Bhandardhara > For Poha and Pravara River crossings
Whether it’s part of your annual monsoon pilgrimage or otherwise, we suggest you make that trip to Bhandardhara in the monsoon. Like a carpet of evenly coated green cover, this scenic locale cuts through lofty maintains and makes for a serene getaway. With mostly trekkers or leisure-seekers from Mumbai and Nashik for company, you won’t be pestered with insane crowds, except on weekends. Soak in the countless waterfalls, rivulets including the mighty Pravara River, stunning valley views as well as homely (and hygienic) family-run roadside stalls where you can savour the yummiest poha that we’ve eatern, on that side of the Sahyadris.
Our food pick: Freshly made Kanda (onion) and Batata (potato) Poha.
Our food pick:>
>> Scale Mount Kalsubai in the Sahyadris, Maharashtra’s highest peak.
>> Get up close and in awe of the colonial marvel made of stone -- Wilson Dam. It’s still operational, by the way.
>> Lose yourself in the tranquility at Lake Arthur -- don’t forget to bring your notepad or drawing book along, words and inspiration will come easy!
> For Dhansak and misty plateau walks
We’ve visited it so often that its table land plateaus have settled into fixed memory. Yet, the charm and thrill that one gets while driving down winding roads that kiss Mahabaleshwar’s lush landscape is refreshing, on every visit. From its mist-filled pathways, breathtaking views of its quaintly-named points and the Venna Lake for solace, there’s added appeal, thanks to its Parsi-run eateries, hotels and home stays that offer hearty, home-cooked Dhansak, Salli Boti and Caramel Custard to round things off after walks through the rain clouds. Strawberry cravings must wait until winter, sadly.
Our food pick:>Home-style Mutton Dhansak at The Dinah (you need to be a guest), Mayfair or The Grapevine.
>> Trek atop the One Tree Hill just before sundown. It offers picture-postcard-like scenes.
>> Spend quiet time near Venna Lake for a classic Scotland-like vibe, closer home, of course.
Lonavla > For Chikki, fudge and tricky treks
In the past, we’ve had to deal with dejected relatives who expected us to bring back chikki from our Lonavla trips (we had to give it a miss looking at the hordes outside one of the Maganlal Chikkiwala outlets). Such is the connection that Lonavla has with Chikki that it’s almost a ritual and considered blasphemous if you skip it. Though we can’t call Lonavla a hill station due to the maddening crowds it attracts every monsoon, it’s other delicacy -- the fudge that makes for a great buy in the rains. A must-stop is Cooper’s Fudge and Chikki for their Walnut Chocolate Fudge. Several chikki stores in the city also surprisingly started selling fudge over the years with versions such as the strawberry fudge.
Our food pick: Groundnut and Peanut Chikki from any of the shops in the main market. Walnut Chocolate Fudge from Cooper’s, if you are lucky to get your hands on it before it’s sold out.
>> Karla Caves near Lonavla; it also has the Ekvira Devi temple closeby.
>> Dam sites like Bushi and Valvan near Lonavla.
>> Click a photo at Duke’s Nose; it’s named after the Duke of Wellington whose nose is believed to resemble this cliff.
>> Hike to Rajmachi, one of Shivaji’s forts.
Karjat > For spicy vada pav and Buddhist cave-hopping
It is hard for city residents to imagine picnicking at a locality that is reachable by a local train. One can either take a short break at many of Karjat’s dhaba-style restaurants and move on to popular destinations such as Lonavla or Khandala, or enjoy a few easy treks during the monsoon to take a dip in seasonal waterfalls. Several city adventure travel groups organise fun weekend activities in and around Karjat between June and September. There are plenty of simple cottages and farmhouses that offer home-cooked food, and are ideal for stay overs.
Our food pick: Piping-hot Vada Pav served with spicy Maharashtrian-styled chutneys and onions.
>> Trek to Kondana Buddhist Caves, which though aren’t in great form should make to your must-visit list being some of the last remnants of area’s brush with ancient history.
>> For adventure lovers, Ulhas River serves as a spot for rafting.
>> Trekkers can attempt to scale the Bhimashankar summit.