot of stories, incidents. Many of them are quite damaged due to negligence I believe. The weather can be dramatic too in the Deccan plateau. With lots of rainfall for good 3 – 4 months, preservation can be little tricky. But we did saw restoration work going on in lots of caves. They have installed nets everywhere so that bats can’t enter inside

Immaculate Paintings on Roof,Pillars and Walls In Ellora Caves
Immaculate Paintings on Roof, Pillars, and Walls In Ellora Caves
Paintings in Ellora Caves
Paintings in Ellora Caves
Ellora Caves
Nets Installed to Prevent Bats to get Inside the Caves

It was 3:30 pm and near to Ellora caves there is one Shiva’s temple named “Ghrishneshwara” which is also one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines. I had heard a lot about this temple. A few years back they have allowed women to visit the main temple but still, females cannot touch the main “Shiva linga”. This temple is an illustration of south Indian temple architectural style and structure. It was fully crowded and we waited for two hours for our turn to get into the main temple. Males have to remove their upper clothes, without this, you cannot enter in the main premises. After darshan, we were very tired due to travelling and site seeing. We decided to go back to Aurangabad to find a place to stay. We enquired a few hotels to stay. We found a good place but surprisingly he asked us to show marriage certificate or an id proof where my spouse last name matched with my last name. After a good warm discussion, we left that place and settled in another nearby hotel. Hotels are not very costly here in 1000 Rs you can get a good place to stay.

Now it was time to taste the local food. In our list, one of them was “Gayatri chat bandhar” at Gulmandi road near Kranti chowk which is very famous to serve excellent deep fried snacks like Kachoris, Samosas and Mong bhajji. Hot and freshly prepared in front of you on a ‘Chulha’ (clay oven). Kranti Chowk and Gulmandi are the oldest roadside eateries in the town. You will found many other eating joints here Bikaner bhujiyavala, Omkar pav bhaji, Indian grilled chicken varieties like Chicken Tikka, Tandoori, Kebabs, etc. at Connaught Gardens. There is plenty of veg, non-veg and multi-cuisine restaurant available for lunch and dinner at Nirala Bazaar and Jalna road.

Ajanta Caves:

Next day morning, we started early as we wanted to reach Ajanta caves by sharp 9 am which is 100 km away from Aurangabad city centre. The roads were too bad, it took me almost 3 hours to ride 100 km but still, we managed to reach at 10 am. At one place you have to park your vehicle and from there you will get a special CNG bus. That bus will drop you near to the caves. Considering, these caves have very exotic paintings; the management wants to keep the pollution at minimal. It was a short bus ride between a few hills.

Ajanta Caves Description
Look at the Horse Shoe Arrangement of Caves at Ajanta
View of Ajanta Caves
View of Ajanta Caves

As per our experience with Ellora, we were prepared that we will have to walk a lot and our thought was correct. We found Ajanta tougher than Ellora. There are 29 caves in Ajanta caves. Ajanta caves include paintings and rock cut sculptures which describe finest examples of ancient Indian art. At Ajanta, the paintings on the walls, illustrate the events in the life of Prince Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism and in the more popular Jatakas stories pertaining to Buddha’s previous incarnation. Colours used for the wall paintings were made from pebbles and vegetable found on the hillside. The guide will show you the pebbles of different Colors, these were crushed and ground and then mixed with glue. The main colours used were; red ochre, yellow ochre, brown ochre, lamp black, white and blue.

Inside View of Painted Caves, Ajanta
Inside View of Painted Caves
Indian painting of Vajrapāṇi Bodhisattva
Indian painting of Vajrapāṇi Bodhisattva
Painted Wooden Structures on the Ceiling in Ajanta Caves
Painted Wooden Structures on the Ceiling

Various incidents from the life of Gautam Buddha and the Jataka Tales are represented and recreated on the walls of these caves. Scenes from the royal court of the respective eras are also painted. Through his life, Buddha was against the idea of sculpting and painting images of him. However, after Buddha’s death, his followers who wanted to worship him decided to paint his images so that they had something to hold on to while spreading the faith and teachings of the Buddha. At the entrance of the first of Ajanta caves, you will be greeted by a tall image of the Buddha. The doorway to the cave is decorated with auspicious motifs and the cave has numerous sculptures and paintings of Bodhisattvas Padmapani and Vajrapani, carvings of princesses, lovers, maids and dancing girls; scenes depicting the Persian Embassy, Golden Geese, Pink Elephants and Bull Fights. Though the caves are over 2,000 years old, the Buddha statues had been added close to 600 years later.

Reclining Buddha, Cave 26
Reclining Buddha, Cave 26
Buddha in Ajanta Caves
Majestic Buddha
Carved Pillars inside Caves
Carved Pillars inside Caves
Pathway Around the Stupa
Pathway Around the Stupa
Monolithic Carved Pillars in Ajanta Caves
Monolithic Carved Pillars in Caves

Caves  9, 10, 12, 13 and 15A belongs to the tradition of Buddhism and Caves 19, 26, and 29 are grihas, the rest viharas (where a large number of devotees can rest) and other caves are extensions to the tradition of Buddhism. Notable point – You cannot use direct flash from the camera or mobile to capture paintings or coloured carvings. It is guided there and in every cave, you will see a person to guide you on this. They have special lights installed in the caves which I believe not harmful to the exotic interiors.

There are lots of eating joints and shops selling handicrafts in Ajanta near to the parking areas so you can have your lunch.  An MTDC resort is also very close by the Ajanta caves. There are many other small restaurants and dhabas available on the way to Aurangabad. People who are interested in most famous paithan silk saris (Saris which have embroidered gold or silver borders and peacocks) can visit on the way outlets or they can visit a place called Paithan which is 35 km from Aurangabad.

Bibi Ka Maqbara:

So by 3 pm, we were back to the Aurangabad main town and after an hour of rest we decided to visit “Bibi ka Maqbara” which is known as a poor man’s “Taj Mahal”. At first sight, it looks like a copy of “Taj Mahal” although it’s not as beautiful as “Taj Mahal” while the structure almost match. Bibi-Ka-Maqbara is a beautiful monument of Dilras Banu Begum, the wife of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. This monument was constructed by Prince Azam Shah in memory of his mother in 1600 centuries. This monument is in the typical Mughal Char-Bagh pattern which adorns its beauty and splendour through its symmetry and excellent garden layout. The half structure of this monument has used Marble stone and other recesses are divided by pilasters, crowned with small minarets. Hence it’s a poor copy of “Taj Mahal”. If you have seen the Taj Mahal already, you can observe a striking difference between the two.

Bibi ka Maqbara Main Gate
Bibi ka Maqbara Main Gate

The main entrance gate is beautifully carved and has a photogenic design. After passing through the entrance, a small tank is provided and a low profile screen wall leads to the main structure. The screened pathway has a series of fountains at its centre, which adds to further the serene atmosphere. Bibi Ka Maqbara has featured in a number of documentaries and films as well. We would suggest to include this monument as a must visit the place after Ajanta, Ellora.

Bibi ka Maqbara, Aurangabad
Bibi ka Maqbara
Fountain Pathway to the Mausoleum
Fountain Pathway to the Mausoleum
Bibi ka Maqbara
The Plastered Beauty, Poor Man’s Taj Mahal

There are two other sites (Mahesmahal and Lonar) in 100 -150 km distance from Aurangabad which we did not complete due to the time crunch. But if you have one day more, you may include these spots as well. This 3-day road journey was very satisfying since we got to experience and see lots of different places. A fort, tons of UNESCO caves, a temple, a mausoleum. With lots of memories and aching feet, we came back to Pune the next day to get back to our corporate lives. 😛


Hampi – Solo Backpacking Guide

It was an extended weekend in the month of March and I thought of making a good use of this opportunity to travel. Considering Saurabh was very much occupied, I thought of living my dream of solo travelling for a short trip. Initially, I was considering South Goa for its laid-back attitude and safety but then I changed my mind to Hampi.

Hampi is a very small village in northern Karnataka on the banks of Tungbhadra river recognized by UNESCO. It is 13 km far from Hospet, which comes under Bellary district. It is located in the ruins of a magnificent and ancient town – Vijayanagar. I am always drawn to historical sites to reflect on the past of different places. In terms of how much time I had and distance, Hampi seemed to be a good choice.

So 1 week before I planned to depart, I did my complete research on the safety of woman traveller, the best ways to travel, places to explore, things to do and stay options. Hampi have two main sections – one is the sacred section, which has lots of temples, and the second one is a royal section, which has residential areas, public bath, public areas for the festival and other temples. I booked a decent guesthouse in the market area in Hampi for 1500 a night – Gopi Guest House. And, settled for an AC Sleeper Volvo for an overnight journey from Pune to Hospet. I was thoroughly excited for my solo adventure and was really counting days 😛 . But when the day approached, my heart was sinking with the thought of leaving my husband behind. I was a little concerned about what if I get bored alone? What if I don’t like the place? But my man motivated me to do this.

I reached Hospet at around 9 am. There are many options to reach Hampi from Hospet – by shared auto, private auto, cab, local bus. I chose the cheapest of all for a fun ride – the local bus and it cost me 10 bucks in comparison to 150 for the auto. I took the bus from the bus station. It was half an hour journey in between few villages. On my arrival in the village, I saw the only working and magnificent ‘Virupaksha Temple’ dedicated to Shiva. But I made my way straight to the guesthouse to check-in, which was very close to the temple. Took a bath, had some breakfast and hired a bicycle to explore. You can hire a cycle or a gearless two-wheeler in Hampi at a nominal price. I paid 30 bucks a day for my 3 days. People travelling in groups and looking for hassle-free luxury hire cabs too. But the problem with cabs is that you still have to walk quite a lot to the sites due to small and big boulders spread across the town and cycle seems to be advantageous in that sense.

Virupaksha Temple:

Virupaksha Temple from Hemkunta Hill
Virupaksha Temple from Hemkunta Hill

Anyways, after hiring the cycle I straight went to the Virupaksha temple. It is a very big complex with a beautiful gopuram at the entrance. You have to pay some nominal fee for the camera to click pictures. It was indeed a marvellous architecture with so many devotees flooding in to have darshan of the Shiv Linga. I also met Lakshmi. She is a 28 years old elephant who lives inside the temple complex and is used for temple processions. I found her very docile. If you give her money or food, she ‘blesses’ you by placing her trunk on your head. I spent some time sitting in the complex and moved on because I had half a day to cover the entire temple complex.

Hemkunta Group of Temples:

Next, I went to the Hemkunta group of temples. It is situated on a rocky slope next to the Virupaksha temple. They just ruined with nothing much but was quite peaceful and you get a very good view of the whole village and nearby hills. One important temple of this complex is Saasivekaalu Ganesha Temple. Saasivekaalu means stomach full of ladoos, the idol is a huge monolithic marvel. After resting for a while in the cool breeze, I decided to move on according to my map.

Saasivekaalu Ganesha Temple
Saasivekaalu Ganesha Temple

It was time for lunch and I was looking for an authentic Kannada meal and I found one soon. A humble tapri operated by an elderly woman. I had lemon rice, chutney, sambhar and chilli pakora. All for 40 bucks!

Cheap food options in Hampi
Humble Thali

Vithal Temple:

I moved on in search of Vithal temple and cycled my way to the ruins of Hampi Bazaar. Hampi Bazaar is a long parallel line of shops where traders and merchants used to sell precious stones, clothes, spices in of Vijaynagar kingdom. I left my cycle at the other end of the bazaar bang opposite a police chowki 😛 (Smart me!). At the foothill of the Matanga hill, I saw a very big statue of Nandi. Without wasting any time I started climbing in the hot afternoon. It was very hot but not more than my determination. 😛 But after some time I felt little lost since there were no signboards nor anyone to ask from, the just plethora of boulders and me. And, suddenly I found one local boy who gave me directions and assured me that I am on the right path. When I reached the top, it was indeed a beautiful view with lots of ruins spread around. Now I started descending to get lost in the mesmerizing Hampi. I spent all of my afternoons, clicking pictures and visiting what all I can. I had to walk quite a lot since I left my bicycle already. There were many temple ruins on the way to the Vithal temple: Achutyarai’s temple, Courtesan’s street, water tank, Kondandrama temple etc. On this route, there were government guards everywhere so it was easy for me to figure out the way since there was nothing else. No shops, no houses nothing! Finally, I reached the temple of the famous stone chariot. It was a huge complex of multiple temples. I spent quite some time relaxing inside the complex. Met with another solo traveller who was riding in the whole of south India on a bike. Exchanged experiences and tips around Hampi. It was a good interaction after a whole day silence for a chatterbox like me.

Stone Chariot at Vithal Temple, Hampi
Stone Chariot
Tungbhadra River
On the way to Vitthal Temple
Madapam in Vitthal Temple
Madapam in Vitthal Temple

It was almost evening and I realized that I have to walk back a long way so left this beautiful temple. Late evening I spent running behind the dipping sun to click good sunset pictures. I would recommend catching the sunset from the Hemkunt hill, it gives a very good view. But the guard starts shooing you away exact at 6, for safety purposes I assume. It was a tiring day for me so I decided to eat and sleep early. I wanted to be all refreshed for my day 2 adventures.

Sunset View of Hampi Bazaar
Sunset View of Hampi Bazaar

Narasimha Vigraha:

After a hearty breakfast at the Gopi Guest House, I headed to the Royal section. It was quite a distance to cover, approximately 5 -7 km. On my way I stopped to visit the statue of Narasimha Vigraha, it is also a monolithic one. Little destroyed but still impressive. Early summers can also be difficult here before I could realize coconut water became my staple here.

Narasimha Vigraha, Hampi
Narasimha Vigraha

Hazaar Rama Temple:

I paddled my way to the royal section. Saw an underground Shiva temple which was actually full of water so could really see from inside. Finally, I reached the Hazaar-rama temple, it is a beautiful temple surrounded by lush greenery. All the walls of this temple are living stories of Ramayana. The garb-griha is made of black stone and has a centre stage like a platform that was for the second queen to dance on. I so liked this temple that I decided to do some reading while sitting on the grass behind the shade of trees.

Exterior View of Hazara-Rama Temple
Exterior View of Hazara-Rama Temple
Hazara-Rama Temple, Hampi
Interior Architecture of Hazara-Rama Temple

Royal Enclosure:

Next, I went to the public area, which was built for public use during festivals, it had a tank for the public bath too. There used to be dance performances during Dushhera and Diwali, I tried to imagine how it all looked during those ancient times. A little ahead is the Zenana Enclosure, which has a lotus Mahal, elephant stable, and other small temples. It was almost noon and the sun was on its full heat and I headed for another dose of coconut water.

Now I decided to cross the river and move on to the other side of the river. There are two ways of crossing the river – a small motorboat or a coracle boat ride, which is a circular basket boat made of bamboo. It is a traditional handcrafted means of transport. It can take around 4 people at a time. Since I hade my cycle, I opted for the motor one. After crossing I found a lady selling some handicrafts, thought of doing some chitty-chatty with her. Thankfully, she knew Hindi. There I found a local guide and I decided to hire him for half a day. Since it was off-season, it cost me just 200 bucks and I got a cameraman to click my pictures too. 😉

Boat Ride in Tungabhadra River
Boat Ride in Tungabhadra River

Tungabhadra River:

Straight we headed to the famous Anjaneya Hill, which is said to be the birthplace of Hanuman. I had to climb 600 stairs to reach the top! Since it was quite a task I decided to have my staple – coconut water first! There is a Hanuman temple at the hilltop where priests chant Ramayana round the clock. So two priests at one time for 8 hours straight! I found it really commendable and amusing to know this. They also serve food as prasad, so decided to lunch over there. It was a humble daal chawal, sabzi along with pickle. This also gave me the opportunity to talk to the young boys who are getting trained to be a priest there. Most of them hail from MP or UP. It was an amazing wind and sprawling view across Hampi. It is the tallest hill in the area.

Climbing 600 stairs to Anjaneya Hill
Climbing 600 stairs to Anjaneya Hill
Hanuman Temple, Anjaneya Hill
Hanuman Temple, Anjaneya Hill

After that, I explored the nearby neighbourhood, and also the place, which is said to be where Shabree met Shri Ram. This side of Hampi was really happening, This is where most of the foreigners stay. It has lots of shacks, good food, shopping area, little cafes, which also serve Beer if you like. It was already 5 pm and decided to cross the river considering the boat services stops at 5:30 pm. One thing to notice here is there is only one ATM in this whole area, which was also not functioning for a few days as told by the locals. Another one was approximately 15 km away. So you really have to take care of this thing. The rest of the evening I spent shopping around, there are quite a lot of shops for clothes, handicrafts, books, metal statues, paintings, and jewellery. I decided to dine at a very good restaurant at the back of Virupaksha, I don’t remember the name though. It was a quite happening place with multiple cuisines and good music. I was tired like hell due to two days of cycling but also very much content on what I have explored. This was my last night here. And, I had something to achieve in the next morning.

Paddy Fields in Hampi
Paddy Fields in Hampi

Matanga Hill:

So I woke up at 5 and it was still dark outside but I had to do that climb to catch the sunrise at the second tallest hill of Hampi – Matanga Hill. The streets were sleepy, I had some chai at a tapri near the bus stand and headed to the hill. To be honest I was a little scared but this was my last chance to climb and see the sunrise from the hill. It was still dark but I saw a couple climbing who had a torch, so I started following them but they were gone in some time. And, the sad part is there is no designated path to climb. It is all-natural. I called Saurabh to engage myself while I climb in the dark and it helped 😛 Slowly, the dark sky started turning blue. And, to my surprise when I reached the top; I saw a lot of people sitting there already. I sat quietly facing east, waiting for the sun to come. There was crisp air flowing, people sitting, doing yoga, and talking. Suddenly it was there! It was the beautiful sunrise ever I saw. I felt so good that I took a nap then and there, while people started leaving as the Sun was rising.

Sunrise from Matanga Hill
Sunrise at Matanga Hill

Next on the agenda was to catch Lakshmi bathing in the Tungabhadra river. As I heard, she is been taken for a bath daily at 8:30 am. I was there sharp at that time and there she was! I clicked a few pictures while she was waving her trunk happily in the flowing water. Such a blissful sight J. Then I had some good continental breakfast and headed to the Museum. It is in Kamlapura, which is approximately 6 km from Hampi. But it was worth a visit, it had many things preserved but what I liked most was a complete model of Hampi. It was amazing. Since I had some time in hand, I decided to again go to the Hazara- rama temple. Sat there for some time, chatted with some more local people. Who were very curious to know, where I came from. Few even thought I am a foreigner, considering I didn’t meet any other solo woman traveller. After this, I had a full course thali at a dhaba, which was simple and delicious.

Kannada Thali, Hampi
Kannada Thali

This concluded my trip to Hampi. I packed my stuff and returned to Hospet to catch my bus to Pune. I would like to go back to Hampi anytime and I am sure that I will be amazed by new experiences.

Laxmi Elephant of Virupaksha Temple, Hampi
Lakshmi Bathing

Sorry if this was a very long post but this also suggests that I did leave a piece of my heart at this beautiful temple town. Until I go next time.

Don’t Worry, Be Hampi!

Half Day Road Trip From Pune To Bhigwan


We got to know from several posts about Bhigwan for migratory birds, so we also planned to visit this place. Bhigwan is well known as a sanctuary for migratory birds. It’s a small village which is approximately 110 km away from Pune and located on Pune – Solapur Highway. The exact name of the bird watching place is Dikshal. You can ask local villagers for this place once you take a left turn from the highway if coming from Pune.

Dikshal is just 2 km away from Bhigwan. The backwater area of Ujjani dam is spread across the town of Bhigwan where migratory birds come every year starting from late October till mid of February. One of the main attractions during the migratory season is the arrival of the greater pink flamingos. This place is crowded by bird lovers, photographers.

Pune Bhigwan – Pune

It was an 110 km stretch from “Pune to Bhigwan”. We started early morning at 4:30 am from Pune. Since it was December, the wind was very cold but we were prepared with our jackets. We faced very less traffic due to early morning and reached Bhigwan at 6:00 am. Google map helped us to reach there. Once we entered the village, we asked the locals where we can see the migratory birds. But they do not understand Hindi or English. So we asked for “Pakshi” 😛 or Rohit bird (Marathi name of Greater Flamingo bird).

I would recommend people to visit at the same time as we reached at the golden hour. Sun was rising, villagers were preparing for fishing, very peaceful and such a refreshing atmosphere.

Backwaters in Bhigwan.jpg
Sun rise at Bhigwan
People fishing at Bhigwan

You can rent a boat for 200 rs per person to see the migratory birds. You can do photography while you are on the boat. For photography, I would suggest being geared up with zoom lenses to capture flamingos. Because the boats are always kept at a distance as they might fly away. The boat-man took us for a good scenic view quite inside the backwater. It was just water all over and lots of birds. You can see many types of Ducks, Strocks, Waders, Egrets, Herons and many other species of birds along with a group of pink flamingos which attracts photographers for wild life photography.

Road Trip to Gokarna, Murudeshwar and South Goa

We were planning for a Konkan trip since a long time, but finally in the year 2016 during monsoon time we settled ourselves to visit beaches with famous temples in Karnataka and Maharashtra which can be covered in 5 – 6 days of a trip. So we finalized the list of places.


Murdeshwara is a town in Bhatkal Taluk of Uttara Kannada district in the state of Karnataka, India. Murdeshwara is another name of the Hindu god Shiva. This place is famous for the world’s second-tallest Shiva statue, the town lies on the coast of the Arabian Sea and is also famous for the Murdeshwara Temple.

Murudeshwar temple
Murudeshwar Temple

Gokarna is a small temple town on the western coast of India in the Kumta taluk of Uttara Kannada district of the state of Karnataka.  The main temple deity is Lord Shiva, who is also known as Mahabaleshwara. This temple houses what is believed to be original linga of Lord Shiva (Atmalinga). There are many other temples all over this small town. Ankola and Kumta on National Highway 17 are the main towns near Gokarna, Bhatkal and Karwar are the main cities near Gokarna.

Gokarna Temple
Gokarna Temple

Karwar lies on the west coast of Southern India at the mouth of the Kali river. Its geography creates a natural harbor with protection against monsoon weather. Being a port town, Karwar is a centre for agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism.

Karwar Beach

Palolem Beach is largely unspoiled and is inhabited by both local fishermen and by foreign tourists who live in shacks along the shore or in the main village itself. It is about one mile (approximately 1.61 km) long and is crescent-shaped; one can view the entire beach from either end.

Palolem Goa.png
Palolem Beach

How we started planning this trip:

The first step we started collecting information where we have to go on what day, what would be our halting-places, what all things we can explore and yes what local dishes we can get.

So we tightened all of our necessary stuff on the bike, wore all riding gears and started our beautiful road trip at 3:00 pm from Pune-> Amanora Park Town towards Pune –Bangalore highway and the halting destination was “Karad” for the first day.

Here the journey starts:

DAY-1 Pune Karad (172 km)

It was a 569 km stretch from “Pune to Gokarna” and we did not want to start with a heavy dose, so we split it to Pune-Karad-Gokarna.

We started post noon around 3:00 or 3:30 pm from Pune Magarpatta city, faced little traffic near Katraj Bus depot and continued from there. Crossed the old ghat section and took a break after covering approx 100 km to have quick snacks and tea.

After that, we continued towards SATARA and meanwhile saw a beautiful big rainbow.

We reached Karad at 7:30 pm. Here I stayed at my cousin’s place, enjoyed the meal and slept over as we had to get up early in morning to start out next day ride.

Pune to Karad.png
Pune to Karad

DAY-2 Karad – Gokarna (405 km)

Next day we started early morning at 5:00 am. Before Belagavi, the road was beautifully smooth and we were riding in the rain. We got heavy showers in few patches but it was amazing riding experience on such a nice road surrounded by beautiful lush greenery. Now we were approaching Hubbali, till now it was a great highway after that we had to take left on SH1 to NH52 and move on a two-way road towards Yellapur NH52 which goes between towns and villages.

After some km, we were riding between a wildlife sanctuary and there were many cows coming in between of the road. Again the ghat started, there were potholes in between and very sharp curve, so I had to ride very carefully. It was an awesome experience to ride through a thick forest with amazing ghat section. We took another break at a petrol pump for refueling and rested for 10-15 minutes and moved on to Mirjan – Ramnagar Rd/SH 143. For a small patch, we got the experience of offroading 😀

Finally around 1:00 pm we reached Gokarna. We had already booked a room because of the 15th August long weekend; otherwise one can easily get a room there without prior booking. We quickly freshened up in 30-40 minutes and moved out from the hotel to taste the local food. We settled for an Udupi restaurant where we had a typical Udupi thali. It was simple and delicious.

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Udupi Thali

As we reached the beach, heavy showers welcomed us for few minutes and it was all set then. Nice breeze with ocean waves creating (JAL-TARANG) music. Gokarna beach is a mostly clean beach with very less commercialization. There were so many small Shiva-lings carved on the beachside rocks.

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Gokarna Beach

After a while, we went to the most famous beach of Gokarna, OM beach. It was 7 km away from Gokarna town but you have to cross zigzag sharp curves with a narrow road, where you have to be a bit careful. After a 20-30 minutes ride, we were on OM beach (Om beach is named so because it is shaped like the auspicious ॐ Om symbol). It has a few shacks and eateries, and also one can take a boat ride to nearby beaches.

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Gokarna is a small and laid back town where most of the visitors are actually pilgrims. We hardly found a restaurant open for dinner at 9 pm. You might get a beer at the beach shacks only not in the town.

DAY – 3 Gokarna – Murudeshwara – Paradise Beach – Gokarna

We visited Mahabaleshwara temple early morning around 7 and it was reasonably crowded. It took us at least 60 mins for the darshan. They have a small gau-shala as well and they also sell ayurvedic products in the temple premises. Although, we didn’t try they also serve food during lunch time as Prasad. After darshan, we had Banana buns or Mysore buns (must try) for breakfast. It is a typical Kannada breakfast made with ripped banana and flour dough which is fermented overnight.

After a hearty food along with filter coffee, we started for Murudeshwara temple around 10 am. The road was almost patchy throughout the Murudeswara due to the rain. The highway was under maintenance and only one lane was open. It is 60-70 km away but took us almost 2 hours to reach there. By 12 noon we reached Murudeshara and what a place! It is simply wow, one side beach and another side is a big temple with very tall Shiva statue. Indeed a very scenic view. There are plenty of places available for stay and food. We did not get a chance to visit the actual temple because there was 4 hours waiting queue.  The place was very crowded and hot, so after spending a couple of hours, we decided to go back to Gokarna.

After returning back to Gokarna, we headed towards the Paradise beach to spend our evening watching the sun go down.  It is a very nice beach, peaceful, with very few shacks. Late evening we were back to town and visited the local market. In the market, one can shop for souvenirs, trinkets, clothes, puja items etc at very reasonable price since it is a small town.

Second Tallest Shiva in the world
Murudeshwar Landscape
Peacock on the way to Paradise Beach

DAY – 4 Gokarna – Karwar – Palolem Beach

On day 4, we started at 6 am towards Palolem beach, Goa via Karwar on Kanyakumari – Panvel highway. Starting road was not that good but as we touched the Karwar region, the road was smooth as butter. We stopped at a highway hotel which was beside the beach for some chai and snacks. There were lots of people fishing to sell in the market. We spent an hour here and moved on our way to Goa.

Beach sand
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Gokarna to Goa

By 3 pm we reached Palolem and checked into the hotel. Without any wait, we headed to the beach to have some lunch. Many shacks were still closed due to the rainy season since it is an off season for Goa and many were getting geared up for opening soon. But still, there were plenty of eating joints operational. There is a small market on the way to the beach.  The beach was comparatively quite and relaxing. With the sun playing hide and seek behind the monsoon clouds. We decided to do some reading and napping right on the beach under the palm trees.

We spent two days in South Goa. There was not much to do and primarily our purpose for this visit was to take it slow since our monsoon trip was coming to the end. Next day we visited a couple of nearby beaches and did some shopping. Our Goa trip is never complete without buying some port wine and Bebinca. Bebinca is a traditional Goan dessert made with eggs, flour and sugar. This evening was our last and we were heading home next day early morning.

Day-5 Palolem – Ponda – Belgavi – Kolhapur – Satara – Pune

Today was a big day for us; we had to ride approx 600kms to reach Pune. We started at 7 am and selected the “Ponda Ghat” which directly goes to Belgavi. It requires quite an expertise to ride on this ghat.  You will mostly see logistic vehicles on this road. After covering 100 km, we halted for a quick break. We were almost in between the clouds at that place and could hear “Dudhsagar waterfall” sounds as castle rock was just 7-8 km away from there. We moved further, had lunch in Karad and reached Pune, Amanora by 7 pm. It was indeed a tiring day but very thrilling too. It was our first time of same day 600 km ride.

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Return Journey!

Concluding this blog post with this beautiful picture of Ponda ghat. This was indeed a memorable one.

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Glimpse of Ponda Ghat
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