It’s my first real blog post of 2018, and of course it had to be about travel. I mean, why not? In my last post, I talked about the topics you guys love reading the most and travel was most definitely up there. Okay, moving on. Today’s destination happens to be a very special one. Aurangabad is a city that not only means a lot to me, but also has its place in the history of India. For me, it’s the the city I grew up in before moving to Canada. For India, it’s the city that was going to become the capital of the country. Obviously that didn’t happen, and I don’t wanna go all historian on you to explain why, but I will say that this small city has made its mark.
Aurangabad is special today not only because it’s home to a few successful industries and brands, but also because it is a tourist hub surrounded by many historical monuments. Read on to see my most recommended places to see, stay at and eat.
WHAT TO SEE
The Ellora Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This site is unique because it is one of the largest hand carved rock-cut monastery caves in the entire world. The formations are created with influences from the Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain religions. The world famous Kailash Temple (found at Cave 16) is a wonder in itself. It was caved top-down, making it one of the most fascinating ancient temple complexes on Earth.
You can often see a group of monks wandering Ellora Caves. My aunts engaged in a long conversation with a group of them and towards the end, there was obviously a selfie session. Be sure to head here in the morning when it is less crowded!
Bibi ka Maqbara
Ah, my favourite spot to talk about – Bibi ka Maqbara – aka the Taj Mahal doppelganger. In case you’re wondering, it isn’t a sheer coincidence that Bibi ka Maqbara has a striking resemblance to Taj Mahal. Prince Azam Shah built Bibi ka Maqbara (‘Tomb of the Lady’) in memory of his beloved mother, Dilras Banu Begum and the best part of it all – he didn’t have to worry about any copyright issues. Because after all, it was in the family ;).
You’re probably wondering what all of this means, so let me break it down a little further. Prince Azam Shah happens to be the grandson of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Prince Shah wanted to not only match his grandfather’s creation, but also surpass its beauty. However, he did not have as much access to the treasury which his grandfather obviously did, so it turned out to be a less luxe version of the original.
Nonetheless, Bibi ka Maqbara is still an architectural wonder and worth the visit. The intricate work is carried throughout the monument and leaves you in awe. There’s also something special about seeing this site if you’ve already seen the Taj Mahal, because it carries family history. As the saying goes, ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’. I bet Shah Jahan would be proud of his grandson’s creation.
WHERE TO STAY
I chose budget hotels to stay at during part of my stay in Aurangabad, because I had jam-packed days planned for my outings. Treebo is known to be a trustworthy brand when looking for hotels to stay at all over India. When it came to finding a Treebo property in Aurangabad, Hotel Sonia and Royal Kourt had the best ratings. I also loved the proximity to tourist sites from both of these hotels. Just hire a car, and you’re all set!
I was blown away by the service at Hotel Sonia. The staff was incredibly helpful, kind and attentive. This room is one of their premium suites and I recommend spending the extra money on it if you like to have a little bit more room and comfort. The regular suites seemed to be well sized as well. As evidence shows (i.e. my makeup spill on the bed), I wanted more space and comfort while getting ready for my day.
I also loved the entrance at Hotel Sonia. It seemed like they’ve tried to create a very tropical and fresh atmosphere with fresh plants (including a succulent wall – how cute!) and the calming music all day. Major Zen vibes. It was the perfect set up for my day ahead at the Ellora Caves and all of its Buddhist carvings. I loved my time here and I definitely recommend Hotel Sonia for your stay in Aurangabad!
Ps. Make sure you check out their restaurant, Naivedya for a delicious vegetarian thaali.
For my second night in Aurangabad, I decided to stay at Royal Kourt. When I read online that this hotel has a full blown Gold’s Gym establishment, I didn’t have to even think twice before booking. I spent my morning getting an intense training session from one of the personal trainers here and, WOW. It felt amazing and it had me wishing I could move to Aurangabad just for a few months to achieve my fitness goals with their knowledgeable personal trainers.
Besides the gym, my room was an enjoyable experience as well. I had tons of light coming in and I loved the clean aesthetic. The service was super friendly and helpful – I’m sad I couldn’t stay longer!
WHERE TO EAT
I actually have a long list of places of where you can eat in Aurangabad, so whenever you’re ready to go just drop me an email. I’d be more than happy to share that extensive list with you. There are two spots that I will mention in this post though, and they are Rasraj and Harry’s Bar at Keys Hotel (a Tandoor restaurant and bar). At Rasraj, you will find the yummiest pav bhaji. Whereas at Harry’s Bar, plan an evening here to enjoy their beautiful rooftop setting. Every item on their menu that I had was delicious. I went back a second time because it was just that good!
I hope you found this post helpful and as always, you know where to reach me for any additional questions about your visit to Aurangabad.
Ps. A huge shoutout to Hotel Sonia and Royal Kourt for sponsoring my stays. If you decide to book your stay at either hotels, mention this post or my blog name, ‘Songbird Echoes’ for a discount on your stay.