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Old 1st January 2017, 13:02   #1
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Default Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar

Usually I spend the year end break (YEB) at home doing nothing. I am not a '31st' kind and usually stay away from touristy places during peak season.
This year though, I decided to make the most of the YEB. Popular destinations like Alibag/Ganapatipule/Guhagar/Tarkarli/Goa/Mahabaleshwar were immediately stiked off to avoid the rush.
Coastal Karnataka and Gujarat were also striked off as we only had 4 full days. I absolutely wanted to be back home on 31st afternoon.

Ajantha-Ellora was always on my to-do list and Dec is a good time to visit compared to hot and dry summer. Lonar was another place I always wanted to visit, and it being just 150 km from Ajantha decided to add that to the itinerary and extend the trip by a day


The plan

27th - Pune-Aurangabad
28th - Aurangabad-Verul(Ellora)
29th - Verul-Ajantha
30th - Ajantha-Lonar
31st - Lonar-Pune

Car - Polo GT TSI (Oct 15)
Driver - Me
Pax - My wife

All accommodations were in MTDC or MTDC approved Bread and B'fast


Places we skipped

Daulatabad (Devgiri) Fort - We plan to cover this next time we goto Aurangabad
Bibi ka Muqbura
Panchakki
Khultabad - Tomb of Aurangzeb
Paithan - We plan to cover this next time we goto Aurangabad.
Jijau Shrishti - Birth place of Jijamata

Me and my wife prefer to wake up early, get fresh and hit the road early to cover as much distance as possible before the sun starts beating down. I love having morning cuppa of "Kadak Chaha". Usually room service and restaurants at hotels serve Tea only after 6-7 am. To get around the problem we always carry an immersion heater and some instant coffee/bournvita etc. But Coffee can never be the same as Chai, so this time we tried instant Tea sachets from Girnar.

To make tea at 5 am in your room, all you need is glass/cup, immersion heater, instant tea mix and a electric socket to connect the immersion heater. I loved the Girnar premix, it tastes like the Masala Chai served in India-US flights on Delta/Air France.

Thanks to varunraizada, pramods for their travelouges which helped me plan my trip.
Thanks to ASHISHPALLOD for answering my route queries.

Last edited by freedom : 7th February 2017 at 10:10.
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Old 2nd January 2017, 09:38   #2
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Default re: Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar

27 Dec 2016

Todays's destination was Aurangabad.

I had topped up the fuel tank a day earlier and driven around the city for 20 odd kms to run errands.

We started off at 630 am from Pune. Joined Nagar Road via Deccan-FC Road-Sangamwadi. I hate driving on Yerawada-Wagholi section, lots of bad drivers and ever changing road width and traffic lights (ignored by most). Add to that the BRT mess and progress upto Wagholi was tedious and boring.

Things got better after Wagholi. We stopped for B'fast at Kamat's between Shikrapur and Ranjangaon. Shirur-Nagar was uneventful. We decided to go via Nagar city than take the bypass. I have read and heard enough horror stories about the bypass and avoided it.
Nagar-Aurangabad was patchy and bumpy road. Anything above 70 was not comfortable. The very same road was super smooth on the other side towards Pune (more on that later).
Reached MTDC Aurangabad at 11 am.

Rest of the day was spent just strolling around the city and some shopping in city market. Car remained parked in MTDC and we took rickshaw for local transport.

For dinner, we had lipsmacking ShevBhaaji at Eatalios. Check https://www.zomato.com/aurangabad/eatalios-usmanpura This place is 5 mins walk from MTDC. Its popular for Italian food, but we wanted to try something local and opted for ShevBhaaji.

MTDC Room
Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161227_112244322.jpg
Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161227_112253235.jpg

Sorry No photos for this day.



Check this Route Map

Last edited by freedom : 13th February 2017 at 09:07.
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Old 2nd January 2017, 09:44   #3
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Default re: Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar

28th Dec 2016

Today was going to be short 45 min drive to Verul (aka Ellora).

We checked out by 7 am and let Google Maps navigate us to Verul. NH52 is in tip-top shape. I thoughrougly enjoyed the drive on smooth tarmac. Complete contrast to the patch and bumpy roads we had experienced on the way to Aurangabad.
We reached our destination Shivam Residency, Verul in about 45 mins.
Check this Route Map

Verul doesn't have a MTDC hotel, so we had booked Shivam Residency which is MTDC approved Bread and Breakfast place. This place is a bare bones facility with clean rooms. The owner stays down stairs. Don't expect hotel like service.
Checkin time is 10 am and we had arrived early. The owner gave us a room to freshen up and eat breakfast.
We had Tea and Breakfast.
We let our bags be in the car and headed off to the caves. Told the owner to keep our room ready by the time we return.
To avoid the hassle of finding parking space near the caves, we decided to walk.

On the way to the caves, I did a quick darshan of Grishneshwar. Mobiles, wallets etc cannot be carried inside. I had to ask my wife to wait outside with my phone, wallet etc and I went in.
There was a Q of about 50 people. I then saw men removing their shirts just before they entered the main temple. I was not sure how and why pants were allowed byt shirt was not. Also, I didn't have my mobile to text my wife about ETA. After 2-3 mins, I realized that the Q was moving very slowly. I gave up, squeezed out of the barricaded and went into the temple via the exit gate. Just greeted the Shivlinga from outside the main ghabara (sanctum sanctorum) and came out (they have an angled mirror which lets to see the Shivlinga from a distance).

We then headed towards Ellora Tourists Information Center. Here we got a MSRTC bus which took us to the main gate/ticket counter of Ellora caves. In hindsight, it would have been faster to just walk than wait for the bus.

Took just a minute to get the tickets and we were directed towards another MSRTC bus waiting inside the campus.
MSRTC ticket is 16 per adult. You can hop-on hop-off multiple times if needed.
Note - Elorra entry fee and MSRTC tickets are different thin

The bus took us all the way up hill to the drop off point for Cave 30-34. After observing all the Jain caves, we came back to our drop off point and boarded the bus for the main gate. We requested the driver to drop us at cave 29.
Cave 29 has Hindu sculptures. A lot of Hindu caves are not accessible and closed for public.

Again we walked down to the drop off point and waited for the bus to take us back downhill to the main gate.

Cave 16 is the grandest. Its called Kailas Temple.
Cave 15-1 are Buddist caves with multiple scultures of Gautam Buddha.
It took us 3 hours to cover all the caves.

We were super hungry and headed straight to a road side Food joint. Lunch done, wife did some shopping of artifacts etc and we walked to our Inn.
We checked in to our room and we freshed up.

Wife had seen some Paithani saree shops on Aurangabad-Verul road. They were closed when we drove by in the morning. So we drove back some 15 odd kms and visited a few shops near Khultabad. As per my wife, the prices were the same as Pune and didn't make much sense to buy here just for the sake of it. We tried to bargain but they didn't budge. Gave up and came back empty handed. We came back to our inn by 6 pm.

Dinner was humble menu of Pithla-Bhakri-Thecha. The owner arranged for the meal to be served in our room, But we preffered to sit in the Balcony and enjoy the spicy 'thecha' amidst the winter breeze.
We had an early dinner and retired for the day by 10 pm.

Random photos

Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161228_095132187.jpg
Ellora Tourist Centre



Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161228_101134852.jpg
ST bus from Tourist Centre to Ellora Ticket Booth


Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161228_103846149_hdr.jpg
Ellora Caves


Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161228_104905550.jpg
Ellora Caves


Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161228_112158018_hdr.jpg
Inaccesible Hindu caves

Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161228_112655047_burst000_cover_top.jpg
Bus stop for Hindu caves


Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161228_114850850.jpg
Kailas Leni (The biggest cave in Ellora)

Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161228_134814762.jpg
Ellora Caves Information and Map

Last edited by freedom : 13th February 2017 at 09:43.
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Old 2nd January 2017, 10:23   #4
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Default re: Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar

29 Dec 2016

Today’s destination was Ajantha.

We woke up at 530 and were ready by 630. We waited a few minutes till we saw some color on the horizon (Civil twilight). This was about 30-45 mins before sunrise.
Driving up the ghat from Verul to Khultabad was easier in the dark, with less traffic and head lights of opposite side traffic aiding turning into blind turns.
There were 2 route options.
Verul-Khultabad-Aurangabad-Phulambri-Ajantha
Verul-Khultabad-Gadana--Phulambri-Ajantha

I was not sure about the road conditions for Khultabad-Phulambri road. Its not even a state highway. At Khultabad saw a board showing Straight to Ajantha and Right for Aurangabad. We took the Ajantha road. A few meteres down the road saw a group of villagers getting warmed up by the Shekoti (road side fire). I asked them about the route and road conditions. One of the person said “Saral java bindhas” (Go straight without any worry). The road was a mix of smooth and bumpy, but considering its not even a state highway, it was way better than my expectations.
We passed by multiple small villages and finally reached Phulambri. Here we merged with Aurangabad-Ajantha road. This is SH8 (Aurangabad-Jalgaon).
We started looking out for b’fast options after we joined the State Highway. But all places were closed. Saw a few Chai Tapris we skipped them as we wanted tea and some food as well.
Saw an open food place at Chikhalthana. We didn’t see any other parked car, so we were not sure if the place is really open for business. Parked the car and went in to check. A small 12 year old boy greeted us. He said b’fast is not ready but can cook in 5 mins.
We had Pohe and mandatory Tea. Pohe were below average in taste but above average in quantity.
Breakfast done, we hit the road again. The plan was to drive straight to MTDC Fardapur. Traffic was light and road was overall good with a random patchy and broken sections thrown in.

About 20 km before Fardapur we saw an MTDC brown colored board saying
Left Ajanta View Point - 8 km
Straight Ajanta MTDC - xx km

We decided to just go straight to MTDC and troll back to the view point later (in hindsight should have done the view point here itself). Just before Fardapur, you descend a ghat and land up at a T junction. Fardapur MTDC is about 1 km from here (continue on the road towards Jalgaon)

There are 2 MTDC Hotels in Ajantha, so double check if you want to goto Fardapur (1 km from T junction) or the other one (very close to T junction). There is another MTDC in the making right at the entrance of the Caves. It should be ready in an year or so.

Check the Route Map

We arrived at MTDC at 9 am. Checkin time was 1030. That why I should have done the cave view point on our way in.

People were checking out and the Manager was kind enough to offer us a temporary room to freshen up (without us asking). Kudos to MTDC.

Instead of wasting time waiting to checkin, we trolled up the Ghat and to the Ajanta view point (25-28km one way ). The Viewpoint was definitely well worth the drive! Awesome view of the caves from across the valley.

There is also a walking trail to walk down to the caves from the view point. An elderly villager at the view point told us it will take about 30-40 min to reach the ticket counter from here. This will surely work out faster for someone who plans to visit Ajantha for a day trip and has no plans to stay for the night. For us going to MTDC and going via Fardapur was a better option.

View point done, we were back at MTDC by 11. We put 2 750ml water bottles, couple of Gauvas and handful of Ramdevbaba's Patanjali Energy bars in our sack and off we went to see the caves.
We parked at MTDC official parking (its near MTDC visitor Center). We walked to the MSRTC bus stop and boarded a bus to take us to the entry point.

Bought tickets and then started the climb . We were tired after going up and down every cave in Verul, but we chugged along anyways.

As we neared cave #1, we found it to be crowded with and 2-3 batches of school picnics. To avoid the rush, we walked straight to the last cave and came back in reverse order.

I found Ajantha to be much smaller and much easier to cover than Verul. This is compltety opposite of what I had heard from other people. Ajantha also has 2-3 drinking water taps along the way. We had our water bottles, but we also helped ourselves with tap water whenever necessary.

1.5 l of water 4 small energy bars and 1 guava came in handy. We returned back to the bus drop off point in about 3 hours. Had lunch at the MTDC hotel next to ticket counter. Another 5 mins bus ride and we were back to the car parking area. We had T and wife did some shopping in the artifacts shops near the Chai tapri.

I topped up the fuel tank at the BP bunk opp MTDC. Polo gulped in Petrol worth 2000.

I took a nap and spent the evening strolling around in MTDC campus. We had a light dinner in MTDC restaurant and retired for the day by 10 pm.

Tomorrow, we move to Lonar.

Random photos


Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161229_100406889.jpg
View from Ajantha View point


Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161229_114819579.jpg
Information and Map of Ajantha Caves


Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161229_120845873.jpg
Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161229_120911910_burst000_cover_top.jpg
Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161229_121536626.jpg
Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161229_124057909.jpg
Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161229_124910817.jpg
Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161229_125332654.jpg
Sculptures and Paintings in Ajantha Caves


Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161229_125855774.jpg
Model of Ajanta Caves


Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161229_125905603.jpg
Model of Ajanta Caves


Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161229_143123977.jpg
Information and Map of Ajantha Caves


Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161229_180438918.jpg
MTDC Fardapur

Last edited by freedom : 13th February 2017 at 09:28.
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Old 6th February 2017, 15:51   #5
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Default re: Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar

30 Dec 2016

Once again woke up around 530 ish. Brewed Tea, got ready and we started just after 630. It was still dark, but just like Verul, Fardapur is at the base of a ghat and by time we were on top of the ghat, we could see the sky color changing to magnificent shade of purple and orange. We exited the Aurangabad road and took a left onto MSH24 at Ajanta village (not to be confused with Ajanta caves).
The state highway was in superb condition and traffic was light. Things went great for 15 mins or so and then the road quality stared detirorating. Dhawda to Jalich Dev section was completely broken. We were barely doing 10-15 kmph. Road work is in progress so this may get fixed in a few months. As we started approaching Buldhana town, road got better again. At Buldhana we merged onto NH 753A and headed south(I think this is subsection of Mumbai-Kolkata highway). We had a 10 min tea break on the outskits of Buldhana town. NH 753A is in good shape but there is no median, its like a glorified state highway. But no complaints. Inspite of trucks chugging along, we made good progress upto Chikhli. Here we exited the NH and joined SH 206. I was seeing a lot of containers and big truck traffic passing crossing us from opposite side. I was wondering why so many tucks are on this small SH when there is no big industrial hub in vicinity. Soon we got onto tail of a 10 container convoy heading towards Lonar. Pace dropped to almost 30 kmph. I was overtaking where ever there was a gap. Truck drivers were willing to give way (Kudos!). This continued all the way to Mehkar. We got off SH206 onto SH 171. Mehkar-Sultanpur-Lonar town was smooth drive. Reached MTDC around 11.

Check the Route Map

We had lunch and then off we went to explore the lake. People at the Hotel has asked us to take a guide with us. But we didn't intend to go all the way to the water body. We carrying enough water and choco bars etc just in case. It was hot and the sun was beating down. We went half way down to hilll, but decided to turn back. There was not clear marking and there were paths crossing each other at different places. Plus there was hardly a soul in that area. We just decided to not do something stupid on the last day of or trip. We climed back, stopping in between to catch our breath and the magnificent view. In the evening, we again climbed down a bit and enjoyed the sunset.


While we were having dinner at MTDC, I noticed that there was lot of truck traffic on the road outside MTDC (its a SH). I asked the waiter about it and he said bridge at Sindkhed Raja has fallen (I came to know later its not fallen but only got weak) and thats why traffic has been diverted. I asked him if we have to go via Mehkar-Jalna to goto Aurangabad from here? and he said yes. Thsi would have meant an additional 50 odd km on top of the 370 odd drive to Pune.
After dinner, I had a chat with the Hotel Manager to double check and he said bridge at Sindkhed Raja has some issues and heavy vehicles are not allowed. But a car should have no problems. I guess the waiter thought we were with the other group who had come in a Tempo Traveller.

Off to Pune tomorrow.

Random photos

Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161230_124414711.jpg
Lonar Lake

Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161230_125612634_hdr.jpg
Lonar Lake

Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161230_132009523.jpg
Lonar Lake

Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161230_171841627_hdr.jpg
Lonar Lake

Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161230_175000948.jpg
Lonar Lake

Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161230_175518569.jpg
MTDC Lonar

Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161230_190448766.jpg
MTDC Lonar

Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-img_20161230_190453682.jpg
MTDC Lonar

Last edited by freedom : 13th February 2017 at 09:38.
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Old 7th February 2017, 09:41   #6
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Default re: Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar

31 Dec 2016

Last day of the trip. We would have liked to have breakfast at Lonar and stop for lunch somewhere around Nagar. But we decided to just get moving early morning and have breakfast on the way.
Started off after day break. By the time we crossed Lonar town it was completely bright. Road conditions were OKish with a good drizzle of uneven patches. But there was hardly any traffic and almost no trucks.

Sultanpur-Bibi had lot of road side hotels (and a lot of Pure Veg too) but all were shut. We slowed down only a couple of times to check the status but no luck. Finally somewhere around Kingaon Raja we saw a clean restaurant on the opposite side of the road. It also looked open for bussiness. We were the first customers for the day. It was damn cold outside. We had the car ACC set to 22.5/23 in the car and outside it less than 15 Deg. Ordered Tea then Dosa and Tea again. Washrooms were open to the air but super clean. There was also a facility to take a shower. Look out for Hotel Gaurav its a good family place for a break. The owner of the place said this facility is newly opened. He and his friend also got into a conversation about review of "VW chi navin gaadi" (new car from VW) i.e Ameo. On our way we crossed the Sindhkhed Raja bridge (it had barricades at the entry point and we had to squeeze thru the gap). Trucks or won't be able to pass thru that gap.
I wanted to visit Jijau Shrishti at Sindhkhed Raja, but we wanted to get back home by 4-5 ish. Paid my tributed to Jijabai as we passed by the place.
Once we crossed over to Jalna district from Buldhana, road quality improved. Took the Jalna bypass and we joined the road to Aurangabad. Jalna to Aurangabad is a NH and its a 4 lane road with a median. Road quality was good, and we reached Aurangabad in no time. It was too early for lunch, we so decided to press ahead and take a break at Nagar. We got into bit of a slow moving traffic in Aurangabad, but things got better after Valuj.
Stopped at Hotel Audumbar somewhere after Nevase Phata and before Nagar. This place is on the opposite side of the road i.e on the right when heading towards Pune. Time check and we were on course. Once again skipped the Nagar bypass and went thru the Nagar city. Surprisingly, Aurangabad-Nagar road was far better than Nagar-Aurangabad road! Now the sun was beating down real hard and there was no greenary in sight. Just miles of straight road and breeze blowing up the dust. If this is the situation in December just imagine what it must be like in summer!
We stopped at Ranjangaon Ganapati Mandir. There was a moderate Q, but things were moving and we had to wait only 15 mins or so. I had sugarce juice and started our homerun. There was a traffic jam at Wagoli on the opposite side, but we brezzed thru in no time. Reached home at 4 pm.

Check this Route Map

Last edited by freedom : 7th February 2017 at 10:04.
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Old 7th February 2017, 10:07   #7
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Default re: Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar

The wisdom in hindsight

Ajantha-Ellora and Lonar are a must visit atleast once in a lifetime.
If you have time on hand, take an "off day" at Lonar and go down to the lake early in the morning.
Take a tea break every 2 hours or so. It helps you focus better.
Keep atleast 1.5 L water per person in the car when starting off every day. Top up where ever possible.
Always carry Ramdev Baba's energy bars (or Granula Bars if you don't mind the price). They come in handy when you are hungry but don't want to take a break.
Google Maps is your friend, but don't follow it to the Tee. Write down the route in advance and keep the paper handy while driving.

Check out more photos here Google Photos

Polo's MFD
Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-panorama.jpg

The Machine
Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar-machine.jpg

Last edited by freedom : 13th February 2017 at 09:39.
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Old 14th February 2017, 07:36   #8
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Default re: Marathwada Drive: Aurangabad, Ellora, Ajanta & Lonar

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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