As soon as silver oaks were intermittently seen by the road, I knew I was nearing Panchgani. The short drive from Mahabaleshwar through the winding roads was a delight. Though devoid of many view points like Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani is known for its salubrious climate. A part of the western ghats, Panchgani nestles cosily amidst five hills, is surrounded by five villages and has the magnificent Krishna river flowing beside it. Once considered the Britishers retirement place, this hill retreat owes its popularity to John Cheeson, the British superintendent who discovered and developed this nice hill station. He is also responsible for planting various plant species from across the world, including the silver oak.
Beyond the numerous silver oaks, Krishna river opened itself up and before I could decide whether to have a closer view or not, I was at Parsi point- one of the most popular view points in Panchgani. This vantage point offers a panoramic view of the breathtaking Krishna river and Krishna valley. Krishna river originates from Mahabaleshwar and flows by Panchgani before proceeding further into the heart of Maharashtra. The blue water flows peacefully amidst the green undulating hills and the shadows of the floating clouds further enhanced the gorgeousness of the frame. The spread out valley had many shades of green, thanks to the monsoons, and is laced with sparsely populated villages. The loud speakers from a temple way below blared devotional songs as I stared at the pristine landscape. There is a telescope placed here with a guide and this helps you to have a closer look at the valley below. As expected, he explained more about the movies that were shot there, rather than the history or significance of the place. Indians probably relate to bollywood better than history. Panchagani is known for its residential schools and suddenly there was a crowd of children whom I had to wade through to walk back.
Horses welcomed me as I drove up to Table top, the most popular and visited place in Panchgani. The welcoming slowly became a pester (to take a ride), but I evaded the horsemen and walked onto the Table top. At more than 4500 feet and almost 100 acres in area, this expansive flat top is the second longest plateau in Asia after Tibet. Covered by a green carpet of grass and intermittent blue flowers, the plateau is a nice place for a long stroll. The strong winds and breathtaking views of the valleys are an absolute delight. Despite the strong sun, the winds kept me cool atop the Table top as I walked across soaking in the beauty of the landscape.
A short drive away from the plateau through narrow roads and villages lies Rajpuri caves. A flight of steps took me down to the caves, one of which has a shrine of Lord Karthikeya. The other caves have small ponds and visitors consider it religious to take a dip in these. It is believed that these ancient caves were visited by Pandavas during their exile.
The winding road to Sydney point offers panoramic vistas of the Krishna valley and the Krishna river. Despite the view being quite similar to that of Parsi point, the angle to the same is different at Sydney point. More spectacular vistas, strong winds and blissful silence to satiate my hunger.
Sherbaug, a botanical garden with numerous species of cacti is another interesting attraction here. When it comes to strawberry, Panchgani isn't very far behind Mahabaleshwar. There are numerous shops selling strawberry shakes, ice creams, creams and much more at this nice little hill station. I wound the trip to Panchgani with a strawberry shake.
Tucked away amidst the silver oaks, Panchgani is a pretty hill retreat with a lovely climate where you can languorously walk around and soak in the beauty of nature. It is strongly recommended over the more popular Mahabaleshwar.
Location- 19 Kms from Mahabaleshwar
101 Kms from Pune
Accommodation & Food- There are numerous options for stay and food in Panchgani. One can aso stay at Mahabaleshwar and take a one day trip to Panchgani. Make sure to explore some strawberry and cream while in Panchgani.