Getting There & Away
By Air -- It's most convenient to fly in on your way to or from Varanasi (a mere 35-min. hop), on Jet Airways' or Kingfisher. You can then continue on to Delhi or Mumbai, or Varanasi, the following day. Note that you should stay 2 nights if you really want to explore the temples thoroughly or visit the nearby Panna National Park. Daily Jet Airways flights leave Delhi at 10:40am and take off from Varanasi at 12:20pm, arriving in Khajuraho by 1pm. During the high season (winter), these are usually pretty full of package tour groups, so you'll need to book well in advance; by April, however, the planes are quite empty. Khajuraho's airport is 3km (2 miles) from the town center; taxis operate according to very strict fixed rates.
By Train & Road -- Khajuraho finally has its very own railway station: Catch the UP Sampark Kranti which departs from Delhi (Nizamuddin) at 12:35pm and reaches Khajuraho the next day at 7:50am (only Tues, Fri, and Sun; make sure to book a 3 AC coach or you'll be delinked at an earlier station). On any other day, if you're traveling by train from Delhi or Chennai, you will disembark at Jhansi (175km/109 miles from Khajuraho). From New Delhi, catch the Bhopal Shatabdi, which leaves the capital's Nizamuddin Station at 6:15am and pulls in at Jhansi at 11:03am. From here, MPSRTC runs a bus service from Jhansi to Khajuraho, scheduled to meet the train from Delhi (around Rs 105 -- not recommended as the buses are in terrible condition), or you can catch a taxi (Rs 3,000) to Khajuraho (4 hr.). You can also rent a car and driver for a few days if you have plans to see more of the region -- note that Orchha (20km/12 miles from Jhansi) is definitely worth a stop en route to Khajuraho (Orchha is discussed later in the chapter); try to spend the night if you have time. If you're traveling by train from Mumbai, Kolkata, or Varanasi, you will arrive at Satna, which is 117km (73 miles) or 3 hours from town. Note that it is possible to rent a vehicle and driver for the arduous overland journey onwards from Khajuraho to Bandhavgarh (discussed later); this should set you back a maximum of Rs 6,000 for a car with A/C, during peak season.
Note: We cannot overemphasize the appalling state of the roads in Madhya Pradesh. Avoid lengthy road trips, ensure sufficient stops, and don't travel at night. If you must, rent the services of a sturdy 4WD and driver, and check that your vehicle has at least one spare wheel. We highly recommend Grey Hornbill (tel. 94-2530-4970; email@example.com) for travel in this region.
M. P. Tourism (tel. 07686/27-4051; firstname.lastname@example.org; Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, closed Sun and second and third Sat of the month) is in the Chandela Cultural Centre, Khajuraho. The more helpful India Tourism office (tel. 07686/27-2347; Mon-Fri 9:30am-6pm) is located opposite the Western Group of Temples. Note that the state tourism website, www.mptourism.com, as well as the unrelated www.khajuraho-temples.com, are both decent sources of information.
By Taxi, Auto-Rickshaw & Cycle-Rickshaw -- You will be flooded with offers to take you from Khajuraho's airport to your accommodations; in return, touts and drivers expect you to use their services for the duration of your stay, and will even continue to lurk outside your hotel. Make it clear that yours is a one-time fare, and stick to cycle-rickshaws and walking for the duration of your stay (average rickshaw costs are Rs 150 for a half-day trip including a stop at the Southern Group). To visit the Panna National Park, expect to pay Rs 900 for a taxi.
A Jolly Good Ride! -- If you have the legs for it, hire a cycle from the hotel you're staying at or from outside the Western Group (Rs 30/hr). Despite the tourist influx, Khajuraho is still steeped in its traditional rural ways and as you cycle through the village, making your way to the Eastern and Southern temples, you'll enjoy a much more authentic and warmer interaction with the locals (versus those who lurk outside the main temples); for directions, you just have to say your destination and you'll be sent the right way. Kids are absolutely delightful and will run after you or just wave depending on how involved they are with their own game of (usually) cricket; wizened faces smile and nod as if they were expecting you all this time; and with enough goats and cows and chickens along the way, you are bound to feel like you're in a rural idyll -- especially during sunset, when everything turns strangely quiet and magical, and with the wind in your hair and the smell of earth and clean air, you feel, for the briefest moment, that this is home.
Guides charge Rs 600 for a group of one to five people for 4 hours. You can hire the services of a guide at Raja Café (opposite the Western Group of temples). Alternatively, the MPSTDC offers a "Walkman Tour" -- an audioguide tour purchased at the M. P. Tourism counter at the entrance to the Western Group; this costs Rs 50, but check that everything is in working order before you set out. Be warned that most guides in Khajuraho are just plain dreadful. They may be fine for pointing out details you might otherwise miss, but they regularly spout fundamentalist nonsense and provide the most unbelievable explanations for why erotica was carved on these temples (one classic explanation is that the scenes were created to tell people what "not to do"). An exception to the normal drivel is Samson George (tel. 98-9317-3280), a lighthearted guy who provides savvy historical information, with explanations that separate fact from legend. If you're staying at one of the top-end hotels, ask them to arrange a guide.
Services Unlimited -- As you wend your way around town, all sorts of men and boys will try to "adopt" you by starting up polite conversations -- a pattern you will quickly recognize -- before getting down to the business of offering their services for a range of possible needs: tour guides, transport, bicycle hire, shopping assistance, advice, or a tour of the local village school. All are moneymaking enterprises of which you should be wary; best to make it very clear that you have no intention of parting with your money, and leave it to your new friend to decide whether or not to stick around.
The Khajuraho Dance Festival is held between February 25 and March 2, when the temples are transformed into a magical backdrop for India's top classical dancers, who perform traditional Odissi, Kuchipudi, and Bharatnatyam dance forms, as well as contemporary Indian dance styles. For up-to-date information, visit www.khajuraho-temples.com. Tip: Hotels get packed during this time, so you may need to book months ahead.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.