|Location||In the Sahadrys at 4,400 ft, 19 KMs from Mahabaleshwar|
|Distance||265 Km Se from Mumbai, via Pune journey time by road, is 6 hrs|
|When to go||Sept to May is Peak tourist season, more crowded around Christmas and New Year|
|During the monsoon, the hills are greenest|
Gone are the days when the common advice during the monsoon was to stay back indoors. Well, the opportunity to explore the nature at its best comes alive only when the monsoon takes over at least I can say that out of my experience in some of the best of the hill stations in Maharashtra that come alive only during the monsoon.
When I visited some of these places during the summer the hills were blackish or kind of brownish but just like magic, if you visit the same places during the monsoon it turns to green, bloomed with flowers all around creating a picturesque set-up for colourful pictures.
So amongst the top Hill stations of Maharashtra, the name of Mahabaleshwar will surely be on top and in the itinerary is incomplete without the twin hill station of Panchgani.
Panchagahni and Mahabaleshwar
On this particular trip, I chose to stay at Panchaghani and explore Mahabaleshwar from there which is just about 19 km and 30 minutes drive from Panchaghani. So, we started a bit late from Mumbai around 11 am and by the time we reached Panchaghani it was 5 pm.
I had a booking arrangement for the 1st night at Parthe’s Rainforest which is a small resort located at about 1 km from the Panchgani market area. Although the rooms are not that spacious but they are well maintained and very clean.
An evening walk in the traditional market of Panchgani
So after checking in and freshened up at the resort by 7 pm, I and my wife decided to explore the local market, and it was a rainy evening that you see in the romantic movies. As we passed by the local bakeries, the fresh smell of the bread tempted us to get inside and try what they have got, and we are glad that we tried that.
The name of the bakery was Red Rose and I later learnt that it was actually the oldest bakery in the town what a lucky coincidence. There was another popular bakery cum food joint nearby called Lucky’s which was also very crowded with huge que.
By now it was 9 pm and it suddenly started to rain heavily. Thankfully the rainforest resort was just a km away from the market and we got back to the resort.
What made the stay so special at this place is that the sound of rain drops making its own music and rest everything around is silent that creates a cosy environment for you only to enjoy something like a chicken lollipop with your favourite drink inside that cosy room while peeping outside your window, enjoying the cool breeze.
The next morning when we got up and looked just outside our room, we were stunned by the power of silence nothing but the sound of nearby waterfalls, and the greeneries all around.
There are 10-12 different tourist points from where you can enjoy a range of activities depending upon your interest such as paragliding, panoramic views, stunning views of waterfalls. But, our plan was to shift to another resort on the 2nd day as The rain forest was fully booked for the remaining 2 days. So checked out at 10 am from there.
We managed to book a nearby farmhouse called Hira Baug. This was an adventure to drive through to this place and is recommended only if you are at Panchgani with your own vehicle. Hirabaug is situated in an interior location around 5 km of the main road through small villages.
Once we checked in again, we were very happy to see this bigger room with a stunning valley view right outside the window, what else do you need for a perfect vacation.
- Parsi Point- This is just next to the resort I have stayed on day 1 (Rainforest). It is a kind of picnic spot where you enjoy the snacks and views the valley and the Domdom dam.
Although the views were covered by the dense fog around 10 in the morning we still had the opportunity to enjoy the wet morning under the fresh cool breeze and to top it up the famous corn ( bhutta) to enjoy the moment. From Parsi point, we started for Mahabaleshwar.
We started towards our next target destination Cannought peak as this is the place I read about as one of the most popular among trekkers and riders too, offering great opportunities for some thrilling adventure. Looking at the time constrain we decided to cover the main points in Day 2 and certainly we were not disappointed the moment we reached there.
The plus side of this peak that I can think of is that as far as you can see, you will see green forests from the top in addition to the scenic beauty unlike the other valley view spots of Mahabelshwar.
As we walked down further towards the waterfalls and the tiny raindrops continue to pour, it was a pleasant fresh breeze and the melodious sound of chirping birds all around made the every bit of walking more romantic for us.
This fort was built in 1656 on the high cliff and surprisingly it is still in a good shape. We hired a local youth as our guide for the fort with an agreed amount of Rs 200.
As we moved up, we learned about the fascinating story of the victory of the Maratha leader Chhatrapati Shivaji over the muscular Afzal Khan who was the ruler of Bijapur and was trying to entice Shivaji out of the mountainous areas.
Now we were approaching towards the main attraction of this fort called “Punishment point”. During that time those who were found guilty used to be packed in a gunny bag and then dropped in the gorge from a height of 1,800 ft. That’s bone-chilling, isn’t it?
En-route to Mahabaleshwar
If you love driving in hill stations, you will surely love this stretch from Pratapgarh to Mahabaleshwar. It took us around 45 minutes to Mahabaleshwar main market from the fort and we were spoilt for choice with the variety of available options for the lunch.
The Mapro garden
By the time we finished our lunch it was 3 pm. So we decided to first explore the Mapro garden which is a fruit juice/squash factory and offers several flavours of shakes including its most popular strawberry.
Mahabaleshwar has almost more than 30 tourist points and Venna lake being one of the popular spots for enjoying the boat ride, cool evening breeze and so on. Unfortunately, on this day it was very cloudy and hence we planned to skip the sunset point and rather headed towards the Lodwick point which is popular for picnics amongst the small groups.
That was the 3 days trip to Panchgani – Mahabaleshwar that ended up with some wonderful memories.