Exploring the Western Ghats in Maharashtra, India can be a rewarding experience. When we decided to explore the Sahyadri range in December, we chose some off- beat places along with the well known to get a better understanding of the region.
Important note: The areas we explored are fairly low-key, which means, minimal food choices and very little choice of medical facilities.
Day 1: We started off from Pune after breakfast. Reached Koyna Dam around 3:30pm after a lunch break. It is important to reach your hotel at Koyna Dam before 4:30 pm as the surrounding areas have active wildlife. We relaxed at the resort that evening.
Day 2: Early in the morning, we headed on a jungle drive. Although we could not spot many animals (i.e. no large cats although we saw fresh footprints), the views on the excursion were amazing! We drove by small hamlets where people lived in harmony with their surroundings.
Day 3: Headed towards Ganapatipule around noon. After stopping for lunch along the way (at a small hotel [dhabha]), we reached Ganapatipule around 5:30pm. The changing scenery from high mountains, deep valleys to calm sea was totally worth it! After settling into our modest hotel, we headed to the beach. The beach is right by the temple and it was amazing to see people mixing a holy visit with fun on the beach (Important note: No bikinis … this is not Goa! The beach however, is just as amazing).
Day 4: Enjoyed the morning at the beach and visited the famous Ganapati temple. After brunch, we headed toward Jaigad fort. It was an interesting stop over where you have an opportunity to see a river meeting the sea. We spent the evening on another stretch of beach close by.
Day 5: After a morning walk along the beach, we headed to Mahabaleshwar after breakfast. We reached Mahabaleshwar late in the afternoon. We stayed by sunset point, so our evening program was pretty much set. Although the view was not that great (due to fog), the family had a great time at sunset point and it was easy for us to head to downtown Mahabaleshwar after that. We spent the evening exploring downtown.
Day 6: Morning hike around polo ground… pretty cool. After breakfast, went around Mahabaleshwar exploring the different view points. We also visited the temple where it is believed five different rivers originate. It was a very nice experience. In the evening, we headed to Venna lake and enjoyed the paddle boats and watched the sun set. We also managed to squeeze in a quick visit to Mapro garden. The kids thought they were in heaven once they tasted the ice creams and the fresh strawberries w/ cream.
Day 7: After spending the night in Mahabaleshwar, we headed towards Pune with a brief stopover in Panchagani (table top mountains for amazing views) and Wai (ancient temples). We were back in Pune by about 5pm.
What we enjoyed: low key vacation where we stayed in simple but clean places and ate simple, Indian food. And of course, access to plenty of fresh strawberries and amazing beaches!
Where we got lucky: After returning to Pune, everybody fell sick due to food poisoning… it was our last pit stop that created the issue. We were lucky. It could have been really bad if it happened during the trip. Take appropriate precautions.