A city that was once the proud capital of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century, Fatehpur Sikri now stands deserted as a well preserved ghost town. It was abandoned by its occupants after only 15 years due to insufficient water supply. The most convenient way to visit Fatehpur Sikri is on a day trip from Agra. Astonishingly carved into hillside rock in the middle of nowhere are the Ajanta and Ellora caves. 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. The caves at Ajanta are all Buddhist, while the caves at Ellora are a mixture of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain.
A popular beach getaway from Chennai, Mahabalipuram is also home to the Five Rathas (sculptured temples in the shape of chariots), and Arjuna’s Penance (a huge carving on the face of a rock depicting scenes from the Mahabharatha). The Mamallapuram Dance Festival is held during late December to late January at Arjuna’s Penance. Another attraction is the windswept Shore Temple on the water’s edge.
The magnificent Sun Temple in Konark is regarded as the grandest and most well known of India’s sun temples. It’s believed to have been constructed in the 13 century, towards the end of Odisha’s temple building phase, and follows the popular Kalinga school of temple architecture. What sets it apart from other temples in Odisha is its distinctive chariot shape. The temple is dedicated to Surya the Sun and was designed to be his colossal cosmic chariot, with 12 pairs of wheels pulled by seven horses.