You are greeted by lush green mountains enveloped by clouds as soon as you enter Maharashtra’s rugged Western Ghats. It holds great promise. But the winding road leads to the centre of Mahabaleshwar, a bustling and distinctly underwhelming focal point marred by the cacophony of tourists, vendors, boatsmen, and dozens of tour guides.
Truth be told I didn’t expect to enjoy Mahabaleshwar because this is the first sight we encountered as we entered the town. Ruckus by the bank of the iconic Venna Lake. That’s how I will remember this moment. But first impressions aren’t always the best impressions and Mahabaleshwar seemed intent on changing its impression.
As our car inched towards our hotel, we saw panoramas reminiscent of New Zealand. At one point, we stopped for a cup of tea by the roadside – a spectacular valley stretched out in front of us with a lake adorning the view for good measure. As it turned out, Mahabaleshwar actually makes for an ideal getaway from the hustle bustle of Pune and Mumbai. Here’s everything you need to know to plan your getaway in Mahabaleshwar.
Mahabaleshwar is well connected to most major cities in India. We flew from New Delhi to Pune. Mahabaleshwar is a 3-4 hour drive away from Pune and 5-7 hour drive from Mumbai depending on the time of day.
Best time to visit
Due to its mild summers and winters, Mahabaleshwar is considered a year round destination. It is especially beautiful during monsoon months (June-September). However do beware that it sometimes becomes impossible to explore the area during that period due to continuous rainfall.
Where to stay
We chose to stay at Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort and Spa. The sprawling property offers accommodation in the lap of nature. It is a departure from traditional luxury hotels because rooms are located amidst the wilderness, quite a walk away from the reception or restaurants. The emphasis here is on maintaining the sanctity of the natural habitat and that is evident in each aspect of the hotel. For instance – it’s refreshing to see that trees have not been cut to make way for guests; instead walking paths are carved around the trees.
The hotel’s signature heated pool, overlooking the Western Ghats, is one of the features that makes the property so popular with residents of Pune and Maharashtra. We enjoyed an early morning class of aqua aerobics at the pool and relished the view, but our favourite part is the view from the balconies of the rooms at Le Meridien. Stunning views over the Western Ghats and occasional visits from the resident monkeys made the experience of waking up here truly memorable. Other than that, rooms are extremely spacious and equipped with all creature comforts you could possibly expect from an upscale hotel – bath tubs, chandeliers, indulgent shower cubicles, and comfortable beds with luxurious linen.
There are a number of dining options available to guests. The breakfast buffet is expansive and à la carte options are available for lunch and dinner. For these, we’d suggest sticking to local Maharashtrian or Indian food as continental food can be a bit hit and miss. If you’re celebrating a special occasion, we would recommend consulting the staff as there are a couple of gorgeous destination dining options. We really enjoyed our al-fresco Italian dinner by the fireplace.
Do not leave the hotel without booking yourself a spa treatment (or two). The minimalist spa, furnished in shades of white, induces a sense of calm the second you enter the building. Treatment rooms are extremely spacious and reminded us of ones we’ve seen in Mauritius and Maldives! As you know I’m really picky about massages but the treatments here are thoroughly relaxing and you are bound to leave feeling pampered. In fact, we’d go so far as to say the spa is the best part about Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort and Spa.You can book your stay at Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort and Spa here. It is ideal for couples and families. However please note that the hotel is not disabled friendly.
Things to see and do in Mahabaleshwar
If you love nature and panoramas, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Mahabaleshwar boasts of dozens of truly spectacular viewpoints that offer sweeping views of the Western Ghats. It’s hard to get enough of these views. Here are some of our favourite things to see and do on your getaway in Mahabaleshwar:
1) Sample stawberries and cream at the iconic eatery called Bagicha. It’s just one of those things you must do in Mahabaleshwar, especially if you have a sweet tooth
2) Photograph the viewpoints of Mahabaleshwar. There are numerous viewpoints here – some are accessible via a short hike and others by car. We would definitely recommend visiting Lodwick Point – it is a 15 minute gentle hike from the parking lot. Some of our other favourites include Kates point, Arthurs Seat, and Babington Point.
3) Go for a sunset boat ride at Venna Lake. Remember the first paragraph? Venna Lake is beautiful but expect to find hundreds of other tourists and tour operators there. If you want to escape the hordes, just visit at sunrise instead!
4) Experience a mix of history and scenery at Krishnabai Temple. The historical ruins are said to be the source of the Krishna River and boast of a great view of the Western Ghats.
5) Drop by the iconic Mapro Factory to sample the region’s strawberries at their in-house cafe or just stock up on their famous flavoured syrups and candy.
Day Trips From Mahabaleshwar
If you’re in Mahabaleshwar for longer than 2-3 days, then we’d suggest the following day trips. Each of these offer something unique, so pick one depending on your preferences.
1) Panchgani is an ideal getaway if you have half a day to spare. Expect a gorgeous drive and scenic views that will make you want to stop every five minutes. There are quite a few viewpoints in Panchgani, but we think the drive takes the cake!
2) Drive down to Pratapgarh Fort if you’re fond of history or photography. The fort provides staggering views of the Western Ghats. This is especially recommended if you’re visiting Mahabaleshwar during monsoon months.
3) Drive down to the immensely scenic Wai. Wai is just an hour away from Mahabaleshwar but it is easy to spend an entire day marvelling at its beauty. The town has featured in several movies and TV series and its easy to see why. Its innate charm makes Wai the perfect day trip from Mahabaleshwar. Make sure you drive to Kenjalgadh Fort in the area.
We hope you found everything you need to plan a getaway to Mahabaleshwar here. Do read ALL our articles on India 🙂