India: Temples & Tigers in Khajuraho
Did you have to look up the destination?! Yeah… Me too. I’d never heard of Khajuraho either, but I had heard about the ‘sexy’ temples. It looked like a quiet and rural area of India so a perfect stop. Find about what we found when we went in search of temples and tigers in Khajuraho.
I know some people wonder how we choose our destinations. Well this one was simple. A place to stop, it needs to be quiet, calm and en route to Rajasthan…. Khajuraho ticked all those boxes. It’s a town which has been created around some ancient, sexy, temples which sounded intriguing. But we also realised we could go Tiger spotting in the area too.
So we checked it out… And glad we did!
Where to stay
As Khajuraho has been created more recently, most of the hotel options were large resorts with spa facilties. After the craziness of Varanasi I needed something a little calmer and so we opted to book a homestay, Premier Homestay, through booking.com. The house was situated outside the town surrounded by Indian farmland. It was so lovely and so nice to be somewhere so rural.
We were staying in a lovely & comfortable 2-bed room. There was an open roof top area, a courtyard and a small grass lawn.
The homestay also served it’s own food – although it was cheap you did have to wait while they ran to the shop to get the ingredients! We didn’t mind though and the food which we did have was nice.
The key part was the owners who went out of their way and showed such kindness. We were even invited to join in with a party which had been organised for some Yoga students.
The boys even helped with the kitchen preparation! It was great to have some atmosphere at the end of our stay.
Now to get this kind of peaceful and relaxing place it meant we were a little out of the way. During the daytime it was fine as it was light, but come nighttime it made it difficult to get out.
However, the homestay did have a tuk tuk that they would use to take you into town and if you phoned they would pick you up too. Each ride was Rs 150 so not too high.
Where to eat
Obviously our homestay had a small kitchen and nice menu. But there are a few eateries in the main town area, our favourite by far was:
Raja Cafe – this restaurant was positioned well in front of the Khajuraho temples. It had a balcony area and a nice ambience. It offered a large and varied menu and whilst it was beyond our usually budget we were all getting back to full health and our appetites came with it.
So it was just nice to enjoy some good decent food. The boys particularly enjoyed having pizzas for the first time in a long time. Delicious and a very busy place which served beers too!
African restaurant – we were looking for a cheap lunch place. I can’t remember the name, but it was opposite the ItalianI below. It was a very simple and rustic place – cheap too! The food was a little slow coming out but good.
La Bella Italia – for some reason there seemed to be a few Italian themed restaurants around here!? But this one was the first who had a server who suggested to be Italian. We are still in discussion on whether his ascent was real 😂😂.
We stopped here one lunchtime and ordered a couple of pasta dishes which were fresh and tasted ok. The restaurant was a little dated though and was a little dark outside. There was some outdoor seating, but too hot during the midday heat. It seemed to be quite a popular choice.
Things to do in Khajuraho
Western group of temples
The main attraction in Khajuraho is the Western group of temples! The temples are set in beautiful gardens and a great place for the boys to roam around. There were also numerous seats and shelter areas.
The cost of entry is Rs 600 for westerners. Kids are free!
Within the Western temples there are a number of sites for you to explore.
The kids were oblivious to some of what they were seeing, aside from the ‘big boobies’ which caused a few giggles!
For the most part it was all about the intricate detail of the carvings! But every not and again I couldn’t help but say ‘oh my’. It was a little graphic in places, ha ha!
We spent a couple of hours before sunset exploring the area and the kids enjoyed running around (although you can’t go on the grass!!). However, the gates close at sunset. Which means you miss the best pictures!
We started to leave as late as we could before security blew their whistles and ushered us out.
Panna national park
We couldn’t come to India and not go searching for Tigers! Unfortunately we weren’t in the right drain for sightings, but we had our fingers crossed! I can’t remember how much we paid, I think it was around £35 for half a day. This included a driver, an hour’s drive to the park and a 3 hour Safari drive.
Panna is home to the king of the jungles- the royal tigers (Panthera tigris) along with his fellow beings leopard (Panthera pardus), wild dog (Cuon alpinus), wolf (Canis lupus), hyaena (Hyaena hyaena), caracal (Felus caracal) and other smaller cats.
If you wanted longer you could include the waterfalls further away. There was also an option for us to stop at a restaurant treehouse, but unfortunately there was confusion with the driver regarding this and as he didn’t speak great English we missed this!
We left our accommodation at 5am to get to the park before sunrise. Make sure you wrap up warm because it is very cold!! Unlike Africa you didn’t get blankets.
There were quite a few cars, but it wasn’t overly busy. The guide who we picked up at the gate have some direction to the animals we were seeing. But it was mainly deers and birds.
Several times we stopped to listen for noises or look for tracks. The boys were enjoying it regardless.
We were nearing the end of our time when the guide sat intently listening to the deer calls. Before we knew it we were zooming in a different direction. There were a string of cars (always a good sign!) And then we spotted it… A leopard! A HUGE male leopard. Wow!
The boys were so excited!
Exploring the town
But as we were based further outside the town we had a chance to roam more.
I particularly enjoyed our ramble through the fields to the nearby temple ruins.
The Raju cafe was a great place to stop for good food or drinks and soak up the view from its terraced area.
If you are into yoga there is an intense course which takes place not far from here. We only know this because we met the students at their after school party!
There isn’t a huge amount to do around the area but it was nice to feel like we were in rural India. We took the time to explore the paths around the farmland and see local life.
The highlight is definitely the western temples of Khajuraho. The eastern temples (once we found them), weren’t as impressive.
But it was just nice! India requires all your energy and I felt that Khajuraho was a chance to recharge our batteries. The homestay itself (with lovely staff) was a welcome change.
I’d highly recommend a stopover if you are in the area. If you are in India for longer then enjoy a few days just enjoying the slower pace of life here!