Mahabaleshwar in India is a very popular tourist spot. It is unlikely for anybody to not like this hill station especially the Mumbaiker(people from Mumbai) and the Punaikar (Pune peeps). People from all over India love visiting this small town for its hills, strawberry farms, and lakes. The breathtaking valley views and lush green forests woo the tourists to visit repeatedly. It is popular for a weekend trip from Mumbai and Pune. Maybe taking a long journey to just visit this place is not that good of an idea, since two days are good enough for touring Mahabaleshwar. But anyone planning to explore Maharashtra should surely visit this refreshing town.
Mahabaleshwar has a good range of hotels and resorts to choose from. There are a few hotels which boast of being completely vegetarian drawing huge crowd for its delectable cuisine. I had a particular resort in mind when I was deciding to book for my stay- as I had heard many good reviews about this place.
We booked ourselves at Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resorts and Spa for a day.
Reaching Mahabaleshwar from Pune can take around 2.5 hours to 3 hours of driving. There are many buses available from Mumbai and Pune that will reach you to your destination. But I prefer car because it allows you to take a few stops to appreciate the beautiful valleys on the way. You will also find many tea stalls, sugar cane juice stalls and misal corners to refresh ourselves in this scenic way to Mahabi.
We reached the resort around 4 pm and the check-in time was 3 pm.
I liked the small and smart reception area of this place as unlike other luxurious resorts, this place saved a lot of dead or wasted area normally allocated to a reception area or lobby. Nestled in an extensive area of 27 acres of land, they have taken utmost care to prevent cutting trees for the construction, which was clearly visible. In fact they have constructed villas taking in consideration the trees around and have not cut them down for any infrastructure development. We were told that a forest official regularly conducts check up of the trees and vegetation in the area.
We were taken to our villa in an electrical vehicle. While on this small journey towards our one day abode, I couldn’t help but notice how artistic elements peppered around adorned the vast space with their simplistic designs and added meaning to the ambiance. The cobble stoned lanes covered in the shades of the trees twisted and turned before we reached our villa.
The villa was surrounded by trees and flowery shrubs. The room was well equipped with the latest amenities and so was the bathroom. Our room had a small balcony facing the dense green vegetation.
Since we were famished after the long drive, we decided to have our dinner at Chingari restaurant in the vicinity. The spread of food available was vast and it took some time for us to decide what to put on our plates. After having grilled veggies and a bowl of delicious soup we were all set for a good night sleep. Since our trek to Helen’s point was scheduled early the next morning, we decided to call it early.
We woke up reinvigorated the next morning after a deep slumber all set for our trek with Ajay-our guide. It is imperative for me to have local guides on any trek or tours, national or international. They are the ones who take you in the world of the local forests, flora and fauna, the locals socio-economics , their everyday routine as well as the food culture.
The walk was not an arduous one as it was more of a descending trek. The trail was indigenous with the path covered with foliage and in a few places we found tree roots across the trails which we hopped and skipped over. Fun!! We crossed a small stream which according to our guide becomes a full fledged gushing river in monsoon season. You will find rich red soil all over the town and hence the dense vegetation. Our shoes were already red but we were not complaining. Next we came across termite hills and a batch of wild mushrooms.
Somehow I couldn’t help but remember a similar trek taken in Lonavala region about which I have previously blogged ….read A Weekend In Luxury And Nature
After our exhilarating walk we finally reached the destination to witness an exotic panorama complete with a valley enveloped in mammoth mountains, a hamlet inhabited by 40-50 families, a beautiful yellow temple atop a mountain and the clear blue sky embracing all of this. The mountains have an enigmatic effect on you – you become calm and quiet. We were so captivated by the picturesque landscape in sight that we perched there in silence for the next hour before our guide initiated a talk about the place.
The little village was known as Haley village and it was named so during the British Raj by the Brits. It could be accessed from the other side and there was a road constructed for transportation of goods and people. He informed that the temple nestled far of in the mountains was Janni Mata temple and it did not have any idol, instead there was a rock inside for worship. The locals regularly offered prayers there.
We start our return journey but through a different route which took us to the temple in just a few minutes.
Later we went to an impressive place which is very conspicuous to Mahabaleshwar – Strawberry Farm
Strawberry farms are a major attraction here. Strawberry picking is a relatively newer concept but buying strawberries in Mahabaleshwar is like a ritual for the tourists. The fruit is packed for family and friends as gifts as well as for home consumption.
We decide to go strawberry picking in an organic strawberry farm close to our hotel. A mother son duo run this farm where they also grow other organic veggies like broccolli, salad greens and cabbage. Since the harvest season of strawberries was on the the verge to its end, we did not find the very juicy, red ones. Nevertheless the fun of picking and eating them straight from the trees is unlimited fun.
I find farms very theraupatic and so we decided to spend some time just sauntering around there.
Since it was time for us to leave after lunch, we decided to have an early one so we could get enough time for other sightseeing. We opted to have lunch in the long balcony of the Chingari restaurant. It overlooks an agglomeration of trees, a spectrum of different greens is visible from the lunch table. What was offset in the setting was the security personnel parading along the balcony with a stick in hand. Well, in a few minutes I witness an absolutely entertaining episode. A monkey hops from a branch of a tree which is quite close to the balcony, picks up bread from a plate and before the person knows about it, he jumps back on the tree, then to another and another one. Wow!! The whole performance just took a few seconds, and somehow we could not help but laugh over it.
This captivating lake can hardly be missed by anyone sojourning the town. You can do water activities like group boating and couple paddle boating. When you go deeper in the lake leaving the dock behind, it gets tranquil and pacific.
No swimming is allowed in the lake and wearing life jackets is safer.
The crux of every village or town is its market. It is the best place to delve into the nitty gritty of food and clothes culture of the locals. The narrow market streets are crowded throughout the year except for a month or two in the monsoon season when the town is practically closed due to the heavy downpour.
We embarked on a shopping spree of shawls, footwear, chana (roasted chickpeas) and Sarees. mahabaleshwari chana is popular for its taste and nutritional value. Nowadays you get it in many flavours. They make for good gifting option too. The market is full of fruit squashes, syrups, honey, juices and so many more thing to buy. The brands I personally prefer are Mala’s and Mapro.
The Mapro Gardens
As you start descending towards Wali, we come across Mapro Gardens in Panchgani. We can buy fruits, jams, honey, cheese, squashes and chocolates from here. There is a children’s playground to keep them engaged while you shop. They also run a vegetarian restaurant with the same name.
We were there for a total of half an hour which was spent tasting and buying cheese and honey. I bought two flavours of honey, Jhamu and neem.
At the end of our trip, there was a strong yearning to stay back more and explore more. But work called and with a promise come back soon left for way back home.
A few more interesting places to explore in Mahabaleshwar are listed down.
1. Wilson garden
2. Krishnabai temple
3. Elephant’s head Point
4. Kate’s point
5. Babbingtin point
6. Arthur’s Seat
7. Lodwick Point
8. Pratapgad fort
9. Table Land
The town is prominent amongst tourists in winters. As it gets very cold, which is not common in Maharashtra, it is thronged by guests from neighbouring regions.
Maharashtra has a range of trekking hills, vineyards, bird sanctuaries, Forts and fortresses, temples, National parks and beaches. So you can plan ahead for a weeks holiday in the state.
Read also…A Day Trip To Jadhavgadh Fort