Girnar Hills, Gujarat, India

This sacred mountain, which rises dramatically from the plains, is covered with Jain and Hindu temples. Pilgrims from far and wide come to tackle the long climb up 10,000 stone steps to the summit, which is best begun at dawn. Be prepared to spend a full day if you want to reach the uppermost temples. Ascending in the early morning light is a magical experience, as pilgrims and porters begin to trudge up the well-maintained steps.

The Jain temples, a cluster of mosaic-decorated domes interspersed with elaborate stupas, are about two-thirds of the way up. The largest and oldest is the 12th-century Temple of Neminath, dedicated to the 22nd tirthankar: go through the first left-hand doorway after the first gate. Many temples are locked from around 11am to 3pm, but this one is open all day. The nearby triple Temple of Mallinath, dedicated to the ninth tirthankar, was erected in 1177 by two brothers. During festivals this temple is a sadhu magnet.

Visit India Epic India Route © Monika Newbound

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