Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra

Soaring peaks, breathtaking valleys, lush flora, cool, crisp mountain air, simple and friendly people and the spicy and delicious food! This is Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra’s most popular hill station.
Mahabaleshwar in Sanskrit means ‘God of great power’. This place is indeed rewarding with a mix of old-world charm, natural beauty and modernity.
To me, its more like a weekend getaway… to bask in the lap of nature in monsoons, to relish the juicy strawberries and enjoy the biting cold in winters and a grand escapade from the city heat in summers.
Mahabaleshwar2
Mahabaleshwar is located in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra at an elevation of 4,440 ft above the sea level. It is at a distance of about 120 km southwest of Pune and 285 km from Mumbai.  Though the distance can easily be covered by car, we always prefer travelling by bus which is a good 7-8 hours journey. This is our way of saving energy to have a chilled-out, relaxed holiday rather than exhausting it driving from one place to the other.
MahabaleshwarThe town itself is quaint and charming but bit overcrowded. Some of the establishments are really old and trace their origin to the 19th century.

Stay: In Mahabaleshwar, you can get hotels suiting all pockets, i.e., from budget hotels to 3 Stars ones. You can get a hotel from where you can enjoy the lake’s view or even in the midst of the Mahabaleshwar’s famous market.

The market is loaded with small shops selling shoes, Kashmiri wear and the famous Pashmina shawls, bags, clothes, handicrafts, artifacts and locally manufactured jams, jellies and fudges. It is mainly famous for shoes and you also get a good bargain. People go crazy buying shoes. Literally!!
mahabaleshwarmarketTired after shopping and hungry too? Do not worry as the market has something for every appetite. There are these juice and icecream parlours which serve fresh strawberry juices (or frozen depending on the season) and creams with a dollop of whipped cream on it and a variety of other flavours too.
I always avoid the creamy dollop. This seems to be a clever move as they add an extra spoon of strawberry pieces in my glass while making 🙂
Strawberry with creamThere are Chinese and Indian restaurants if you wish to have a complete meal. There are also carts that serve corn frankies and crispy, out-of-the-pan corn patties with green chutney and tomato sauce. These are the ones which keep calling you for more. And they did keep calling me again and again. I kept eating them as if there was no tomorrow. The cold and rainy weather and smoking hot crispy patties – the combination is incredible!
corn patti1
Venna Lake
 is one of the major tourist attractions in Mahabaleshwar. It is surrounded by trees on all sides. There are a whole lot of activities going on. You can go boating, horse riding or just laze away by the lake, relishing the yummy bhel, roasted sweet corn, gorging on the crunchy, red, fresh out-of-the-field carrots or just sipping the steaming hot coffee.
LakeMahabaleshwar lake
Mahabaleshwar has its own history. Shivaji, the great Maratha warrior king, had one of his base here. He constructed Fort Pratapgarh in 1656 which still stands tall. Tourists flock to take a glimpse of this mighty historical marvel.
pratapgadfort
Besides the town itself, what adds to the beauty of Mahabaleshwar are its rugged mountain ranges and various points. Locals say there are more than 20 points in Mahabaleshwar.
Table-top Point
 boasts of various Bollywood movies shot there. And it does look like “table-top”. There’s also horse riding and cart riding. Even the kids here have tamed their horses so well. The energy and interest with which they narrate the stories of the movies shot here is phenomenal. And the speed that they ride their carts and the control they have over their horses, is incredible!
Maha ride
Needle Hole Point / Elephant Point
 is a natural rock formation with a hole in between. Thus the name. Also, the point if seen from a particular angle, looks like an elephant’s head.
Elephant head point9
Wilson Point 
is named after Sir Leslie Wilson, the Governor of Bombay from 1923–26. Wilson Point is the highest point in Mahabaleshwar. It is the only place from where both sunrise and sunset can be seen.
Wilson PointThe path to the point is really rough. We had to go horse-riding to avoid spraining our legs and moreover, to reach in time for the sunset. The pic below says it all, doesn’t it!!
SunsetpointApart from these, there are also Monkey point and Arthur Seat point which are famous among the many other that adorn Mahabaleshwar.

We’ve visited Mahabaleshwar in all the 3 seasons. In winters, it is that coy beauty with beaming rosy cheeks… this is a metaphor for the red juicy strawberries that add to the beauty of this hill-station. The sightseeing packages also offer farm visits.
strawberry garden
Mapro Foods i
n Panchgani, seems to dominate the local economy, with every street and corner having a Mapro sales counter. The tour operators also include a Mapro visit in their package. They have a whole array of products like jams, jellies, dessert toppings, crushes, fudges, etc. It has become more like a picnic spot with a lot of snack counters dishing out a variety of sandwiches, pizzas, milk shakes and more to serve your appetite.
Mapro2
Giving a cut-throat competition to Mapro is Mala’s which also runs a parallel market with its products. A visit to Mala’s, and you also get a peek at its jams being manufactured right in front of your eyes… although from a small window.
Malas

It’s monsoons and Mahabaleshwar seems to be calling already. It has so much to offer! During every visit, in the battle of my tummy and eyes, my tummy always wins. I always get so stuck treating my palette, that I miss out on the other points and places that I’m still yet to see.
This visit, I’ve promised to do justice to my eyes. Hope I live upto it!

Advertisements

Weekend Fling With Mahabaleshwar – My Photostory

When the monsoons put on a show, trust me, Mahabaleshwar has got the best seats. And we waste no time in grabbing them every year.
There’s some sort of romance associated with those pattering rain-drops and this place. Verdant hills seem to quiver in the freezing mist, which is why they keep themselves warm in those velvetty green quilts. Singing of birds, shrieking of monkeys, fluttering of leaves when they leap, mooing of cows… is all what you see and hear. No screeching horns, no yelling alarms… just nature at her seductive best.
Greenery
A walk on these lone misty roads and Langoors suddenly prancing out of nowhere. Our romantic walk quickly turned into an adventure and we scampered towards our hotel with those bags full of goodies.
Doesn’t this look straight out of a horror movie…
Scenery bw
Venna Lake:

Uncle Patel, quiet a raconteur, took us for a wonderful long ride on the lake. Longer than the others did. With hair-raising tales of goats and dogs being kidnapped by leopards at night, tigers been relocated and sinewy bisons still inhabiting the place, it was a relief to know all these awaited the other side of the lake. Uncle Patel also took us to a place right above a house submerged 12 feet under water. He actually made us hit the oars on the roof…evidence corroborated! When I asked if I could click him, he beamed. Said this was the first time a tourist had asked him for his pic. Else he’d always been behind the lens. That sound when the oars whack those calm waters is so therapeutic.
Venna Patel uncle
Venna Lake is quiet generous with amateur photogs like me 🙂
Venna Horses
Mahabaleshwar has some of the best and out-of-the-farm produce to offer.
Venna Fruits

Don’t dare miss the piping hot ginger tea
Venna Ginger tea

With corn pakodas and green chutney for company
Corn Patties

Roasted sweet corn is another option if you don’t mind those vampire teeth later… except for the burnt black hues instead of red 🙂
Venna Corn

Shivneri Restaurant has an array of Maharashtrian dishes, including North Indian ones. We gorged on the fiery Malvani Chicken Curry, tender fried Kolhapuri Chicken, straight-out-of-the-pan Chapatis and steamed White Rice. Jowar and Bajra Bhakris are awesome. They take 30 minutes to come after the order is placed.

Shivneri Food
The gorgeous fresh pizza from the wood-fired oven and a mug of hot chocolate mocha at Mapro. It’s as touristy as it gets. They even have their own baked bread for their wide range of delectable sandwiches. Now, that’s something you cant afford to miss. (visit www.mapro.com)
Mapro pizza
This is the time to lose yourself, get engulfed by the smell of wet earth and let the cold mist kiss the tip of your nose. Leave the city behind for those two days of sheer rejuvenation… before the rains bid adieu.
Go, experience the beauty of monsoon in Mahabaleshwar…

Monsoon Mania in Mahabaleshwar… some more pics…

Its only a week after I’m back from my weekend escape to the divine Mahabaleshwar, but the memories are still afresh. Although, I’ve dedicated an entire column to Mahabaleshwar under “My Travelogues”, I couldn’t stop myself from posting few more pics of my latest monsoon visit to this heavenly abode.

Rains, fog, greenery… a visual treat that is seen only in the movies.
IMG-20140722-WA030

Nature at its best…

IMG-20140722-WA001
The serene Venna Lake is the place to be.

Vennalke2

Holding your beloved while enjoying a boat-ride and being enveloped by fog. Can anything be more romantic!!!
BoatsOnly the freshly roasted corn smeared with lime can beat the cold. Not to forget the steaming hot ginger tea…
Cornwala Mapro Gardens, a must-do in my every visit.
Mapro10Bread being baked and sliced, pizzas being readied right in front of your eyes. So inviting!
Mapro3

Who cares about the calories when the cheese is being celebrated in this manner!

Mapro2

And the old-style oven…
Mapro4Mapro5

Go drooling over the smoking hot corn-pattice with tomato sauce and green chutney. The guy in the pic below is the pioneer of corn-pattice in Mahabaleshwar. He was the first to venture into the corn-pattice business in 2001. Its not difficult to hunt him down. He stands at right side of the lane, which is also a starting point of the famous Mahabaleshwar Market. His pattice and frankies are unbeatable. You cant afford to give it a miss.
IMG-20140722-WA016The old world charm still exists here.
In the form of these post-boxes…
IMG-20140722-WA004And these vintage sort-of lamps.
IMG-20140722-WA005Strawberry being the king of fruits here, there are various joints in the market area that serve Strawberry in various forms like milkshakes, juices, cream, etc. Strawberry Den at the beginning of the market is a nice place to be. You gotta try the strawberry cream – dollops of cream alternated by strawberries and ice-cream. Yummylicious!
IMG-20140722-WA003

For authentic Maharashtrian non-veg cuisine, head to the Shivneri Restaurant. The chicken thali here is mindblowing. Hirkani Restaurant is also a good option. Although, food here is a bit spicy. Both these dhaba-like restaurants are located in Metgutad area and close to Venna Lake.

Scenic beauty, lush greenery, pristine foggy mountains, warm and friendly people and mouthwatering cuisine…Mahabaleshwar swears by each one of these.
After days of hectic work schedule, and fast paced life, where you have to literally borrow moments to be with yourself, you ought to be here to unwind, relax, rejuvenate and be happy.

Its time you go bag-packing before the monsoon bids adieu…