If you’re in Maharashtra, more specifically in Mumbai or Pune, and are itching to take a break from the monotony of daily life, consider a road trip to Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani and Kaas Plateau. By Charu Chowdhary
1. Quick Guide To Mahabaleshwar:
If you choose Mahabaleshwar as your preferred first stop, head straight to Kate’s Point and Elephant’s Head Point – the most picturesque viewpoints of Mahabaleshwar. Situated at an altitude of 1290 meters, Kate’s Point offers breath-taking views of Dhom Dam as well as the trio-peak of Kamalgadh, Pandavgadh and Mandardeo.
The overhanging cliff of the Elephant’s Head Point is similar to the head of an elephant and its trunk, which explains its name. This point too offers some gorgeous views of Mahabaleshwar; exactly why you must keep your cameras handy here. To enjoy a surreal sunset, consider going to Bombay Point from where you can catch a magnificent one with sweeping views of the valleys below. Rent a paddle boat on Venna Lake, and take a walk down the main market with little shops selling kolhapuri chappals, chikki, honey and black channa. Between Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani, the most famous spot to grab a bite is the Mapro Garden. It’s highly recommended that you stop by for their variety of strawberry produce and delicious food. For local Maharashtrian fare, try eating at Hirkani Gardens.
Since Mahabaleshwar is around 19-km from Panchgani, you could use the whole day to explore Mahabaleshwar and then drive to Panchgani to retire. There are high-budget to low-budget accommodation options available there, so choosing a room that fits your budget would be fairly easy. There’s also a Zostel there; in case you want to experience the backpacker’s life.
2. Quick Guide To Panchgani:
Start the next day by catching a sunrise at Table Land – the highest point in Panchgani, situated at an elevation of 4550 feet above sea level. It is a vast expanse of flat laterite rock surrounded by hills, offering an aerial view of Panchgani and the nearby valleys. These naturally-flattened hills are a good attraction for nature lovers and adventure junkies. In fact, you can also spot the Rajpuri Caves and Devil’s Kitchen from here; in case you don’t want to particularly shell out time for those later.
Around 13-km from Panchgani, is a small town called Wai situated on the banks of river Krishna. You must visit Wai for its historical prominence; legend goes that queens like Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi and Rani Gopikabai, wife of Nanasaheb Peshwa were born here. Wai is also famed for its seven Ghats – including Gangapuri, Madhi Aali, Ganpati Aali, Dharmapuri, Brahmanshahi, Ramdoh and Bhimkund that imbue the place with a certain serenity and tranquility. Keep an eye out for numerous beautiful temples near the ghats such as Kaunteshwar, Chakreshwar, Kaleshwar and Chimneshwar.
Apart from being the land of 100 temples, Wai has often found itself to be the setting of many Bollywood blockbusters like Gangaajal, Swades, Dabangg, Ishqiya, Chennai Express and Bajirao Mastani. The highlight of Wai is the 650-kg bell, which was brought here from the Portuguese-built Vasai fort, by a Maratha general. Also, explore Padhnavis wada, an excellent example of Maratha architecture at Menavli ghat.
You can spend your second evening relaxing in Panchgani, so that you can set out early the next morning for Kaas Plateau – about 50-km from there. Also known as the Kas Pathar, it is a vast volcanic lateritic plateau situated in the Satara district of Maharashtra.
3. Quick Guide To Kaas:
Kaas is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – it is blessed with stunning biodiversity all through the year. However, more than 850 species of plants (that include pretty orchids to the wild and carnivorous Drosera Indica), bloom only in September, up to early October. What you mustn’t expect are swaying lush meadows; the flowers in the plateau don’t normally rise more than a foot. But the sight of a million colourful, tiny flowers will quickly become your favourite memory from the trip. The Kaas lake here is a great picnic spot; you can have a quick snack here before leaving for the city again.
P.S – Driving from Kaas to Mumbai is a 6-hour (280km) drive. Kaas to Pune is just 3-hours away.