Planning for a relaxed weekend break somewhere in Maharashtra? I am sure, you would again be stuck on same old destinations, Mahabaleshwar, Lonavala, Khandala, Panchgani and Alibaug. But, do you know, that besides these conventional tourist destinations, which have been engulfed by overcrowding and commercialization over the past few years, Maharashtra has a lot more scenic and peaceful places that can leave you completely invigorated and recharged after a hectic weekend? If “No”, here is a list of top 12 less explored destinations in Maharashtra, just for you, where you can enjoy a great holiday time with friends and families, relaxing, lazing and engaging in all those activities that prove to be a stress buster for you. So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head to a place where you have never been before.
Originating from the tiny hamlet of Bhira, about 160 km. from Mumbai, ‘Kundalika’ is a small yet pristine river that winds its way through thick forests and rice fields nestled amidst the beautiful Sahayadri Ranges. On its way to the Arabian Sea, where it eventually ends, it is fed by the overflowing waters of various dams and hydroelectric projects of the region that make it ideal for numerous adventure sports, attracting hundreds of adventure freaks from the nearby towns especially over weekends. Needless to say, the river is a heaven for river rafters as the gushing waters released from the dams create perfect rapids to enjoy this adventure sport to the fullest; as you brave through the strong currents with your rafts toppling and turning over occasionally, you are sure to get that enthralling feel of adrenaline rushing through your veins.
What further adds to the charm of the whole rafting experience at Kundalika is the fun of camping on the shores of the river, with thick jungles around and sounds of birds and reptiles echoing in the air; just put the campfire on, cook a delicious bar-be-cue meal and spend a night partying with your friends under the moonlit sky and rest assured, you are certainly going to cherish these fun-filled memories of your rafting cum camping experience for the lifetime.
For those who are still left with some more cravings for an extra dose of fun and adventure, there are other amazing activities too to quench your thirsts; while kayaking and river crossing is something you may have attempted earlier, try your hands at a more offbeat and rare sport of waterfall rappelling that is sure to set your pulse racing at a tremendous speed; as you rappel down the rocky projections of the hanging cliffs amidst the picturesque Sahayadri Ranges with a torrential fall drenching and soaking you with volumes of chilled water, nothing can stop you from feeling in those heart-pounding moments of thrill and excitement that will long for hours even after completing the activity.
A quaint holiday resort village sitting on the shores of the Pravara River in the Western Ghats, ‘Bhandardara’ is truly one of the best kept secrets of Maharashtra. Bestowed with a wealth of cascading waterfalls, pristine lakes and splendid hills, the place, though one of the less explored destinations in the Maratha state, makes for a perfect nature retreat for people looking out for a peaceful holiday amidst tranquillity, away from the maddening crowds of the other more popular and touristy places in Maharashtra. Prime attraction of this little hill town is its serene ‘Arthur Lake’ that cradles amidst the verdant forests of Sahayadris; pack a basket of snacks and head for a nice picnic with friends and family on its pristine shores soaking your souls in splendid scenic vistas around. For a closer rendezvous with nature, plan a visit to the beautiful ‘Umbrella Falls’ that provide for an entrancing spectacle of shimmering waters cascading down volubly through a series of naturally placed rocks that give the illusion of an umbrella; with captivating vistas of hills all around covered in veils of mist and multiple hues of green adding that blissful charm to the whole scenery, you are sure to bring out that photographer hidden within you.
If you are an adventure lover, venture on an enticing trek to ‘Mt. Kalsubai’, the highest peak of the Sahayadri Ranges; ascent through slippery slopes and stone steps, marvelling on the gorgeous views of nature with small sparkling streams and abundant wildlife embracing you with open arms. Standing tall at 5400 ft. above sea level, once you are at the summit, you are sure to be overwhelmed by the heavenly aura of the place drenched in deep tranquillity and stillness; just relax for a while and take in the lovely panoramas of surrounding hills cuddled in blankets of clouds and rest assured, you will never want to return to your daily materialistic lives again. For those with an inclination towards historical explorations, can always combine the trek to Kalsubai with an excursion to the ancient forts of ‘Ratangad’ or ‘Harishchandragad‘.
Bhandardara also has in store, many interesting religious attractions for all the spiritually inclined; the ‘Amruteshwar Temple’ dedicated to Lord Shiva is by far the most famous amongst them. Considered to be more than 1200 years old, the temple is famed for its exquisite Hemadpanthi architecture that truly provides for a visual spectacle to all the onlookers. Visit this beautiful temple through a boat ride over the shimmering waters of the Arthur Lake and you are certainly going to be mesmerised with the mystical beauty of nature around.
Bestowed with a salubrious weather, a wealth of nature and a plentiful wildlife, ‘Chikhaldara’ is yet another of the picturesque yet less explored places in Maharashtra. The lovely hill town lies on the plateau in the Satpura Ranges of the Vidarbha region and makes for an idealistic choice for a weekend holiday destination for nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and adventure freaks alike. The peaceful hamlet, untouched and unspoilt from the signs of urbanization, is replete with a number of enchanting waterfalls and lakes that certainly provide for some rejuvenation to the distressed souls, fatigued and tired of their monotonous city lives.
A conventional sight-seeing at Chikhaldara starts from visiting the famous tourist hotspot, ‘Bhimkund Waterfalls’. Associated with the legendary tale of Bhim (from the fame of Mahabharata) taking a bath in this waterfall after killing the demon- Keechak, the falls can truly be described as an epitome of surreal natural beauty; offering fabulous vistas of mist covered hills with a splash of bright hues popping from the blossoming flowers, one can spend here a lovely time unwinding and soaking in the nature’s work of art. Yet another of the scenic retreats at Chikhaldara is undoubtedly, the ‘Semadoh Lake’. Snuggled amidst thick forests, the lake provides for a perfect ambience to indulge in some interesting activities like boating, angling and fishing. A rare sight of dancing peacocks near the lake, especially during monsoons, further add to the magical charm of a leisurely evening here.
For adventure lovers and trekkers, there cannot be a better activity in Chikhaldara than a hiking expedition to the 300 years old ‘Gavilgad Fort’. Situated on the hill top, the fort is well-known for its exquisite carvings on the inner walls dating back to the period of Nizams. Also, the breath-taking vistas of the lush expanses of forests from this fort are just beyond description and are sure to leave you spell-bound with their serene beauty.
While there are many more interesting attractions in Chikhaldara to keep you engaged, what takes the limelight is the ‘Melghat Tiger Reserve’. Home to more than 80 tigers and other exotic flora and fauna, it’s undoubtedly, a heaven for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers. A jungle safari expedition amidst deep wilderness of the reserve, spotting some wild beasts including leopards, tigers, wild boars and barking deer, is definitely a must and surely an experience to be cherished for the lifetime.
Famed for being the birthplace of Chhatrapati Shivaji Bhosale, the founder of Maratha Kingdom, ‘Shivneri Fort’ located in Pune district of Maharashtra, is another of the less frequented travel places in the state that can be well explored over a weekend. A fort with a great historical significance, it stands perched atop the 300 metres high Shivneri Hill amidst the scenic Sahayadri Ranges and boasts of an excellent architecture with unique triangular design and numerous attractions to see and admire. Maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India, it is best visited on a trekking excursion from the small village of Junnar that lies 2 km. from the base of the fort. Starting from the base, one needs to climb a flight of hundreds of stone steps that traverse through 7 massive arched gateways. As you ascend these steps, look out for ‘Sri Shivai Devi Temple’, after whom Shivaji was named and the ‘Ganga Jamuna’ water tanks, which in earlier times were used for the supply of drinking water to the residents of the fort. The most interesting attraction at the fort is the ‘Shivkunj’, a recently restored room where Shivaji was born; a small cradle and statues of Shivaji with his mother, Jijabai here give you a small glimpse of the great Maratha warrior’s childhood.
To all the historical buffs! you would be amazed to know that Shivneri has an interesting past that goes well before the times of Marathas. The region is believed to have been an important Buddhist centre between 1st and 3rd centuries AD with many fascinating caves enshrining the stupas and carvings of Buddhist pantheons, still to be seen hiding amidst the hills and forests in the nearby areas. So, if you have some extra time to spare, do explore these caves and get to know of some absorbing tales associated with them.
For all those who love going off the beaten track, exploring the destinations that do not fall on a conventional travel map, the ‘Karla and Bhaja Caves’ located near the famous hill station of Lonavala, make for a perfect sightseeing destination, the upcoming weekend. Dating from around the 2nd century BC, these caves boast of an excellent Buddhist rock-cut cave architecture in India. Housing massive prayer halls (chaityagraha) and several resting rooms (vihara) for monks, complete with outstanding sculptures of Buddha and Bodhisattvas, a fine collection of stupas and brilliant carvings depicting scenes from daily lives of the then men & women on the inner walls, facades and pillars, these caves are no less in comparison with the more celebrated Ajanta and Ellora caves.
What further accentuates the charm of these beautiful caves is the lush green surroundings and couple of enchanting waterfalls, where one can take a refreshing dip, deeply rejuvenating all his senses. Needless to say, these caves are a photographer’s delight offering them endless opportunities to click a bundle of gorgeous pictures reflecting exceptional artistry and craftsmanship of the sculptors from the bygone times. Besides caves, the area around Karla and Bhaja abounds in a number of ancient forts, a trek to which leaves all the trekkers and hikers with a fulfilling experience; if you too are a trekking enthusiast, pull up your socks and embark on a short trekking trip to the nearby ‘Lohagad and Visapur Forts’. On your way to these forts, feast your eyes on some panoramic views of the terraced hills and ‘Pavana Dam’ backwaters snuggled in the lap of mighty Sahayadri Ranges.
A beautiful hill station, yet relatively untouched from human interference, Amboli, snuggled in the lap of Western Ghats in Maharashtra, is truly an ideal getaway to spend your holidays in utmost calm and serenity. Overlooking thick rainforests, the scenic hamlet abounds in a diverse range of flora & fauna and numerous scenic trails dotted with pristine waterfalls and sparkling streams. To top it all, the place enjoys a pleasant weather all through the year, providing it that perfect ambience where you can soak your souls in ethereal beauty of nature. With that been said, while Amboli can be visited any time of the year, monsoon is undoubtedly, the ideal time to plan your vacations here; with dense covers of mist & fog blanketing the hills, birds filling the air with soothing music of their chirps and a number of spontaneous waterfalls gushing through the hilly terrains, the place truly transforms into a little paradise where you can forget all your worries and just enjoy a chilling time connecting with nature. Spend here days at your own leisurely pace, meandering through hilly trails and uncovering the hidden treasures of wildlife; with thick forests in the region, you are certainly going to have a wonderful time spotting some indigenous species of animals including a variety of snakes and frogs. Needless to say, the place is no less than a heaven for bird-lovers too; watch out for bulbuls, sunbirds, hornbills and a variety of colourful parrots often playing hide and seek with you.
A trip to Amboli is incomplete without visiting the sacred ‘Shri Hiranyakeshi Temple’, which is by far the prime attraction of the place. Dedicated to Goddess Parvathi, the ancient temple is renowned for being the birthplace of the mighty ‘Hiranyakeshi River’. Thronged by many locals and tourists alike, the temple surrounded with thick canopies of forests, needless to say, offers deep solace and peace to the tired city-dwellers. For all the adventure lovers, the area around the temple is fringed with a number of beautiful caves that can easily be explored in day time; if you are also amongst those dare-hearts, pull up yourselves and embark on an enthralling caving adventure when in Amboli.
Being a hill-forest area, there is no dearth of trekking trails in this little hill town which undoubtedly, makes it a big draw for trekkers too. ‘Madhavgad Fort’ is by far the most popular trekking destination around the hill city and offers some breath-taking views of the Arabian Sea and Konkan region. If fort exploration is something which does not inspire you much, head to the enchanting ‘Nangartas Falls’, the pristine beauty of which is sure to make you fall in love with the place.
One of the most offbeat tourism places in Maharashtra, ‘Kaas Plateau’ is one scenic destination about which not many people are aware of. Nestled amidst the Western Ghats near the city of Satara, the place is an epitome of out-worldly beauty carpeted under the veils of vibrant hues sprinkled over by hundreds of endemic species of wild flowers that bloom in the region. Aptly referred to as the ‘Maharashtra’s own Valley of Flowers’, it’s a place enlisted in the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites owing to its rich and unique biodiversity that caters to almost 70% of all flora found in the state. Needless to say, this scenic heaven makes for a great draw for nature lovers, naturalists, ecologists and environmentalists alike who throng here in great numbers to sense and observe nature’s unprecedented work of art.
Post-monsoon season i.e. the period between end of August and October is definitely the right time to be here when splashes of crimsons, pinks, yellows and whites spread all across the 1000 hectare land, are sure to hypnotize you with their entrancing visual spectacle. As you meander through the rustic trails admiring nature’s colourful painting, also do look out for a variety of bees, butterflies and birds that add that magical touch, completing the whole scenery. If time permits, head to the beautiful ‘Kaas Lake’ that sits a little downhill from the plateau and makes for a great spot to have some rest after a tiring day full of walking and hiking.
Before planning a trip to the ‘Kaas Plateau’, be informed that owing to its extremely fragile topography, the state forest department, in recent times has restricted the number of visitors flocking here per day. So, make sure you book your tickets well in advance to avoid any last moment hassles. Also, if possible, take a knowledgeable guide along who can give you a brief information about several rare floral species found in the region.
Peacock is one bird, which I believe enchants everyone with its multi-hued beauty. Be it a kid or an adult, just a mere glimpse of this gorgeous bird is sure to bring out a big smile on his face. And when the peacocks dance with all their feathers spread out, that magical feeling of joy and ecstasy is just indescribable in words. With all that said, in today’s metropolitan cities where concrete buildings have engulfed all the green spaces, spotting peacocks has just become out of question and the only way left to see them is through bird-watching tours somewhere in middle of thick forests that lay far off from cities.
What if this coming weekend, we take you to a destination that is not only close to your city but, also offers you a great time amidst these good-looking feathered creatures? Yes! I am talking about ‘Morachi Chincholi’- a beautiful bird sanctuary near Pune, which is often referred to as the abode of peacocks. A one of its kind peacock sanctuary, it is home to hundreds of peafowls and peacocks that roam about freely in their natural habitats under the shades of tall tamarind trees; watching these birds happily wandering and dancing around with their colourful feathers fully spread out, is nothing short of a visual treat and is sure to mesmerize you with their magical charm. Besides peacocks, the sanctuary also makes for an ideal spot to look out for several other winged species too that reside here in huge numbers; do watch out for woodpeckers, babblers, robins and parakeets.
While peacock sighting is the major attraction at ‘Morachi Chincholi’ and the village around, the place also makes for a great agro-tourism spot in Maharashtra where one can relive the good olden days with source of entertainments limited to bullock cart rides, agri-farming, puppet shows and plenty of rural games. Spend here a day with your kids and provide them a chance to connect with their ancestral roots.
Situated about 200 km. from Mumbai and Pune, enroute to Nasik, ‘Purushwadi’ is a small tribal village inhabited by the “Koli tribes” known for cultivating rice and raising animal husbandry. One of the most offbeat and least explored places in Maharashtra, the village makes for a perfect getaway for those interested in getting a closer glimpse of the local culture and rural lifestyle in India. You can come here any time of the year and enjoy a rustic stay with one of the local village families who are sure to leave you contented with their warm hospitality; mingle with the family members, relish a home cooked meal and if you wish, join them doing their daily chores of pounding rice, grinding spices, ploughing & weeding fields and even collecting water from the well. In between all these activities, venture out on nature walks around the village soaking your souls in an aura of extreme tranquillity filled with sounds of chirping birds and squeaking lizards, do spend some time near the river side taking in the beauty of the place and marvelling on captivating views of the setting sun slowly dipping down the Western Ghats, painting sky in its orange-yellow hues, and last but, not the least, relive your good old childhood days climbing the trees and plucking the mangoes right from its branches, enjoying those desi tongue-tickling flavours which we don’t get to relish on, in today’s artificially ripened mangoes widely available in urban markets.
Besides a rural enlightenment, what majorly draws people to ‘Purushwadi’ is its twinkling valleys that dazzle with flickering lights from hundreds of thousands of fireflies that come alive here in the months of May and June. Once the sun goes down, head to witness a marvellous ‘extravaganza’ of these tiny glow bulbs that scatter their green glitter all over the trees, fields and roads, providing a magnificent spectacle directly out from some Disney fairy-tale set. Softly blinking and dancing together in a choreographed rhythm, creating amazing flashy shapes and formations in front of your eyes, these fireflies are sure to leave you stunned with their spell-binding magic and you would yearn to come back to this place again and again.
Located in the Vidarbha region, Lonar is a small town best known for its mysterious ‘Lonar Lake’, also called as ‘Lonar Crater’. Believed to have been created by a meteor impact during the Ice Age some 50000 years ago, the lake boasts of a unique ecosystem which is a big draw for scientists, ecologists and off-course numerous curious travellers who throng here to uncover its hidden mysteries. One of the most unexplored tourist destinations in Maharashtra, the lake offers an enchanting spectacle with its shimmering emerald green waters cradling amidst thick jungle spreads dotted with a variety of trees including date-palms, tamarind and babul. Owing to dense jungles, the area around the lake abounds in an exotic wildlife and has much to offer to animal and bird lovers; watch out for langurs, chinkaras, barking deer, peafowls, egrets and many migratory birds that flock here in winters.
A number of age-old temples circumferencing the crater, make this lake a great draw for the spiritually inclined too; the ‘Daitya Sudan Temple’ dedicated to Lord Vishnu is the most popular one, giving you a glimpse of an erotic art resembling the Khajuraho temples. ‘Kamalja Devi Temple’ is yet another beautiful attraction around the lake that comes alive during the festival of Navratras. While there are many more temples that fringe the lake, most of them today stand in ruins and provide for shelter to bats, snakes and other crawly creepies; if you wish, take a tour around and get fascinated with interesting stories they have in store for you. A one of its kind place, Lonar must definitely be on your travel itineraries next time you are searching for a destination less explored in Maharashtra.
Located in the Nasik district of Maharashtra, ‘Sula Vineyards’ are famed for starting the first ever wineries in India. Today, these vineyards cater to more than 50 wineries and are spread over 1800 acres of land across Nashik and parts of Karnataka. One of the most unconventional tourist spots in the state, you can easily plan a day trip here and spend a leisurely time in the lap of nature. With a variety of grapes hanging on the vines and a marvellous extravaganza of flowering plants adding that touch of colour to the whole vine spread, you are sure to be left overwhelmed by the spectacular scenery in front of your eyes.
After a stroll around the vineyards, head for a tour around the winery to get an insight into the entire wine making process. Main highlight of the winery tour is off-course some wine-tasting where you get to know about the intricacies and etiquettes involved with this art of drinking. End your day at Sula by enjoying an unprecedented gastronomic experience at their lavish Italian restaurant where chefs present you with an exotic menu prepared with fresh ingredients picked right from their kitchen gardens. If possible, plan a trip here in the month of February when the annual ‘SulaFest’ welcomes you with a foot-thumping music, a magnificent food carnival and off-course lots of wine from international brands across the globe. ‘Grape Stomping’ is a big surprise during the festival that is sure to elevate your joy and happiness to the next level; plunge into the grape-filled barrels with your partner and create some wonderful romantic memories crushing and pounding the grapes bare-feet.
A pristine coastline fringed with tall ‘Shuru’ trees offering panoramic views of the azure waters of the Arabian Sea and Karli River, ‘Tarkarli’, though a lesser known beach destination in Maharashtra, makes for an ideal holiday retreat for all the beach-a-holics providing them a rejuvenating time, away from the hubbubs of today’s crowded metropolis. One can easily spend here a relaxed and peaceful day, sitting along the beach side, taking in the virgin beauty of the place. And if you are amongst those who love adding some thrill to your lives, head for some scuba-diving or snorkelling experience and rest assured, you are definitely going to be left overwhelmed seeing the wealth of colourful coral reefs and a beautiful marine life that nature has bestowed below the sea.
If underwater exploration is not your cup of tea, no worries! There are many more interesting beach activities to keep you engaged; rent a bike and go exploring the fishing villages and a gorgeous countryside scenery around, take a boat ride and venture in the remoteness of the sea for some dolphin spotting experience, go parasailing over the serene beaches of ‘Tarkarli’ and witness the world below with a bird’s eye, hire a Kerala style houseboat and enjoy a lovely cruise along the pristine backwaters of the Karli River soaking your souls in deep tranquillity and serenity of the place, and last but, not the least, head to the ‘Tsunami Island’ and relish a campfire dinner right over the secluded beach – a soft glow from the moon and thousands of twinkling stars in the dark sky, is sure to add that dreamy magic to your excursion here. For those who have some penchant for historical explorations, can definitely visit the ‘Sindhudurg Fort’ that lies on the ‘Island of Kurte’, a 20 minutes boat ride from the main Tarkarli beach. Built in late 17th century by Chhatrapati Sivaji, the fort stands as a proud reminiscent of the Maratha history and provides you with some breath-taking views of the shimmering blue Arabian Sea.
While Panchgani, Lonavala, Khandala are all time favourite weekend escapades for people living in Maharashtra, this holiday season, venture on a path relatively less travelled and treat your senses with some offbeat yet soul-soothing places scattered around the Maratha state. Do contact us in case you need some more information about the destinations listed above.