Bhandardara: A Secluded Hill Station Near Mumbai
Whenever the summer sun gets a little too much to bear, Mumbai dwellers pack their bags and head to the hills for a cool, relaxing weekend.
There are several hill stations - small towns high above sea level - which are a few hours drive away from Mumbai. These include old time favourites like Lonavala, Matheran and Mahabelshwar. However, these tend to get crowded and noisy as the summer wears on.
If you're after a quiet, peaceful weekend away, I'd recommend you go to Bhandardara, a beautiful green escape in Maharashtra's western ghats (hills).
A Sight For Sore Eyes
If you're going to Bhandardara from the urban jungle, filled with skyscrapers and concrete, the hill station will be a complete visual delight.
Look in one direction and you’ll see acres of emerald green forests. On the other side, you'll see paddy fields and deep blue lakes covered with lily pads.
A scenic viewpoint in Bhandardara. — by Karishma Joshi
From some scenic view points in Bhandardara, you'll also see Mt Kalsubai, Maharashtra's highest mountain.
Things To Do
Whether you're an adventure seeker, nature lover or history enthusiast, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy on a weekend stay.
The area is the starting point for several moderate to challenging treks. The Harishchandragad trek, for instance, takes trekkers 1400 metres above sea level to the 6th century Harishchandragad fort which was an important military base for the Kachuri dynasty during the 6th century. Other stunning treks include the trek to the Ratangad Fort and - if you're a seasoned hiker - the trek up Mt Kalsubai.
If you'd rather soak up historical sites without having to take a hike, fear not! Bhandardara has several temple remains including the intricate Amriteshwar Temple.
An ancient temple. — by Karishma Joshi
Other attractions include the brilliantly blue Arthur Lake. Guides at Arthur Lake will be only too happy to take you one a boat ride across the lake (for a couple of hundred rupees of course), or to show you the nearby Randha falls which are a majestic sight in the monsoon season. The guides may also be persuaded to show you some quiet fishing spots if you enjoy angling.
Boating on the beautiful Lake Arthur. — by Karishma Joshi
Staying and Eating
Since it's such a secluded place, Bhandardara doesn't have too many places to put up, or many restaurants.
The Yash Resort has comfortable rooms and cottages, a swimming pool and Ayurvedic Spa facilities which will allow you to completely unwind and relax. The Anandvadan Resort, an eco-resort just a short drive from the Arthur Lake is another option with rooms, cottages and villas. It organises a range of activities from fishing to nature walks to bonfire's and folk dances.
Both hotels have restaurants, but for a truly authentic meal, look out for tiny, pop up restaurants - you'll recognise them as they'll have makeshift signs above small huts. Here, locals will make meals with freshly harvested ingredients including country chicken, rice and spices.
While there are local buses and shared taxis which go to Bhandardara from the nearest train station - Kasara, I'd recommend you rent a car and drive there as transport around Bhandardara can be difficult to arrange.
Set out early in the morning in a small to medium car - as the mountain roads are quite narrow - making sure you have plenty of petrol. Having a car will ensure that you can explore at all times.