|Shades of light at Dawn!|
Cool breeze, early morning dew on grass, chirping birds and hues of dawn animating a valley – ready for a peaceful wintery morning!
|Amphitheatre at New Era School|
Winter has practically ended in Mumbai and is on the verge of vanishing from other places around. Maybe it is the onset of summers, or just a yearn of getting lost in the hills again (read travel withdrawal); whatever be the reason, I find myself browsing through pictures of mountainous areas these days. No I do not stay far away from mountains – in fact my home in Mumbai has a pleasant hilly view, but yes I miss the fresh air, the rejuvenating charm and the societal calm that lingers in hill stations. While unfortunately a lot of hill stations are highly commercialized these days the tranquility of Sahyadris lets you bask in that hilly calm anyways. One such hilly town that I simply love for its simplicity is Panchgani – usually known as the twin of Mahabaleshwar.
|Valley Near Panchgani|
Known for some of the oldest and best boarding schools of India, Panchgani is anything but touristy. In fact it is one of those place people visit – just visit - while holidaying in Mahabaleshwar, but the place in itself is anything but touristy. Panchagani came into existence in early 20th century when a British Officer established this town around a flat plateau which is now known as the table land. Panchgani was established as a retirement resort town, but a lot of locals from close by villages were invited to settle in the new town. Eventually these locals started farming in the surrounding area and now Panchgani is famous throughout India for its strawberry farms.
|Local farms in Panchgani|
Though strawberries have put Panchgani on the tourist trail, for me its closeness to nature is what makes the place a worthwhile getaway. Overlooking a valley, where Krishna River flows languidly Panchgani surprisingly has beautiful dusks and well as dawns. Apart from the trek trail to Pratapgad Fort, Panchgani has numerous hiking options. Moreover, biking is highly promoted by the Municipal Corporation and the resorts in Panchgani to keep the place pollution free, as the place is recognized as a convalescence centre.
|Krishna River, Dhom Dam - View from New Era School|
The best spots to gauge the beauty of Panchgani are actually the boarding schools and if you do have an opportunity to enter one of them – do not let that chance go! If not the boarding schools, make way to Strawberry Inn – one of the best views of the valley and undoubtedly the best Parsi Restaurant in the town. A lot of Parsi’s made Panchgani their home in 1950’s and since then the community has been thriving there so Strawberry Inn is more of a local delight.
|The Chapel at St. Joseph's Convent School|
Panchgani was never a native to anyone but within a century it has become home to so many, that tells you of charm of this tiny town in the Western Ghats. Next time you plan to take a vacation in Mahabaleshwar spend a couple of days in Panchgani and you will know why Panchgani needs exploring and not just a visit.
What else to do in Panchgani:
- For adventure junkies, Panchgani has paragliding near table land, but better place to be at is Tapola – about 30 kilometers from Panchgani – less crowded and way better than Venna lake, with options of kayaking, speed boating and much more.
- Do something touristy by visiting Mapro Garden because it is totally worth it – especially for the pizzas made with local veggies and in wood fire and the sizzling brownie!
- Go Strawberry picking in local farms. Yes you can do it - Lot of options around the place! Just be sure of asking the price to the owners of the farms well in advance and asking them for guidance too during picking.
|Koyna River at Tapola|
Where to stay:
Ravine Hotel – Just next to Sydney point, this place flaunts amazing view of the Dhom Dam Valley and the hotel itself is an amazing structure with interiors heavily inspired by Egyptian Architecture.
|Ravine Hotel and Me!|
How to get there –
It is better to get a sleeper bus from Mumbai or Pune and explore the town on bike or rent a local car.
|View from Table Land|
P.S. - All pics are personal.