Nestled at an altitude of 4300 feet, the tranquil hill town of Mahabaleshwar is not only the highest but also the most scenic part of the Sahyadri Mountains. With owing to its strategic location, its landscape offers perfect weather and a dreamy environment all year round and offers endless opportunities for the adventurous soul to explore and discover its charm. But the best time to experience the magic of Mahabaleshwar is during the monsoon, when the town is awash in rain, rendering the most luxuriant look to its surroundings. It is in this season, that you will enjoy not just the town and its offerings, but also driving up to this picturesque locale.
The Ride you Choose
Mahabaleshwar is well-connected to all major cities and towns of Maharashtra, with Pune being the closest metro. It is only 120 KM from Pune city and takes less than 3.5 hours to reach by road. There are, of course, the options of trains and buses, but if you want to experience the real beauty of monsoon, then nothing makes it better than a drive in the misty weather.
Monsoon is unarguably the best season in Maharashtra, painting the landscape in rich shades of green and grey. The joy of exploring the hills in this season becomes unparalleled when you cruise along the highways, cutting through the Western Ghats.
If you are planning to travel from Pune, you can easily rent a car. Contrary to what most people think, the Pune to Mahabaleshwar cab fare is affordable and you can keep the car with you throughout your trip, without any hassle. You can also go for tour packages and make your weekend getaway a holistic one.
The Route to Mahabaleshwar
When you start your journey from Pune, you will take NH 48, which is the shortest and fastest route to Mahabaleshwar. This road passes through small towns, sleepy villages, farmlands, and finally heads into the hilly terrain of the Sahyadri. It makes for a scenic drive, especially in the misty monsoon weather. Along the way, you will cross places like Nanded, Khed, Satara Ghat, Wai, Bhilar, and Panchgani. You cannot but stop at some of these beautiful locales and admire their rain-soaked beauty, before you reach Mahabaleshwar.
Here are a few places en route, where you might to stop, smell the air and soak in the luxurious environment.
1. Sahastrakund Falls, Nanded
Otherwise unassuming, Nanded also surrenders to the season’s charm. The Sahastrakund Fall is the most prominent and popular sightseeing of the town. The layered waterfall becomes a roaring cascade during the monsoon, gushing down a rocky plateau and yielding a wonderful sight.
2. Sinhagad Fort, Khed Shivapur
One of the oldest and historic forts of Maharashtra, Sinhagad is quite popular among trekkers. Particularly in the rainy season, the site assumes a stunning look with the dark, stone structure of the fort, surrounded by velvety foliage, and the grey sky, making the overall ambiance quite surreal. You can detour towards the fort area and walk up the hilly slopes to reach the top. It takes about two-four hours (depending on your speed, strength, and weather condition) to complete the trek. You can also plan an exclusive trekking tour with your friends, and get a spacious and comfortable minibus on rent in Pune to reach Sinhagad.
3. Satara Ghat between Khandala and Wele
This is not a destination but a stretch of road on the highway, where sharp turns and elevation makes it exciting. This particular part of the highway, between Khandala (not Lonavala-Khandala) and Wele is the best part of the highway with breathtaking views of the mountains and the valleys below. You can take a detour towards Solashi and visit the hill temple of Hareshwar, mostly for the views.
This colorful and quaint little village at the foothills of the Pandavgarh Hills is a preview to Mahabaleshwar. A few kilometers before you reach the town, you will pass this lovely valley region. There are numerous vantage points along the hilly cliffs, which open up into the center of the valley, with farmlands and cottages are cradled by the imposing hills.
The subtler sibling of Maharashtra, Panchgani is like a photograph you would want to walk into and never come out. With lakes, grassy hills and meadows, fruit orchards, dainty cafes, and beautiful vintage villas, it is an idyllic town in all sense. It is peaceful yet charming, making you want to spend some time, perhaps a day or two, in its welcoming surroundings.
6. Bhilar Farms
Right outside Panchgani and before the town limits of Mahabaleshwar, the Bhilar Farms offer a wonderful experience of the agricultural riches of the region. The farmland also offers homestays and agri-tourism, at the rustic cottages surrounded by strawberry fields, fruit orchards, and organic vegetable patches. You can take a tour or choose to stay over for a day or two and experience the real country life.
A drive through rolling hills, misty valleys, and smelling the musty monsoon air, the road trip to Mahabaleshwar is sure to rejuvenate all your senses.