Active + Adventure

How to Vacation Like Indiana Jones

by Douglas Wright

Ellora Cave Temples of Maharashtra, India

Cambodia's Angkor Wat and the carved cliffs of Petra, Jordan, may attract the tourist hordes and cinematic credits (backdrops for the Indiana Jones films Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade, respectively), but the Ellora Caves, 20 miles outside the rural town of Aurangabad, dwarf these religious sites in size. The 34 intricate cut-stone monasteries, once a sacred stop on a trade route to ports on the Arabian Sea, were chiseled out of the Charanandri hills in the sixth and seventh centuries by devotees of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. The courtyard entrances to the caves are flanked by stone statues of elephants and sacred pillars with mythical scenes from the Puranas (Sanskrit religious texts). Inside, the cave halls are just as finely detailed, with chiseled murals of Buddha, Vishnu, and Mahavira. The most famous cave is the Kailash Temple, a multistoried complex hewn from a single rock that's twice the size of the Parthenon in Athens and carved to represent Mount Kailash, home of the Hindu deity Shiva.

Follow the right path: The caves are open to the public from sunrise to sunset for $5. On-site guides lead visitors inside by lamplight. TNS Travel offers six-day tours of Aurangabad and the Ellora Caves with transport from Mumbai.

Next: Utah's puzzling pillars >

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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