The closer I got to Mahabaleshwar, it became misty and drizzled incessantly. Monsoons had brought about a splash of green all over the hills with occasional water falls by the road. The mist had engulfed the winding roads and visibility was reduced to less than 100 feet. As much as I wished for a better visibility, I was glad the climate was mesmerising with the drizzle, puddles and the green backdrops.
Once the summer capital of Bombay province during the British rule, Mahabaleshwar has turned out to be one of the most sought after hill retreats in the western ghats. Located a few hours drive away from Pune and Mumbai, Mahabaleshwar is known for its innumerable vantage points, valleys and greens hills. Strawberries, cherries, mulberries and raspberries are synonymous with the hill station and during peak season, the place is engulfed with these fruits.
After the previous evening's continuous rain, Mahabaleshwar was engulfed by mist early in the morning, a beautiful sight nevertheless. 8 'o' clock was a tad too early for Venna lake as it was wrapped in mist with only intermittent visibility when the mist swayed away for a couple of seconds. The shops near the lake were just opening up with a couple of tea shops and a few vegetable baskets for sale. Watched the mist playing hide and seek as I gobbled down a vada paav and washed it down with a hot ginger tea. There were hardly any visitors except a few bikers. Strolled around for a while as the mist cleared and the expansive Venna lake surrounded by green hills opened up. There is boating facility available on the lake and by the time I left a small queue had slowly lined up for the same.
Mahabaleshwar is known for its numerous vantage points and Kate's point, one of the most popular ones was the first in line. Named after the daughter of British governor, Sir. John Malcolm, Kate's point offers panoramic vistas of the Krishna valley, Dhom dam and Balkawadi dam against a green backdrop of the hills. Down in the valley amidst myriad green shades, the interspersed houses and the roads resembled tiny boxes and narrow lines. The still brown waters of the dam stood out in stark contrast against the greenery. Onto the right, vulture waterfalls made a splash and wriggled its way through the greens. A few meters away from Kate's point lies the most popular frame in Mahabaleshwar, Needle point. A natural rock formation which looks like a hole in a needle from a distance, it is also sometimes referred to as Elephant's head point. The green spread of the valley was a sight to behold and as I gazed, wished there were steps that led down to it.
Strawberries are synonymous with Mahabaleshwar and a visit here without gulping down strawberry milk shake or ice cream is an absolute crime. Archie's strawberry farm near Kate's point offers strawberry and cream, shakes, ice creams and much more. They have a farm right behind and I was enthusiastically shown around and explained about strawberry cultivation. During peak season which is after the monsoons, the place is a riot of red. It took me a while to finish my beer mug filled with strawberry and cream.
Lingmala falls come alive during the monsoons. The falls are a short walk away and the vantage point offers a gorgeous view of Lingmala falls which cascades its way through the boulders and greenery. At a height of of more than 600 feet, this is a popular attraction in Mahabaleshwar and gets quite crowded during weekends as I experienced.
It was a nice little drive through the winding misty roads and green surroundings to Arthur's seat, the most visited view point in Mahabaleshwar. Named after the former British governor of Bombay presidency, Sir George Arthur, Arthur's seat has a few view points and is ideally referred to as the queen of points. The vantage points here are Hunting point, Echo point, Malcolm point, Tiger Spring point and Arthur's point. Cocooned around a pathway atop a hill with thick canopies, most of the view points here offer breathtaking views of the Savitri valley, Savitri river and the endless green hills with ridges. It was a delight to walk along the pathway and take in the gorgeous vistas one after the other. I could forever gaze at the unending green hills which turned misty blue and then further diminished into oblivion. Sir George Arthur used to sit at this point and look down at the Savitri valley and river (to which he lost his family), and hence the name.
|View from Hunting point|
|View from Echo point|
|View from Malcolm point|
|View from Arthur's seat|
|View from Arthur's seat|
Marjorie point en-route Arthur's seat was totally covered in mist and I headed instead to Savitri point which offers more views of the valley and river by the same name. The view of Savitri valley from this vantage point is slightly different from that of Arthur's seat.
Elphinstone's point is another popular vantage point which offers panoramic vistas of the Koyna valley and Savitri valley. Wrapped in lush greenery with passing mist, the sight looked absolutely surreal. This is definitely one of the best view points in Mahabaleshwar.
Had to miss out on Lodwick's point as the road was closed and a walk of more than 2 kms in the fading light didn't seem quite exciting. Sunset point also referred to as Bombay point is one of the favourites with visitors. Supposedly, the sunset view from here is a beautiful one. However, mist played villain in my case. Forget sunset, there was absolutely no view at all due to the mist.
There was a drizzle as I dashed to Wilson's point, the highest point in Mahabaleshwar at 1439 meters above sea level. Spread on a flat headed hill, the point here has a raised platform which offers both sunrise and sunset views. Named after Sir Leslie Wilson, governor of Bombay during British rule, Wilson's point also offers views of the twin hills of Makarandgad and Mahabaleshwar town. However, after visits to the mesmerising view points earlier, the views from Wilson point weren't that breathtaking in comparison.
Mahabaleshwar has many more view points such as Monkey point, Falkland point, Helen's point, Carnac point etc. which offers lovely vistas of the surrounding hills and valleys. Beyond the vantage points, the hill town is also known for its temples located in Old Mahabaleshwar. Panchaganga temple, where 7 rivers originate and Krishnabhai temple, dedicated to Krishna river are the popular ones. A stroll through the market lined with numerous shops in the middle of the town is well recommended to explore the local flavours. One can also club Panchgani (19 kms away) along with Mahabaleshwar.
Location: 60 Kms from Satara (nearest rail head)
120 Kms from Pune (nearest airport)
265 Kms from Mumbai
Food & Accommodation: Mahabaleshwar has numerous stay options to choose from, both mid range and luxury ones. I stayed at Shreyas hotel (www.shreyashotel.com), located in the middle of the town. They also have two restaurants and all the basic facilities. Almost all the tourist attractions have small eateries or stalls selling short eats.