Hill Stations of Maharashtra

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The Western Ghats, blessed by the altitude of the Sahyadri Ranges, envelop little sleepy hollows. These petite hill-stations, popularised by the British Raj to beat the Indian heat, are jewels in the hills. In the mornings, sunbeams play hide-and-seek through the rolling dawn mist. By afternoon, they are still cool thanks to their height. As evening falls, they bundle up in blankets of fog, toasty aromas wafting from local pots. 

From north to south, the Western Ghats rise steep. Some ranges dip straight into the Arabian Sea, while others meander around, jumping over waterfalls and lakes. Each of the major cities in Maharashtra has the bounty of a hill-station within a few hours’ driving distance. So rich and varied is the state’s topography that each of these homes in the hills is unique. Let no cynic tell you that two hill-stations are similar; each have their characteristic charm, charisma and allure.

Panhala, near Kolhapur, rises up to an awesome 3,177 feet at the tip of its fort. Mahabaleshwar sits at an altitude of 1,372 meters– chilly enough to need a sweater in summer. Its twin, Panchgani, the five-landed table mountain, rises 1,334 meters. Unexplored Toranmal in the Satpura Hills is a serene green. If it’s a dash of family fun, try Matheran’s toy train, horse-riding (Matheran allows no vehicles) and point-hopping.

The hills of Maharashtra are also host to an amazing number and variety of forts, making them popular destinations for avid trekkers. The Pratapgad Fort, for example, is the most popular since it is from here that the history of Chatrapati Shivai Maharaj took a decisive course after he scored a victory against the mighty Afzal Khan, commander of the Bijapur Adilshahi forces. Similarly, for stunning scenic views and links to the state’s rich historical legacy, Rajmachi and Raigad are unbeatable. The latter was the capital during Shivaji’s rule and it was here that his coronation took place. 

Majestic indeed are these hill-top destinations – it’s like being on top of the world!

 

  • Winding roads, a cool breeze at all times, vantage points offering breathtaking views of hills and valleys, plenty of strawberries to gorge on and a main street full of shops offering all kinds of curios and snacks. Doesn’t it sound exciting? Well, that’s Mahabaleshwar for you which along with Panchgani makes for a wonderful holiday or even just a weekend getaway.

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  • Panchgani-small

    If it hadn’t been for the constant search of the British for scenic hill stations with invigorating climate, Panchgani probably wouldn’t have been discovered. It was developed as a retirement place but soon became one of the most popular hill stations in Maharashtra. Its beauty is enhanced by a flat piece of land which is called the ‘table top’.

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  • toy-train-small
    At a time when even some of the most remote tourist places have begun to suffer from pollution, primarily due to the increase in vehicles, can there be a hill station which can lay claim to being totally free of such ill-effects? Surprisingly, there is one, and it remains free of noxious pollutants mainly because no motorized vehicles are allowed on its tiny roads or the pathways that lead into deep woods. This is Matheran, Asia’s tiniest hill station but with lots to offer by way of scenic view points, long treks through forested areas, and a quaintness of its own.
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  • Mhaismal is the kind of place where nature comes extremely close to mythology and creates an ambience that is unique and special in all respects. Moreover, the fact that this place has come to be termed as a ‘botanical workshop’ guarantees that you will find here an exciting range of flora, opening up a wonderland of sorts. Most tourists head for this destination during the monsoon when the landscape turns a bright green.
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  • A pristine natural environment with hills, waterfalls and forests; a wild life sanctuary and an ancient temple! Bhimashankar offers the ideal setting to find spirituality. It is also the perfect place for adventure lovers with a plethora of treks. Moreover this is where you can find the shekru the giant flying squirrel which is also the state animal of Maharashtra.

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  • Those living in Mumbai or Pune consider it a blessing indeed that they have the twin hill stations of Lonavla and Khandala almost a hop, skip and jump away. Perched high on the hill ranges that separate the two metro cities, both these places are known for their salubrious climate and the beautiful green cover they flourish during the monsoon.

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  • If you would like to see nature at its best and also pack in a little adventure, one of the best choices, especially during the monsoon, is Tamhini Ghat. It is during this time that the deep brown hills turn a verdant green and provide a feast for the eyes. The value addition is that you can also explore the backwaters of Mulshi Dam and spice up your vacation with a bit of river rafting.

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  • Wai

    A popular temple town with ancient mythological links, Wai is also a favourite tourist destination because of its scenic ambience and the fact that it can be a stop-over on the way to the hill-stations of Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar. With its more than 100 temples, it is rightly known as the ‘Dakshin Kashi’ of Maharashtra. And if that’s not all, it is also the place where some of the biggest Bollywood blockbusters have been shot.

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  • The fort of Panhala occupies a prime place in the history of Maharashtra and is also a favourite destination as a hill station. Built by the Shilahara dynasty of Kolhapur in 12thcentury, the fort passed into the hands of the Yadavas of Devgiri, Bahamani, Adilshahi and subsequently the Marathas. Shivaji Maharaj spent many days on this fort which was under the dominance of the Marathas until the 17th and mid-18th century. Queen Tarabai was the founder of the Panhala throne of Karvir alias Kolhapur princely state. The fort has witnessed great many upheavals and battles and is located around 20 kilometers from Kolhapur. An interesting view from Panhala is that of the pass that connects the rest of Maharashtra with its coastal areas.
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  • If Gaganbavda is suddenly attracting the attention of filmmakers from Bollywood, there has to be a solid reason to it. It’s simple: Gaganbavda is one of the most beautiful hill stations of Maharashtra. Located in Kolhapur, it offers a fantastic view of the Konkan coastal region and the lush green Karul Ghat apart from emerging as a favourite destination for trekkers. In fact it is quite easy to travel to Konkan from the two passes nearby.
     
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  • malshej-4
    It certainly cannot get more picturesque than this! This is the usually the kind of comment you would hear from tourists who flock to the Malshej Ghat once the monsoon has taken a firm grip over Maharashtra. The verdant landscape shouldered by the majestic ranges of the Sahyadris makes the entire setting a feast for the eyes. And never mind if you get soaked through and through. That’s the whole fun!
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  • The beautiful hill-station of Amboli is rightly called the ‘queen’ of Maharashtra; such is its natural splendour. Famous among environmentalists as a precious ecological hotspot, it is cool, calm, serene and enriched with all the treasures that the world of flora and fauna can bestow upon it. Located in the princely state of Sawantwadi, Amboli is located on the ridge of the Western Ghats and is particularly majestic during the monsoon when impromptu waterfalls gush down the hilly terrain. 

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  • If one wishes to enjoy genuine beauty of nature, cool comfort in the snugness of mountains, and virgin beauty of a glittering lake, one must visit Toranmal, which is situated in the ranges of the Satpuda ranges. The place looks unforgettably fascinating during the monsoon. Toranmal reminds tourists of Mahabaleshwar even during the scorching summer heat of Khandesh. The bountiful beauty of nature and the innumerable  lotuses blooming in the Lotus Lake give a feeling to the tourists that they have certainly entered into a 'different' world.

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  • Umbrella Fall - BhandardaraTM

    At times, it seems that a landscape with a roaring waterfall, gushing waters from a dam, towering hills in the background and greenery all around can only belong to the movies or the imagination of a writer. Not really! All this comes true at Bhandardara where green paddy fields create a colourful symphony with the bright blue skies and the waterfall provides a musical rhythm while you soak in the beauty of nature at its best.

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  • Deciduous Forest of Chik-Melghat

    A hill station with tigers in the vicinity! How does that sound? Dangerous or interesting? Well, there is actually nothing to fear but only to enjoy when you plan a visit to the quiet hill station of Chikhaldara where you will be transported to a serene zone of just flora and fauna. In fact, if you are really looking for a place to unwind, Chikhaldara is where you should be.

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