Mahabaleshwar is a small town and a popular hill station in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The hill station is located in the Sahyadri mountain range and is a popular weekend getaway from the bustling city of Mumbai. The town is also rich in history and has served as the summer capital of Bombay (now Mumbai) province during the reign of British.
A visit to Mahabaleshwar was a long pending trip for us after staying in Mumbai for more than 10 years. The plan came up with family friends who were equally interested in exploring the lush green mountains of Sahyadri in Mahabaleshwar.
How to Reach Mahabaleshwar?
Mahabaleshwar is around 6 hours journey from Mumbai and about 3 hours from Pune. There are several AC buses running from Mumbai/Pune to Mahabaleshwar. The nearest airport to Mahabaleshwar is in Pune and Mumbai. You can hire a taxi or board a bus from these cities to Mahabaleshwar.
Where did We Stay?
There are plenty of budget and luxury hotels and resorts in Mahabaleshwar. We stayed in a homestay called Star Halts which is a 2 bedroom house. Both the rooms have attached bathrooms. The holiday home is well equipped with indoor games, television, music system and facility for a campfire. We had a caretaker who cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner for us.
There is a large strawberry farm in the backyard of the house. We bought plenty of scrumptious strawberries to take back home on our return. Check below for the availability of this property.
You can also check for more accommodation options like homestays and hotels in Mahabaleshwar here.
Our plan was to start with Pratapgad Fort in the morning as early as possible so that we don’t have to trek in the hot sun. So we had our breakfast and started early. Our caretaker informed us of a couple of restaurants on the way which served Maharashtrian Thalis (A selection of dishes all served on a platter). We decided to try one of them on the way back after our Pratapgad Fort visit.
On the way to Pratapgad Fort, there are several vantage points which offer breathtaking views of the valleys below. We could spot tiny villages with houses and temples surrounded by lush green forests.
Pratapgad Fort is located at a distance of 25 km from the city center of Mahabaleshwar. It is one of the largest forts in the Maharashtra state of India. The fort was commisioned by King Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and was completed in 1656. Pratapgad Fort is of great significance for the historical ‘Battle of Pratapgad’ fought between Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and the Adilshahi general Afzal Khan.
We parked our car at the base of the fort. The parking is free and though there is enough space the parking can get crowded during the weekends and the holidays. The trek up to the fort from the parking is easy and takes around 20 to 25 minutes.
After some 5-10 minutes walk, we came to the main entrance of the fort. On either side of the entrance were guard rooms one of which had a huge cannon. We climbed up the well-paved steps past the gates and the bastions. The way up is lined with toy and souvenir shops. There is a temple dedicated to goddess Bhavani in the lower fort. There are a lot of juice shops, toy shops and a restaurant where you can have your lunch. The shops also sold freshly churned buttermilk which is a must try.
You can further walk up to the upper fort which has a temple dedicated to Lord Mahadev. The summit of the fort has an equestrian statue of Shivaji Maharaj. There are several vantage points around the fort which offers wonderful views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
On the way back we stopped by at this handicraft village selling various kinds of handicrafts. You can shop from a wide range of bags, household utensils, wooden boxes and also Mapro products like juices, jams, and chocolates.
A section of the village was recreated to showcase the historic moments and give an idea of the life during the reign of King Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
Boating at Venna Lake is one of the popular tourist activities in Mahabaleshwar. Be prepared to expect long lines during the weekends. There are two options, you can either rent a paddle boat or buy a ticket for row boat which comes with a helper. We were 6 people including kids so the whole boat was all to ourselves with a helper to row the boat. The ride was some 30 minutes and ended with the stunning sunset view over the shimmering lake.
You will find hawkers selling fresh strawberries and blueberries near the lake. Across the street from the lake, there are several amusement rides for the kids. And on the open ground next to the lake, you will find lots of horses to choose from for the horse riding, the ride itself is for not more than 10 minutes.
Sunrise at Wilson Point
Next day morning we headed to the Wilson Point which is popular as the ‘Sunrise Point’. It is the highest point in Mahabaleshwar and is located at an altitude of 1439 m. The sunrise was definitely one of the beautiful sunrises we had ever encountered.
There are a couple of watchtowers at Wilson Point which can be climbed for wonderful views of the city of Mahabaleshwar, lush forest areas and the strawberry farms.
We parked our car and walked through the forested area around a km to reach the Lodwick Point. The path is wide and well marked. Lodwick Point previously known as Sydney Point is named after General Lodwick, the first British officer to climb the hill in the early 1800s.
There is also a monumental pole erected in the memory of General Lodwick near the Lodwick Point. The point offers amazing views of the surrounding mountains and the valleys.
Elephant Head Point
From the Lodwick’s monument, another path goes to the Elephant’s Head Point which is another half a km further. A narrow strip of land takes you to the edge of the cliff. The front part of the edge resembles an elephant head with a trunk and hence the name, Elephant Head Point. Though we enjoyed the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the valleys below we couldn’t find the spot where we could actually see the Elephant head.
We next rushed to Arthur Seat which is famous as the sunset point. Though we reached there right on time. We found the route to the point very crowded and were not sure if we would make to the point before sunset. We remembered seeing a board Castle Rock point on the way which was just 5 minutes away. Hence, we reversed our car and headed to Castle Rock point.
Sunset at Castle Rock Point
It was one of the great decisions, the terrace offered breathtaking views of the hills and the valleys, and the best thing it was all to our selves. We were amazed by the layered design on the mountain surface which looks stunning. Some 50 well-maintained steps lead to a large terrace. The views of the sunset over the massive mountains were marvelous, it definitely is one of the best scenic points in Mahabaleshwar.
There are several branches of Mapro garden but the one we visited was located in large premises close to Panchgani. It was interesting to know that Mapro is a short form of (Ma)habaleshwar (Pro)ducts. They have a well-maintained garden overflowing with bright colored flowers around the parking. It was lunchtime hence we headed right to the restaurant. We ordered pizza and strawberry cream. We had tried the strawberry cream couple of times before in Mahabaleshwar but the one we had here was the most delicious. The pizza was also tasty.
There is a store next to the restaurant where you can find all kinds of jams, marmalades, and juices. You can even try some flavors before you decide to buy. There were also soft toys in shape of fruits.
Bhilar Town – Village of Books
We had heard about the village of books from friends and through some posts on the internet. And when we planned a visit to Mahabaleshwar a visit to the village had to be on the list.
Bhilar is a small village in Satara district of Maharashtra close to Panchgani and 30 minutes drive from Mahabaleshwar. The village is popularly known as the ‘Book Village’ inspired by Hay-on-Wye a small town in Wales which is known as the ‘town of books’. It is said that around 25 buildings which include temples, schools, and private houses have accommodated a library open to the public. The libraries currently have only Marathi books and Hindi and English books are expected to be added eventually.
The location of the libraries is easy to spot. You will find colorful paintings on the walls outside the building and also signboards indicating the genre of books in the respective library.
Each of the premises has a collection of books pertaining to a particular subject like social science, children’s books, poetry, etc. We visited one in school and another in a private house and got a chance to go through the books. We talked to one of the teachers who said that there plan is open a public library in most of the houses in the village. We were very impressed with this wonderful initiative.
On the way to Panchgani, we stopped by the Parsi Point. The point is located in a small park and is reached by a small hanging bridge at the edge of the park. The point offers spectacular views of the Krishna Valley & Dhom Dam. There are hawkers selling chocolates, Sweet corn and a small shop selling vada pav and tea. We had some quick snacks while kids enjoyed in the play area and headed to our last stop on the trip.
Table Land is a flat plateau in Panchgani at an altitude of 1386 m. It is the second highest mountain plateau in Asia after Tibetian plateau. You can walk along the edge of the plateau which offers marvelous views of the valleys and the surrounding hills. Table Land is also popular as best point to view both the sunrise and sunset.
There are several hawkers selling fruits, toys, spices. The viewpoints on the Table Land can also be explored with horse riding and horse cart ride accompanied by a guide who would explain you the points.
Have you been to Mahabaleshwar? Which is your favorite viewpoint? Do share with us in comments.
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