Situated along the Sahyadri mountain range of the Western Ghats, Pune is famous for being a bustling IT hub of India. The Maharashtrian city attracts software companies and techies from all over the world. By Trinetra Paul
Pune is a happening city and is emerging as the hub of young professionals as well as tourists who are nature lovers. Steeped in the rich history of Maratha rule and abundant natural beauties, there are a number of scenic offbeat places in Pune that serves as an escape from the maddening crowd.
Dotted with rolling hill stations, mesmerising waterfalls, gorgeous forts and picturesque trekking trails, Pune has a fast-paced life laced with quiet places to visit for relaxation and a breath of fresh air.
While the city offers some of the most famous tourist attractions, such as Aga Khan Palace, Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park and the National Defence Academy, nature lovers can also opt for secluded places when planning their next weekend getaway.
If you enjoy taking the path less travelled, then this list will help you plan your next trip.
Here are some of the offbeat places to visit in and around Pune
Gram Sanskruti Udyan Village Park
Offering a slice of the rural life of Maharashtra, Gram Sanskruti Udyan Village Park is one of the offbeat places in Pune. It can be called a live museum where you can witness every aspect of traditional rural life first-hand.
To uphold a very raw view of life, various festivals, farm activities, traditions and customs of village life are portrayed in lifelike structures here. The garden features traditional Maharashtrian-style landscaping and exhibits huge village borders (also known as Goan wesh) and patil wada. The entire setup has over 555 statues of smiths, barbers, farmers, village folks and others from various walks of life that give the true essence of stepping into a real-life village.
In fact, a temple where rituals are performed regularly is also present along with a Gram Panchayat with a Tanta Mukti Kendra that solves issues faced by villagers.
Located about nine kilometres from Pune at Someshwarwadi, the place is easily accessible by road throughout the year.
Located on the outskirts of the city near Lonavala, Shirota Lake is a camping site that offers gorgeous views of its calm water and clear blue sky. About 60 kilometres from Pune, it lies at the foothills of the Rajmachi Fort.
Just like the place itself, the journey, too, will make you forget all the humdrum of life. While the lush green forest on the way to reach the lake creates a serene experience for trekkers, Shirota Lake serves as a beautiful campsite that is sure to enthral travellers.
Living in tents, surrounded by rugged hills and a calm environment, the lake serves as a perfect place to lay your hat as you enjoy the cool breeze and scenic beauty here.
You can also take a plunge in the clear cool lake or enjoy a short boat ride across from the pier on the lakeside.
An ideal place to spend a night, you can also plan a weekend trip and visit the Rajmachi Fort, Kondhane Caves and the waterfalls nearby.
The best way to reach the site is to drive down. Shirota Lake is beautiful throughout the year, which makes it a place to visit any time. However, remember to book a camping accommodation and carry biscuits to feed the dogs who will be your companion through your stay.
Pristine azure waters, lush greenery and hilly terrain — Kundalika River offers all these elements in a setting of majestic natural beauty. Apart from camping in the lap of nature, you can also experience an adrenaline rush with whitewater rafting on the tumultuous rapids.
Fed with excess water from the hydroelectric projects and dams, the river is ideal for rafting all year long. Trying the adventure sport for the first time? No need to worry. Since the river depends on water released from the dams from time to time, it is adequately calm for amateurs.
However, for adventure enthusiasts looking for a more daring river-rafting experience, the best time to visit is during monsoons — between June and September.
The monsoons add water to create Grade 2 to Grade 4 currents to this 14-kilometre-long river, making the experience more thrilling. To top it all, the showers give the surroundings a fresh lustre and enliven the green cover. Don’t forget to carry towels and safety gear before heading out for the sport.
The place is easily accessible by road. Located near Kolad city in western Maharashtra, about 145 km from Pune, you can easily drive down to the river site. You will pass through forests that fall under the Bhira and Mulshi dams, where the scenic beauty cannot get any better.
Locally known as ‘Kas Pathar’ or ‘plateau of flowers’, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Maharashtra’s lesser-known flower valleys. It is home to over 850 plant species, including carnivorous plants, orchids and sprawling meadows of wildflowers along with several critters that are best to explore with a guide.
The mesmerising locale is where nature portrays its different moods. The plateau gets a different hue almost every 15-20 days as the blooming cycle of various flowering plants sets in. The monsoons, too, add to the floral growth. Offering a jaw-dropping nature trail, the myriad of colourful flowers that form the horizon and extend to Kas Lake, in the middle of the region, draw visitors.
However, COVID-19 protocols imposed by the Maharashtra government must be adhered to at all times while visiting the Kas plateau. According to the official website, prior online booking is mandatory. You can enter the site after paying a convenience fee of INR 100, while there are no charges for children below the age of five.
Since the Kas plateau is reserved forest land and listed under the Protection Working Circle, a maximum of 3,000 visitors a day are allowed, which are divided into groups of 1,000 in the three time slots of 7 am-11 am, 11 am-3 pm and 3 pm-6 pm. However, if you are planning to visit on a Sunday, remember to check the timings.
Easily accessed by roads, the Kas plateau is 25 kilometres from the Satara district. A three-hour drive from Pune via the Mumbai-Bengaluru highway will take you to this site, but you might have to park at a distance. You can also avail one of the state buses to reach the place.
The Rajmachi Fort includes a trek through nature’s trail amid the Western Ghats and offers mesmerising views of its green cover. Forget the cacophony of the city and lose yourself to the calming environs that surround the fort.
Dating back to the days of Shivaji Maharaj and the Maratha rule in the 17th century, the fort is spread over a large area, comprising deep gorges, mud trails, and rocky terrain, making it a paradise for nature lovers.
Nestled in the Sahyadri range in Maharashtra’s Karjat region, the base of the trekking route can be reached via two routes — the easier and long Lonavala side or the more challenging Karjat side.
Once you begin climbing the nature trail, you can visit two more forts in the same complex — the west-facing Manaranjan Fort at 2,510 feet and the east-facing Shriwardhan Fort at 2,710 feet.
Both forts have fascinating histories. Built by the Satavahanas and later taken over by Shivaji Maharaj in the 15th century, they have witnessed battles between the Marathas and Mughals. However, they were later taken over by the British East India Company in the 19th century.
Monsoon months are the best time to visit this tourist site, as the area takes on a whole new charm that you cannot afford to miss when visiting Pune.
Though you can drive down from Pune to the base of Udhewadi village, local trains from the city will take you to Karjat, from where an auto ride will also take you to the base. Buses also ply on the route and will take you to Udhewadi village from where it is a relatively shorter trek.
Another beautiful hill fort to visit near Pune, Malhargad Fort is located near Saswad, about 30 kilometres from the city. Best suited for novice trekkers, the way up to the fort complex from the base Sonori village is less challenging and not too tiring when compared to its other counterparts.
Also known as the Sonori fort, or Sonuricha Killa locally, this place offers a view of the Western Ghats. It was built by the Marathas to keep a governing eye on Dive ghat along the Saswad-Pune route, which also serves as a major trading line.
Although the fort complex is in ruins, witnessing its landscape is worth the journey. The remnants of the fort walls, the Mahadev temple, wells, and lakes inside the fort will take you centuries back as you bask in the beauty of it all. You can also gorge on some local street food here.
There are two ways to reach the fort. One way goes past Dive ghat. You can park your vehicle in Dive village, which is about three kilometres from Dive ghat, and then trek up to the top.
The second route is via Zhendewadi. After leaving Dive ghat, take the turn that goes to Zhendewadi village, where the locals will help you navigate the labyrinth of roads.
There are several places to visit on the way up to Malhargad Fort. You can climb up to the Jejuri temple, one of the most revered temples in Maharashtra. You can also visit the Purandar Fort and soak in the breathtaking view of the rugged surrounding.
Pune is dotted with several lakes which offer scenic views and are a great way to take a break from city life. Mastani Lake or Mastani talav, located about 20 kilometres from Pune, has a rich history dating back to 1720 AD.
Built over 300 years ago, it has witnessed events since the days of Peshwa Bajirao I and his second wife Mastanibai. Originally called the Wadki talav, the lake was Mastanibai’s bathing site and therefore, came to be known by her name. The Peshwa and his wife often came here on horseback to spend some private time together.
Later, Bajirao I built walls around this 14-acre lake that have stood the test of time. Considered a romantic site, the lake is frequented by picnickers and couples who come to spend some quality time here. The green hills and open spaces make it an ideal spot for a day trip.
An important source of water for the nearby villages, the lake is maintained by the Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA). It can be easily reached by car on the way to Diveghat if you start from Hadaspur for Saswad village. Visit during monsoons to see the lake brimming with azure waters.
Located at a distance of around 45 kilometres from Pune, Kamshet is nestled in the lap of the Sahyadri range of the Western Ghats, Kamshet is dotted with cascading waterfalls, lush green hills, temples and monasteries.
Owing to its perfect weather and awe-inspiring views, Kamshet is a haven for adventure lovers. Several paragliding spots overlook the rolling hills. These include Shinde Wadi Hills, Tower Hill, Shelar and Kondeshwar Cliff. Get an adrenaline rush like no other from this adventure sports spot, which is not for the faint-hearted.
If you wish to explore more, head to Pawan Lake where you can give zip-lining a shot. Trek a little higher to find the Bhairi and Bedse caves. Kamshet also houses several Buddhist caves that have relics of Lord Buddha, paintings and scriptures.
The best time to visit is during winters when you can enjoy clear and favourable weather for paragliding as summer months can be hot and humid. Pitch your tent along the lakeside and immerse yourself in a starry night sky.
Kamshet can be reached from Pune via road, or you can take the suburban train services. Both private and state buses regularly ply on this route.
A revered temple town of Maharashtra, Wai is located along the banks of the Krishna River. Often called ‘Dakshin Kashi’, Wai is home to over 100 temples dedicated to various deities and serves as a filming destination for Bollywood, Maratha, Telugu and other films.
The town has a strong mythological connection. It is also called Viraatnagar, owing to legends that say the Pandavas had lived with the ruler of Viraat here during their exile.
Almost all these temples are built in the traditional Hemadpanthi style of architecture, and the walls are adorned with paintings and lime-made sculptures.
The most famous temple in Wai is the Dholya Ganapati Temple situated on the riverbank of Krishna. It was built by Ganpatrao Bhikaji Raste in 1762.
Local folklores say that when Afzal Khan had set out to kill Shivaji Maharaj, a local named Shende Shastri prayed to Krishna River for Shivaji’s victory. Once Khan was killed, the river was believed to have assumed the incarnation of Krishnabai and a week-long festival takes place in her honour on all the seven ghats of Wai.
Wai is well-connected by roads. Located about 66 kilometres from Pune, you can drive down or take the state or private buses. The Lohegaon Airport is also located about 66 kilometres from Wai, and there are regular flights that ply to and from Pune.