The western region of India consists of the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Goa, as well as the Union territories of Daman and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The West of India is bounded by the Vindhya mountain chain in the north, the Thar Desert in the north-west, and the Arabian Sea in west.
The climate of the region varies between semi arid, tropical wet, and tropical wet and dry. Mumbai often experiences cooler winters, with minimum temperatures of around 12 °C. Inland Maharashtra endures hot summers with temperatures averaging 40 °C. Gujarat also enjoys a warm climate with cool winters and hot summers. Coastal regions like Goa experience fewer seasonal variations, with temperatures ranging from 20 °C to 38 °C.
The western region of India is largely highly industrialised, consisting of a large urban population, the states are also culturally varied and distinct and each with its unique attractions. Goa is famous for its white sandy beaches, Maharashtra for the bustling metropolis of Mumbai and the amazing Temples of Ajanta, and Gujarat for its wildlife sanctuaries and various sites of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization.
Maharashtra is the third largest state in India by area, and the second most populated with over 112 million inhabitants. It is one of the most important states in the country economically, as one of the wealthiest and most developed states, contributing nearly a quarter of India’s GDP. The biggest sectors of the state economy are agriculture and various industries, including chemical products, textiles, and petroleum. Maharashtra is also a major gateway for overseas tourists, and attracts a large number of domestic tourists also. The state capital is Mumbai, with a population of around 18 million, and other important cities in the state include Nagpur, Pune, Nashik and Aurangabad.
Mumbai is not only the state capital of Maharashtra, it is the entertainment and financial capital of the country, as the home of ‘Bollywood’ and the main stock exchanges, as well as the base for most major financial and corporate institutions. Mumbai also has a major working sea-port on the Arabian Sea. This bustling metropolis is the eastern equivalent of cities like New York and Los Angeles. Foreign and domestic tourists flock here for its many attractions.
The Haji Ali Dargah mosque and tomb is one of the most recognisable landmarks to the south of the city and is located about 500 yards from the shore in the middle of the Arabian Sea. Other attractions include: the Gateway of India, a 20th century monument overlooking the Arabian Sea; the Chatrapati Shivaji train terminus, a marvellous architectural stone structure built by the British more than 200 years ago; downtown Mumbai with its 19th century British architecture; the beaches of south Mumbai including Madh island beach; and the Elephanta Caves, carved out of a giant stone on an island, just a short ferry ride away. Behind the scene tours of Bollywood are also a popular activity among film buffs.
Maharashtra is also popular for adventure tourism. There are over 550 forts to visit which includes over 20 Sea Forts along 720 kilometres of coastline. The superb vistas of the western ghats host amazing wildlife and provide excellent camping possibilities. There are a host of adventure activities available including: paragliding, rock climbing, scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking, canoeing, trekking and much more.
Nature tourism is also starting to take hold in the state, with wildlife safaris increasingly popular and companies offering tours of Hill stations, like those at Lonavla, Amboli Chikhaldara, Lavasa, and many more. Maharashtra is also home to many popular pilgrimage sites including one of the holiest places in Sikhism, Hazur Sahib Gurudwara in Nanded. Hindu pilgrims visit Pandharpur, Dehu, Alandi, the Sai Baba shrine at Shirdi and Dikshabhumi at Nagpur.
Gujurat is known as the jewel of western India, it has a coastline of 1,600 kilometres and is home to various sites of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. It is one of the most popular tourist regions in the country, offering great scenic beauty from the marshlands of the Rann of Kutch to the hills of Saputara, and is one of the only places in the world where pure Asiatic lions can be seen.
Gujarat is known for its heritage and architectural splendour, with its many historic forts, palaces, mosques, temples. Many palaces and forts have been converted into heritage hotels to allow tourists to experience the vibrant history of Gujarat. Several world heritage sites are located in the state including Lothal, Dholavira and Champaner. The state is also a popular religious tourism destination with numerous temples like the Sun Temple in Modhera, the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Ahmedabad, and the Vasai Jain Temple in Bhadreshwar; as well as famous religious centres like Dwarka, Dakor, and Palitana.
Some of the world’s rarest flora and fauna is found in Gujarat, which hosts four national parks and 21 wildlife sanctuaries. The state is the only home of Asiatic lions and currently is the only natural habitat of lions outside of Africa. The Gir Forest National Park in the south-west of the state encompasses part of the lions' habitat making it a popular attraction for nature tourists. Leopards are also found in the state, spread across the large plains of Saurashtra and the mountains of South Gujarat. Other wildlife and birds found across the state in the Nationals Parks and sanctuaries include wild ass, blackbuck, bears, monkeys, nilgai, paradise flycatcher, chinkara, dolphins, and whale sharks, as well as migratory birds like flamingos, pelican, and storks. The other National parks and sanctuaries include: the Vansda National Park, Blackbuck National Park, the Velavadar and Narara Marine National Park, the Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary, the Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, the Porbandar Bird Sanctuary, the Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary.
Goa, the small state famous for its beaches and places of worship, is a former Portuguese colony. Tourism is the main industry here, with foreign tourists mainly visiting in the winter, and domestic tourists in the summer. Over 450 years of Portuguese rule has created a unique culture and atmosphere in Goa, and a distinct architectural style. Goa is famous for its churches and convents, and many of them are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, like the Basilica of Bom Jesus. The heritage homes of Goa are also a major tourist attraction. Some of these palatial homes are still inhabited and some have been converted into hotels. Some of the most popular include:the Vivian Coutinho House in Fatorda, for its decorative Azulejo tiles; Fernandes House for its architecture in Chandor; and the Menezes Bragança House also in Chandor, famous for its grandeur and collection of antiques.
The beaches of Goa stretch along 125 kilometres of coastline. They are divided into North and South Goa, with the North being more commercial and providing more low and medium budget accommodation, and the South containing most of the luxury hotels and private beaches. Some of the most popular beaches are Colva, Calangute, Baga and Anjuna, which are lined with shacks that provide fresh sea food and drinks.
Goa is also rich in bio-diversity with several National Parks and wildlife sanctuaries such as the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary, Mollem National Park, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary and Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary. Foxes, wild boars and migratory birds are also common in the forests of Goa and the endangered olive ridley sea turtle can be found in North Goa on Morjim Beach in and Galgibaga Beach in Canacona, South Goa. Morjim Beach is also home to a variety of migratory birds in winter and international bird watching tours are often organised in this area.
Mumbai is the state capital of Maharashtra, and the financial and entertainment capital of India. Many major financial and corporate institutions are based in Mumbai, as well as the main stock exchanges, and the city is the home of the Hindi film industry, also known as Bollywood. Mumbai is located on the Arabian Sea and works as a major sea-port. This cosmopolitan city is the most populated in India and receives a large influx of both domestic and foreign tourists who visit for its many attractions.
There are some striking architectural wonders in Mumbai, and a heritage walk around Fort and Colaba is sure to amaze. The Gateway to India, is one of Mumbai’s most popular attractions, an early 20th century monument, located on the waterfront in the south of the city that is built in an Indo-Saracenic style. The Taj Mahal hotel is also a magnificent building, and visitors will not want to miss the Flora fountain, Crawford market, the city’s famous precincts and downtown Mumbai with its 19th century British architecture. The Haji Ali Dargah mosque and tomb is also one of the most recognisable landmarks in South Mumbai and is located about 500 yards from shore, on an islet in the middle of the Arabian Sea. This religious site is visited by people of all religions, and by pilgrims who wish to receive the blessings of the Muslim saint Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari who was laid to rest here.
Film enthusiasts will enjoy a behind the scenes tour of Bollywood, with the opportunity to visit an old heritage cinema and take a look inside a film star’s makeup room. For a glimpse of the other side of Mumbai life, visit the slums of Dharavi, where the high-density housing and extreme poverty are in stark contrast to the wealth that exists nearby. The bazaars of Mumbai are also worth exploring in the labyrinth of narrow lanes, especially the Lalbagh Spice Market, and the Chor Bazaar for antiques or gems. The largest fish market in Mumbai is at Sassoon Docks, if you get there at dawn you can see boats bring in their catch. For something a bit different, explore the largest open air laundry in the world, the Dhobi Ghat.
In the south of Mumbai you can take a walk along Marine Drive, a 3.6 kilometre boulevard lined with art deco architecture and prominent hotels, including the 5-star Oberoi, The Intercontinental, and Hotel Marine Plaza. At the northern end is the popular Chowpatty Beach. Madh island beach is another notable beach towards the south of Mumbai. While you are by the coast, take a boat from Ferry Wharf and visit the Elephanta Caves, a network of Hindu and Buddhist caves carved out of a giant stone.
While you are in Mumbai, ride the local transport for which it is famous, its double-decker buses and crowded local trains. Visit the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, the historic railway station and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The humongous architectural stone structure was designed by Frederick William Stevens and built in 1887 in the style of Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture, to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
Aurangabad is a city in the centre of the state of Maharashtra and attracts tourists for its natural beauty and heritage sites. The world famous Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves are man-made caves that lie on the outskirts of Aurangabad, renowned for the intricate carvings in them. The 34 Ellora Caves were built between the 5th and 10th centuries in the traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. The Ellora Caves are notable for its unique monolithic vertically excavated Kailasa temple, and its stone statue of Lord Buddga. The Buddhist Ajanta Caves are 30 rock cut caves built around a gorge between the 2nd and 5th centuries, containing the rarest and finest examples of ancient Indian art, depicting ancient Buddhist life. The Ellora and Ajanta Caves are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Other famous sites in Aurangabad include Bibi Ka Maqbara, modelled on the Taj Mahal of Agra, and known as the Taj Mahal of Deccan which is the burial mausoleum of Emperor Aurangzeb's wife, Dilras Banu Begum. Daulatabad Fort, is another attraction in the city, which was one of the most powerful forts during the medieval period. This citadel built on a 200 metre high conical hill in the 12th century by the Yadava Dynasty, was never conquered by any military army, and was defended by a complex and intricate system of moats and trenches at the base of the hill. The city is also known for the 52 gateways built during Mughal era which gives it the name of "City of Gates".
The Salim Ali Lake & Bird Sanctuary is located in the north of the city. The area around the lake is popular for bird watching in the winter when migratory birds arrive for nesting. The lake and the surrounds are also a rich biodiversity hotspot as a host to a number of plant and aquatic species. During the winter and rainy seasons, when the lake is full, boating facilities are also available on the lake.
Nagpur is the winter capital of Maharashtra, known as the City of Oranges. It is also considered the second greenest city in India due to its number of trees, and as such there are many National Parks and Wildlife sanctuaries that attract tourists to the region. The main attraction of these sanctuaries are the tigers. The Tadoba National Park in particular, south of Nagpur has gained importance among wildlife enthusiasts due to the high probability of seeing tigers. Other notable parks and sanctuaries in the surrounding areas of Nagpur include Pench National Park, the Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary, the Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary, and Bor Wildlife Sanctuary.
Nagpur is also home to sites of historical importance, like Deekshabhoomi - the village where Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and thousands of those deemed ‘untouchables’ by the Hindu caste system, converted to Buddhism. The Tekadi Ganesh mandir on the Sitabuildi fort complex, is said to attract around 5,000 devotees daily from all around. Other places of interest in the city include the Maharajbagh zoo and Futala lake chowpati, as well as the many highly regarded scientific research institutions.
Calangute is a town in North Goa, famous for its beach which is the largest in North Goa. Thousands of domestic and international tourists visit Calangute, especially during the peak season of Christmas, New Year, and during the summer in May. From June to September during the monsoon season, swimming is prohibited as the sea can be rough. Various water sports are available including parasailing and water skiing.
Colvá is a coastal village in south Goa. The fine white powder sand beach stretches for approximately 2.4 kilometres and the shoreline is lined with coconut palms, that extends from Bogmalo in the north to Cabo de Rama in the south. As a popular domestic tourist destination, there are budget hotels, guest houses, beach shacks, food stalls, restarants, pubs and bars to be found along this part of the coast.
Historically, this village was significant to Portugal and served as a retreat for Goa's high society, who would visit Colvá for their "Mundanca", meaning change of air. Modern day Colvá is still dotted with ruins. The village becomes particularly busy in October, when scores of religious pilgrims come to visit Colvá Church known as Igreja de Nossa Senhora das Merces, which was founded in 1630 by the Roiz family and rebuilt in the eighteenth century on the village square.
Chandor is a village in South Goa, on the banks of the river Kushavati. This village has a rich history and was once the capital of the Chandrapur rulers, and a renowned international port where trade and commerce flourished. Remnants of this era exist in the form of the citadel, which contains a fort and temple.
One of the main attractions of Chandor is Bragança House which was built in the 17th century. This grand house is located on one side of the village square and has now been divided into two separate houses, with a common entrance. The east wing belongs to the Pereira Bragança family and contains a small chapel with a relic of St. Francis Xavier, which is a fingernail. A number of artefacts, including antiques, collected by the family over time have added to the beauty of the house. What stands out in this home is the large ballroom with a floor made of Italian marble and antique chandeliers from Europe embellishing the ceiling, as well as heavily carved, ornate rosewood furniture.
The west wing of the house occupied by the Menezes Bragança family. This part of the house contains exquisite furniture and Chinese porcelain from Macau as well as a collection of family portraits, dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The library contains almost 5,000 leather bound books in Portuguese, English and French and is believed to be the first private library in Goa. The collection was amassed by Luís de Menezes Bragança (1878–1938), a reputed journalist, famous for the part he played in Goa’s independence movement. Another famous house in Chandor is the Fernandes house, also known as 'Voddlem Ghor', which is considered an architectural marvel.
The Kutch district in the state of Gujarat is an area famous for its bio-diversity. One of its more famous spots is the Rann of Kutch, a seasonally marshy bio-geographic region in the Thar Desert that also spills over into the Pakistani province of Sindh. The Rann of Kutch is unique as it is the only large flooded grasslands zone in the entire Indo-Malayan region. The desert on one side and the sea on the other creates a variety of ecosystems which are home to a variety of wildlife, including endemic and endangered animal and plant species.
There are various wildlife sanctuaries and reserves in the Kutch district including: the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, the Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, the Kutch Bustard Sanctuary, the Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary, the Banni Grasslands Reserve and the Chari-Dhand Wetland Conservation Reserve.
Kutch is also home to areas of historical importance. One of the cities in Kutch, Mandvi was once a major port of the region. The remains of the fort wall that once enclosed the old city can still be seen. The Vijaya Vilas Palace is located on its own private beach in Mandvi and has been used as a set of many Hindi films which has increased its popularity with tourists. The royal family of the state of Kutch have their permanent base here.
Ahmedabad is the largest city of Gujarat, and the sixth largest in India by population size. The city is located on the banks of the Sabarmati River, 30 kilometres from the state capital Gandhinagar. Ahmedabad is an important economic and industrial hub in India. It is the second largest producer of cotton in the country, and its stock exchange is India’s second oldest.
Ahmedabad is famous for its architecture, with historical buildings created in an Indo-Saracenic style, fusing Hind craftsmanship with Persian style, under the rule of Ahmed Shah. One prime example is the Sidi Saiyyed Mosque that was built in the last year of the Sultanate of Gujarat, which is entirely arched and has ten stone latticework windows or jali on the side and rear arches. Many private mansions or havelis from this era are adorned with carvings. Following independence, more modern buildings appeared designed by architects such as Louis Kahn, Le Corbusier, and Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed the administrative building of Calico Mills and the Calico Dome. B. V. Doshi later set up the School of Architecture in the city.
Ahmedabad is also known for its gardens and lakes. Some of the most popular gardens in the city include Law Garden, Victoria Garden and Bal Vatika. The Law Garden is situated close to the College of Law. Victoria Garden is situated at the southern edge of the Bhadra Fort and is home to a statue of Queen Victoria. Bal Vatika is a children's park situated on the grounds of Kankaria Lake in the western part of the city, and also houses an amusement park. Kankaria Lake is one of the largest in the city. The Chandola Lake covers an area of 1200 hectares and provides a home to cormorants, painted storks and spoonbills. In 2010 34 lakes were planned for development in and around the city. Ahmedabad's Kamla Nehru Zoological Park is also a popular attraction and houses a number of endangered species including flamingos, and Asiatic wolves.
Balasinor is a mineral rich town in the state of Gujarat that is home to a popular fossil park. Palaeontologists discovered the first dinosaur bones and fossils here in the early 1980s, and since then more bones, eggs and a skeleton have been excavated. Researchers believe that at least 13 species of dinosaurs once lived here, in one of the largest dinosaur hatcheries in the world, possibly for more than 100 million years, until their extinction 66 million years ago. These finds have attracted many visitors and coined the term ‘dinosaur tourism’, as people come to enjoy the tours of the fossil park.