Trip to Panchgani: fringed by the Western Ghats, Panchgani in Maharashtra welcomes you with strawberry farms, glowing sunsets, and gushing waterfalls. By Tanvi Jain
Just a five-hour drive from Mumbai, with the scenic Western Ghats along the way, lies the quaint hill station of Panchgani. Located in the Satara district of Maharashtra, it’s ideal for those looking to unwind in the lap of nature. As you approach Panchgani, the landscape transforms. It’s visibly greener, the air fresh and crisp, the madness of urban chaos, a distant memory. And let me tell you, this was my maiden trip to Panchgani.
It is said that this hill town was discovered by John Chesson, a retired warrant officer of the East India Company, who was directed by the British establishment in the mid-19th century to look for hill locations with suitable weather conditions, and where schools could be established. Chesson found that the soil and weather of Panchgani were favourable for strawberry cultivation. With time, many European and Parsi families began to settle here, and soon thereafter, churches, schools, and fire temples were built.
Panchgani is important also due to its proximity to the pilgrim town of Mahabaleshwar, located just 40 minutes away. Known for spots such as Pratapgad Fort, Lingmala Waterfall, Venna Lake, Panch Ganga Temple, and more, Mahabaleshwar is thronged by devotees and tourists. Tucked in a picturesque location en-route Mahabaleshwar is the picnic spot of Parsi Point, surrounded by Krishna Valley and the glittering blue backwaters of Dhom Dam. This place was once a favourite spot of the Parsi community, hence the name. When here, it’s recommended to stop by one of the food stalls just outside the entrance to enjoy some authentic vada pav (a native Maharashtrian snack made of fried and mashed potato inside a bun), limbu sherbet or lemonade, and kokum juice—a Goan summer coolant drink, made of cumin, cardamom, black pepper, and sugar, stirred with the juice of kokum fruit, which boasts many health benefits.
Named after the British commander-in-chief, Sir Sydney Beckwith, who also served as the Governor of Bombay in the 19th century, Sydney Point is visited for a view of the Krishna Valley and Dhom Dam. Apart from this, the place also overlooks the Kamalgad Fort, built during the Maratha rule, in the historic city of Wai, located 26 kilometres from Panchgani. Wai is the maternal home of iconic Indian queen Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi as well as Gopikabai, the wife of Balaji Baji Rao, who served as the Peshwa (head) of the Maratha Empire. The beautiful Mandhardeo village is also visible from here, and so is the 12th-century Pandavgad Fort, located just six kilometres northwest of Wai.
Located at a height of approximately 1,300 metres above sea level, Table Land is the highest point of Panchgani. It is also the second-largest mountain plateau in Asia, after the Tibetan Plateau. It is said that industrialist Jamsetji Tata, who founded the Tata Group, wanted to buy Table Land to build a jam factory, but the European residents bought it from him for a sum of INR 2,000 (roughly USD 28), as they did not want to lose their sports and recreation point. At present, the place is packed by tourists who come here to enjoy horse riding, sightseeing, chariot riding, and the captivating sunrise and sunset views. Formed due to seismic activity, the plateau is overlaid with rusty red laterite rocks and is home to two caves—Tiger Cave and Devil’s Kitchen.
After ticking these locations off my list, I headed to Panchgani Market, where rows of strawberry baskets greeted me. As I strolled through the market, I also discovered shops selling bottles of locally-made strawberry wine. Next up was the Mapro Garden, short for Mahabaleshwar Products, for a taste of its famous strawberries (mapro.com). Bite into one, and a there’s a burst of fresh, fruity flavour inside your mouth. Being a city dweller, the only kind of strawberries I knew were the preserved kind, which is both hard and sour. But these were fresh from the farms—soft, plump, and juicy. I had to buy a box for myself.
Panchgani offers a range of hotels and resorts as tourists often make road trips from Mumbai, but I opted for a homestay. And it turned out to be one of the best decisions. My home for two days was a beautiful two-bedroom property run by SaffronStays called Verandah by the Valley. Located in Panchgani’s Godavali village, reaching here is an adventure in itself—one has to drive through a considerable stretch of kaccha (unconstructed) road, but the fatigue vanishes as soon as you step into the property.
I was welcomed by the warm hosts Santosh and Madhuri, who showed me to my room cosy, comfortable, with a big bathroom decorated with indoor grass. Filled with antiques and wooden furniture, the house sports an artsy vibe. The verandah offers views of the fog-covered valley and sun rays peeking through the clouds—I spent an entire day lazing away on a swing in the verandah, with a novel in one hand and a cup of hot coffee in the other. The living room comes with board games, books, and a TV. Beautiful paintings hang on almost every wall of the house. In the evening, I wolfed down coffee and snacks and watched as the lights at the property glistened through the mist.
During breakfast the next day, Santosh told me about the tent stays they are planning to open soon. I quickly finished my meal and followed him up a set of stairs that led to big, luxurious tents equipped with modern facilities. The height at which the tents were built offered even better views. An isolated location and a serene homestay were what made this weekend special. Not to mention its misty demeanour and warm people. But above all, it was the sight of scarlet strawberries that stole my heart, forever.
Panchgani is located at a distance of 244 km from Mumbai and 100 kilometres from Pune. Both cities are well connected to international cities by flights.
SaffronStays Verandah by the Valley is ideal for those looking for a quiet holiday. The cost of renting an entire villa is INR 17,000/USD 240 for one night; saffronstays.com
September to May.
Friends, families, couples.
Shri Kaleshwari Devi Prasanna Temple, Panchgani Market, Parsi Point, Sydney Point, and Table Land are must-visit.
If you have already taken that trip to Panchgani, share your pictures with us on social media and use the hashtag #telltnlindia.