Maharashtra, a multifaceted state, is rendered beautiful with its long coast and tiny hill stations. The caves of Ajanta and Ellora in this state are the finest examples of the ancient rock art of India. The hilltop and coastal forts of Maharashtra are reminiscent of the era when most of the part of this state was under the reign of warrior Marathas. Maharashtra of the present day is home to many industrialized cities including Mumbai – the commercial capital of India – which displays the metamorphosis this land has undergone.
Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, is a huge business centre and home to the Indian film industry. This thickly populated city is criss-crossed by the eternally jammed roads. The suburban train lines cutting through the city are called its lifeline. During most of the daytime these lifelines are bulging out with the commuters crammed inside. Surprisingly, in the frantic pace of life in Mumbai, it’s easy to take a whiff of the colonial air by walking around in the relatively relaxed areas of Colaba and Kalaghoda. Both the areas are connected by Colaba Causeway (now Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg). When you feel like digging deeper into the history, head straightaway to the Gateway of India and catch a ferry to the Elephanta caves – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Read More
The hills and lakes of Lonavala were probably created for the overworked dwellers of the nearby cities of Mumbai and Pune. Several resorts and retreats doting the hills of Lonavala are frequented by the weekenders from both the cities. During monsoon, as many waterfalls come alive, the influx of travellers increase. Interestingly, the region around Lonavala has many heritage sites. There are many hilltop forts around Lonavala and a short-drive out of the town are Buddhist rock-cut caves of Karla and Bhaja. Read More
Location: Lonavala is 82 km southeast of Mumbai on the way to Pune.
Matheran, a small town straddling a ridge, is the closest hill station to Mumbai. Covered with the thick evergreen forest, Matheran’s red mud tracks criss-cross the town like the veins in the body. The best thing about Matheran is that all sorts of vehicles are banned from entering here, even bicycles can’t be brought in. The only vehicle allowed is the small narrow-gauge train – known as toy train – that chugs right into the centre of the town. If you want to travel by car, you’ve got to leave it in the parking, 3 km below in an area called ‘Dasturi’. The best way to roam around in the town is on foot and when you get tired, hire a horse. For the old and not-so-fit, hand-pulled carts are available. Read More
Location: Matheran is 80 km east of Mumbai.
Aurangabad, the largest city in north Maharashtra, is mostly utilized by the travellers as a base to visit the caves and temples of Ajanta and Ellora. This city is so dull and commercial that it is hard to believe that it has anything to explore. Though there are a few places to keep you engaged, a 17th century mausoleum, a Sufi shrine and a group of Buddhist caves. The famous Daulatabad fort is about 14 km from Aurangabad on the way to Ellora. Read More
Location: Aurangabad is 335 km northeast of Mumbai.
This formidable fort, situated on a hilltop, was built by the Yadavas and was named as ‘Deogiri’. In 1296, Alauddin Khilji stormed into the fort and plundered it. After him it fell into the hands of many Muslim rulers before coming under Marathas in the mid-18th century. Tughlaq, during his reign, had renamed it as Daulatabad. Read More
Location: Daulatabad is 18 km northwest of Aurangabad.
The caves at Ellora are amongst the finest examples of Indian rock-cut architecture of the common era. These caves, in all 34, have been divided in three groups: Buddhist (1 to 12) Hindu (13 to 29)and Jain (30 to 34). The most spectacular of all of them is the massive Kailash Temple in Cave 16. Considering the size, cave seems to be a wrongly placed word here. This intricately carved temple was built over a period of one hundred years. In the Buddhist group, cave number 10 has a striking ‘chaitya griha’ (prayer hall). Cave 32, with its ornate stonework, is the most interesting in the Jain Group. Read More
Location: Ellora is 30 km northwest of Aurangabad.
The collection of caves at Ajanta is like an art gallery from the ancient times. These rock-cut caves were inhabited by the Buddhist monks. Many caves here are adorned with the splendid murals; some of them also boast of the wonderful stonework. These caves, 30 in number, have been made by chiselling into a horseshoe-shaped hillside, overlooking the narrow Waghora river gorge. The caves at Ajanta, as per their design, are of two types – ‘chaitya grihas’ (prayer halls) and ‘viharas’ (monasteries). There was a time when more than two hundred monks called these caves their home along with an ensemble of painters and sculptors. The first group of caves were built around 2 BC and the second group in between 5th and 6th century AD after which the site went into an oblivion. Read More
Location: Ajanta Caves are 97 km northeast of Aurangabad.
Pune, Maharashtra’s second largest city, is amongst the biggest business centres in southwest and southern India. This is the city where Shivaji – the ferocious Maratha leader – spent his childhood. Maratha Kingdom, having assumed a huge size, was divided into semi-autonomous regions ruled by sub-clans of Marathas, and Pune was the administrative headquarter. The British took over Pune in the early 18th century after defeating the Peshwas in a battle and made it their monsoon capital, to keep it easy they would call it ‘Poona’. To track down Pune’s past, you can visit Vishram Bagh Wada Palace and the remains of Shaniwar Wada Palace. The presence of ‘Osho Ashram’ brings many westerners to this city. From Pune, you can go on excursions to Rajgad and Sinhgad forts. Read More
Location: Pune is 148 km southeast of Mumbai.
Mahabaleshwar is the highest (4500 ft) and the largest hill station in Maharashtra. Its wooded slopes and bracing environment attract travellers just the way they compelled Malcolm Marshal, British Governor of Mumbai, to form a sanatorium here in 1828. Several colonial-era structures dot the town and many lookout points have English names. While the town centre is dull and has seen some overdose of the concrete structures, the surroundings are pristine and beautiful. Here you can either do the touristy things like sightseeing, boating, horse-riding etc or just walk to your heart’s content and then sit and gaze at the verdant hills and valleys. Pratapgarh fort makes for an interesting excursion out of Mahabaleshwar. Read More
Location: Mahabaleshwar is 121 km south of Pune.
Panchgani is a small town near Mahabaleshwar. Surrounded by five hills, this town is ideal for a quiet holiday. There are several walking trails around the town. Along with the pristine nature Panchgani also has numerous boarding schools.
Location: Panchgani is 19 km east of Mahabaleshwar and 103 km south of Pune.
Alibag is the best place to base yourself for exploring some of the finest Konkan beaches. Unspoilt beaches of Alibag and its neighbourhood are backed by coconut and casuarina trees, and the distant hills add to the visual bonanza. This coastal town also packs in some heritage along with the proximity to the Arabian sea. There are two coastal forts near Alibag; Kolaba – an island fort – is just off the beach from Alibag and Janjira fort is a short drive away. Alibag is very well equipped with resorts to budget hotels and homestays making it ideal for a relaxed holiday. In fact, Alibag’s popularity is growing amongst film celebrities and corporate honchos who often throw their parties here.
Location: Alibag is 92 km south of Mumbai.
Murud, a small and sleepy town, is another charming place to enjoy a holiday on the Konkan coast. The beach here is wide and sea is clean, a perfect setting to spend some laid-back moments before heading out to explore the heritage. From Murud, drive to Rajpuri (4 km) and from there take a short ferry ride to the island fort of Janjira which was once a bastion of ‘Siddis’. The rulers of Siddi clan had arrived in Deccan from Abyssinia. The interesting fact about this fort is that it was, despite having many Maratha forts in the vicinity, never captured by the army of Shivaji. Within the fort there are ruins of palaces and mosques.
Location: Murud is 30 km south of Alibag.
Kolhapur, a busy commercial centre, gained prominence during the reign of Shahu Maharaj. This city has always been popular for its 7th-century Mahalaxmi Temple. Built by the Chalukya king Karnadeva, this temple has a 40-kg idol of Goddess Laxmi encrusted with diamonds and other stones. The old palace near the temple is occupied by the family members of the descendants. In 1884, a fire had broken out in the old palace following which a new palace was constructed which is called ‘New Palace’. Spread over a large expanse, this palace was designed Major Charles Mant – the founder of Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. The ground floor of the palace houses the Shahaji Chhattapati Museum and on the first floor lives the present Maharaja.
Location: Kolhapur is 377 km southeast of Mumbai.
Panhala, 20 km from Kolhapur, is a small hill station with a 12th-century fort spread across a hillside. Built by the Raja Bhoj II, this fort later on fell in the hands of several clans. Shivaji had spent one year here, from 1659 to 1660. A dark well at the entrance followed by the awkwardly angled teen darwaza (three gates) made it almost impossible for the enemy to barge in, but you would enter easily with a guide. Worth observing inside are huge stone granaries and Sajja Kothi – a two storey building where Shivaji held meetings. There are two temples and a mosque in the fort.
Location: Panhala is 22 km northwest of Kolhapur.
The Alphonso mangoes of Ratnagiri are as amazing as its hilltop fort situated by the coast. The fort called ‘Ratnadurga’ is spread on a vast expanse dotted with ‘burjs’ (watchtowers), there is also a temple of Goddess Bhagvati within the fort. Walking along its periphery will reward you with splendid views of the sea.
Location: Ratnagiri is 336 km south of Mumbai and 132 km east of Kolhapur.
Ganpatipule is a small village, near Ratnagiri, on the Konkan coast. It has a 400-year-old temple of Lord Ganesha and a pristine beach. The Ganesha temple, situated by the coast, is a pilgrimage of Hindus which means you can’t expect a typical beach atmosphere here. However, if you are looking to walk along the peaceful beach or just want to sit on the sands and gaze at the vastness of the sea, this place is perfect.
Location: Ganpati Pule is 26 km north of Ratnagiri.
Vijaydurg, 75 km north of Sindhudurg, wasn’t just one more in the line of coastal forts, this fort was once the naval base of the Marathas. A Maratha Admiral, Kanhoji Angre, used this fort to destroy the approaching European ships. This fort was originally made of wood by Raja Bhoj II. Thereafter, the sultans of Bijapur had it reconstructed during their rule. Eventually it came in the hands of Shivaji and he bolstered the fortifications.
Location: Vijaydurg is 100 km south of Ratnagiri.
Malvan is a small fishing village which has lent its name to the Malvan Coast – the southern Konkan coastline in the Sindhudurg district. Malvan was a nondescript hamlet until 1664 when Shivaji decided to build the Sindhudurg fort on an island just off Malvan. Construction of this massive and robust fort brought a lot of action into the village and today again it is back to square one. For the traveller it has beaches and forts in the vicinity.
Location: Malvan is 478 km south of Mumbai and 107 km north of Panjim.
Sindhudurg fort is situated on a deserted island called Kurte bet, just half km off the coast. Built in 1664, this is one of the mightiest forts erected by Shivaji. It has 3 km long and 10-m high ramparts. This fort is the only place where there is a temple dedicated to Shivaji. Ferries, run by the Fort Conservation Trust are available from Malvan Jetty.
Location: Sindhudurg is just off the coast from Malvan.
Of all the beaches along the Malvan coast, Tarkarli is the best. Though it has gained some popularity off late, it still receives only handful of travellers which keeps its serenity intact. So, press your feet into the white sand and enjoy looking at the clear waters of the sea. Other beaches around Tarkarli are: Malvan Beach, Chivla Beach, Tandavli and Achara.
Location: Tarkarli is 4 km south of Malvan.