Sprawling Maharashtra, India’s second most populous state, stretches from the gorgeous greens of the little-known Konkan Coast right into the parched innards of India’s beating heart. Within this massive framework are all the sights, sounds, tastes, and experiences of India.
In the north there’s Nasik, a city of crashing colours, timeless ritual and Hindu legend. In the south you can come face to face with modern India at its very best in Pune, a city as famous for its sex guru as its bars and restaurants. Further south still, the old maharaja’s palaces, wrestling pits and overwhelming temples of Kolhapur make for one of the best introductions to India anyone could want. Out in the far east of the state towards Nagpur, the adventurous can set out in search of tigers hidden in a clump of national parks. On the coast a rash of little-trodden beaches and collapsing forts give Goa’s tropical dreams a run for their money and in the hills of the Western Ghats, morning mists lift to reveal stupendous views and colonial-flavoured hill stations. But it’s the centre, with its treasure house of architectural and artistic wonders (topped by the World Heritage–listed cave temples of Ellora and Ajanta), that really steals the show. Whatever way you look at it, Maharashtra is one of the most vibrant and rewarding corners of India, yet despite this, most travellers make only a brief artistic pause at Ellora and Ajanta before scurrying away to other corners of India, leaving much of this diverse state to the explorers.