Lakshmi_Vilas_Palace_Vadodara

Away from the steamy metropolis of Mumbai, Maharashtra is rich in historical interest with its breathtaking rock temples, forts, and hill stations while Gujarat, known by locals as the “Jewel of the West”, is a province of walled cities, Jain temples, mosques, bazaars, museums and wildlife sanctuaries. We have put together a fascinating tour showcasing the highlights of these two colourful states of India and now invite you to join us on a fully escorted tour to this very unique part of India.

The tour departs from South Africa on 13 November 2015 on SAA flying to Mumbai where two nights will be spent with an excursion to the 1st century Buddhist temple caves at Kanheri as well as a visit to Dharavi, known as the “largest slum in Asia” where we will discover that there is much more to this historic area of Mumbai than poverty.

From Mumbai we will fly to Aurangabad with its strong Muslim flavours. Among the most important historical monuments in India, are the 34 rock-cut temple caves representing Buddhist, Hindu Brahmanic and Jain faiths at Ellora and the 30 Buddhist caves of Ajanta. The caves at Ajanta not only contain sculptures, but remarkably preserved frescoes as well. They are secluded and were discovered by accident only in the 19th century, which explains why the monuments escaped the depredations of invading armies.

The tour then proceeds further west to Nasik for a night where we will visit the Pandavleni caves, built 2000 years ago by the Jain kings.

Surat, on the east coast of the Gulf of Cambay, was the first outpost established in 1612 by the British East India Company and was on one of the old trade routes for silks, embroideries and spices. Despite a dominant Parsi and Muslim influence, its architecture is mostly Portuguese and British. We’ll have one night in Surat before heading north to Vadodara, where we’ll visit the Lakshmi Vilas Palace, built between 1878 and 1890, the palace is still the private residence of the Gujarati royal family. It is reputed to have been the largest private dwelling built to date and is four times the size of Buckingham Palace.

It’s a short drive from Vadodara to Ahmedabad. Here we will visit the Gandhi Ashram. The ashram was the residence of Mahatma Gandhi who lived there for twelve years with his wife, Kasturba. We’ll also visit Hutheesingh Jain Temple and the Dada Hari Step Well.

The itinerary then heads west visiting some sumptuous step wells and local weaving handcrafters en route to Dasada. Here we will stay at Rann Riders Safari Camp and visit Little Rann of Kutch Wildlife Sanctuary, a sanctuary for the endangered Asiatic Wild Ass. There are also chances of seeing other rare wildlife. The expanse of the Little Rann of Kutch is hard, dry, saline and flat but a traveler with a spirit of discovery should not miss the area!

Basing ourselves in Bhuj, which is still partly surrounded by walls built in 1723, for two nights, we’ll explore the community villages of the Banni and Sayla regions to see the remarkable arts and crafts of the traditional tribes.

In Gondal we’ll visit the 17th century Navlakha Palace complex, one of the oldest and most beautiful of Gondal’s monuments.

The group will have two nights in Bhavnagar to explore the city and Palitana with its 863 Jain temples built during the legendary times of the Adinaths to the 20th century shrines dedicated to the Thirthankaras.

We’ll fly back to Mumbai on 30 November to catch our connecting flight to South Africa, arriving in Johannesburg on 01 December 2015

Liz Cotton will be accompanying the group from South Africa and professional local guides will be escorting the group from arrival in Mumbai through Maharashtra and Gujarat; another unique and unforgettable experience for every member of the group.

We do hope you will be able to join us on this memorable tour to a very unspoilt part of India.

Photo Gallery: India – The Splendours of Maharashtra & Gujarat