India is dotted with many splendid and striking cave sites. From the aesthetically pleasing cave sites in Ajanta to the spiritually soothing caves of Tabo to the historically invigorating caves of Bhimbetka or the natural splendor of the Borra caves, the vision they provide is enticing and beguiling. The many beautiful cave sites of India bear a witness to its diversity.

Ajanta and Ellora

Kailash Temple, Ellora, Photo by Kunal Mukherjee, CC BY-SA 2.0

Around 5th century BCE Buddhism was gaining importance as a faith in the Indian subcontinent. During that period of time, many wandering monks found residence in the caves of Ajanta and Ellora. These caves bear a testimony of their teachings through the many exalted and illustrious sculptures and paintings. These caves were used as assembly or prayer halls and called ‘chaitya-griha’. Despite being famous for the Buddhist caves, this site also has Jain caves and Hindu temples like the Kailasanatha temple. The Kailasanath temple is a monolithic rock-cut temple meant to house the great lord Shiva. This marker of religious and aesthetic beauty lies in the district of Aurangabad in the state of Maharashtra. To know more about these caves and it’s nearby attraction read this article for tourist places to visit in Aurangabad.

Elephanta Caves

Photo by Ashwin Kumar, CC BY-SA 2.0

The Elephanta island is a short ferry ride away from the bustling city of Mumbai. In this serene and aloof setting, we find a network of caves dedicated to the Shiva cult. The cave showcases three aspects of Shiva that are the essence of the Hindu mythology: creator, destroyer and preserver. He is shown in his many avatars, like that of the nimble Nataraja or the ferocious Mahadeva. The island has a network of caves with the most important one being the grand cave 1. This is a site that can and should be frequented by the many residents of the city when in need of a break from the hectic city life. To know more tourist places in and around Mumbai, check this article.

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India is a country of surprises and wonders which make it famous. The beauty and uniqueness of this Hispanic nation are can’t be defined.  There is an intensive blend of customs, food, traditions and protocols, making it Incredible India. India has a rich and varied history which is the source of strong culture and roots. There are various archaeological sites in India that are world famous and the history and beauty are interesting and exuberant respectively. In this great land of Gods, the heritage and integrity of India’s archaeological sites have been preserved. In this article, I will suggest archaeological sites in India that are worth exploring.

Top 10 Archaeological Wonders in India:

Lothal, Ahmedabad

Photo by Gpratik, CC BY-SA 3.0

Lothal is located in Ahmedabad city of state Gujarat. Lothal is believed to be one of the oldest planned cities in India. It is believed to be as old as 2400 BC. This city was found by ASI- Archaeological survey of India in 1957. This city was well planned with all the basic amenities like city drainage, water storage, bathroom toilet system etc. The town planning was impressive and archaeologists from around the world come here in heavy numbers and explore the history and secret behind this ancient city. If you are an explorer and you have immense love for history then this place is for you.

Qutub Minar, Delhi

Photo by Sakeeb Sabakka, CC BY 2.0

Photo by Sakeeb Sabakka, CC BY 2.0

Qutub Minar is one of the marvels of ancient engineering in India. Qutub Minar is 75.5 meters in height and it is also the India’s latest single piece minar. Qutub ud din Aibak led the foundation of Qutub Minar in the year 1192 and this minar is standing tall and solid since then. Qutub Minar was also declared as the world heritage site by UNESCO. 379 stars are there in Qutub Minar and the highest base diameter is 14.3 meter. 

Buddhist Monuments, Sanchi

Photo by PRONagarjun Kandukuru, CC BY 2.0

Photo by PRONagarjun Kandukuru, CC BY 2.0

Buddhist Monuments in Sachi are located in the grand incredible state of Madhya Pradesh. These monuments are the foundations of Buddhism in India as they depict the rich roots and history of the Buddhism. Sanchi is the most sacred place for Buddhists in India. Every year thousands of Buddhists from all over the India and the globe visit here in heavy numbers to pay their respect. World heritage site is also here; tourists may visit in Sanchi, from morning till evening. These ancient monuments are well preserved and secured by Government of India.

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hampi_virupaksha_templeSolo traveling is all the rage these days and women are no longer an exception to that. You can love traveling in packs just as much as you can enjoy a trip on your own. With backpacking being an increasing phenomenon these days, you can’t blame yourself for wanting to indulge in some of your own.  Though it can be a bit tricky to travel alone in India, there’s nothing that’ll stop a girl from doing it if you’ve got it in you. Check out the top 5 cities where a woman can travel alone in India.

Nainital, Uttarakhand

This quaint hill station offers some great opportunities. The dreamy destination has a magical background and the warmest of people to keep you feeling enthused during your trip. Boating in the pretty lake under the Himalayan peaks is relaxing and adventurous. There are some great sunset and sunrise points to explore. Nainital a perfectly secure and fun location to visit all by yourself. There is no disappointment when exploring this serene town of India.

Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh

Historical and intriguing, Khajuraho has a charm of its own. The miraculous temples have stunning architecture and the ups and downs of the trek up to this location are an ideal weekend getaway in India. If you’ve wanted to visit the UNESCO declared World Heritage Sites in India, the Khajuraho temples should definitely be on your list. Not only are the locals very willing to help, the tour guides are great to have conversations with about the interesting heritage of India.

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Popularly known as the Periya Koil (Big Temple), this marvellous piece of Tamil architecture is the world’s first complete granite temple. It is located in Thanjavur (Tanjore) in Tamil Nadu and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This photo was taken by Shivani Suresh who is a Third Culture Kid (Born in India, Brought up in Rwanda). She is currently on her gap year and keeps her passion for travelling, culture, writing, and photography alive through her blog.

How I chose the program: For me, the hardest part of choosing a study abroad program was narrowing down just one country I wanted to see. For those of you who want to get a taste of many different places, this is the program for you. Semester at Sea is a great way to travel the world in just a few short months, while also earning class credit. Sponsored by the University of Virginia, SAS recently celebrated its 100th voyage, and has established itself as the premier institute for shipboard education.  The Spring 2009 Voyage I participated in made stops in the Bahamas, Spain, Morocco, Namibia, South Africa, Mauritius, India, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan, Hawaii and Guatemala. It was definitely an amazing learning environment and a unique opportunity to see the world.

Preparing for the voyage: Obviously studying aboard a ship and visiting an average of 10-13 countries in just over three months requires a different sort of preparation than the average study abroad experience. Rooms aboard the ship are shared and generally small, so packing lightly and efficiently is a must.  As the weather varies in each country, bringing a range of clothing is important (as is layering.) Furthermore, several countries on the average itinerary have stricter social dress codes – especially for women- so even in hot weather short shorts and tank tops should probably be left at home.  Doing a little research on each country beforehand is also extremely helpful in terms of planning your itineraries. The SAS program is structured with classes every day (no “weekends”) while onboard ship, but the tradeoff is complete freedom while in port. SAS offers excursions that can be purchased separately, or students are free to plan trips on their own. Reading travel books or online guides can give you a good idea what the highlights of each country are. Since time is limited- only four to seven days in each country- planning your sightseeing ahead is important.

What class was like: Every student on Semester at Sea takes a class called Global Studies in addition to two or three other classes. Global Studies prepares you for each port by detailing the historical and cultural highlights of each country and connecting them all with a common theme. For example, on my voyage, we learned about the complex religious history of India and how that has affected the country politically. I also took a class on Biomedical Ethics, in which we learned about traditional Indian medicine and more holistic eastern treatments.  In my US Foreign Policy class we discussed American foreign policy in the region and the future of India’s burgeoning economy. The result of this curriculum made me feel informed and prepared to travel each country with a deeper understanding of their history and cultural identity.

Favorite parts of the program: Personally, I really enjoyed my experience in South Africa, it is an amazingly vibrant country boasting a lot of activities including wine tasting, shark diving and visiting Robben Island to learn more about Apartheid. India was another highlight, where I went on an intensive yoga and meditation retreat and visited an ‘untouchable village’ to shed light on the enduring issues with caste. Seeing the ancient Mayan ruins in Tikal, Guatemala was another amazing experience, especially when followed with zip lining through the canopy of the nearby rainforest. And of course, climbing the Great Wall of China was unforgettable.

Last thoughts on SAS: For people who want to have an immersion experience, Semester at Sea is probably not the best option, yet I believe its benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Being able to circumnavigate the globe and get a taste for so many different countries is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. Check out the Semester at Sea website to get more information and review upcoming itineraries.

Written by guest writer, Kate Robinson, who circumnavigated the world with Semester at Sea in Spring 2009.