Exploring Panchgani, Mahabaleshwar and Wai
Located in the Sahyadri mountain range of Maharashtra, Mahabaleshwar is a beautiful hill station and the nearby Panchgani and Wai add more to the beauty of the hill station.
Panchgani, once known for being a conglomeration of holiday homes is now one of the most thriving getaway destinations.
Mahabaleshwar is known for its juicy Strawberries, numerous lakes and waterfalls, majestic peaks, lush green forests, ancient temples and breathtaking valley views.
Wai is a beautiful town near Satara. It is located near the Krishna River. Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi had her origins here. Today it is a small town, less frequented by tourists. That is because the maximum of the crowds goes to popular places in Mahabaleshwar. But this little town has still a lot to offer.
Owing to the popularity, so much has been written about these places atleast about Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani atleast over the internet. While planning my trip what I found missing was a proper itinerary covering all the must-visit places which can be useful to plan the complete trip. I did a bit of research on how I can possibly cover Panchgani, Wai and Mahabaleshwar from Mumbai to create a perfect travel blueprint not only covering most visited places but also some of the unexplored places including some trekking.
How to Reach from Mumbai?
For me, this trip was the part of the extended long vacation from office to spend winter and explore the unexplored Satara district to the possibility. So I set my base in Panchgani so that it convenient for me to travel Wai and Mahabaleshwar. I took a train from Mumbai to Satara, rented a bike to explore full Satara including Panchgani & Mahabaleshwar. Alternatively, you can travel to Mumbai to Pune by train and from there rent a bike to ride all the way to Panchgani which would take around 3-4 hours.
Bus: Panchgani is very well connected by road from Mumbai. The frequency of buses is quite high, and usually, bus leaves in the night from Mumbai. It will take around 7-8 hrs to reach Panchgani from Mumbai. Panchgani is located around 240 km from Mumbai and this distance is easily traversable by buses. Hence, the most preferred method of travel from Mumbai to Panchgani is by bus or private transport.
Train: There is no direct train from Mumbai to Panchgani, but there are a few stops where one can get off such as Khed or Chiplun or Satara, and then travel to Panchgani from there via bus or taxi. The remaining distance is about 30 - 40 km so that it would make for a short drive. Satara is the closest railway station to Panchgani, about 50 km away. Satara has good rail connectivity from Mumbai, Pune and rest of the country.
Private Car: If comfort is your priority and travelling in a group go for a by car. Panchgani is well-connected to Mumbai by roadways it will take around 7-8 hours via Mumbai to Mumbai Pune Expressway to NH 4 to Surur on NH 48 to Wai to Panchgani.
Where to Stay?
To avoid wasting travel time, I prefer to stay in the central location and Zostel Panchgani is the best option. Zostel Panchangi which is located around 10 km from Wai and 22 km from Mahabaleshwar. It's suitable for backpackers like us and for young couples also.
The property is very well maintained, is on a mountain slope with multiple levels and has this unique concept where the rooms are built out of shipping containers! Kudos to the architect here! As compare to other Zostel here you will find the charges little on a higher side, but it would worth spending. For a bed, in a dorm, they charge ₹ 1327.00 per night and for a private room ₹ 3599.00 per night for double occupancy.
Day 1: Welcome to Panchgani
I thought let day one more of relaxing and enjoying Zostel hospitality. But I did want to some unexplored places.
Panoramic View Sunset Point
Sunset it my weakness. So I moment I found out about unexplored sunset point. My body moved out from the relaxing and comfort zone and was ready for small hiking within a few minutes and here is the sunset video which will tell you the rest.
One of the best spots to witness the sunset in Panchgani. The sight of the sun setting and disappearing into the valley and meanwhile the sky changing colours is simply astonishing.
Table Land Stargazing
Again this is an unpopular activity to do in Panchgani. Do you should do it. Consider it just like a stroll or a night walk post-dinner. And that would be the end of day one for us. Sleep well because the real fun starts from tomorrow.
Day 2: Wai - In the heart of Maharashtra
Nana Phadnavis Wada & Menwali Ghat
A six - quadrangle big Wada (a mansion with inner courtyards) stands here at Menavali village, belongs to Nana Phadnavis - the most influential statesman during Peshwa period of Maratha empire.
During the year 1768, Nana Phadnavis built this Wada, a Ghat (steps) leading from the Wada to the bank of Krishna river, and two temples, one dedicated to Lord Vishnu and another to Maheshwar Lord Shiva. The architectural combination of a Wada - type of residence, a Ghat on the water body, and a temple was typical of the Peshwa era.
The Wada was beautifully built and stand tall with quality constructions during that time. The wooden works looked solid and pretty good even now. If rumours are to be believed then 'Mastani' (Bajirao Peshwa's love) was kept under house arrest here.
The backside of the Wada is Krishna river ghat known as Menwali Ghat. Very beautiful & scenic. This scenic location is one of the Bollywood favourite shooting locations also - Swades, GangaJal, Mangal Pandey, Dabangg 2, Bajirao Mastani, Manji
Timing: 09:00 AM to 05:30 PM
Entry Fee: ₹ 30.00 per person
Mapro Food Park (Lunch)
Before saying anything about Mapro Food Park. Mapro Food Park and Mapro Garden are two different things. Mapro Food Park is the place where Mapro has it's factory and production line in Wai and Mapro Garden is a beautiful garden in Panchgani. But for now, let's talk about Mapro Food Park.
There is also a mini-movie theatre. Would recommend this to folks who are interested in knowing Mapros history and how it all began. Another recommendation is the model railway town. This is excellent and a must-watch for kids. Tickets for this are separate. They also have an organic produce farm apart from the khakhra factory. The visit won't be completed without going to it's a factory outlet selling all Mapro products, vegetables and it houses a restaurant where you can get pizza, sandwiches, ice creams, strawberry cream etc. Special mention of the neatness and cleanliness of the site.
Since I was here for a lunch this is my recommendation: Italian Delight Pizza and Strawberry Cream with Ice cream. Even though I am not a fan of Strawberry.
Timing: 10:00 AM to 05:00 PM (Avoid public holiday)
Entry Fee: Nil
Wai Caves / Palpeshwar Caves & Temple
Now, this places is kind of a disputed place. As per the historian is places was built by the Buddhist monk but as per local this nine ancient caves is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Based on the ancient art of Vastushastra. Leaving the dispute apart these caves are must-see for its inner beauty. To reach caves from the base you need to do a small hiking of 30 minutes, but worth going. Don't follow the google map location. I have added the exact location on the itinerary page, do checkout.
Dhom Dam & Lake Camping
On the way back just to experience lakeside camping or just relax your body and mind. Try something out of the way take a night halt at Shayadris Camping or you simply head back to the Zostel. But you will miss an amazing view of a sun going down a crystal clear backwater of Dhom Dam. If you are in a group would recommend taking a halt here apart from lakeside camping you can experience BBQ at Lake Side or just simple lazy boating in the Dhom Dam. Will leave it here for the day.
Day 3: Old Mahabaleshwar
The drive from Panchgani to Mahabaleshwar will keep you on the edge of your seat and wanting more.
Mahabaleshwar Biodiversity Park
Mahabaleshwar Biodiversity Park is also known by Gureghar Nature Trail. If you are a nature lover then this is a suitable place for you. Well maintained with necessary information on trees and plant. You will feel very close to nature as you enter the 1 km long trail.
Though the path is totally uneven the forest feel and chirping of birds makes your happy morning away from city noise. The best time to be here is winters would recommend avoid the monsoon.
Old Mahabaleshwar is a historical place and a village in Mahabaleshwar. The village mostly comprises of temples and few houses. Panchganga Temple, Mahabaleshwar Temple and Krishnabai Temple are the popular ones. Do not miss visiting any of the above temples.
Krishnabai Temple is a historical ruin which is an example of culture and spiritual excellence. The classic carvings and unparalleled art made on black stone. The temple lies at the very edge of the mountain range and an incredible panoramic view of the surrounding mountain ranges and Krishna Valley.
Arthur Seat Point
Arthur's Seat is the most popular point in Mahabaleshwar popularly known as Queen of the Points. Arthur's Seat is famous for floating of light objects. If you throw any light object, it comes up again due to air pressure. Let's avoid trying it to avoid littering the nature. From Arthur's Seat Point, one can see picturesque vista having Konkan on one side and Desh (Deccan) on the other.
Other Key Attractions:
Marjorie Point: This is the place while heading towards Arthur Seat Point. You will have the valley view from a different angle.
Tiger Spring Point: This place has spring having natural cool and safe potable water. Wild Animals used to drink water here. The original name of this point is Gayatri Taake
Hunter Point and Malcom Point: Hunter Point as its name suggests was used for hunting by British Officers. Malcolm Point is a great place to view Toranagad, Pratapgad Fort and Savitri Valley.
Timing: 09:00am to 05:00pm
Entry Fee: Nil
A place which is known to have introduced Strawberry and cream's heavenly combination, but it is more popular for its Maharashtrian Thali. With an excellent ambience and it's very close to Vienna Lake.
Here are my recommendation for lunch: Maharashtrian Thali with Strawberry Milkshake.
Lodwick Point & Elephant Point
A small walk from the parking on the kutcha road completely covered under trees will lead you to the Lodwick point. There is a huge statue of Lord Lodwick situated on the site. The point provides an unmatched view of Pratapgarh Fort, the Elphinstone Point and the deep valleys.
Further ahead of Lodwick point is the Elephant Point. The extended front part of the hill looks like Elephant Head and hence the name. the point provides a 300-degree view of the nearby region.
Day 4 - Day To Rejuvenate Yourself
Just for head start carry along a changing cloth, a towel to dry yourself and some plastic bag to carry back wet cloth because today its would more of enjoying the water.
Lingmala Waterfall - Breathtaking View
This is a must-visit place if you are visiting in the monsoon or post-monsoon. From the entrance gate, one needs to walk for around 10-15 minutes to reach a point where one way goes to the main viewpoint of the waterfall and another way to a small waterfall which is safe and suitable for swimming. Both places are worth visiting if you are nature and peace lover.
First the main attraction Lingmala Waterfall. The feeling that one gets on seeing water falling majestically and gracefully high up from the cliff is indescribable.
Timing: 08:30 AM to 05:30 PM
Entry Fee: ₹ 20.00 per person
Tapola (Mini Kashmir) - A Perfect Retreat To Rejuvenate Yourself
The main attraction of the town is the Shiv Sagar Lake that is about 90 km long and serves as a reservoir for the Koyana dam, which is one of the biggest dams in the state. The lake offers various activities like kayaking, scooter rides, boating and swimming. Nestled amidst nature, it is nirvana for nature lovers.
Tapola is a perfect place for those with an appetite for adventure and nature lovers who can enjoy the picturesque landscapes around. You can also do it along with Vasota Jungle Trek. But you are not then you must do.
Mapro Garden (Lunch)
If you are hungry you can have lunch along the way back to Panchgani, but since I had my plan set in mind a little late lunch would be no harm for me.
Mapro Garden is another brother of Mapro Food Park when it comes to the food part. But it is one of the most popular eateries in Panchangi and well known as compared to its brother (Mapro Food Park). The food menu is the same - the wood fired pizzas and sandwiches with there star of the restaurant Strawberry and fresh cream. Also, you can try the free samples of Mapro candies and the juices being served here. It’s unlimited!! LoL!!
Rajpuri Caves/ Karthik Caves
Rajpuri Caves also known as Karthik Caves are located on the route off from the main road to Mahabaleshwar. The caves are ancient, and as of December 2020, restoration and beautification work is been carryout. Female are not allowed inside.
There are statues of Lord Kartik, Shiva and Ganesha. A small stream flows through the caves and a miniature pond can be found here. It is located 75 steps down the village road
The quaint little village of Bhilar, renowned for its strawberries, is now embracing its new identity as India’s first Village of Books-'Pustakanch Gaav'. The tiny hamlet is now open to the readers of across the world, opening its homes and hearts, promoting the rich legacy of Marathi Literature. Here, the villagers proudly host the literary gems of Marathi language across 25 location in the village, each of them filled to the brim with the warmth and hospitality of our incredible India.
If you want to read books peacefully and enjoy the serene and calm beauty of the village, it is a must-visit the place. With an amazing seating arrangement, silent atmosphere and homely feeling.
Day 5: Panchgani - A Wanderer's Paradise
Wilson Point (Sunrise Point)
You can kick start the day by watching the beautiful sunrise from Wilson Point. Try to reach a few minutes before sunrise to get some spectacular views of the hues of the sky. But to witness sunrise with changing sky colour you need to make a sacrifice of your sleep. Sunrise timing for Mahabaleshwar is around 6 AM and it will take around 40 minutes from Zostel to reach Wilson Point. But ofcourse you can come back relax. That how I did!
Drive from Zostel to Wilson Point road is via Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar Road, which is technically a ghat so you need to drive carefully. Driving motorcycle during the early morning with low temperature was a nostalgic moment for me and some of the scariest moment also when I had crossed the 6 km stretch all alone in the dense jungle forest.
The initial orange colour which fills up the entire sky area was a mesmerizing view and followed up by the bright orange sun. The rising of sun above the clouds was memorable and may not be able to describe in words fully
This is a small stretch of flat table land from here the valley of river Krishna can be seen, alongside the other ranges of Western Ghats. More of a sightseeing place, enjoy gazing at the valleys and mountains and the plains. Also, enjoy walking along the plain land clicking pictures and enjoying the changes in views with the change in spots. As compared to other viewpoints this place is less crowded and it's just 2 km away from Zostel.
Parsi point is a kid-friendly viewing point in Panchgani and it is known for its extensive views of the Krishna valley and crystal sky blue backwaters of Dhom Dam. It is accessible by wheelchairs and strollers.
Devrai Art Village
Devrai Art Village is a kind of art gallery, but very well maintained and displays some of the best artwork. You may buy a souvenir here, it's safe to say that they are quite expensive. Idols made in stone and brass are quite attractive. You have a lot of handicraft items too. A person interested in art will definitely enjoy the place.
To experience the whole making process, head to where the artisans work shed, but be careful the path leads through the forest where snacks are regular visitor also. The Art centre boasts of some unique brass craftwork which is the creation of some highly skilled Adivasi craftsmen and artists from the Naxalite affected areas of Chattisgarh.
Timing: 10:00 AM to 05:00 PM
Entry Fee: Nil
Table Land is the highest point of the entire region of Panchgani. It is believed to be Asia’s second-longest mountain plateau. Table Land is one of the most popular destinations in Panchgani and it will meet up to the expectations with the unobstructed views of the surrounding hills and valleys. Sunrise and sunset views from here are amazing.
It's quite the walk and I'd suggest your comfiest pair of shoes for this one. You will find horses and guides to show you around but trust me, it's worth exploring the place on foot!
Shooting Point: Table Land has to be the backdrop of various TV serials and Films too. Some of the films like Tare Zameen Par, Agent Vinod, Bol Bachchanbachchan have been shot here. And TV serials like the Mahabharata have been shot here.
Pandava's Footprints: The footprints is one of the famous tourist spot on the tableland.
One Tree Point: As its name suggests, there is only one tree point on table land. Raja Hindustani kissing scene was shot at this point.
Named after Sir Sidney Beckwarth, Sydney Point is just the place you need to go for that view of Dhom Dam, Krishna Valley, Kamalgad and Wai Town. It is a beautiful sight and this is the perfect place to watch the sunset.
Goodbye - See You Soon
Before the start of the journey, I had a little expectation from Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani. I always thought it would be too touristy. But after the journey, my whole perception of the town has changed. I agree somewhat it is touristy, but still, it has so much to explore that you can find many places all to yourself.
I can understand it's hard to take the time out of the monotonous corporate life, unsparing work schedules but when you do get a long weekend, maybe plan a short getaway instead of the usual Netflix and ordering in. That pretty much sums up my entire journey and I'd urge you to make this trip to experience what the ghats have in store for us!
Just in case: You love doing trekking here are two unexplored trekking destination easily accessible from Panchgani are Vairatgad Fort and Kamalgad Fort.
Mahabaleshwar is famous for strawberries and strawberry farms, so don't miss and if you plan your trip around Easter Weekend (March / April) to attend The Mapro Strawberry Festival were Mapro Garden offers free strawberries and you can also try innovative strawberry dishes and drown in all things strawberry while you're there.
Best Time to Visit
If you want to experience the heavy rainfall, visit the town in the monsoon months of July to September. But remember it rains heavily in the region and most of the viewpoints are completely covered under fog so you probably won’t get the surrounding views. I would recommend you to visit the town when the monsoon season is on its last legs, maybe like mid-September to mid-October. During this time, you get to experience all aspects of climate. The valleys are lush green, the jungles are still dense and the clouds are still low at this time of the year at Mahabaleshwar. Riding a bike in such weather is an experience of a lifetime.
Listen To Me:
Mobile phones and cameras are allowed inside the temple, So make sure that you do not disturb the rituals and other pilgrims.
Footwear is not allowed inside the temple.
Please be polite and gentle with the native people, because you are their guest.
It's best to dress modestly and act conservatively.
Please don't throw garbage. There is no one to collect it for you in the forest.
Horse ride on table land is overpriced like any other tourist location. To negotiated start with half of whatever they are asking. It is better to walk around for yourself.
Public transport in Panchgani, Mahabaleshwar or Wai is not that great so would advise coming with your own or private hired car. If you want to hire a private car for local transport avoid hiring in Panchgani or Mahabaleshwar. They would be quoting you 3 times what you would pay if you hire a car in Mumbai, Pune or Satara.