If you’re looking for an abundance of attractions and diverse destinations without the large crowds, then West India is the perfect choice for you. A vast range of cuisines, faiths, arts, wildlife, landscapes and ancient monuments awaits you, along with stunning scenery, the wonderful beaches of Goa and magical Mumbai.
Go on safari in incredible national parks in search of Asiatic lions and Royal Bengal tigers, or travel over the deserts of the Ranns of Kutch to see the Asiatic Wild Ass in their unique habitat. Journey through Gujarat and Maharashtra to explore amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites including ancient caves and iconic temples. And when it comes to souvenirs, take your pick from exquisite handicrafts, or head to bustling old bazaars or swanky shopping malls.
West India offers some truly special accommodation to unwind in after seeing the sights, including luxury jungle camps, wonderful heritage hotels, and glorious beach resorts fringed by coconut palms.
If you’d like to experience a more undiscovered side of India, here are ten reasons why West India is the destination for you.
West India is the only place in the world where you can still encounter magnificent Asiatic lions roaming in the wild. Head out amongst the dry and deciduous terrain of Gir National Park (known as ‘Sasan Gir’) on an early morning jeep safari to try and spot these wonderful creatures.
Smaller than African lions, the ‘Gir lion’ is similar in size to the Central African lion and has a fold of skin running along its belly. Although this species is sadly endangered, the protection offered at Sasan Gir has seen the population of Asiatic Lions grow from approximately 20 in 1913 to over 600 today.
The park is also home to the Chowsinga, the world’s only four-horned antelope, along with a range of mammals including leopards and sambar deer, over 300 bird species and many reptiles and amphibians.
Find out more about Gir National Park
You’ll be blown away by the marvellous art and architecture at the Ajanta and Ellora Caves in Maharashtra. These are two of West India’s must-see UNESCO World Heritage Sites, showcasing stunning artwork and sculptures from an early era.
The Ajanta Caves are an amazing collection of the finest surviving picture galleries from the ancient world and a fine example of Buddhist architecture, paintings and sculptures. Discovered in the early 19th century, the earliest caves were used as shelters by Buddhist monks during monsoon season and date back to the 2nd century BC. The beautiful religious art includes depictions of Buddhist traditions, period costumes, the past lives and rebirths of Buddha, and rock-cut Buddhist deities.
The Ellora Caves in Marathwada is one of the largest rock-cut monastery-temple cave complexes in the world. The impressive temples and monasteries were once a meeting point of Buddhists, Jains and Hindus, and date back to the 6th century. In the 34 cave temples open to the public you’ll find an incredible range of paintings, carvings and depictions of deities and idols.
Known as ‘India’s wild west’, the unique terrain of Bajana (the ‘Little Rann of Kutch’) in Gujarat is one of India’s most fascinating landscapes. It is the only place in the world where you can find the Asiatic Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur) known locally as the Ghudkhur.
Asiatic Wild Asses are currently listed as Near Threatened, with a population of around 4,800 in and outside of the Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary. The Indian wild ass is very different from its African counterpart, with a dark mane and a coat that varies between reddish grey, sand, fawn and pale chestnut. It has a distinctive dark brown stripe running along its back to the root of its tail.
The Rann is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its famous inhabitants and its unique landscape, with a dehydrated, unbroken dark silt surface crusted with salts that transforms spectacularly into a coastal wetland after the rains. It’s the perfect place to see the fabulous Ghudkhurs in their natural environment.
Discover the Ranns of Kutch
Aurangabad is an intriguing destination where you’ll find the gleaming white Bibi-ka-Maqbara known as the ‘poor man’s Taj Mahal’, and the majestic 12th-century Daulatabad Fort perched high on a hilltop. But watching silk being woven is one of the most memorable experiences on a visit to Aurangabad.
Aurangabad is known for producing silk, in particular its beautiful Himroo and Paithani saris, which are lovingly woven by hand. The unique feature of a Paithani saree is that it should look almost identical when seen on both sides. A genuine handwoven Paithani will also have no loose threads
It’s fascinating to watch the silk dying process, where bundles of threads are dipped in hot water for around 15 minutes. Copper rods then squeeze the yarn to remove impurities before it is dipped in a dye bath and dried in the shade, and this method is repeated several times. Setting the silk threads on a loom is often a day-long effort, and the complex weaving process that follows can that can take months for an intricate design.
Be inspired to visit Aurangabad
Ancient palaces with impressive dining rooms and shimmering artefacts await you in Bhuj, one of the most captivating cities in Gujarat. Despite being almost completely destroyed by a huge earthquake in 2001, most of the city has been restored to its former glittery glory and is ready to entrance you.
The beautiful Aina Mahal palace was the former residence of Maharao Lakhpatji, ruler of Bhuj in the mid-eighteenth century. The lower floor contains plenty of treasures to discover in the ‘Palace of Mirrors’, and the Fuvara Mahal room has fountains that would have splashed merrily around the King while he watched dances or wrote poems.
The 19th-century Prag Mahal has an ethereal Durbar Hall adorned with vast chandeliers, accompanied by gold-skirted statues and the maharajah's taxidermy collection. If you’re a fan of Bollywood, you’ll recognise this former regal residence from the cricket film Lagaan.
Learn more about Bhuj
Classic car lovers will love the Royal Vintage & Classic Car Collection in Gondal. These 32 vehicles were owned by royalty, from the current maharaja’s modern racing cars to a 1907 model made by the New Engine Company Acton and a 1935 vintage Mercedes saloon. There is also a Delage D8 and a Daimler, further examples of great European cars of the 1920s and '30s. Although most of these amazing automobiles are still in working condition, unfortunately you can’t take them for a spin!
Leafy and tranquil Gondal also has lots to discover. This princely state is one of the smaller and more compact cities of Gujarat, although it was once the capital of a 1,000 km2 state ruled by Jadeja Rajputs who claimed to be descendants of Krishna. Gondal is also home to the 18th-century former residence of the Crown Prince the Riverside Palace which is now a luxury heritage hotel. There’s also a picturesque river, the interesting Shri Bhuvaneshwari Aushadhashram ayurvedic pharmacy, and a string of palaces including Naulakha Palace with its stunning architecture, intricate carvings, spiral stairways and impressive courtyards and balconies.
Get to know Gondal
Just a few minutes from the bustle of Bhavnagar city is the peaceful Victoria Park, a great place to relax and unwind amongst lush biodiversity. It’s almost impossible to believe that the Park is one of the oldest man-made forests in India, dating back to 1888 when it was made for Maharaja Takhtasinhji of Bhavnagar.
Nestled on the edges of the shimmering Gaurishankar Lake, Victoria Park is home to a variety of flora and fauna. As you slowly wander along, vibrant rare flowers give an explosion of colour, attracting wonderful butterflies. Don’t be surprised to encounter free-roaming animals such as nilgais (antelope), jackals and foxes all enjoying this serene space. Victoria Park is also a great spot for birdwatching, and you might spy Indian birds like raptors, waders and perching birds, along with beautiful proud peacocks strutting in the sun.
One of the most spiritual destinations in India is the pilgrimage town of Palitana. Here you’ll find the world’s largest temple complex Shatrunjaya Hill, dotted with over 3,000 temples. Every year Jain pilgrims flock to the town in their thousands, especially during monsoon season for the Kartik Purnima festival. Rumour has it that this sacred location is where Ādinātha the first of the Jain Tirthankaras (spiritual teachers) meditated.
Shatrunjaya is a tourist hotspot, as it holds the accolade of being the world’s only hill with more than 900 temples. Thousands of white marble temples are dotted around, some of which are almost a thousand years old. This incredibly steep hill is climbed by devout Jains once in their lifestyle, a journey of 3,300 steps over a 500m climb. Visitors unable to tackle this trek can be carried regally on a dholi, a seat on poles with four bearers.
Other structures include the shrine of the saint Angar Pir, where women who want children bestow miniature cradles as offerings and the intricately carved Adinath Temple.
Palitana was also the first city in the world to be legally vegetarian, and the buying and selling of eggs, fish and meat has been illegal or outlawed since 2014.
Peruse the sights of Palitana
A trip to Mumbai is a must on a tour of West India. Formerly known as Bombay, this melting pot of culture is located on the west coast of India and is made up of seven islands. Get ready to smell the money - as one of the world’s top ten centres of commerce, Mumbai is the wealthiest city in India, with the highest number of millionaires and billionaires. But this vibrant city is also rich in culture, as the home of the enormous Bollywood and Marathi cinema industries. It is also notorious for its rather lengthy traffic jams!
Mumbai’s top attraction is the Gateway of India, a huge monumental arch on the waterfront overlooking the Arabian Sea. It was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911, but they only saw a cardboard model of it as the monument wasn’t completed until 1915! Mumbai has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are well worth a visit, the ornate Elephanta Caves in Mumbai Harbour and the 19th century Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai.
Learn more about Mumbai
If you think of Goa, it’s likely that stretches of picture-perfect beaches spring to mind. Goa is famous for its golden sand fringed with coconut palms and has over 100km of coastline despite being India’s smallest state. There’s no better way to end your tour than a dip in the Arabian Sea before unwinding with a cocktail while you watch the glorious colours of the setting sun.
There’s a great choice of beaches to suit everyone. In the north, you’ll find Candolim and Calangute which are very popular with British tourists, vibrant Baga Beach with its line of beach shacks, and the peaceful Morjim Beach where Olive Ridley sea turtles choose to nest. In the south, relax on the long curve of palm-fringed sand at popular Palolem, enjoy peace and quiet at the private Cola Beach, or get active at Benaulim and Varca by trying out the watersports or going dolphin spotting.
Besides beautiful beaches, Goa has more to discover. This former Portuguese colony is a fascinating mix of Indian and European cultures, reflected in its unique cuisine and colonial architecture. You can also head inland to find spice plantations, lush jungle and waterfalls.
Unwind in Goa
You can explore the wonders of West India on our Highlights of Gujarat Tour, Mumbai, Ancient Caves and Goa Holiday or Passage Through Central India tour. Alternatively, contact us with your ideas and we can create the holiday of your dreams.