Mahabaleshwar derives its name from the presiding deity "Mahabali" whose shrine at the old Mahabaleshwar Temple is a major attraction for worshippers and tourists.
Nestling in the curvaceous mountain ranges of the western ghats of Maharashtra are the cool misty resorts of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani. Away from the crowds and noise of the city, these twin resorts are an ideal holiday destination.
Several little known but charming hill resorts nestle shyly in these mountains. They seem to belong to the colonial era when people traveled up to these resorts to escape the heat of the plains. Many of them still retain some of the old world charm and make an ideal holiday destination.
Among the hill resorts of the state, Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani are very popular. Tucked away in the Satara district, they are best approached from Pune. Spared the commercialization that has affected the hill resorts of north and south India, the two resorts offer a clean, calm and thoroughly refreshing alternative. And, perhaps the only place in the country which offers a myriad activities-boating, fishing, horse riding, trekking and playing golf on the gorgeous nine-hole golf course built on the edge of a cliff!
Overlooking the Krishna and Koyna valleys, Mahabaleshwar, at an altitude of 1372 meters opens up a whole world of picturesque delight. With an air of unspoilt beauty, it is a paradise for nature explorers and peace lovers, as also for filmmakers and producers. The summer capital of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency, Mahabaleshwar retains its quintessential charm, despite the increasing crowds that visit the town. Numerous majestic mansions built during the days of the British, still stand as monuments of the Raj.
Best time to visit Mahabaleshwar is October to June and best time to visit Panchgani is September to May.
Lingmala waterfalls present an enthralling sight of cascading water as it scatters from atop a steep cliff into thin silver streaks, often encircled by rainbow colors. The other water falls-chairman and Dhobi, are popular with picnickers. The former can be reached by the Carviali Road. Dhobi waterfall is on a bridle path connecting Petit Road with Old Mahabaleshwar Road. A boat ride on the tranquil, crystal-clear waters of Lake Vena entices one beyond appreciation. The cool whispers of the surroundings add to the serenity of the landscape.
Mahabaleshwar's 30 exotic viewpoints provide one with a spectacular access to the ultimate in fascinating landscapes. Most of the points derive their names from some former British dignitary and are situated in the 10-kilometer radius of the bazaar in Mahabaleshwar. Some points can be reached by motorable roads, whereas other can be reached on foot.
Wilson Point is the nearest and the highest point in Mahabaleshwar. It is a vast bare rock with three observation towers erected at different spots. It is a major attraction for tourists as it offers a beautiful view of the sunrise.
Babington point, two kilometers from the bazaar offers a beautiful view of the Koyna valley and Chinaman's waterfall. Helen's point is about a kilometer's ride from here by the Blue Valley Road. It takes one into the midst of the valley and gives an enchanting view of tiny fields and neat little huts.
Bombay point is one of the earliest known points in Mahabaleshwar. Every evening visitors rush to the peak to get a spectacular view of the sunset. From the peak, one can also see Pratapgarh and Makrandgarh at their best.
Connaught peak and Hunter Point are situated off the Old Mahabaleshwar Road. Connaught Peak is the second highest peak of these hills. It offers a panoramic view of the Vena Lake and Krishna Valley. It was first known as Mount Olympia, and was a favorite spot for riders. The Duke of Connaught was so enchanted by its majestic view that he could not resist the temptation of associating his name with the spot. Hence in 1880, Mount Olympia became Connaught Peak.
From here one can see Old Mahabaleshwar and Elphinston Point to the north; Pandavgad and Krishna Valley to the east. Hunter's point approached from Old Mahabaleshwar Road, gives a picturesque view of the Koyna Valley.
On the way to Arthur's Seat one comes across Elphinston, Marjorie and Savitri Points and also Castle Rock. The cliffs at these points rise from the Konkan Valley, which are some 500 meters below the level of the Koyna Valley. The ravine between these points is the rise of Savitri River which rushes down 700 meters straight from here.
Favorite picnic spot, Elphinston Point, named after the Governor of Bombay, Sir Elphinston, was discovered by Dr.Murray in 1830. Arthur's Point, named after Arthur Malet, is Mahabaleshwar's most famous point overlooking the densely forested valley. It is interesting from this point, to watch a straw hat or a handkerchief, tossed down, sailing attractively in the air like a spread-out parachute!
While going to Arthur's Seat, one comes across a small stream called the Tiger Spring. Till this day people believe that tigers and panthers frequent this place to quench their thirst.
Lodwick Point is named after a General who reached this point in 1824. He was the first European to set foot on the Mahabaleshwar hills. A monument at the top of the promontory has been erected in his memory. Beyond Lodwick Point is the extreme end of the mountain range known as Elephant's Head. It is only 12 feet to the Koyna Valley below. From Lodwick's point, the overhanging cliff looks like an elephant's head and trunk, and hence the name.
Kate's point on the Mahabaleshwar-Pune road, gives a commanding view of the Krishna Valley. Near Kate's point is the Echo Point, which, true to its name, echoes the words of the speaker.
On the way to Mahabaleshwar from Pune, Panchgani is a picturesque little town in the shade of groves of casuarinas and silver oak. Protected from harsh winds by a tableland on one side and high cliffs descending into a valley on the other, Panchgani has a pleasant, bracing climate throughout the year. Panchgani is also an ideal base for some good trekking from where one can explore several mule tracks that lead through the now thinning forests.
The hill resort derives its name from the five hills that surround it. At an altitude of 1334 meters it is just 38 meters below Mahabaleshwar. These 38 meters translate themselves into a breathtaking 19 kilometers approach that swoops around bends with carefree abandon, offering attractive views of the river Krishna on one side and the coastal plains on the other.
Panchgani was founded in 1853 by John Chesson who was sent out by the East India Company to find a suitable place where the wives and children of the officers of the Company could reside instead of going back to England frequently. Since then, Panchgani has been an educational center and hill resort.
It has the Raj stamped indelibly all over it. It can be seen in the architecture of the old British buildings, the Parsi houses and the boarding schools that have been around for a century or more.
Flocked by viewpoints, Panchgani is full of wonders, as it overlooks the scenic magnificence of the Krishna Valley, which extends many kilometers from east to west its numerous hamlets, cultivated fields and sparkling rivers.
The view from Tableland, a flat mountain peak measuring about one square kilometer, exposes the mysterious valleys and the miniature looking plains on all sides. The Caves, Kamlagad fort, Municipal Garden and the Children's park add to Panchgani's unending beauty. The walkways, thickly canopied by lush trees and vegetation, offer many delights and unravel many a secret. Visitors can select a horse from one of the numerous stables at the resort and canter along uncharted routes through hidden lover's lanes, to the caves or while away their time at the bazaar. Like Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani is known for strawberries, blackberries, jams and fruit jellies. Also available are the famous Mahabaleshwar shoes, pith flowers, exclusive saris shawls, readymade garments, eye-catching decorative items, leather goods and tribal trinkets.
The Devil's kitchen, situate to the south of Tableland is a place of mythological interest. According to one legend, Pandavas resided here for some time during their exile. Pandavgad caves near Wai are believed to have been built by them and bear their name.
Near the Octroi Naka, lies Sidney Point, a flattened area on the apex of a conical hill. From here one can see Wai and the Sanatorium in the distance and also the sparkling waters of Dhom Dam. Parsi Point and Graves Point are located on the Panchgani Mahableshwar road and offer a view of the Krishna Valley. Six kilometers away are the Rajpuri, caves, located in a temple of Kartik Swami, son of Lord Shiva.
Panchgani has the Moral Rearmament Training Center founded by Mahatma Gandhi's nephew Raj Mohan Gandhi. Its modern structures stand distinctly in the Victoria surroundings. A visit to the Center means a beginning of a new moral awareness. MRA consists of hostels, conference rooms and a multipurpose auditorium.
A visit to Pratapgad Fort, 24 kilometers from Mahabaleshwar, adds a historical dimension to the Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani holiday. Made famous by the Maratha leader Shivaji, the fort built in 1656, saw a decisive encounter between him and Afzal Khan, a general sent by the ruler of Ahmednagar to subdue the rebel. Afzal Khan was killed in the clash and Shivaji established himself as a significant force in the contemporary power politics.
Pratapgad has the honor of being an authentic Maratha fort. From a distance it looks like a round-topped hill, walls of the lower fort forming a kind of bend or crown around the brow. The road leading to the gateway lies through a small, but thick forest.
The famous temple of Goddess Bhavani is on the eastern side of the lower fort. It consists of a hall and a shrine. The shrine, made of black stone, is the image of the goddess and over it is a small spire or shikhar.
An equestrian bronze statue, of Chhatrapati Shivaji was erected in the fort in 1957. The 17-foot statue is placed on a square edifice, which is 10 feet high. And, a little away from the fort, is the dargah of Afzal Khan.
The fort stands a silent testimony to the past that resounded with warlike cries, the clashing of swords, the clanging of shields and the final joyous cries of victory.
As varied as the different parts of the state of Maharashtra, a Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani-Pratapgad Fort experience offers a secluded sanctuary… with all the elements of adventure, scenic sights, and a restful holiday, away from the crowds one finds at other hill resorts. Truly, a holiday with a difference!
By Air - Pune is the nearest airport both for Mahabaleshwar (120 km and Panchgani (98 km)
By Rail - For Mahabaleshwar, the nearest railhead is Wathar (62 km) but Pune (120 km) is the convenient railhead.
By Road - From Bombay via Pune, Mahabaleshwar is 290 km and via Mahad it is 247 km. We would provide you all India tourist permit vehicles for the local transportations and also for the intercity drives too.