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Cave Temples and Fallen Empires




January 6 - 19, 2024

"I want to see the real India."
- E.M. Forster, A Passage to India


Over 14 days, journey into India’s fabulous but little-visited heartlands where a timeless pulse beats.


Led by renowned scholar Dr Robert DeCaroli, this epic tour traces a 2300-year timeline of the earliest rock-cut temples of sculptural extravagance: Ajanta, Ellora, Badami, Elephanta, and Kanheri.


From that thematic base, explore the fallen empires of Hampi, Mughal India, and Portuguese Goa, and be dazzled by Art Deco Mumbai.

Trace the subcontinent’s sweeping historical narrative through seven UNESCO sites. This tour spans ancient to contemporary, and encompasses the incredible cultural, historical, and architectural riches of this vast and diverse country. 


  • Ajanta’s spectacular rock-cut caves and fresco paintings from 2nd c. BCE

  • Ellora’s massive Kailash Temple – architecture or sculpture?

  • Badami cave temples 6-8th c CE

  • Pattadakal's intricately chiselled 6-7th CE Dravidian-Aryan temples 

  • Hampi, the last seat of the 16th c. CE Vijayanagar Empire 

  • Impregnable Mughal-era fortress of Daulatabad

  • Churches and beaches of Old Goa

  • Mumbai’s modern and ancient echoes from Kanheri to Art Deco

  • Breath of fresh at Nashik’s award-winning vineyards

  • Seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites

  • Led by Dr. Robert DeCaroli, Professor of South and Southeast Asian art history at George Mason University, Washingto

  • Five lectures by Dr DeCaroli

Optional extension: 4 days on the beach in Portuguese-heritage Goa 

Cost: USD 4950 pp double occupancy / add USD 1320 for single supplement

***SMALL GROUP min 10/max 16***


  • Led by Robert DeCaroli, professor, scholar, and researcher in South Asian Art, George Mason University 

  • Accompanied by Shila Desai, owner and founder of E.Y.H.O. Tours

  • All accommodation in select 3, 4, and 5* hotels

  • Road transport in private AC vehicles

  • All internal flights

  • All guided tours and sightseeing

  • All entrance fees 

  • All breakfasts, and either lunch or dinner daily 

  • 5 Lectures by Dr DeCaroli 

Watch Dr DeCaroli talk on trip focus

What to expect

Through the pandemic, Dr DeCaroli kept the E.Y.H.O. community engaged with his virtual lectures on the world's most celebrated historical sites. With clarity and humour, he transported us back in time for the why's and how's of ancient civilisations. Imagine being physically and intellectually immersed on location with Dr DeCaroli, with access to his vast store of knowledge that makes him such a renowned scholar. 

Image by Deepak Raj

In exciting Mumbai with its first-rate dining, museums, shopping, and UNESCO Art Deco sites, the past is never far away: 5-6th C. UNESCO Elephanta Island and the sprawling Buddhist cave site of Kanheri, longest consistently-inhabited rock-cut sites (1st-10th c. CE). Explore over 100 caves connected by ornamental waterways and deep cisterns. The perfect place to learn about Buddhist art and architecture.  


Nearly impregnable Mughal-era fortress of Daulatabad to famous UNESCO Caves of Ajanta (2nd c. BCE - 5th c. CE), among the finest examples of rock-cut architecture ever created. Get an in depth understanding of vaulted devotional spaces (chaitya or stupa halls) and monastic residences (viharas) with rare examples of early South Asian painting which depict scenes of the Buddha’s past lives.


Few structures in the world can match UNESCO Ellora, where Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism converge. Seemingly impossible feats achieved by the teams of ancient engineers, architects, sculptors, and artists who learned from earlier generations to produce marvels such as Kailashanath Temple, a massive multi-story temple carved entirely from one piece of stone. 

Image by Rahul Dewan

Switch the north's grey basalt temples for Karnataka's reddish-brown sandstone. Beautiful Badami's 6th-8th c. Hindu/Jain caves lined by mountains surrounding scenic, still-in-use Agastya Tank. Unforgettable ruins of UNESCO 14th c. Hampi nestled among mammoth boulders, hailed by medieval Europe and Near East as a marvel of abundance and beauty. Massive temples, ancient market places, and elephant stables. 

Image by Vivek Sharma

Wrap up in beautiful Portuguese colonial era coastal Goa. Stay in Old Goa for an intimate communion with ornate UNESCO churches and quaint market squares atypical for South Asia. Heritage homes, typical Goan laissez-faire, some of the best seafood in India, and a chance to explore India's diverse identities. 

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The route we have mapped is unconventional and non-touristy. Few tours strike this deep into the heartlands of India. Expect stupendous, yet uncrowded, monuments. Savour stops at towns with lots of local flavour, culture, and traditions. You will experience the real India -- genuine smiles and renowned hospitality, without tourist trappings, commissioned shopping, big box hotel and restaurant chains.  

Indian Thali

It's no secret: we are huge foodies! Every tour is infused with sampling all types of local cuisine, and no place delivers quite like India. From street food in Mumbai, seafood in Goa to thalis (eat all you can) of regional Maharashtra and Karnataka, you will be invited to partake in a safe and hygienic way of India's seemingly endless culinary diversity. 

Your Tour Leader 

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Dr. Robert DeCaroli is a Professor of South and Southeast Asian art history at George Mason University. He is a specialist in the early history of Buddhism and has conducted fieldwork in India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia. His first book, Haunting the Buddha: Indian Popular Religions and the Formation of Buddhism was published by Oxford University Press 2004, and his second book, Image Problems: The Origin and Development of the Buddha’s Image in Early South Asia, was published by the University of Washington in 2015. More recently, he co-curated the Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice across Asia exhibition at the Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution. He is also the author of several articles and book chapters. He has been was awarded a Getty Research Institute Fellowship and is currently a Robert N.H. Ho Family Foundation Research Fellow.

what our travellers say

Dalia Margalit-Faircloth, Vancouver

South India with E.Y.H.O. Tours was the beginning of my love affair with India . . .  Every day was a wonder that unfolded smoothly from start to end filled with the sense of pulling back the curtain on usual destinations  and unique experiences with local hosts and people. 

Lyndsay Green, B.C. 

Jaw-dropping exploration of a part of India beloved by Indian tourists and little known by the rest of us who focus on more publicized areas.   An embarrassment of riches! This trip will change your view of India - and maybe of yourself. It still resonates with me, five years later. 

Nancy Singer, Toronto 

Beyond memorable from the beginning! The temples were outstanding.  The colour and architecture sang to those of us interested in history and culture. The colours still explode in my mind when I daydream.  I waited 35 years. to return to India. This tour exceeded my every  expectation.

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