My Khajuraho trip happened spontaneously when I got an offer from one of my acquaintance. In general, I prefer to plan my trips but this time there was no time to do so because it was already planned. The itinerary was covering some interesting places in Khajuraho and Panna so I decided to travel with them. We booked train tickets through Tatkal service of Indian Railways.
Khajuraho is famous for its erotic sculptures on temple walls but there are so many other interesting places to visit in Khajuraho Madhya Pradesh. Panna is only 40 Km from Khajuraho and it’s a perfect destination to explore wildlife & nature. So, after a heavy dose of history and monuments in Khajuraho, Panna is a must-visit place near Khajuraho to relax in the lap of nature.
Best things to do in Khajuraho
Visit temples of Khajuraho
The temples are the main attraction of Khajuraho. These temples are divided into three groups i.e. Western group, Eastern group, and Southern group.
Western Group of temples are the grand and well maintained, that’s why most popular among travelers. Most of the temples of this group are in a compound while some of them are around this compound.
Varaha Temple, Lakshmana Temple, Kandariya Mahadev Temple, Devi Jagdamba Temple, Chitragupta Temple, Vishvanath Temple, and Mahadeva Temple are the most popular temples in the compound of Western group.
Chausath Yogini Temple, Lalguan Mahadeva, and Matangesvara Temple are outside the compound but next to the encloser.
Eastern Group of temples are spread around in the village areas of Khajuraho. Vamana Temple, Javari Temple, and Brahma Temple are the important temples in this group.
Adinath Temple, Parsvanath Temple, and Shantinath temple are important Jain temples in the Eastern group.
Southern Group of temples are also scattered in the village of Khajuraho. Duladeo Temple and Chaturbhuj Temple are the two most important temples from this group.
Light and sound show in Khajuraho
The light and sound show is the best thing to do in Khajuraho after sunset. This show can be seen in the encloser of the Western group of temples every evening. Light and show are about the history of Khajuraho, myths, and stories related to the making of these temples. The show is mainly about the Chandela kings, who built these temples and what were the reasons for making these sculptures on temple walls. The show is quite entertaining and the temples look different in colorful lights with sound effects.
There are two shows every evening, one in the English language and another in Hindi. The Hindi show is in the voice of Amitabh Bachan. The shows timing changes during the summer and winter months.
Timing for light and sound show in Khajuraho
In winter months from October to February
The English show is between 06:30 PM to 07:25 PM. Hindi show is between 07:40 PM to 08:35 PM
In summer months from March to September
The English show is between 07:30 PM to 08:25 PM. Hindi show is between 08:40 PM to 09:35 PM.
** There is no light and sound show for one week during the “Khajuraho Dance festival”. In case of bad weather or rains, they cancel the show.
** Tripod is not allowed during the show and we have to keep it outside in our taxi.
Entry ticket for sound and light show
The entry fee tickets are available outside the main gate of the Western group of temples. There is no prior booking facility for light & sound show and you have to buy the tickets on spot. The ticket cost for Indian nationals is 250 INR and for foreign nationals, it is 700 INR.
The entry gate for light and sound show is different than the one used for an entry during the day.
Tribal art museum
This is a small and well-maintained museum where tribal art of Madhya Pradesh is showcased. The tribal art museum is only 10 minutes walking distance from the Western group of temples.
The museum showcase tribal paintings, pots, masks, and terracotta objects. It is a perfect place to get a glimpse into tribal art and understand the details. We also met a couple of artists from the nearby village, they told us that sometimes they showcase their work here.
Entry is free for this museum.
Archeological museum Khajuraho
The museum is shifted to a new building near the Circuit House. There is a vast collection of artifacts, which were collected during the excavation around the Khajuraho town. It is a good place to see some rare pieces of art and a must if you are an art lover.
If you are not into history and have seen enough sculptures after visiting temples then give it a miss.
The museum remains open from 8.00 AM to 5.00 PM. It remains closed on Friday.
You can use the entry ticket of the Western group of temples and don’t need to buy a separate ticket.
Most of us get tired after walking around and want to get our self pampered. If you are into massage therapy than go for the ayurvedic massage in Kairali Ayurgram. It is an interesting place and they offer different massage therapies based on the traditional system of Ayurveda Kerala.
Places to visit near Khajuraho and Places to visit in Panna, Madhya Pradesh
Boating in Ken River and visiting Ken Ghariyal sanctuary
This is one of the most relaxing activity when you are in Khajuraho and Panna. We went for a late afternoon boat trip in Ken River. The river flows through the Panna forest reserve. It is home to long snout gharial, pythons and several species of birds.
Gharials can be easily spotted on the banks of the river and it is advisable not to put your hand in the water while boating. Ken river is among one of the most interesting places to visit in Khajuraho and Panna.
Timing for Ken Ghariyal sanctuary
It remains open from October to June. The boating in Ken river is allowed between 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM and from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM.
Boating and Guide fees
Boat ride cost per person is 150 INR and it lasts for an hour. It is mandatory to hire a guide and they charge 360 INR for one ride.
These waterfalls were named after “Pandav” brothers from epic Mahabharata. According to the legend, they visited this waterfall and stayed in the caves around falls for some time during their exile.
This waterfall is in the forest reserve area of Panna. The falls are at their best just after the monsoon in October and November. The entry to the waterfalls is from the upper part of fall and to see them properly we climbed down several flights of steps. The steps are with railings on its side. A good place to spend an hour or two.
Entry ticket for Pandav waterfalls
Since these falls are in the forest reserve area so you have to take an entry ticket for vehicles. A car or jeep’s entry ticket is 250 INR and a ticket of 50 INR per person. A guide’s fee is 360 INR.
This picturesque waterfall is situated around 20 km from Khajuraho in the forest reserve of Panna national park. The large waterfalls can be seen only in the monsoon months but smaller ones can be seen falling in the canyon throughout the year. The view of Canyon is beautiful with Ken river flowing below but it is not as beautiful as the Garadia Mahadev near Kota.
Credit : WikiCommen
Entry ticket for Raneh falls
These falls are also in reserve forest area so entry tickets and other rules are the same as for Pandav falls.
Panna Tiger reserve
This is one of the newest Tiger reserves in India and its 5th in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Ken river is the main source of water to the Tiger reserve, it runs along the park for 72 Kms. In 2009 entire population of this reserve was eliminated due to poaching. During an investigation, it came to light that this happened due to the collusion of forest department officials, unfortunately, no action was taken against anyone.
Later that year Two tigers and tigers were relocated to Panna Tiger reserve from Bandhavgarh National Park, Kanha National Park, and Pench Tiger Reserve. These tigers marked their territories and mated with tigresses. As of today, there are four tigers and around 10 cubs in Panna National park.
Panna is a dry deciduous forest and has vast grasslands which allowed us to see the different animals. The dirt road in the jungle with trees on both sides gave a mysterious feeling as we entered the park. There are monkeys on trees in some areas. The wild animals like spotted deer, Sambhar, Nilgai, Chinkara, Wild Boar, Leopards and several varieties of birds can be spotted in Panna reserve.
The tiger and tigress of Panna tiger reserve are tagged with GPS devices so guides and drivers know their location before stating safari. This makes it easier for them to spot a tiger in the jungle but if you have no luck then nothing else will help you to see a tiger. This is must visit place in Panna after exploring the temples of Khajuraho.
Panna Tiger reserve safari timing
There are two safari’s every day, one in the morning and another in the evening. There is no evening safari on Wednesdays.
From October to February morning safari is from sunrise to 11:00 AM (It is normally around 6.30 AM).
Evening safari is from 3:00 PM to Sunset
From March to June morning safari is from sunrise to 10:30 AM (It is normally around 6.00 AM)
Evening safari is from 4:00 PM to Sunset
** It is advisable to reconfirm the time for morning safari at the time of ticket booking as they change the time according to sunrise.
** It is better to reach half an hour before the entry time because forest official takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete the formalities.
IMPORTANT – Panna Tiger reserve allows night safaris in the park from Ganga gate. We didn’t go for this safari but if you are interested then check with forest officials.
Entry ticket for Panna Tiger reserve
The reserve doesn’t run their jeeps and you have to rent these from outside. The jeeps are registered by park management for tourism purpose and can seat 6 people with a guide.
Entry fee for every vehicle is 250 INR. For Indian national entry ticket is 50 INR and for foreign travelers its 500 INR. Entry tickets can be booked here.
DSLR camera ticket is 40 INR and for videography its 200 INR.
A Jeep with permit and entry tickets costs 1,500 to 1,600 INR.
A night jeep safari costs 1,800 INR.
Panna Diamond mines
The Diamond mines in Panna are managed by National Mineral Development Corporation of Government of India. These mines are spread in an area of 80 Km. During a tour to Panna mines, you can see ores being crushed, screened, jiggled and diamonds are handpicked from the concentrate. While to be honest, now there are very few diamonds. This tour is more about understanding the mining process and get the feel of mines. Take a tour and the tours will take you to Diamond Cutting factory and also for sightseeing at Brihaspati Kund.
Other than official mining, NMDC lease, the small land patches of 8×8 meters to prospective miners at a nominal price. These land patches are used for shallow mining. In 2018, two poor labors decided to try their luck and leased a small piece of land. They found a 42.9-carat diamond, which was sold for 2.35 crore INR (3.5 Million USD). This story inspired many people to try their luck.
** Take the tour of Panna diamond mines with a tour company otherwise, you would be lost and can’t see properly. You need a full day for the tour of Panna diamond mines.
Practical tips for visiting places in Khajuraho and Panna
* If you travel by train then make a trip of 2 nights and 3 days. If you plan to visit Panna diamond mines than add one more day.
** Most of the temples are closeby especially Western group of temples, so need for a taxi. Wear comfortable shoes as you need to walk between temples and climb stairs at temples
* Engage a guide to see the temples (the Western group of temples). The guide will tell you some interesting stories about the temples and show you interesting points.
** Stay for one night in Khajuraho and one night in Panna. There are some nice resorts in Panna on the bank of Ken river which are good relaxing.
* Go for an evening boat ride in Ken river.
** Don’t wear bright color clothes and don’t apply perfume when visiting Panna Tiger Reserve.
Places to stay in Khajuraho
There are several hostels and hotels in Khajuraho which cater to every budget. The four and five-star hotels are also available at economical prices in Khajuraho.
Headquater Khajuraho and Zostel are popular hostel accommodation for people on a budget.
Places to stay in Panna
Places to eat in Khajuraho
Raja Cafe in front of the Western group of temples is one of the most popular places in Khajuraho. Food is nice and the location is even better, you can view the temples while having your meals.
Guru Kirpa on Jain temple road, Saffron in front of Western group of temples, Agrasen on Jain temple road and La Bella Italia on Jain temple road are other popular places. Most of the restaurants in Khajuraho serve Vegan food along with vegetarian and non-vegetarian food.
How to reach Khajuraho Madhya Pradesh
Only Air India operates flights to Khajuraho from Delhi and Varanasi. There is one flight for these two cities from Khajuraho.
There is only one direct train between Delhi and Khajuraho.
Varanasi, Kanpur, Jhansi, Udaipur, Indore, and Bhopal have direct trains for Khajuraho. From Varanasi and Indore train operates thrice a week, while from Jhansi to Khajuraho there are 2 trains everyday. It is better to book tickets in advance if you are traveling in winters or during the Khajuraho dance festival. Or maybe book a Tatkal ticket.
Jhansi is the major railway station near Khajuraho and it is 175 Km. There is a direct bus from Jhansi railway station for Khajuraho, which is the most convenient and economical way to travel between two cities. A taxi will cost between 3,100 to 3,500 INR.
If you are traveling from Mumbai than Satna is the closet railway station to Khajuraho, it is 115 Km from Khajuraho. There are direct buses for Khajuraho from Satna, which are very economical though not very comfortable. A taxi will cost between 2,100 to 2,500 INR.
You can also club Khajuraho with Orchha as it’s only 170 Km.
Best time to visit Khajuraho
November to January is the best time to visit in terms of temperature. The maximum temperature hovers around 16 to 18-degree Celcius and minimum goes till 4 or 5-degree Celcius at night. It is the best time to explore the temples and open areas as the weather remains cool and sunny.
The month of February is also good in terms of weather and crowd are lesser but Khajuraho dance festival is in this month. That’s why there is more crowd and hotel tariff goes up.
April to mid-June is summer and temperature goes up to 45 degrees Celcius. It becomes unbearably hot during this time.
July and August is the peak monsoon season, though temperature remains around 30 to 35 degrees while due to humidity, it feels 40 degrees. It rains heaviness during this time, which makes it difficult to go out and explore temples. Moreover, Panna tiger reserve remains closed during monsoon months.
I like shoulder season which is March and September to October. Though it’s a bit warmer and the temperature remains around 30-degree Celcius during the day. The main advantage is that it is comparatively less crowd so its easier to explore.
These are some of the best things to do in Khajuraho and Panna during a short trip based on my personal experience.