A popular day trip from Mumbai, the Karla Caves is a series of Buddhist shrines that were carved from a hillside thousands of years ago, with many dating back to the first century BCE. Here you'll find beautifully preserved prayer halls and monasteries, many decorated with intricate sculptures of elephants, horses, and people.
Getting to the Karla Caves involves a bit of work, including a trudge up some 350 stairs from the base of a hill (or 200 from the parking lot) that’s lined with vendors selling snacks and souvenirs. At the top, you’ll find multiple caves, including a main prayer hall with a teak roof and a large window that allows sunlight to trickle in and shine onto a stupa at the rear. It's a fascinating place to explore on your own or with a group. With a guide, you’ll delve deeper into the history and significance of the site.
Things to Know Before You Go
- This is a must-visit for those interested in history and ancient culture.
- Wear sunscreen and a hat—it can get sunny and hot.
- Getting to the caves involves a steep walk up hundreds of stairs.
How to Get There
Karla Caves are situated in the village of Karla in Maharastra, about a two-hour drive from Mumbai on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. The easiest way to get here is by joining a day trip from Mumbai, which tend to pair the Karla Caves with the nearby Bhaja Caves. Travelers can also also reach the site via bus, with frequent services departing from Lonavala starting early in the morning.
When to Get There
The Karla Caves are open daily from 9am to 7pm, though they’re at their least crowded first thing in the morning, when temperatures are also cooler. Avoid coming during the rainy monsoon season, which starts in June and can continue until September; not will you end up soggy, but the steps can be dangerous when slippery.
India is well known for its rock-cut architecture like that at Karla Caves, with many of the earliest examples dating back to the third century BCE. Instead of building temples, structures were cut out of pre-existing caves and slabs of rock. There are around 1,500 such structures across the country, most of which have a religious or spiritual significance.