Tourist arrival statistics released by the tourism ministry confirms that Maharashtra is the top tourist destination for international travelers. The Ministry of Tourism of India has released a report on Foreign Tourist Visits (FTVs) to Indian states/union territories for 2011. Maharashtra, with 4.8 million FTVs, topped the list in number of foreign tourist visits, followed by Tamil Nadu and New Delhi. For 2011, the number of Foreign Tourist Visits was 19.5 million, with a growth of 8.85 percent over 2010.
The success of Maharashtra may be attributed to the campaign 'Maharashtra Unlimited' by the state department of tourism. Maharashtra is an all season-destination with leisure tours, beach tours, rural tourism and heritage tourism.
Tourist centre being created with replicas of Ajanta caves
The Ajanta Caves and Ellora caves are about 329 kilometers from Pune, and are in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra. Ajanta Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The caves date from the 2nd century BCE to the 600 CE and contain paintings and sculptures which are masterpieces of Buddhist religious art.
Tourists cannot spend much time inside the original caves, which are old and deteriorating. The concentration of carbon dioxide inside the caves has gone beyond permissible levels, which is damaging the paintings.
The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) is constructing two visitors' centres, one at the Ajanta caves premises and the second at the Ellora caves. The visitors' centre near Ajanta caves will house identical prototypes of four original caves. The visitors' centre will have exhibition halls and mini-theatres where films on history and archaeology will be screened.
The structures will be made using simulated stone face plaster and will be almost identical to the original caves, with replicas of carved columns, beams and sculptures..The replicated structures will enable tourists to spend greater time in the interiors and arrest the deterioration of the original monuments.
Currently it is the monsoon season in India, which lasts from July to September. You can plan a memorable vacation to Pune and enjoy Mahabaleshwar, Matheran and Panchgani (hill stations), or go on a piligrimage to Shirdi Sai Baba temple, all of which are near Pune. Within the city the must-see places are:
- Osho Ashram : a famous spiritual center offering courses on meditation
- Shaniwar Wada: palace of the Peshwa rulers, built in 1736
- Shinde Chhatri: memorial of the great Maratha nobleman Mahadji Shinde, with impressive architecture
- Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum: A quaint building housing a fascinating collection of Indian artifacts collected by the late Shree Dinkar Kelkar.
- Gandhi National Memorial / Aga Khan Palace: During the 1942 Quit India Movement, Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned in this a palace built by Aga Khan IV.
The hills station of Lonavala and Khandala are a mere 64 km from Pune, making them the ideal monsoon getaway. The hill stations come alive in the rainy season, with the hills & countryside turning a verdant green, numerous waterfalls, ponds and caves