|Mahabaleshwar, the summer capital of Bombay Presidency during British Rule is situated at 1372 mtrs of altitude and is the most popular hill station of Maharashtra.
It is surrounded by mountains and valleys of the majestic Sahyadri ranges. Five rivers flow through the valleys around Mahabaleshwar namely Krishna, Koyna, Savitri, Gayatri and Venna. Thick forest of Javali covers the mountains and supports variety of wildlife. The climate supports floriculture business here; so you would see a lot of nurseries en route, which makes the journey colourful. It is also the land for strawberries; so you can plan your stay among these plantations. Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani are very close to each other, approximately 18 km and have similar climate. However, Panchgani is not really crowded, so if you wish privacy try and stay closer to Panchagni. Transportation is easily available at all times. It is also famous for schools. Most of the celebrities of Mumbai, have done schooling here.To enjoy real beauty of Mahabaleshwar and surroundings, we recommend a stay of at least 3 to 4 days.
Places of Interest:
The town of Mahabaleshwar has main market called Malcom Peth which hosts many small stores selling variety of goods. There are many points around in the hills, important ones are as follows:
This is probably the best of all points. It is approx 10 km away from new town, but it is worth visiting. Named after Arthur Mallet, this point gives splendid view of the Savitri Valley right below you. You can also see Pratapgadh from here on a clear sunny day. On the way you may also enjoy view from Marjorie Point and Tiger Springs.
Needle Point/Elephant Head Point:
Amazing formation of rocks on this cliff has made it look like an Elephant head with trunk. It is also called as needle point as gap in cliff gives impression on a needle hole. One can get breathtaking view of the mountains around and Krishna River in the valley. While visiting this point you can also see Lodwick point on the way.
Kate’s Point and Echo point:
These points are close to each other and are towards Panchgani side overlooking Krishna valley. As the name suggests you get clear echo from the valley here.
As the eastern most point of Mahabaleshwar, it is famous for sunrise. However given the chilly climate most tourists prefer to visit sunset point (Bombay point) than this point.
The other points that you can see are Falkland point, Hunter point and Helen Point.
Just as you enter Mahabaleshwar from Panchgani, you are welcomed by buzz around Venna Lake. You can enjoy boating, riding etc., along with eating as there are many stalls of all kinds of food stuff here.
Temple of Shiva referred to as Mahabali (all powerful) is the presiding deity of the town. This Shivalinga is considered to be swayambhu (lord has appeared himself) and fulfilling wishes of the pilgrims.
Dedicated to the sacred five rivers, which bless this area is Panchaganga temple. Springs coming out of Gomukh(cow’s mouth) is considered to be representing five rivers.
At 24 km from Mahabaleshwar lies this invincible fort built in 1656 by the Founder of Maratha Empire, Chhatrapati Shivaji. This is among one of the toughest forts to conquer; with high altitude and very difficult climb of narrow winding roads. This made it virtually impossible to carry heavy artillery or even a big battalions. Thus it was chosen spot by Shivaji, to meet his one of the biggest adversary Afzal Khan of Bijapur, who met his fateful end here. Make it a point to see the graves of Afzal Khan and his bodyguard Sayyad Banda( legendary fighter of that time) built and maintained with grants given by Shivaji.
At approximately 30 km from Mahabaleshwar is Tapola situated on banks of Shivsagar (backwaters of Koyna dam – the biggest in Maharashtra). The journey is especially breathtaking with scenic beauty of valleys, river and mountains. As you suddenly drop altitude from Mahabaleshwar, the flora and fauna changes along with weather; this can be of special interest to nature lovers.
Tapola, has boating club where you can enjoy boat rides - right from small rides in a paddle boat to a long journey around Shivsagar lake(it is 80 km expanse).
Adventure seekers can also plan, overnight tour to Vasota fort. However, it would need permission from Forest Department as it is a part of Koyna Nature Reserve. Please reach Tapola early in the morning, carry enough consumables and learn topography well before you start; as there are no support systems around.
Mahabaleshwar and Panchagani have lot of options for stay. Budget hotels are mostly in the town and near main market, they are easy to reach but do not give really a great experience. You can opt to stay in bunglows or in strawberry gardens; there are options of bed & breakfasts/homestays in both kind of stays.