Embarking on a road trip is not a simple affair. And the best way to ensure that your trip truly matches your expectations is to ensure that you chalk out your itinerary before. This is all the more true when you are in Maharashtra, which is the third largest state in the country. Boasting of palm-fringed beaches, lofty, cool-green mountains & UNESCO World Heritage Sites on one hand and bustling cosmopolitan cities (and beautiful vineyards to escape the city chaos) on the other hand, Maharashtra promises to tick all the right boxes when it comes to an epic road trip.
Read on because we have planned all your pit-stops and pretty much your entire itinerary.
Day 1: Mumbai to Vaitarna (141 kms)
Leaving Mumbai, take the NH160 road that will take you through Thane, Asangaon, Igatpuri and finally Vaitarna. Depending upon traffic, it can take anywhere between 2.5-3 hours to reach Vaitarna.
The drive is full of breathtaking moments, when you may chance upon wildlife on the road, watch waterfalls in awe and explore gorgeous natural wonders from scenic viewpoints. Also, depending upon what time you leave, you can also stop for a quick snack and tea at one of the many dhabas that line the highway.
PS: If you have time, stop at Igatpuri, which is popular for its Dhamma Giri Meditation Centre and Ghatandevi temple. It is located 34.5 kms before Vaitarna.
Once you have checked into V Resorts Mridur Vaitarna, you can spend your time exploring both the destination and resort. Start with a locally inspired meal at the resort, post which you can go for hiking or visit the Trimbakeshwar temple (21.4 kms from the resort), trek up to Harihar Fort (21 kms from the resort) or just soak in the scenic views at Kalsubai Peak, which is located 49 kms from the resort. Come back and spend your evening lounging at our infinity pool, where after a few laps and a glass of cocktail, it will be fair to say that evenings like this are the height of decadence. After a quiet dinner with bonfire, call it a night, because we still have a long way to go.
Day 2: Vaitarna to Aurangabad via Nashik (228 kms)
Start your day early and head out to Aurangabad via Nashik. The entire journey will take around 5 hours so plan accordingly. Make Soma Vineyards in Nashik your first stop, which is located some 45 kms and should not take more than 1.5 hours to reach from Vaitarna. Here you can spend some time going on a wine tour, exploring the vineyards or even book a spot at Zonkers, an adventure park with activities such as rock-climbing, go-karting, ziplining etc. Don’t forget to buy some bottles of wine for your family/friends back home.
After lunch, either at V Resorts Soma Vine Village or at one of the cafes/restaurants in town hit the road to head out to Aurangabad via the NH848. The distance between the two towns is around 182 kms and should take around 4 hours and it is best you start immediately after lunch, so that you can reach Aurangabad before it is too late. There are many home-stays around Aurangabad, where you can check-in during your stay here.
Day 3: Exploring Aurangabad
Although Aurangabad is small city, it boasts of a rich medley of cultural influences. Although it was founded in 1610 by Malik Amber, Aurangabad is named after fierce Mughal emperor Aurangzeb made the city his capital. It is one of the oldest cities of India and has remained one of the major tourist attractions in the state.
Aurangabad’s current claim to fame is its proximity to the Ajanta and Ellora caves. Both of them are UNESCO World Heritage sites, which have today received global acclaim for their exquisite sculptures and wall paintings. Both sets of caves were excavated from the rocky mountainside, and carved from top down, and front to back using only hammers and chisels. Ellora has Buddhist, Brahmanical, and Jain excavations that date back to the period between the 5th and 11th centuries.
On the other hand the Ajanta caves that are currently maintained with the assistance of Japanese government are in a better condition. Here tourists are strictly prohibited from littering, touching sculptures, or using a flash to photograph paintings. Since only a few people are allowed inside at a time, make sure you reach here early, if you want to avoid the crowds. Ajanta’s caves are Buddhist and can be classified into two structures: viharas (dormitories) and chaityas (prayer halls). Both are decorated with intricate paintings of the many avatars of Buddha, his journey to enlightenment, and the kings and demons that attempted to disrupt his meditation, using distractions ranging from sensual dancers to trumpeting elephants.
Other historical gems that litter the city includes the Bibi-ka-Maqbara (its similar in structure to the Taj Mahal and was built by Prince Shah for his mother) and Daulatabad Fort (founded by the Yadavas in the 11th century, it still has some canons that have successfully stood the test of time). Foodies, don’t forget to visit the Buddi Lane, where the streets are filled with stalls selling seekh kebabs, meat biryani, haleem, and naan qaliya, a rich, meat curry served with rotis. Highly recommended!
PS: Since we know that there are quite a few things that you can do in Aurangabad, make sure you plan accordingly, so that you can utilize your time well. Pro travel tip – It is always best to start early as that gives you more time to explore the city in the best possible manner & also avoid the touristy crowds as well.
Day 4: Aurangabad to Nanded (268 kms)
An offbeat destination, Nanded is both an important historical city and pilgrimage town for the Sikh community. The town was ruled by many dynasties including the Nandas, Mauryas and Satavahans, which is today reflected in the rich culture and heritage of the town. Today, the city is divided into two distinct halves, with the River Godavari flowing in between them.
The two main attractions of Nanded is the Hazur Sahib and the Nanded Fort. Built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab, between 1832 and 1837, The Hazur Sahib Gurudwara stands over the site where the tenth and last Sikh Guru Guru Gobind Singh had been cremated. Considered as the second holiest place for the Sikhs (the first being the Golden Temple in Amritsar) the temple creates a sanctum of peace and solitude, away from the noise of a city. . Like most other gurudwaras, the Hazur Sahib also offers langar (canteen/kitchen where food is served to all, for free) to all the pilgrims and visitors.
Located at a distance of 4 km from the Nanded Railway station, the Nanded Fort stands at a picturesque location with sprawling gardens around it. However, most of the fort is in ruins, owing to repeated conquests of the Mughals on Marathwada. It is ideal to spend an evening here watching the sun set. Further, there are many small forts in and around Nanded that you can visit, if you have the time.
Day 5: Nanded to Tadoba National Park (333 kms)
Wake up early (if possible between 3-5AM) so that you can make your way to Tadoba National Park. The entire journey takes close to 7 hours and if you leave by 4 in the morning, you can reach Tadoba just in time for lunch and of course, the evening safari (depending upon the month, evening safaris start anywhere between 2-3;30 PM).
After your drive, check into V Resorts Mahua Tola Tadoba, which is located only 12 km from Kolara Gate and 7 km from Madnapur Gate of Tadoba National Park. The park has the highest concentration of the big cats (aka tigers) in the country, besides being home to sloth bears, wild dogs, flying squirrels, crocodiles, and about 200 species of birds. Even if the tiger eludes, Tadoba’s forest and grassland is a welcome break from the chaos of the city & is a must visit for everyone, especially wildlife enthusiasts.
Once you are done with the safari, head back to the resort where you can savour delectable Indian and local Maharashtrian delicacies (tip: try Zunka, made with gram flour) prepared with locally-grown produce. A quiet library and activity room adjacent to the restaurant lets you spend quality time, reading a book, flipping through the pages of wildlife magazines, or just bonding with fellow travellers over tales of tiger-sightings. End your day with a quiet meal, which can either be a candle-light dinner if you are travelling with your partner or a bonfire meal if you are travelling with family/friends.
Day 6: Tadoba National Park to Amravati via Nagpur (298 kms)
A morning safari at Tadoba National Park generally starts at 6 AM and is highly recommended especially because the forest showcases a very different side during the early hours of the day. After your safari, check out of the resort and make your way to Amravati which is located 232 kms from Tadoba National Park. On the way to Amravati, you can also make a small detour to Nagpur.
The most prominent landmark in the city is the Sitabuldi Fort. It stands on a saddle between two low hills above the railway station, though it’s closed to the public. Other places that you can visit here includes Seminary Hills (it provides panoramic views of the city & also boasts of a Japanese garden that is located in its foothills), Khindsi Lake (the place also has a LIMCA Book of records as India’s biggest boating center) and Ramtek temple.
Once you are done, drive down to Amravati, which is located about 153 kms away. A small town, there are small forts, sanctuaries, waterfalls, temples and rivers that you can visit during your time here.
Day 7: Amravati to Aurangabad via Lonar Lake (347 kms)
Aurangabad is located 330 kms from Amravati and requires a travel time of at least 7 hours. We recommend you take the Nagpur – Aurangabad highway and stop at the Lonar lake if time permits. One of Maharashtra’s best kept secret, the Lonar Lake is home to the Earth’s only hyper-velocity impact crater in basaltic rock.
The crater was formed fifty-two thousand years ago, when a meteor crashed into the earth at an estimated speed of 90,000kmph, weighing 2 million tonnes. It gouged a hole that was 1.8km wide and 150m deep. Over time, the jungle took over, and a perennial stream transformed the base into a tranquil, green locale. The forest itself is a haven for birdwatchers, with several species of migratory and local birds spotted here all throughout the year. It is a good place to stop at during your road trip, especially because Indiana Jones would approve.
If you are happy with your Aurangabad exploration, use your time to visit the crop of hand loom weaving centres near Ellora, advertising Paithani and himroo shawls and saris. One of the principal exports of the region, they make for excellent gifts, although they are quite expensive.
Day 8: Aurangabad to Pune via Ahmednagar (236 Kms)
The journey between Aurangabad and Pune takes around 5 hours and is best undertaken in the morning. Once you have reached Pune, you can check into V Resorts Comfort Stay that is located close to the main city. A favourite getaway spot especially for the people of Mumbai, Pune is popular for its pleasant climate and laid back vibe.
One of the major attractions in Pune is the Shaniwar Wada which is located on the right bank of the Mutha River. Built by the Peshwa ruler Bajirao I, it has literally been reduced to ashes today, mainly due to a major fire. Among the few standing structures are the fortified boundary walls and the Dilli Darwaza or Delhi Gate – named because it faces Delhi directionally.
Other historical spot that you can visit here includes the reconstructed Lal Mahal, which is only a few minutes away from Shniwar Wada and was the official residence of Chhatrapati Shivaji. Also, make sure you stop at Kasba Ganpati temple and the Vishrambaug Wada, which was built by Peshwa Bajirao II in the early 1800s.
V Tip: Pune is known to be a paradise for people who love to eat and drink. Don’t forget to pick up a packet of bhakarwadi, a savoury and spicy namkeen, with a hint of sweetness that is popular among locals throughout the state. Additionally, Pune is also sure to appeal to beer lovers as there are numerous microbreweries offering craft beers ranging from traditional weiss (wheat) brews to adventurous ones with underlying flavours like Ratnagiri mango, lemongrass, and jaggery.
Day 9: Pune to Wai (88.4 kms) via Satara
An offbeat destination in Maharashtra, Wai is an idyllic spot for all types of travellers. Home to more than 100 temples, it is rightly known as the Dakshin Kashi of the state. In fact the beautiful locales of Wai have also attracted many filmmakers, who have shot their films in this region as well.
In case you are looking for a comprehensive guide for Wai, please click here. Also, if you have more time, you can also head to Kaas Plateau of Flowers, which is situated 25 kilometres west from Satara. A biodiversity hotspot known for various types of seasonal wild flowers bloom and numerous species of endemic butterflies, a good time to visit this place is between August and September.
Where to stay: V Resorts Anandvan Wai is spread across 2.5 acres of land & offers panoramic views of the manicured lawns with the Sahyadri mountain range, completing the impressive backdrop. Check-in to the resort, where you can choose from five different stay options, including suites, cottages, red -brick cottages, apartments and machan rooms. The adjoining area of the resort is perfect for hikes as well as slow sunset strolls around the Krishna river which is just 500 meters away.
Book your stay here.
If you are looking for an even less touristy spot, head to V Resorts Krishna Welang that is located around only 12 kms from Wai. With wide open spaces, gazebo dining and panoramic views of the mountains and lake outside, the resort is a stark contrast to the city’s urban culture. Nestled amongst the Sahyadris, the resort allows you to explore the region while staying away from the crowds. Book here.
Day 10: Wai to Murud (183 Kms)
End your trip at Murud which is located 183 kms from Wai and takes close to 4-5 hours depending on the traffic. A coastal village Murud’s star attraction is its beach, where hawkers make their way through cricket games that go on throughout the days. Join in the locals in a game or just pick a quiet spot on the beach where you can pen your thoughts about the epic road-trip you just took in a book (carry a book, if you want to read instead).
If you are a history nerd, head to the Janjira fort, which is just 2.5 kms (10 minutes) away from Murud beach. With battlements that rise imposingly out of the waters, take a short boat ride from the shore to reach the fort. For a quieter day at the beach, take the ferry across Jog Creek to Anjarle. It’s the perfect place to laze after one of those hearty seafood thalis.
Although they are quite a few stay options in Murud, we recommend V Resorts Mahua Bagh which is spread across a 24 acre property. Washed in hues of rich colours, the rooms at the resort collectively succeed in creating an ambience where wiling away an entire day in the company of a good book doesn’t seem that far-fetched a concept. For anyone requiring more than just words though, the resort is close to local attractions and also boasts of porches that brim with wide-angle vistas.
Plus, ending any road-trip on a beach is literally like icing on the cake right?
V Tip: Mumbai is located only 156 kms from Murud, so you can easily unwind at the resort for a few days, before you head back to where you started.
Have a better itinerary or simply want to share your views? Share your comments below.