These top Maharashtra tourist places offer a diverse mix of ancient cave temples, forts, mountains, wineries, and beaches. Of course, there's cosmopolitan Mumbai as well.
Mumbai, the capital city of Maharashtra, is the financial capital of India and the home of India's Bollywood film industry. Also called India's "maximum city", Mumbai is known for its extreme standards of living, fast-paced lifestyle, and the making (or breaking) of dreams. Captivating examples of colonial British architecture can be found all over the city and make up many of Mumbai's top attractions, including the Gateway of India and Haji Ali. Mumbai also has a pulsating nightlife, with unforgettable bars, live music venues, national park, and traveler hangouts.
The Ajanta and Ellora Caves are located near Aurangabad in northern Maharashtra, around 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Mumbai. There are 34 caves at Ellora dating from between the 6th and 11th centuries AD, and 29 caves at Ajanta dating back to between the 2nd century BC and 6th century AD. While the Ajanta caves are rich in paintings and sculpture, the Ellora caves are renowned for their extraordinary architecture. The most incredible thing about all these caves is that they were crafted by hand, with only a hammer and chisel.
The Konkan Coast in Maharashtra offers a bounty of beautiful beaches, which are among the most pristine in the country.Delightfully off the tourist trail, they are devoid of much commercial development and many are practically deserted.
The closest hill station to Mumbai, Matheran was discovered in 1850 by the British during their occupation of India and subsequently developed into a popular summer retreat. At height of 800 meters (2,625 feet) above sea level, this serene place provides a cooling escape from searing temperatures. However, the most unique thing about it and what makes it so special, is that all vehicles are banned there -- even bicycles. It's a soothing place to relax away from any noise and pollution. Get there by taking the scenic toy train.
Nashik, approximately four hours northeast of Mumbai in Maharashtra, is a city of contrasts. On one hand, it's an ancient and sacred pilgrimage destination with a fascinating Old City and temples, such as Naroshankar and Kalaram. On the other, it's home to the biggest winery region in India.
Overlooked by tourism until recently because it was off the beaten track and lacked accommodations, these days Tadoba National Park and Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra is fast gaining a reputation as one of the best places to see a tiger in the wild in India.
Just two hours southeast of Mumbai, and halfway between Mumbai and Pune, Lonavala provides an eclectic blend of hills, history and adventure. Its a popular misty monsoon destination, and its lush surroundings have been the backdrop of many Bollywood movie song and dance scenes. Attractions include forts, lookouts, lakes, dams, and waterfalls (during the monsoon season). Nirvana Adventures conducts paragliding in Kamshet, close to Lonavala. The ancient rock-cut Karla caves are also worth visiting.
For fresh strawberries (as well as mulberries, raspberries, and gooseberries) head to Mahabaleshwar in the Western Ghat mountains (known as the Sahyadri mountains in Maharashtra). Strawberry season runs from November to March and you can feast on them at Mapro Gardens and Archie's Farm. Otherwise, go trekking, fishing, boating, horse riding, or take in the views at one of the many sightseeing points and lookouts (there are nearly 30 of them!).
The historical and cultural city of Kolhapur is a lesser-known tourist destination alongside the Panchganga River in southern Maharashtra. Yet, it certainly has plenty to offer! Its magnificent temples are one of the main attractions, with the Mahalaxmi Temple being the focus. The city has a long line of both Hindu and Muslim rulers, and has been the site of intense confrontations. Prior to India's Independence, from 1700 it was controlled by the Maratha Empire and the British. The new palace of the Maharaja of Kolhapur, built in 1884, has grandiose Indo-Saracenic architecture. It now houses the Shree Chhatrapati Shahu Museum, containing memorabilia of Kolhapur's rulers. Kolhapur also has a couple of interesting claims to fame: the famous Kolhapuri chappals (shoes) originated from there and the city is said to produce the best Kushti wrestlers.