In seventh heaven

People are often amazed by the sheer size and magnitude of the Ajanta Caves, but what a many visitors miss to see is the beautiful surroundings that the cave cluster is set in. The Ajanta Caves are cut into the side of a cliff that is on one side of a U-shaped gorge on the Waghora River, which originates from these very hills. On the other side is a waterfall that drops into the saptakunda or the seven pools. There is no formal name to this waterfall, but many people refer to it as the Waghora Waterfall. During the monsoon and a few months after, this waterfall is in full splendour as it gushes strongly and drops into the river from almost 150 feet.

A panoramic sight of the Ajanta View Point

Vantage view of Ajanta
Usually, tourists take the routine path from the base of the caves to reach the top. But if you are among those who are willing to go that extra mile for a perfect photograph, a good view or probably just to satisfy the off-beat traveller in you, then you need to head to the ‘Ajanta View Point’.

Approximately 13 kms before the Ajanta Caves parking, at Balapur village on Aurangabad-Ajanta Road, look out for a rusty signboard, which says ‘View Point’. Take a left from there, and follow the road for eight kms. After passing through some fields and a village, the road ends at the View Point, which was strategically built by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) some years back. From here you get a complete panoramic view of the Ajanta Caves along with the surrounding mountain ranges. People say that this was the exact location where John Smith, who while on a tiger hunt, first sighted and rediscovered the caves long hidden behind dense vegetation in 1819!

The seven-step wonder
It gets better! Instead of heading back to the caves from the regular route, you can climb down the mountain. The descent is quite enjoyable as the well-paved stairs pass through extremely thick forest. When the stairs end you come to a second View Point. You still get the panoramic view of the caves, but this is the spot from where you get the full view of the waterfall and all the seven ponds. During the rains, one actually gets to see all the seven steps of the waterfall.

Saptakunda in the summer (left) and the monsoon (right). Pics Courtesy/Jayesh Paranjpe

You can also make a detour and actually walk around the waterfall and see how the waterfall actually originates and flows into the Waghora River. So, the next time you are at Ajanta Caves, make sure to take this less travelled path and explore the surroundings along with the caves!

Jayesh Paranjape is founder of Western Routes — a Pune based travel company that focusses on Maharashtra’s attractions.

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How to get there
>> By Air: Aurangabad (100 kms) is the closest airport with good connectivity with Delhi, Mumbai and Pune.
>> By Rail: Jalgaon (58 kms) on the Central Railway is a convenient railhead. Alternatively, for better connectivity Aurangabad (100 kms)
>> By Road: Comfortable and AC buses ply between Mumbai -Aurangabad and Pune-Aurangabad.
>> Final approach to Ajanta Caves and Waghora Waterfall: Regular buses ply from Aurangabad to Ajanta Caves. But if one is looking at visitng the View Points, it’s best to hire a taxi from Aurangabad or Jalgaon for the caves.

Where to stay
Aurangabad has a range of hotels, from 5-star hotels to B&Bs, to use as your base for this trip:
Budget: Hotel Panchavati; LOG ON TO
Mid-Range/3-STAR: Hotel Keys Aures; LOG ON TO
High-end: Vivanta by Taj; LOG ON TO:

Distances between important destinations
> Aurangabad - Ajanta Caves: 100 km
> Balapur-View Point (Waghora Waterfall): 8 km
> Balapur-Ajanta Caves parking: 13 km
> Ajanta Caves - Ellora Caves: 105 km

What to carry?
> Comfortable walking shoes or floaters
> Cap and sunscreen lotion
> A guidebook on the Ajanta Caves
> Binoculars and camera
> Bird-watching guide, if you are interested in bird-watching
> Personal medication
> Diary for your notes 

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